Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2004 Razor's Edge McLaren Vale Shiraz

It's hard to resist a great label, and Razor's Edge certainly has that. It's not one of those cutesy critter labels that are derided so much by winos, it's a strikingly bold design of black and red and could have been a poster for the "Sweeney Todd" film.

Normally I try not to let labels influence me when I'm shopping for wine, but sometimes it's hard to ignore a standout. And to be honest, when you're staring at shelves and shelves of wine, some things just catch your eye. I still check out the details before buying, and if there isn't enough info about it or it's priced too high, I won't buy it, but in a sea of wines priced between $10-$20, marketing can triumph.

I have been eying this wine for a few weeks, maybe more, at the local Nob Hill supermarket in Alameda. When they reduced the price to $10.99 from $13.99, I decided to get a bottle (yes, $3 isn't a big deal, but I've been trying to keep my purchases around $10 per bottle for my day to day drinkers in order to save some money. You know, the whole next great depression happening and all).

The bottle I picked up from the shelf had a small tear on the label, and I was worried that indicated it had been banged around during shipping/stocking. I began to put it back for another one when I noticed the vintage -- 2004. All the other bottles were from 2006. I looked to the back of the shelf and couldn't find any others from 2004. Kinda weird. So I kept it, figuring I'd rather have a slightly aged Shiraz from Australia than a newer one, and also thought to myself I can come back next week and get the 2006 if I like the 2004.

Well, I certainly liked this wine, and bought another bottle, this time the 2006, a week later (I'll review that some time soon, hopefully). Its appearance is black as night with crimson edges. On the nose I got sweet tar and honey, and in the glass, I found lots of tannins, heavy black plum flavors, and a bit of heat, though not as much as other massive wines like this. Some tar and dirt flavors on the finish.

This is a big wine, and not one that matches so well with food, in my experience. It's so rich and filling that it showed up the meals I had with it. A light dish wouldn't stand a chance of imparting any flavor in your mouth with drinking this wine, and a heavy meal like braised lamb might just seem like two titans battling it out for space in your stomach. This morning I thought it would probably go well with a plate of stinky blue cheese and maybe some nuts. It would likely standout in a tasting for its mouth-coating abilities, and is certainly one you want to slowly sip and enjoy on a cool fall night or fridged winter evening.

In looking online for more information about the brand, I found out on its distributor's site, Joshua Tree Imports, that 2004 was the wine's first vintage. Apparently it was labeled a “Best Value Wine” by Wine Spectator and as one of the “Best Buys from Australia” by Robert Parker, according to the site. I would certainly endorse those laurels. Great, cheap, bold wine that's enjoyable and nice to have on a shelf at your house to whip out when you're up for something big.

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