Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Report from ... Australian Tasting: Masterclass - January 29 ... Consumer Show - January 30, 2009

Welcome to Australia, home of some of the best wines in the world, the oldest plantings of Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvedre, and to some of the world’s biggest misconceptions. As the Australian’s market share falls for the first time in almost a decade, the Australians came to town hoping to prop up their wines by letting everyone know: “we are more than those drink now critter wines we have become known for.” That Australia is about regionality and not just a general country designation; you should be able to say I like Margaret River Cabs and not just Australian Cabs. And finally, Australia wanted to inform us that they are vacating the “low end” part of the market, “the Chileans and Argentineans are doing a better job down there anyway.”

But enough of the baffle-gab, what did the wines have to offer and are they worth the money? I sat down during a “Masterclass” where 20 wines were poured and discussed, with another handful served with food later on … the following evening I found myself at the Consumer Show where I tried a few more worthy wines.

Riesling …

Masterclass: Many of the Riesling I tried at the masterclass session were uninspiring, although the moderator seemed keen, I’d have to say that he is paid to be so. Though I do have to single out the Mesh 2007 from the Eden Valley ($39.95), which saved me from walking away with the opinion that all Aussie Rieslings are flabby and boring.

Consumer Show: Skillogalee Clare Valley Riesling 2008 ($21.95)

Chardonnay …

Masterclass: Here I found the Aussies were scaling back from the over-wooded monsters of the past and moving towards more mineral and fruit driven numbers. They are also fans of using wild fermentation (indigenous yeast), which seem to add a flinty or “fresh struck match” quality to the wines. This is enhanced or subdued with lees contact. Some great examples of good Aussie-Chard were: Heggies 2006 Chardonnay ($24.50) and Yering Station 2006 Reserve Chardonnay ($75.00).

Consumer Show:

Scrubby Rise 2007 Unwooded Chardonnay ($15.95)

Clairault Estate 2005 Chardonnay ($30.50).

Pinot Noir …

Masterclass: Not the usual country you think about when the heartbreak grapes comes to mind, but surprisingly there are some delicious, and affordable, Pinots coming out of Oz; two favourites from this portion of my Aussie-two-days were: DeBortoli 2007 Gulf Station Pinot Noir ($19.95 - #15511), Stonier 2007 Reserve Pinot Noir ($44.95), and Yering Station 2006 Reserve Pinot Noir ($75.00).

Consumer Show: Yering Station 2006 Little Yering Pinot Noir ($15.95)

Red Blends …

Masterclass: Pretty much a no brainer here, the Aussies do it just as well as anybody, given the right grapes (that goes for anybody too). Gemtree 2007 Cadenzia ($40) – Grenache/Tempranillo/Shiraz; and Schild Estate 2007 GMS ($18.95 – Grenache/Mourvedre/Shiraz.

Consumer Show:

Wirra Wirra 2007 Catapult Shiraz Viognier ($24.95)

McPherson 2006 Chapter Three Shiraz Viognier ($18.95)

Tempus Two 2006 Copper Wilde Cabernet Merlot ($18.95 - #91710)

Parker Coonawarra Estate 2005 First Growth Cabernet Merlot ($110).

Cabernet Sauvignon …

Masterclass: A Cab is a Cab is a Cab, not according to the Australians, these wines proved that that is not always the case: Celestial Bay 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($20); and Jacob’s Creek 2004 St. Hugo Cabernet Sauvigon ($39.95).

Consumer Show: Evans & Tate 2004 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($35.00).

Shiraz …

Masterclass: The grape that made Australia famous. There are times that these wines taste the same – drink enough of them and you’ll start to feel that way too – but these one’s really stood out and had a life all their own: Wirra Wirra 2007 Woodhenge Shiraz ($36.00) – see my review of the 2006; Mount Langi Ghiran 2007 Ghiran Shiraz ($65.00); Roackford 2004 Basket Press Shiraz ($65.70); and Celestial Bay 2007 Shiraz ($20.00).

Consumer Show:

Alkoomi 2005 Jarrah Shiraz ($34.95 - #686634)

Thorn Clarke 2005 William Randall Shiraz ($44.00 - #922773)

Stella Bella 2006 Shiaraz ($22.95 - #48553).

One last wine of note that did not fall into the categories covered at the “masterclass” – here’s a Sauvignon Blanc that really made me wish that summer would hurry up and get here: Stella Bella 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($21.95 - #108159).

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