I don’t know about D.C., but it hit 65-degrees in Portland yesterday. The sun was out, too. It was an all-too-brief teaser that made everyone mistakenly think that this stupidly long winter was on its way out, and outdoor-happy-hour spring breezes were on their way in. So what do you drink when it’s not quite cold enough to huddle indoors with your Slanket, but not quite warm enough to make outdoors activity a daily possibility? I discovered one answer last night: an Australian sparkling Shiraz.
Sparkling red wines aren’t that common, which is why I initially saw this in the glass and momentarily confused it with carbonated black cherry Kool-Aid. Or something that celebratory vampires might drink. The grapes in this example, Hill of Content, are mostly Shiraz, and the wine was aged in French oak, so you get just enough toast and spice to remind you that this really is a red wine. This wine marries everything that’s good about sparklers (tiny bubbles, crispness, and fruit) with everything that’s good about ball-busting big Australian reds (tannins, roundness, and, um, lots and lots of fruit). You taste cranberries, pepper, and oak, but the fact that it’s all sparkly means that you don’t have to plow through it with a plate of rare lamb, which is what you’d probably do with a traditional Shiraz. Hill of Content made me content, and while I have no idea of its availability beyond the wine shops in my area, the whole sparkling red mini-genre is definitely worth looking into during the month of February.