This weekend the Vintages theme is wines from Australia made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Chardonnay grapes. These are the grapes that best represent Australia in the minds of most consumers so it is a worthy theme.
As I have reported in the past sales of Australian wines are in decline throughout the world. This is due to changing palates and a wide recognition that the model Australia has built its name on – that is, inexpensive, blended wines made with super-ripe grapes, for early consumption – is not sustainable , especially as wines from places like Chile and Argentina are equally inexpensive but show more character than the competition from Aus.
The Vintages team has done a fine job selecting a sample of wines from regions in eastern Australia and the release is full of fine values, including two very good value wines from the state of Victoria in Australia.
This region is generally cool which allows winemakers to deliver crisp, lighter wines that many consumers will find delightful, especially if they have tired of high-alcohol, ripe, full-bodied wines from the warmer zones in Aus. I think the two wines I recommend from Victoria below are the highlights of the release. They are examples of what Australia is doing under the radar of the noise created by the big brands.
Spain, Jerez – DO Jerez Williams & Humbert Collection Dry Palomino Fino Sherry
Serve this wine chilled as an aperitif and your guests will be surprised and delighted. It is dry and tart with a nutty nose and plate, zesty citrus notes, a slight saltiness (this is Ok – it represents the place of origin, near the Atlantic Ocean). Great value.
Extra dry, fortified wine – $19.95 per bottle
France, Southern Rhône – AOC Côtes du Rhône E. Guigal Blanc 2012
Guigal is known in the wine trade for some of the best and most noble wines in the small northern Rhône appellations of Côte Rôtie and Condrieu. He also makes some high quality approachable wines from fruit he buys from growers in the southern Rhône. This wine is one of those negoçiant wines. It is an understated but elegant white made from a blend of Rhône white varieties, dominated by Viognier. The aromatics are modest, making this wine a perfect match across a number of summer menus: salads, grilled chicken, white fishes, etc. It has notes of pear, melon, yellow apple and spice. The finish is long and precise.
Extra dry, white wine – $18.95 per bottle
Australia, Victoria –Nugan King Valley Frasca’s Lane Vineyard Chardonnay 2012
This wine is stunning: it has some fruit concentration and weight, but it is taut and bright – a wonderful combination. The fruit is fresh with apple, pear, lemon combined with spice, toasted nut and a leesy brioche nose and palate. The acid is elevated so this wine will be another good match for summer dining. The finish is long.
Extra dry, white wine – $19.95 per bottle (Australia Feature wine)
Australia, Victoria – Domaine Tournon Mathilda Shiraz 2011
The last Vintages release featured a couple of wines from the Chapoutier operations in the south of France. This release features two wines for his operations in Victoria. This is one of those wines. Like Guigal, Chapoutier is a legendary maker in the northern Rhône. He has done an exceptional job of bringing the Old World to the New World with this wine. It is very Rhône-like so much that it would be hard to identify its origins in a blind tasting. It is rich with red and black berry/cherry fruit, juicy acid, sleek tannins, oodles of spice and wet loam – complex and full of life! This is a run don’t walk wine of the first order. I recommended this wine when it appeared in the January 4, 2014 release. Buy lots!
Note: if you are looking for a ripe, jammy, oaky Aussie Shiraz, don’t buy this wine.
Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle (Australia Feature wine)
California, Sonoma County – Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc 2012
Well-made Fumé Blanc can be exquisite: bright, fresh with just enough oak to soften the edges of the Sauvignon Blanc. This wine fills the well-made-bill. It is lean and precise with lemon, honey, spice and light oak on the nose and palate. The texture is soft and the body is medium-weight. This wine will be a crowd-please at summer parties: food-friendly it is also a fine wine for sipping. Served well-chilled.
Extra dry, white wine – $22.95 per bottle
There is a runner-up from this week’s Australia feature that will be of interest to lovers of value-priced Cabernet Sauvignon: Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run Cabernet Sauvignon 2012. This is a sleek, medium-bodied wine from Clare Valley in Australia. It has all the positive markers of Cab – cassis, and spice with a bit of mint and leather – without the green/unripe tannins that are often found in value-priced Cabs. The alcohol and acid are finely balanced to deliver a well-structured wine. This is a pretty fine value at $19.95 per bottle.
Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2014.