Waltzing Mathilda

Funny thing about the other side of the world — just as barbecue season cranks up in the Northern Hemisphere, the folks Down Under are bringing in the autumn harvest and prepping for winter. This spring in mid-Missouri, have a taste of what Australians have been enjoying all season with their grilled repasts: Shiraz.

This full-bodied red wine with French roots has blossomed in the Australian terroir, offering its peppery traits as a most tasty accompaniment to grilled fare. Tournon Mathilda, a Victorian Shiraz from Michel Chapoutier, captures all the bold spiciness of Australia’s signature grape with a softening around the edges reminiscent of the wine’s Rhône cousin, Syrah.

Deep ruby in color, Tournon Mathilda opens with an aroma of black fruits and cracked black pepper. The bouquet delivers a flavor of blackberries and plums with pepper spice and a trace of smokiness. Firm tannins add a kick before the smooth finish. Pair with grilled meats; it is exceptionally good with Kansas City-style barbecue.

Winemaker Chapoutier, a seventh-generation vintner of the Rhone Valley’s Maison M. Chapoutier, began producing Shiraz in Australia in 2002. To capture the terroir of Victoria, Chapoutier uses no oak, aging the Shiraz in stainless steel and cement tanks. At 13 percent alcohol, this food-friendly Victorian Shiraz isn’t nearly as hot as some vintages from other Aussie regions.

For those who care about such things, The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker awarded the 2011 vintage a 94. For barbecue fans, a more significant number may be $15. That’s approximately what you’ll pay for a bottle of this wine in Columbia. So throw another steak on the barbie and look for Tournon Mathilda Victorian Shiraz at your favorite local wine shop.

Traveling Tales
Frenchman Michel Chapoutier honored terroir and family when he named his Shiraz after the beloved icon of Australia, Matilda, and his daughter Mathilde.

The song, “Waltzing Matilda,” is an old bush ballad that serves as Australia’s unofficial national anthem. The song title is Australian slang for traveling on foot, or waltzing, with one’s belongings in a “Matilda,” a swag bag similar to today’s backpack slung over the back. The ballad is based on the 19th-century story of a “swagman” — an itinerant worker — who poached a sheep during a shearers’ strike, but when confronted by police he chose to jump in a nearby river bend where he drowned rather than surrender. The song ends with the swagman’s ghost asking, “Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?”

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