Time to return to Australian wines

Wayne on Wine
The Big Canoe Wine Group met in August to blind-taste red Australian wines. Photo by Wayne Crawford
  Wayne Crawford
  Wayne Crawford

Wayne on Wine
By Wayne Crawford
After Italian wines, the Australians are the second most imported wines into the USA. The leading grape variety exported is shiraz, followed by chardonnay. Australia also nurtures exceptional rieslings, cabernet sauvignons and grenaches. Increasingly, the blending of shiraz and cabernet sauvignon is producing great reds.

Australia suffered significantly with a drought in 2011 that challenged grape production. Wine reports ending 2012 show exports to the U.S. market down 12.8 percent in value per liter. Low rainfall and hot weather have reduced the 2013 crop, but there are still abundant well-priced, high-quality Australian wines on the market. Certainly, these weather conditions have played a factor in the decline, along with the economy and the continued growth in U.S. domestic wine production.

The Big Canoe Wine Group met in August to blind-taste red Australian wines. Complementing the tasting was a delicious array of fresh foods provided by Cindy King Catering, cateringbycindy.com. The blackened, grilled rib-eye steak on grilled bruschetta paired exceptionally well with the bold Australian red wines, as did the grilled tuna steaks with caramoula vinaigrette. Cindy’s food adds a special touch to any event.

If you have not enjoyed Australian wines recently, now is a good time to return. A great website to review is bestwinesunder20.com.au. This Australian blog is highly informative, with wines priced in Australian dollars ($1 Australian is approximately .91329 USD). Most of the wines are available only in Australia, but it offers great suggestions on quality-to-price ratio (QPR) wines you can find locally.

Wines to consider are: Thorn-Clarke’s Shotfire Cabernet Shiraz 2010, $20; Terra Barossa Shiraz Cabernet 2010, $15; Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, $28; d'Arenberg The Feral Fox Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2011, $32; Glaetzer Wallace 2012, Barossa Valley, $28; Tait The Wild Ride 2012, Barossa Valley, $18; and Yalumba The Strapper Grenache/Shiraz/Mataro 2011, Barossa Valley, $14.


‘Wines drinking well now’
Taltarni Brut Tache 2008, South Eastern Australia, $22.99: This sparkling wine is 58 percent chardonnay, 17 percent pinot noir and 5 percent pinot meunier in a classic Champagne blend. A medium- to full-bodied sparkler with a light salmon color, aromas of cherry and flavors of pear and watermelon, it serves well as an acclamation wine. This is a pleasant wine at a good price. Recommended.

Mollydooker The Maitre D Cabernet 2011, McLaren Vale, South Australia, $26: Boasting dark fruit and ripe tannins, this medium-bodied, young wine was well-scored in our blind-tasting of Australian wines and was the only cabernet sauvignon tasted. It is aged in a combination of American and French oak. Highly Recommended … as are most Mollydooker wines.

Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy 2007, 100 percent Shiraz, Australia, $34.99: The grapes were grown on the Gateway and Kirwin vineyards in McLaren Vale. Barrel-fermented and matured in 90 percent new and 10 percent one-year-old American oak to deliver nice plum and purple colors in the glass, with blackberry, cherry and pepper on the palate and a smooth finish. This wine and later vintages will cellar nicely.

Whistler The Black Piper GSM 2005, Australia, $26: A blend of 38 percent grenache, 37 percent shiraz, and 25 percent mourvedre combine nicely into a well-balanced, full-bodied wine with blackberry and licorice aromas and similar flavors on the palate.

The food-pairing options for Australian reds are endless; if you can grill steaks, burgers, chicken, pork or lamb, there is a complementary wine.

Wine news
According to Information Resources Inc. (IRI), domestic U.S. wine sales grew by 7 percent in the past 52 weeks, totaling $6.7 billion. The leading still wines in sales volume order are chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and pinot grigio/gris, followed by merlot. The most aggressive segments were $20-plus wines, up 18 percent, and premium box sales, up 24 percent. For prosecco sparkling wine lovers, sales were up 47 percent.

Georgia rated a B-minus on consumer access from the American Wine Consumer Coalition State-by-State Report Card. The reason for a less-than-A-plus rating is Georgia does not allow retailer-to-consumer shipping. This means that a Georgia consumer cannot purchase wine directly from a retailer, or a winery, outside Georgia. The three-tier system likely prevents that position from changing anytime soon.

  Frogtown Cellars in nearby Dahlonega. Photo courtesy of Google images

Georgia wines
Well-respected California wine writer Michael Cervin, on the website intowine.com, writes in his article “Top 100 Most Influential U.S. Winemakers”: No. 97, Craig Kritzer of Frogtown Cellars in Georgia is still under the radar, for now. But this Georgia winery continually competes in wine competitions against California wines … and wins. Helping to place Georgia on the wine map for dry red and white wines, Kritzer takes this a step further and is one of the few Georgia wineries to not blend some percentage of California grapes, juice or concentrate, with his wine, a common practice in Georgia. This keeps his consumers drinking 100 percent Georgia wine, and keeps them coming back.

Congratulations to Craig and his team at Frogtown.

In my next article, the focus will be on red wines from the Piedmont region in Italy.

Wayne Crawford is a certified specialist of Wine CSW and a member of the nearSociety of Wine Educators and the American Wine Society.

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