Freedom Ridge 2009 Shiraz

Freedom Ridge is one
Posted 22nd February 2013        

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Freedom Ridge is one of Marks & Spencer’s Californian labels from Monterey AVA on the sun-kissed West Coast of the USA.

I tried the Chardonnay last week, which was okay, but not oaky. (See what I did there?)

Shiraz is another grape that can only be improved by the influence of oak. Now, admittedly I have less experience with oak-free reds. One doesn’t see many marketed as “UNOAKED” in the way that a lot of white wines are nowadays. But I was pleasantly surprised to find this mid-priced Shiraz (possibly cheap, for a North American wine, at £7.99) had what I consider to be the perfect balance of fruit and oak notes.

It was a lithe, peppery beast with a strong taste upfront but little of the afterburn one might expect from a relatively high 14.5% alcohol red. Interestingly the writers have referred to it as a “Syrah” on the back, and “Shiraz” on the front. Unlikely as it is that this is a deliberate ploy to bamboozle the hapless drinker, it’s obviously undergone an identity change at some point – probably at the last minute.

I’ll offer my own half-baked theory: most US reds of this nature are called “Syrah“, and most (okay, most that I’ve tried) are more along the French style of slightly more laid-back reds. Full-bodied but gloves on. This formidable beast is just a little closer to the knockout blow one could traditionally expect from, say, a South Australian Shiraz. So perhaps they tasted it, noted the beefy licorice tang to its dark caressing waves of joy, and, erm, renamed it Shiraz. But forgot to tell the person who wrote the label.

So there we have it. If you like your reds bigger and bolder this is a good bet; it still has enough subtlety to win over all but the faint of heart. You know them: the no-oak patrol.

You can buy this by the case from M&S, or by the bottle in-store.

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Meet the Author:
Alexander Velky
Alexander grew up on Anglesey, almost as far away from civilization as he’d have liked. He studied English at university and subsequently moved to Prague to teach it to Czech people for just long enough that he could say he’d done that. He then returned to the UK to do an MA in Professional Writing, and later moved to London by accident and worked in the music industry for a while. His interest in wine has been developing throughout. He took the WSET Intermediate exam, for which he was rewarded with a certificate and a pin badge, but he probably won't bother doing any more. He now lives in Pembrokeshire with his wife and daughter. He writes, and drinks, for a living. You can follow him on Twitter if that's how you choose to spend your time. Photograph by Léonie Keeble