- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Henry’s Drive, Dead Letter Office Shiraz, South Australia, 2006, $27

Australian vintners love to blend. Even when working with a single varietal, they often combine grapes from different vineyards or regions if they think doing so will yield a superior wine.

This classy red is a case in point. Though made with just shiraz, it includes fruit from two very different regions, limestone-rich Padthaway and loamy McLaren Vale. The result tastes compelling because both make it graceful and luxuriant.

Limestone soils tend to impart a lean, steely character to wines, while richer loam soils often provide richness and depth. Equally important are the different temperatures in Padthaway and McLaren Vale, the former relatively cool, the latter warm if not downright hot.

About two-thirds of the shiraz in this blend came from McLaren Vale. That high percentage gives it a juicy, fleshy texture, fully ripe fruit flavors and a chocolate-tinged finish. At the same time, the remaining third from Padthaway hints at minty freshness and spicy pepper. It tempers the wine’s opulence and provides harmony.

This wine offers outstanding depth and length. It surely will improve with a year or two of bottle age, but it also is delectable now. Its tannins prove pliant rather than astringent, so as fall approaches, keep it in mind for pairing with robust stews, pastas and all sorts of hearty meat dishes. (Imported by Quintessential.)

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