Dear Australia: You Say Shiraz, I Say Syrah. What the What? #WinePW

OMG, the Wine Bloggers Conference is going to Australia in 2019! Australia’s been on my “have to get there” list for ages. So in honor of this exciting adventure, the Wine Pairing Weekend #WinePW group is focusing on Australian wines this month. Thanks to Gwendolyn Alley of Wine Predator for conceiving, organizing and hosting this month’s Aussie wine walk-about!

fullsizeoutput_9a2I had exactly ONE Australian wine in my cellar, so I grabbed it, stared at it and said to myself, “Self, what should we make to go with this beauty?” And then, like a kangaroo bounding across the outback with a koala on its back, chasing down a crocodile (oh, I know, I can’t help myself!), an idea hopped right into my head: rack of lamb. But first, let’s talk about the wine, shall we? Yes, let’s!

Syrah. Shiraz. What the what? I am here to tell you: SAME GRAPE! Exact same. Different pronunciation. And to get even more specific, the Aussies say it as if rhymed with “pizzaz” as in, “shur-azz.”

But the reason they even started calling it Shiraz is because in the 1700s, the people of Australia mistakenly thought the grape had originated in – wait for it – Shiraz, Persia (now Iran). Okay, now that we know how to say it, let’s learn a thing or two about it and some other Australian wines, shall we?

Five Things to Know About Australian Wine

  1. Shiraz is the top grape grown  in Australia, with 108,000 acres planted
  2. Chardonnay is the most prevalent white grape (look for Margaret River Chard from Western Australia near Perth, it’s divine), but you’ll also find some nice Rieslings, and Semillons, too
  3. Australian wines are very often high in alcohol, fruit-driven and full-bodied. Two reasons: hot, sunny climate and consumer preference!
  4. Australians like their sweet dessert wines and they call them “stickies”
  5. Australia is part of the New World, and has been making wine since the 1800s. It’s most famous wine is called Penfolds Grange (a big, powerful – and expensive – Shiraz – Cabernet blend), which has been exalted as Australia’s only “first growth” wine by legendary British wine writer Hugh Johnson.

Two Hands Samantha’s Garden & Rack of Lamb

fullsizeoutput_99eThe wine I had was a 2010 Two Hands Samantha’s Garden Shiraz. Two Hands was started in 1999 by Michael Twelftree and Richard Mintz – the “two hands,” so to speak. Two Hands is known for sourcing the best fruit from top vineyards scattered throughout South Australia and Victoria. The 2010 Samantha’s Garden Shiraz ($50) is named for Michael Twelftree’s wife, and has gotten a slew of 90+ scores.

I had not had this wine in a long time and after giving it a good chill, I wondered why, because it was delicious!  You want to serve a wine like this at about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s so big, so powerful, and so high in alcohol (15.5 percent!) that if served any warmer, all you get is a big blast of alcohol.

IMG_4907But at the right temp, it is FREAKING DELICIOUS! Inky dark in color, here’s what came my sniffer picked up: raisins, prunes, fruit compote, and almost Port-like stewed fruit. But there is a real freshness to this intense wine – and that’s the mark of an exceedingly well-made wine – to balance such huge, ripe fruit, alcohol and oak, so that eight years into its life, it’s still a sassy teenager of a wine.

On the palate, you’re going to pick up all that luscious stewed black fruit and a slight anise note, some black olives and very mild black pepper. The texture is silky and satiny, despite the gargantuan heft of the wine. And right when you wonder if it might punch you in the face, it retreats a little. It’s kind of a polite wine!

It was FLIPPING DIVINE with herb-crusted rack of lamb on the grill – or barbie, for you Aussies! Here’s how easy that recipe is.


  1. Heat a cast-iron pan on the stove-top with a glug of olive oil (2-3 Tbl) over medium-high heat. While the pan is heating up, let is rain salt and pepper over all surfaces of the lamb.
  2. After about 5-7 minutes, when the pan is HOT, plop that rack of lamb fat-side-down and sear it for at least five minutes. Then, using tongs, sear both ends, and the front edge of the rack. Now turn off the heat, and put that rack onto a plate to just rest for a bit. Preheat your gas grill to 375 degrees or light a charcoal grill.
  3. Get a small bowl and mix together few tablespoons of olive oil, about 2 Tbl. chopped parsley and any other herbs you might have (rosemary, thyme), 1 minced garlic clove, salt, pepper, and about 1-2 Tbl plain bread crumbs. Mash that all up.
  4. Okay, back to the rack! Smear Dijon mustard liberally all over the surfaces – top, sides, edge. Now, pack on all that herb-oil-garlic-bread-crumby goodness, with your hands. Just pat it on – it’ll all stick to the mustard. Okay, ready?
  5. Plop that rack into the grill herb-crust side UP. Grill for 20-30 minutes, until it registers 130 degrees on a meat thermometer.
  6. Remove the rack to a board and let it rest for at least 5-10 minutes. Then cut it into individual chops with your sharpest, heaviest knife (because you’re going to need a little muscle to cut through some bone or something else to separate them).
  7. Pour your Shiraz and enjoy

But WAIT! There’s more! Check out these smart, fun posts from other bloggers of Wine Pairing Weekend #WinePW

J. R. Boynton of Great Big Reds will be pouring “Great Big Reds of Summer: Kreuz, The Boxer, #WinePW”.

David Crowley of Cooking Chat”  will be making “Grilled Steak with Garlic Butter and an Aussie Shiraz Blend”.

Lisa Denning of The Wine Chef has “Surf And Turf On The Barbie — Shrimp And Lamb Paired With McGuigan Wines”.

Nicole Ruiz Hudson of Somm’s Table  will be “Cooking to the Wine: Dandelion Vineyards Shiraz and a Miso-Soy Strip Loin Feast.”

Wendy Klik’s A Day in the Life on the Farm is “Taking a Second Voyage with Burgers on the Barbie”.

Camilla Mann of Culinary Adventures with Camilla is posting “An Aussie Sausage Sizzle + d’Arenberg The Custodian Grenache 2013.”
Gwendolyn Alley of Wine Predator  has “On The Barbie: Rack of Lamb with Brothers in Arms Shiraz #WinePW.”

Cheers, Mate!




  1. I am going to have to see if I can find a bottle of this wine from Two Hands in my area. Love the lamb recipe and can’t wait to try it.


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