Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Report from: Australia Preview – September 5, 2007

The Aussies are coming. The Aussies are coming. In a few short weeks the folks from a land down under will be invading Toronto for the annual Australian Wine Tasting. Now in truth the Ozes landed a long time ago and they never left, invading the LCBO with bottle after bottle of fruit-driven, bomby wines that over delivered with pepper and red fruit flavours. Australia has literally changed the way we drink wine and re-introduced the world to Shiraz (syrah). Today each winery that will be attending the show later this month, was allowed to put one bottle on the table … a bottle that best represented their winery. In total there were about 60 wines to taste and they were broken down by region. So let’s take a quick travel around Australia and see what’s tasting terrific … so far.

Not surprising, there were few white wines to choose from – only about 5 of the 60 were white; the best of the best was a Riesling from the Clare Valley: O’Leary Walker Wines 2007 Riesling ($25.95 – private order B&W Wines) – the nose promised something sweet with peachy-melony goodness, but instead on the tongue you got citrus zing, crisp minerality and slate, with a dry acid-based finish; very food friendly and a refreshing sipper for hot days (I’m sure they have none of those Down Under).

The reds proved to be more of a challenge; because there were so many more they had to compete against each other for the number one position. There was no clear winner, but there were some excellent wines to choose from.

DeBortoli seems to be making a name for themselves and this newest addition to their line-up delivers in spades, but does lack a key varietal character. Deen Vat 10 2006 Pinot Noir ($14.95 – general list) was light and enjoyable with strawberry, raspberry flavours and a good raspberry finish. It lacked the earthiness most common in Pinot, so if you or your friends don’t dig the grime, you’ll like this one.

Of course it wouldn’t be an Aussie tasting without Shiraz, and there were lots on display, from all over Australia. From Hunter Valley comes the Hope Estate 2005 Shiraz ($17.95 - #741068); ripe plum and cherries on the nose, deep rich cherry flavour in the mouth … some tannin, but nothing to dry the mouth out too much. Around the same price range you can pick up the more complex Mount Langi Ghiran Billi Billi 2004 Shiraz ($18.00 - #726001). A nose of black fruit, vanilla, spice and strawberry, while in the mouth black fruit, light cedar and smooth easy-going fruitiness. I found myself being fond of the Skillogalee Basket Pressed 2004 Shiraz ($24.95 - #990902) with its blackberry, chocolate, mint and raspberry opening and a taste that followed through right up to its hit of spicy-nutmeg on the finish … a little pricey but awfully tasty.

Speaking of pricey, the Grant Burge 2005 Filsell Shiraz ($32.95 – private order Calibrium International) had spicy cola on the nose and cherry, cola and white pepper on the tongue. The alcohol was labeled at 15%, and you could feel it in the throat, although it did smooth out in the finish. This is tasty, but only a glass worth, after that it becomes too thick and alcohol laden to deal with … try chilling it up a bit if you decide to go back for seconds.

Wines worth having seconds and thirds of came from Wakefield Wines (2005 Cabernet Sauvignon $17.95 - #744235) – peppery spice with a chocolate mocha and vanilla-raspberry finish; Jacob’s Creek (2004 Reserve Shiraz $17.15 - #665471) with smoky red fruit, a tannin grip, chocolate-cinnamon-cedar follow through, and long fruit bomb finish; and from Peter Lehmann, who’s 2004 Clancy’s Red ($17.95 - #611467) is friendly, fruity and always enjoyable – best of all it won’t break the bank.

Tiers Wine Company’s perennial Vintages release: Clarence Hill Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.95 - #43729 … 2004) is chocolate and cocoa heavy on the nose, very fruit forward with red fruit and milk chocolate in the mouth. Not for any long term aging but very enjoyable right now.

One of my favourite Australian wineries’ is Nepenthe; they always seem to impress the heck out of me with whatever they do. Their 2004 Rogue Shiraz Cabernet Merlot ($19.95 - #998542) is another pleasant offering with black fruit, spice and some peppery zing on the nose and a cherry-vanilla-cola taste … good yum factor.

Finally, the Ringbolt returns … this 2005 Cabernet ($19.95 - #606624) does well at Vintages and has been an annual hit since it was first released here. Some spice, blackfruit and chocolate greet the nose, with chocolate, blackberries, cassis and cedar in the mouth – goes down well and there is the potential to age this one a little: 2-5 years. This one should see shelves come October 2007.

My appetite is now whetted for the Really Big Show coming Thursday September 27 at the Design Exchange 6:30-9:00pm and I hope yours is too – for more info about the event check out http://www.wineaustralia.com/CANADA/Default.aspx?tabid=4360.

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