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An elegant Australian Shiraz

This complex red offers a Tapestry of flavors
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When I think of lean, elegant and complex red wines, Australia is not usually the first country that enters my mind, especially when it comes to relatively inexpensive wines, which are often big and clunky and not very interesting. A small winery in South Australia called Tapestry defies that image, at least as far as its 2000 McLaren Vale Shiraz is concerned.

It's not exactly cheap, at $18 or so. But for the money it packs a lot of wallop — not that it’s a big wine; it isn’t. At 12.5 percent alcohol, it is on the lighter side by Australian red standards, which is part of why I thought it was so attractive.

The other reasons are the firm structure and the gorgeous fruit — aromas of blackberry and cassis with vanilla and orange notes, followed by tastes of cherry and cranberry, a fair amount of spice, pepper and a hint of chocolate. The influence of aging for 18 months in new and used American oak barrels is evident (the vanilla and spice), though not overbearing.

With all of that going on, the name Tapestry describes it well. The winery is in the McLaren Vale area of South Australia, not far from Adelaide. This is one of the country’s older wine regions, dating back to the 1830s. Shiraz (Australia’s name for Syrah) is the area’s predominant red grape.

The 2000 Tapestry Shiraz was released in July, with 5,000 cases produced. It is drinking nicely now and should get even better over the next several years as it ages in the bottle. Tapestry, which used to sell its grapes to the better-known Chapel Hill winery, was purchased six years ago by Robert Gerard, the chairman of a big electrical parts company and a member of the board of Australia’s central bank.

Big business, however, is not what Tapestry seems to be about. With a new winemaker brought on in 2001 and a redesigned label, it is trying to become one of South Australia’s top boutique wineries. With its Shiraz, it shows promise of becoming just that.