Club Write-ups

Explorer Club
December 2021

Tim's Wine Market

We spend a lot of time spotlighting the great, old wine regions of Europe in the selections for this club. This month, we’re going down under with two wines from the historic, and often overlooked, regions of Barossa and McLaren Vale. While not currently fashionable in the US, Australia offers some incredible wines and often at great values. This month, we will look at the wines and history of this incredible place and hopefully tempt you to take a closer look at other Australian wine regions.

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Bethany Old Vine Grenache 2015 - $30

When it comes to the propagation of Rhone varieties, such as Syrah, one region that immediately springs to mind is Australia’s Barossa Valley. Here, thousands of miles from its native France, the variety (hereafter referred to as Shiraz, the local name) has made a name for itself. This is in no small part due to the region’s Mediterranean-like, warm, dry climate and coastal influence. However, while single-varietal Shiraz may be the region’s most recognizable (and commercially successful) wine, many Barossa winemakers cultivate old-vine Grenache as a passion project. This month, we will showcase one such example from the Schrapel family, whose history dates back to the settling of the region.

Chateau Yaldara Shiraz 2014 - $30

Another Barossa producer of German descent, Hermann Thumm arrived in Australia in a decidedly different manner (and time period) than many of his compatriots. Originally born in the Russian Empire, the Thumm family produced wine in Georgia but fled in 1921 as the Red Army began its takeover of the country. Alongside other German-speaking refugees, they settled in Tehran, where the family lived comfortably until the British/Soviet invasion of Iran in 1941. Once again, the family was forced to give up viticulture, as Hermann and many other German ex-pats were rounded up by Allied forces, accused of being spies and shipped off to British-run internment camps. Like some of the continent’s first European settlers, Hermann Thumm was brought to South Australia as a prisoner.

Lamb Shanks with Lemon and Mint

When I bought these wines a few months ago, I immediately started thinking about what the recipe would be. Originally I was expecting these to be November features so I started with, well, turkey. But since we shifted to December I started to think that I love lamb with Australian wines, particularly mature Shiraz and Grenache, so that is where we start. This version from Cook’s Illustrated is a fantastic recipe that is not very hard but yields great results. For those who find lamb to be too heavy, this recipe addresses that with the addition of lemon and mint, which seem to lift the dish. I also find shanks are the perfect dish for entertaining, because once they are cooked, they hold for a long time without drying out.