- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Most Australian shiraz tastes big and brawny, the fruit flavors so rich as to seem almost overripe.

That style, popular to be sure, comes naturally from vineyards in southeastern Australia — where temperatures soar during long, dry summers. Out west, however, the wines tend to be more restrained. Temperatures are cooler there, and the fruit in the wine seems focused rather than fat.

Houghton’s 2004 shiraz provides an exemplary example of the Western Australian style. Its red berry and plum flavors never edge toward excess, allowing subtle notes of pepper, spice and smoke to make their presence known. Medium-bodied, it displays noticeable but not astringent tannins, so is nicely structured and well-balanced.

Western Australian vintners produce less than four percent of all the country’s wines, but more than 20 percent of its premium wines. It’s a region to look to when you want high quality — in this case, a red wine with finesse and grace rather than just muscle. Drink this classy shiraz with meat or pasta dishes that themselves aren’t too heavy, so that it can show all its charms. Roast pork would be a fine partner.

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