The blend in the 2008 Angove Nine Vines Shiraz Viognier from South Australia (about $12 at wine-savvy markets) surprised us and we had to have a taste. The red shiraz dominates at 94 percent while the white viognier serves largely as an intensifier, the wine's deep red color giving no inkling of the latter's presence.
The key to this successful marriage of disparate grapes, according to the winemaker, lies in crushing and fermenting the fruit together, rather than blending two separate wines after the fact, and in selection of shiraz grapes with a bit more spice than usual to complement the lightly sweet white grape.
Although color offers no clue, the floral note on the blackberry and cassis nose gives the viognier away. On the tongue, tart and juicy blackberry with a nice brambly edge fairly explodes. The taste is not unlike that of a sugarless blackberry cobbler, the unadulterated berry set off by warm spice and just a touch of honey from the viognier. The result is lush and lively.
The Nine Vines blend would go beautifully with barbecued baby back ribs in a peach and chili glaze. It would make an admirable party wine, too.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.