Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
Yes, it’s Labor Day. That most likely means you’re grilling, and while you could just have a burger, what the heck—you’ve labored! You’ve labored all year long! You’ve labored like crazy, gosh darn it! Buy yourself a big steak already. You deserve your share of the cow.
Now, the default pairing option for steaks is Cabernet Sauvignon; it pops up every time someone asks the question, the way those inflatable clown dolls do when you punch them (or who knows, maybe the way real clowns do when you punch them, too). But there are plenty of other great wines out there for steak, and one of the best of them is Australian Shiraz.
There’s more regional variety to Shiraz than a lot of people realize—cooler climate regions like Western Australia and Victoria tend to produce lighter-bodied, spicier wines, while warmer regions like the Barossa and McLaren Vale lean toward the traditional big, ripe, blackberry-rich styles—but either way you’re talking reds with substantial flavor and emphatic tannins. Which is to say, perfect for big slabs of grilled beef.
5 Mighty Tasty Aussie Shirazes
2009 D’Arenberg The Stump Jump Shiraz ($13)
D’Arenberg’s been making impressive reds for 100 years now; this one’s got a lot of plummy oomph.
2010 Winner’s Tank Shiraz ($14)
Langhorne Creek’s sultry climate gives this purple-black wine a lot of ripe blackberry and plum fruit; it’s big but also balanced. (The 2009 is also in stores, and is similar in character.)
2008 The Wishing Tree Shiraz ($14)
An appealingly spicy, aromatic red from the cooler climates of Western Australia, it’s lifted by light pepper notes.
2010 Spring Seed Wine Company The Scarlet Runner Shiraz ($17)
Dark currant flavors and a touch of licorice define this organically-grown Shiraz from the McLaren Vale.
2010 Innocent Bystander Victoria Shiraz ($20)
People turned off by the super-ripe Shirazes of the world should seek out cool-climate wines like this one; it’s spicy and bright rather than big and jammy.
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