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Sparkling summer

Let me tell you a story about a wine called Jed.

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It’s finally summer and no one more than yours truly is damn happy about it. For all of us wine drinkers, the natural inclination is to reach for a glass of crisp, clean white wine. However, if you are hell-bent on grabbin’ for red, do as the Aussie’s do, and seek-out a glass of sparkling Shir-ahhhhhaz.

The first sparkling Shiraz was produced in 1881 by the Victorian Wine Company of Australia. This “Sparkling Burgundy” as they called it, was originally produced French style, much like rosé, a lighter version of red wine. Very unlike the deep, red and rich Sparkling Shiraz we now have available.

Now don’t get this confused with Cold Duck. Remember Cold Duck? Wow, talk about taking me back in time with bell-bottom pants, key parties, and fondue. I wasn’t old enough to drink the stuff or enjoy these other indulgences, but I do recall my mother loving this beverage, so much so, she can no longer hear the words “Cold Duck” without getting visibly nauseated.

Apparently the introduction of Cold Duck to Australia stalled sales of Sparkling Burgundy due to its wide availability and low cost. It wasn’t until the mid ’90s when they changed the name to Sparkling Shiraz due to French winemakers demanding names like Champagne, Chablis and Burgundy not to be used as descriptive words for wine-styles outside France.

Traditionally sparkling reds were drunk on Christmas day in Australia, with cold or hot roast turkey. Sometimes in Australia the temperature can reach 104 degrees, so cold turkey with salad is a common Christmas lunch. As we know, Shiraz is the signature grape varietal of Australia, but even the Aussies don’t want to drink red wine when it’s blazing hot out.

In the late ’90s our friends from down under began to export Sparkling Shiraz to Japan. The Japanese totally flipped over the stuff, and soon after the United States slowly began to import a few brands into our major markets. While we in the states have learned to love Sparkling Shiraz for Thanksgiving, I’m not entirely convinced it will go with sushi.

But hey, it’s July and Thanksgiving is still a ways off. Sparkling Shiraz is an excellent compliment for your summer party. Pair it with anything roasted, barbequed or skewered. Don’t forget ribs, chops, steaks, burgers, brats or chicken. If you have a penchant for grilled fish, perhaps try a hearty cut of Mahi Mahi or tuna.

The most popular Sparkling Shiraz around here without a doubt is Paringa. Not only is it good, it’s affordable at $10 a bottle. You can find Paringa at Metropolitan Market, Stadium Thriftway, Tacoma Boys and Wine Styles. Some other good Aussie brands include Hardy’s, Shingleback, Majella and Fox Creek Vixen. Any good wine shop or grocery store should never be caught dead without at least one Sparkling Shiraz. I mean it.

Here is some interesting news: I recently tried a CALIFORNIA Sparkling Syrah called Jed Steele’s Shooting Star Black Bubbles. California you say? Yes, there are few wineries here in the states that dare to make this delicious bubbly. Geyser Peak is another, but I have yet to try theirs (Note to Ty, Unique Wines).

Shooting Star’s Black Bubbles has a beautiful color, deep and purple with light bubbles that dare to defy the luscious cocoa and cream flavors that drift through the mid palate. This wine is dry, but not too dry, sparkly but not too sparkly. With that said, the addition of something chocolate topped with fresh raspberries at your barbeque, may not be a bad idea.

B.B. is pure, giddy, super-fun-time in a bottle. Our friend Barry at Rosewood Café would love to sell you a bottle to drink on his lovely patio, or take home to enjoy. Other restaurants and grocery stores should pick this up too … if they be smart. Arrgh. Sorry, left over pirate humor from last week.

Eat and drink out, Tacoma. We need your love.


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