I know, you’re not sure if this is even worth reading then, but let me tell you, Australian wine is way more than cheap Shiraz. It’s easy to say that Australia is a land of overblown wines, and there are some particularly egregious examples to help illustrate that point, but when you return back to the prices us mere mortals will pay, you’ll find that Australia is not only a very diverse wine producer, but it’s also chuck full of values.
So flat out like a lizard drinking, let’s get to some recommendations!
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Yes, I am leading off an article on Australian wines with recommendations for Riesling. “He’s as thick as a wharfie’s sandwich,” you might say. Or not. That’s some obscure Aussie slang there.
I love Australian Riesling. They are dry, piercing, brilliantly fruited, refreshing and really good values. The best come from Clare Valley where the climate is moderate and allows the Riesling to mature while retaining its racy structure. Great with seafood and fresh cheeses.
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What? Another cool climate variety even though we’re talking about hot Australia? Yes, indeed. Let’s all stop thinking of Australia as one big giant piece of toast and consider that a country of almost 3 million square miles might actually offer wine growers a variety of climates!
Western Australia and even some of the coastal region of the southern wine making provinces offer many great sites for Pinot Noir. In fact, I’ve been surprised with many examples I’ve enjoyed recently. Most reminded more of examples from Oregon than anything else, not exactly a paragon of warm climate wine making. These are perfect for a nice, herb-scented roast chicken dinner.
Plantagenet Omrah Pinot Noir $20
Wyndham Estate Bin 333 Pinot Noir $10
Cooralook Pinot Noir $15
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Say what? That’s as useful as the handbrake on a Holden to most people, which is to say not very useful. What I should write is Grenache-based blends that typical feature additions of Syrah and Mourvedre, aka Rhone blends.
Grenache has a long history in Australia and was a useful (i.e. prolific) grape back in the day when Australia wine industry was dominated by the production of fortified and dessert wines. Today, there’s plenty of great Grenache to go around. Some of the varietal bottlings are awesome, and this comes from a Grenache doubter! Add in the meaty spiciness of Syrah and Mourvedre to the herb and strawberries of Grenache and you end up with a real winning combination. Add some spicy BBQ and send me an invite!
D’Arenberg The Stump Jump GSM $10
Langmeil Three Gardens GSM $18
Kaesler Stonehorse GSM $20
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Like most wine producing regions that enjoy a modicum of warm weather, Australia offers a rather wide selection of Cabernet-based wines. Unlike most regions though, Australia enjoys some liberty. While producing the typical varietal wines along with Bordeaux blends, befitting the land’s viticultural heritage, there is also an abundance of Cabernet/Shiraz blends.
This relatively rare style of wine, outside of Australia to be sure, is another feature of the country’s wine production that is worth exploring. Yes, there are plenty of great Cabernets in Australia as well. They are generally richly styled and lovingly look to the past rather than future for inspiration (Go Australia!). The Cab/Shiraz blends are a real treat worth experiencing for their combination of blue and black fruits and bright, juicy yet rich style.
Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet-Shiraz $30
Greenpoint Cabernet-Shiraz $15
Tatachilla Cabernet Sauvignon $10
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You knew this was coming so why the feigned surprise? It’s really unfair to Australia to discuss their wines and not bring Shiraz into the conversation. There are tons of people out there who think that Shiraz is an Australian grape, we all know it’s just the Australian name for good old Syrah.
So why don’t people want to talk about Shiraz? Primarily, because they have a misconception that saying Australian Shiraz is like saying Starbucks Coffee. It’s not. Instead, it’s more akin to saying coffee, and there are many varieties and styles of coffee out there just like there are many styles of Aussie Shiraz. They range from the classic, full-bodied, leathery and dark Barossa Valley to the great peppery examples from Victoria and the lighter-bodied wines from the western regions like Margaret River. If you like Syrah you have to explore Australia’s. It’s that simple!
D’Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz $20
Jim Barry Lodge Hill Shiraz $17
Yalumba 'Y' Series Shiraz $10
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Want to Learn More?
Check out the Top Wine Values of from 2011!