The great Australian red blend is alive, kicking and boomeranging back. Anthony Rose takes us through the six best examples of this definitive Aussie style...

Cabernet Shiraz, and vice versa, is not only the classic Australian red wine blend, but it is uniquely Australian in that it doesn’t defer to the Old World, or to anyone.

  • Scroll down to see the top six best Cab-Shiraz blends

Unconstrained by the red tape of appellation, the Australian winemaking tradition has exploited the cross-regional blend of the Bordeaux and Rhône grapes to combine their different virtues into a wine that, at its best, is greater than the sum of its parts.

‘The demise of Cabernet Shiraz blends has been led by perception,’ says Brian Croser.

‘The surplus of those two varieties, mostly from the hot inland, irrigation dependent vineyards, has been used to produce cheap wine.’

But a combination of two regions well suited to the two varieties, such as Coonawarra and Kalimna, can ‘produce something better than the components, nonetheless a terroir-driven wine’.

Penfolds’ 1962 Bin 60A Cabernet Shiraz is regarded as the best red wine ever made in Australia. It was the product of dry land, low-yielding Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon and Barossa Valley Shiraz.

Croser recalls that similar vineyards were used by the likes of Stanley in the 1950s and then Thomas Hardy, Orlando, Lindemans Seppelt, Yalumba and Tahbilk to produce small quantities of great Cabernet-Shiraz.

Jacob’s Creek’s, chief winemaker, Ben Bryant, says, ‘Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon helped lead the expansion of Australian wines into export markets around the world.’

Penfolds’ Peter Gago says that ‘its many styles remain contemporary and real, reaching new audiences with each successive generation’, and that ‘there still isn’t a market in the world where we can satisfy demand for Penfolds’ Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz’.

Bryant believes that ‘by capturing the structure and texture of Cabernet, and overlaying it with the suppleness and generosity of Shiraz, the style still resonates to this day’.

Brian Croser agrees that stylistically the two varieties blend well because ‘while Cabernet retains life and freshness…its legendary “hole in the middle” is filled texturally by the sweet fruit of Shiraz’.

Yalumba’s Robert Hill Smith is certain that the tradition of this ‘quintessentially, unique Australian style’ is supported by the market.

Copy editing for Decanter.com by Laura Seal.

My top six Cabernet Shiraz blends