Are you familiar with Californian Syrah? It's that inky, peppery grape flavored up on dark fruits and topped off with a generous heap of oak. How about Petite Sirah? Another opaque colored wine that blankets your tongue with vacuum-like tannins ("petite" is the irony of it all). Blend these two varietals together and you have some crazy good black magic - or as Karen McNeil, author of The Wine Bible, says about Syrah by itself, "Like wearing cowboy boots with a tuxedo. Rustic yet elegant". Petite Sirah adds the spurs and 10-gallon hat.
Now, has Shiraz or Durif ever touched your lips? Well, you may or may not know these two grapes are actually the Australian (and South African) equivalent of Syrah and Petite Sirah. Same grapes, different location. Australia's sun-kissed terroir gives their version a little bit more fruit. In either case, both varietals thrive in dry, hot climates where wide-brimmed hats are fashionable AND functional.
A wine that is spicy, bold and punchy like a Shiraz/Durif blend deserves an equally rugged soundtrack:
Let's crack open a bottle of 2016 The Black Stump Durif Shiraz, created by winemaker Alan Kennett. This beast's grapes are grown in South Eastern Australia, which is notorious for its distant vineyards and producing the country's best wines. In fact, "The Black Stump" often refers to the Australian Outback where going "beyond the black stump" means heading into a remote or uncivilized area. A pretty killer fit for the label, right?
This wine will come at you with Durif leading the charge at 60% and Syrah's peppery fruit rounding it out at 40%. The result is a spiced jam hit that is brawny yet easy to drink - like a bodybuilder serving a savory but light breakfast. It'll finish dry but carrying a smooth chocolate undertone with it. In other words, a solid select for easing into the "grippy" world of earthier wines.
For less than 14 bucks to get a bottle, this is a pretty easy call. Also feel free to rack it for a few years.
Austin's The Black Angels are an excellent choice to complement the Durif/Shiraz. These Texans exude a psychedelic sound that is rugged while ethereal in its delivery - much like The Black Stump's peppery foundation that leaves your mouth with a souvenir of dark fruit and chocolate.
Imagine kicking your feet up on the fire pit (not too close, dammit!) on a chilly night in Joshua Tree. You've got the sprawling, minimalist desert landscape ahead and nothing but time on your hands. The Black Stump will bring out the harsh terroir in front of you while The Black Angels' trippy vibe will do the same. You'll easily get lost in your own head. The combo translates well to a chill hangout just as much as it does a rowdy night dancing around said fire with friends.
The Black Angels have a new album this year, but I'd recommend going back to roots with their 2008 release Directions To See A Ghost. The psychedelic tone is thick on this cut and marries with the Australian Durif Shiraz incredibly well.
Turn it up, pour it out, and enjoy!