D’Arenberg Laughing Magpie

February 15, 2006

I see that today’s “Uncorked” column in the Winnipeg Free Press makes mention of my blog. So a big thank-you to them for the publicity and I’d like to welcome to any new readers who might be dropping by here for the first time. I also enjoy reading “Uncorked” every Wednesday, and I think that the Free Press made a wise move in hiring a new wine writer.

Anyways, moving right along to the reason we’re all here, I have some notes on a tasty little wine that I picked up in Ontario a few weeks back. It’s the D’Arenberg “Laughing Magpie” Shiraz/Viognier, which is also available at your local MLCC for $27.78.

The blend may seem unusual, but it’s more common than you might expect. Both red and white grapes are common blending partners from the Rhone Valley, where Viognier (and other white grapes) are often added to red blends. For example, wines from the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation can legally contain up to thirteen different grapes, of which six are white. And wines from the Côte-Rôtie region of the Northern Rhone are a blend of Syrah and up to 20%Viognier. So the Laughing Magpie – while seemingly a new blend from those crazy Aussies – actually has deep roots in Rhone Valley traditions.

The wine is a bit lighter than your typical Australian Shiraz, and shows off rich floral aromas. In the mouth, it displayed some tannins, although less than you’d expect. It was incredibly smooth and rich, with lighter fruit flavours (blueberry and some blackberry) rounded out by a hint of something very different, maybe fresh ginger? It’s certainly not a fruit bomb! Nor is it simply a clone of a Côte-Rôtie. D’Arenberg has done something unique here.

The finish was long and smooth and I was sorry to see the end of this one. To put it simply, this is an amazing wine and is highly recommended. I served it up last night with a classic Manitoba pairing – homemade perogies in a wild mushroom sauce. It worked really well. But this wine is so good that I would pair it with just about anything.

Actually, everything I’ve ever tried from D’Arenberg has been amazing. The MLCC and some of the private stores carry a range of their products. Most are priced around $20 and up, but are well worth it. Earls sells their entry-level (but still very tasty) “Stump Jump” range by the glass for a reasonable price, although I don’t think it’s available at the MLCC or any of the private stores.

If you liked this wine, I can also recommend the Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz-Viognier, which is available through the private wine stores for around $22.

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