Friday, November 27, 2015

Steller’s Jay Sparkling Shiraz

Under the Steller’s Jay brand, Sumac Ridge Estate Winery has released just its second Sparking Shiraz.

This style of wine has been produced for many years in Australia. The Liquor Distribution Branch used to list several examples. There are none in its product catalogue now, which speaks to the limited popularity of this novel style of sparkling wine.

The first Okanagan Sparkling Shiraz was released in 2006 under the Sumac Ridge brand.

The second release, 1,000 cases, has just appeared under the Steller’s Jay brand. Several years ago, Constellation Brands, which owns Sumac Ridge, decided to turn Steller’s Jay into a stand-alone brand. The object is to reinforce the eminence of Steller’s Jay as a leading sparkling wine producer in British Columbia.

Almost a decade between sparkling Shiraz releases? That also seems to speak to comparatively limited demand for the wine that consumers hardly know.

It appears that Constellation Brands may allow another gap to develop before the next release.

To quote the Steller’s Jay news release for the current example: “… Holiday revellers are encouraged to add this exclusive wine to their cellars early as Sparkling Shiraz will not be available again next year.”

Why not? There is no explanation. If the wine is not made regularly, no one will expect to buy it regularly. Remember the chicken and the egg.

If you do find a bottle or two in a private wine store, I would encourage you to pick them up. Not for your cellar (it will not cellar was long as a more acidic sparkling wine) but for the festive fun you will have with this dark, frothy wine.

I think it would be a great base for cocktails and for punch bowls, even though punch bowls generally are a waste of good wine. This wine has such fruity flavours and looks so good that it will transform the punch from an afterthought to something rather special.

This is a bottled-fermented sparkling wine (like Champagne). Jason James, the winemaker who made it, is quoted as saying: “This is a very special wine with a lot of depth and complexity. Only premium grapes were selected and blended to produce this special sparkling wine. The base Shiraz was treated like a red wine; harvested at 24 brix and fermented on the skins. As a result, there is more tannin than in a normal sparkling.”

Both Jason and the back label recommend the wine be served with food, such as beef short rib. This is robust sparkler.

Here is a note on the wine.

Steller’s Jay Sparkling Shiraz NV ($25.99 for 1,000 cases). Open this wine carefully to avoid having the energetic magenta-coloured bubbles frothing all over the table cloth. With its deep colour and its bubbles, this is a spectacular wine in a Champagne flute. The flavours are intense, starting with black cherry and going on to chocolate, coffee and spice. The wine is technically dry, with its 25 grams of residual sugar balanced with modest acidity. The texture is plush and rich. This is a tour de force. 90-92.

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