This was our second tasting focused on Shiraz from Australia's McLaren Vale (the first was in May 2013), and since we were a bit disappointed last time, we decided to make the effort again.

They fared a little better this time, with all wines being well-made, though except for the winner, they did not come off as food friendly wines -- offering tons of fruit that were not backed up by acidity or other structure. Indeed, we were not crazy about our last place bottle, showing candied fruit and lack of balance. Our winner, however, was balanced and restrained, and was also the best value of the night.

Two tasters brought the same bottling (a rare occurrence), and although they shared a great deal of richness on the palate, their flavors were not similar, leading nobody at the table to guess the repetition.

Photography by Andy.

First Place:  Thomas Goss Shiraz 215 (McLaren Vale). Concentrated, opaque look to it, then a nose that offered notions of cleanser, cured meat (with a hint of ammonia), citrus peel, dog food, Comet, and tarragon. Very well-balanced, and so much better than we thought it would be compared to the nose. Tasters found savory flavors of sage, dark berries, and Provencal herbs. Tannins are well-defined. This was the first one that makes us think of food, like it would be great with a Thanksgiving dinner. Had the nicest and longest finish. Not tiring to drink. Received 36 points. Kristin's bottle. About $18.

Second Place:  Alpha Crucis Shiraz Titan 2012 (McLaren Vale). Opaque. Very complex scents of raspberry, blackberry, dust, coffee, cough syrup, licorice, pomegranate, eucalyptus, pencil shavings, dark cherry, and caramel coffee. The quantity of aromas led Jamie to note that "the hits just keep coming." Not shy in the mouth, with plenty of acidity, bright fruits like cranberry, then some orange peel and cherries. We wished there was more of a finish on this one, but everyone gave this at least one point, for a total of 20. Jamie's bottle. About $28.

Third Place:  Two Hands Shiraz Angels' Share 2014 (McLaren Vale). Rubber-like on the nose, plus coconut, a little vanilla, and toasted oak. Suzanne was reminded of the "sole of a sneaker." Full-bodied and rich, with good intensity and fruit (strawberry & plums), along with a lingering finish. Nice texture, with no hard edges. Black olives on the finish. It was so jammy that Suzanne felt that one could "spread that on toast." Received points from everyone, for a total of 17. Andy's bottle. About $28.

Two Hands Shiraz Angels' Share 2014 (McLaren Vale). A touch of dust, but also aromas of eucalyptus, wet leaves, and red fruit. Both tangy and full-bodied in the mouth, with flavors of molasses, nutmeg, and blueberry. Short-lived, and a little too ripe, with a hint of something metallic. Confusing for that reason, with a vegetal finish, though with food it morphed into something better. 10 points. Suzanne's bottle. About $35.

Mitolo Shiraz The Jester 2014 (McLaren Vale). Scents of wet wool, wet stone, black cherry yogurt, smoke, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a strong mineral component.  Generous on the palate and really juicy, suggesting black cherries and spice rack. Jamie noted "frozen cherries that have been thawed." Stops short and falls apart a bit. Received only one point from Andy. Ali's bottle. About $19.

Mollydooker Shiraz Blue Eyed Boy 2015 (McLaren Vale). Butter, wet dog, Red Hots, and sweet beet aromas that Jamie felt were "markedly different." It's the most candied, with more of that sweet beet note in the mouth. Tasters were reminded of cranberry juice cocktail, or cranberry flavored vodka. David felt that there was "something artificial in it." The alcohol really stood out. A hint of quinine. Jamie felt that "it's a little punishing, maybe that's what I like about it." Kristin noted that "it's morphed into something I don't like." A bruiser at 17% alcohol. No points. David's bottle. About $50.

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