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.