To celebrate Australia Day last week on Tuesday, 26th, John McDonnell of Wine Australia hosted a tasting and dinner with Tony Barlow, winemaker with St. Hallett. The venue was Fallon & Byrne and the theme was “Welcome to the Barossa“, a deep dive into Australia’s most famous wine region, the Barossa Valley.

Quick overview of the Barossa

Winemaking in the Barossa Valley dates back to 1842 when German Luterans settled there bringing their century old traditions and techniques with them.

The Barossa climate is ideally suited to producing full-bodied red wines for which the region is most well known. And of course, the grape we all know it for is Shiraz.

In the 1970’s, Shiraz was unfashionable and old vines were at risk of being pulled up in favour of more en vogue grapes.

However, St. Hallett bucked that trend and focused on grapes sourced from these endangered vines. Along with other visionary Barossa wineries, St Hallett’s aim was to save the old vines and to develop a specific Barossa taste around Shiraz in particular.

While Australian Shiraz is all but ubiquitous in wine shops and supermarkets around Ireland, the region and the winemakers who work there are capable of making wines with that something special.

This is my pick of Shiraz which offer that something extra, and which show what Australian wine is truly capable of.

1. St. Hallett Faith Barossa Shiraz 2008 (€15)

This is from the south of the Barossa where cooler climes give more floral, softer and less spicey flavours than either of the other two this week.

It’s probably more bing than bang, vibrant fresh red fruits and less of the spice (though it’s still there) as its bigger Barossa brethren.

Smooth and silky and almost feminine, if I can be forgiven for labelling a Barossa Shiraz as such.

With food? Venison with chocolate sauce would be a real treat, but would work equally well with a more modest steak or lamb.

Availability? Imported by Gilbeys and on the shelves of many leading independents.

2. Glaetzer Wallace Shiraz-Grenache (€17)

The Glaetzer family is synonymous with Barossa. This one is a blend of 75% Shiraz and 25% Grenache, from a northernly pocket of the Barossa Valley called Ebenezer.

Shiraz adds dark fruit and spice and the Grenache adds dusty raspberries into the mix. Ripe, rich and elegant.

“The 2007 Wallace is a blend of 75% Shiraz and 25% Grenache aged for 12 months in seasoned French and American oak. Deep crimson-colored, it reveals a fragrant bouquet of cedar, scorched earth, pencil lead, black cherry, and blueberry. On the palate it has an elegant personality with racy, slightly tart, fruit flavors, good concentration, and a silky finish. Drink this excellent value red through 2017.” (Jay Miller, Wine Advocate)

With food? Lamb or Beef

Availability? The Wine Boutique, Ringsend, On the Grapevine, Dalkey, Searson’s Monkstown. Fahy’s Off Licence, Ballina. Jus du Vin, Portmarnock. Power and Smullen, Lucan and online from

3. St. Hallett Old Block Shiraz 2006 (€39.89)

This is the much bigger brother to the St. Hallett Gamekeeper’s Reserve featured a a few weeks ago (from €9.99 in Tesco, Superquinn, O’Briens and other independents).

So, this is where things start to get expensive. Arguably, for good reason. Some of vines which make this wine are over 100 years old. Older vines generally mean fewer grapes with more concentrated flavours.

In terms of taste, this is an iron fist in a velvet glove, power and punch with balance and poise. You’re drinking more than wine, you’re drinking history with the Old Block.

With food? Forget food. This is a meditative wine. Perfect for by the fire with a book..

Availability? O’Briens online, Dermot Nolan Wine Services, Thomas Woodberry’s Galway, Sweeney’s Hart’s Corner (Glasnevin), Mc Phail’s Drogheda