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When was the last time you had a glass of shiraz? The leading red coming from Australia’s distinct and diverse wine regions used to be one the most popular wines in the world. It could be counted on to be ripe and flavourful, a style that winemakers in the 1990s used to say captured “sunshine in a bottle.”

Today, younger wine lovers may have never tasted a wine made by popular brands like Lindeman’s, Penfolds and Wolf Blass that helped to ignite interest in Canada, offering an array of crowd-pleasing styles of shiraz at various price points.

Sales of Australian wine soared throughout the 1990s and 2000s and the average cost per bottle increased along with the quality of the wines, until Yellow Tail and other value priced brands brought the focus back to the cheap and cheerful.

After years of being one of the most exciting wines available, Australian shiraz lost its sparkle.

Canada is Australia’s fourth-largest export market for wine, worth more than $192-million a year, but its reputation has fallen with average consumers and collectors. Winemakers and marketers are hoping to regain that excitement.

The bust of big brands inspired Australian winemakers to pursue more regional and individual styles. A global master class, Shiraz: Redefining an Australian classic, was conducted Oct. 7 for an online audience of media, sommeliers and buyers in North America and Europe to display how the style continues to evolve.

The panel discussion introduced winemakers working in Great Southern, McLaren Vale, Barossa, Yarra Valley, Grampians and Strathbogie Ranges. While there were overarching themes, less emphasis on new oak barrels in winemaking and a desire to produce fresher styles of shiraz, diversity is the goal for smaller boutique wineries as well as larger producers.

The Australian industry is predicting a bright future for shiraz as well as the other wines produced. After a succession of challenging vintages, due to drought and wildfires, the 2021 harvest is reportedly excellent in terms of quality, with little pressure from disease or water shortages and a long, slow ripening. Winemakers are particularly excited about the outstanding potential of the 2021 vintage reds.

There isn’t one single identity for Australian shiraz in the same way there isn’t a singular style of American cabernet or Italian sangiovese. There are lighter and juicier expressions as well as concentrated and rich ones waiting to be discovered.

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