Is it just me or did the last 12 months feel remarkably longer than most? At my age, that should be a blessing but I found myself almost aching for the year to draw to a close and it wasn’t for some irrational urge to drink Champagne either. It just felt very trying and even the annual depression of adding another digit to my age on January 4th hasn’t blighted my desire to speed the year along. I was going to write a traditional end of year column about Champagne but for some reason, Australian shiraz seemed much more fun, so let’s raise a glass to fruit, fun and a fresh start. My first experience of Shiraz or Syrah was probably the same as many of you, a thin, tannic beast from the South of France with enough pepper on the finish to partner a steak but then along came the Aussies with their fruit-driven creations, god bless their cotton socks. They fun back into everyday priced wine after the French had sucked the life out of it in the 70’s and 80’s. In the 90’s and noughties, they even expanded into making world-class wines such as Grant Burges Meshach and his Black Monster Shiraz and now there are just too many to choose from. It’s not as if the signs of potential weren’t already there mind you because one of the worlds finest wines, Penfolds Grange was first made in Australia way back when dinosaurs ruled the earth. While it’s planted in most of the wine regions in the land down under, my favourites tend to come from the Coonawarra, Hunter Valley and of course the all-time heavyweight champion of the grape, the Barossa Valley. The Barossa must have been created by divine hand specifically for shiraz because the wines there display more fruit and nuances than even the finest winemakers can extract anywhere else in the world. You can almost imagine the relief in the heavens when the first vines were planted; I can see one angel saying to another,, ‘see, I told you they would figure it out!’

Anyway, here's a couple of stunners to start 2020 with and I hope you’ve all had a cracking Christmas and New Year.

Thompson Estate Four Chambers Shiraz

Liquorice and black cherries on the nose with spicy blackcurrant fruits and velvety plush tannins on the palate. A gorgeous wine

Villeneuve Wines, Peebles and Edinburgh £12.00

The Black Shiraz, Berton Vineyards, Australia

Ripe plums, autumn fruits and soft tannins in one of the best-dressed bottles around. What more could you ask?

Coop £8.00