After putting sun-dried tomato oil, paprika, garlic and chilli peppers into a spicy marinade for grilling chicken and letting it stew with the escalopes in a bowl on the counter, I went off happily to uncork a nice Australian Shiraz. Usually, I have couple on hand in an old wine crate I stow "down under" at the bottom of a dark cupboard.
Lots of New World Cabernet, some Argentinean Malbec and a Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, but no Shiraz to speak of. The Shiraz was exactly what I needed: A dousing yet savoury refreshment to bold barbecue food. The oenologue's equivalent to Coca-Cola in the backyard. Mental note to self: start stocking some Jacob's Creek.
After some hesitation, I selected a substitute, brought it into the kitchen, and opened the bottle hastily. That was a mistake. I forget what it was that I thought would make a good Shiraz stand-in, but it was not happening. I likely put it aside for cooking use or pawned it off to whoever was willing and happened by in the days that followed -- I can't really remember. The point is I was grilling and knew exactly what I wanted in my glass. So I would try yet again to approximate that Shiraz I wanted and so I went off to pick another wine.
A SHIRAZ OF A DIFFERENT TRICOLOUR
I pulled out a Syrah -- France's Shiraz -- blended with Mourvèdre, Grenache and Carignan from Saint-Chinian. This one was stored willy-nilly on top of the refrigerator, in plain sight but often neglected. It was called Donnadieu Cuvée Mathieu et Marie 2004.
The Saint-Chinian appellation possesses AOC status and is nestled in the heart of the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Personally, I feel like I can recognize most Saint-Chinians by their slightly floral perfuminess. It's no Shiraz in that sense -- quite French really -- but it had other attributes that performed well during my impromptu barbecue night.
The nose was elegant and the colour was fine, but the truth to me was in the tasting. So here we have characteristic Syrah/Shiraz savouriness, and in surprisingly complex ways. There was a movement from pepper to fruit on the palate. Not disharmonious but notable nonetheless. Other notes of caramel and menthol introduced themselves too.
On the finish, the fruit was delicious. It was spicy bramble berries punctuated by light tannins. The Cuvée Mathieu et Marie was still juicy -- practically opulent -- for the second night. For that dinner there were no leftovers from the barbecue, but by this point I had pretty much forgotten the whole adventure that lead me to opening this bottle.
Les 4 VENTS, Saint-Chinian, France. 13%.