Yellow Tail Shiraz
by Darcy O'Neil on November 2010
In the world of being a bartender, at a fine dining restaurant, I tend to serve a lot of wine. Red is by far the choice with most meals, but pinto grigio (pinot gris) is a very popular white wine. I like wine, but usually only when I’m having food, or possibly drinking with friends who are wine lovers. My preference is cocktails and beer. There is nothing like a cold, malty, hopped up beer after an intense eight hours behind the bar, while listening to some tunes, like Green Day, Sam Roberts, Rage Against the Machine and the Tragically Hip. Anyway, wine doesn’t generally go with my post shift shutdown down procedure, but because I serve plenty of wine, curiosity got the better of me. That’s when I cracked open a bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz (2005) that has been sitting in my wine rack for a while. Here’s what I thought.
The first time I had this wine was four years ago at a friends place. My wife and I were doing the barbecue circuit and the friends that we were visiting were cooking up some ribs. They also had some wine and they told me I had to try this Australian wine called Yellow Tail, it was a shiraz. Now these friends are quite knowledgeable about wine so I trusted their recommendation and put my beer aside and had a glass of this deep red wine. I was pleasantly surprised. From what I remember it had a fruitiness with some spice and went really well with the BBQ’d food. It wasn’t good like a vintage wine, but it was good in the casual sense. It’s easy sipping, not pretentious, good flavour that was strong enough to hold up to heavily flavour foods and priced at a level that it pours freely, without apprehension.
Fast forward to the past Friday night. After work I usually have a beer, at home, or sometimes I’ll make an easily concocted drink with whisky or rum, but no shaking because it would wake my wife up, and that’s not a good thing. Depending on the night I’ll get fancy and do a food match with the beer, i.e. cold pizza, nachos or leftovers. However, on this particular Friday night everyone at the bar was talking about wine, a wine rep was in sampling a new acquisition and just general wine speak. This wine speak crept into my thought processes and when I came home I saw the bottle of Yellow Tail sitting their with that sinister looking kangaroo (actually it’s a rock wallaby) tempting me. So I gave in and decided to open it up and give it a try.
Now, on a busy night at the bar I usually work 7 to 8 hours straight with no breaks, or lunch and I’m lucky if I can sneak in a quick glass of water (no drinking at the bar, only in the back). I usually pound back a large glass or two of water, before my shift starts, to get me hydrated. So when I come home I usually want something to quench my thirst and relax me. Well, picking Yellow Tail, a dry red wine, was a bad idea. It’s not thirst quenching, but I never realized that was what my body declared it needed after work. So the first taste wasn’t all that pleasing. Nothing against the wine, it was more a situational issue. After a few sips it started to taste better, and the glass of water helped. At that moment, red wine didn’t seem as fun as everyone was talking about.
Move ahead a few days and since the bottle was open, I thought I’d take another look. First, Yellow Tail Shiraz is a big fruity wine with subtle spiciness. It’s not as spicy as I remember it four years ago. The 2005 edition is much more fruit with blackberry, cherry and other red fruit flavours. The alcohol is 13.5% which is pushing the higher side of wines, but it is well balanced with the acid and sweetness. It is also pleasantly dry considering the bounty of fruitiness.
Basically, this wine is best served with friends in an unpretentious atmosphere. Yellow Tail is currently the best selling wine imported in the US and there is a reason. It is a casually enjoyable wine. Don’t order it at a fine dining restaurant, otherwise the sommelier might snort at you. Do order it at a casual restaurant or road house style establishment. Definitely bring it to a barbecue where you are unsure of peoples wine preferences. And finally, don’t try to quench a hard earned thirst with it, stick with beer.