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Snooth User: Terence Pang

What Australian wines are in your stores/cellars?

Posted by Terence Pang, May 30, 2012.

Dear Snoothers, I was having a thought while adding more tasting notes, and realised it is not much good if the good proportion of wines that I describe were from small producers who do not export to the USA where the majority of members here are located.

Therefore, I would greatly appreciate it if you could list the Australian labels that appear on the shelves of your wine stores, or ones which you might be most interested in. This would be highly informative for me because it would reveal whether there is a generalised 'style' of wines that is being exported to your area. Of course, this wouldn't prevent me from writing about the wineries which I think would be of great interest to snooth members which I'd encourage you to seek out on your travels.

I was also reminded of our opposite seasons with the article on Sauvignon Blanc appearing on the main page! That seems the most unlikely wine to be opening on a gloomy 10C day in Melbourne.

Cheers.


Edit: I thought I'd start a list of the labels which have had multiple mentions. Interesting cluster in terms of the state of origin. Huge bias towards SA wines.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Penfold's, Peter Lehmann, Jacobs Creek, Mitolo, Mollydooker, Fox Creek, Henry's Drive, John Duval, Kaesaler, Two Hands, Rolf Binder, Yalumba, Glaetzer (Ben)

Rosemount Estate (Hunter Valley, New South Wales & McLaren Vale, South Australia)

NEW SOUTH WALES: Yellowtail (Riverina)

WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Cape Mentelle

VICTORIA: Tahbilk

 

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Replies

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Reply by JonDerry, May 31, 2012.

I have zero Australian wines in my cellar, Penfold's seems to be the only Australian brand to ever crack through my west coast american skull, even after years of following wines and hearing about Australia every so often. In fact, when I first clicked on this post I was thinking it was an Austrian wine thread.

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Reply by dmcker, May 31, 2012.

"In fact, when I first clicked on this post I was thinking it was an Austrian wine thread."

ROFL (almost), Jon!

I'll have to go check. Not just sure what the (undoubtedly depleted) state of my stock is at present. Since my passive cellar is not located where I'm currently living, I'll have to return to this later. And since I'm located in Tokyo, the Aussie wines out in stores may tend to be different from those in the States. Not sure about price differentials lately, either.

Up to less than a year ago, we had a great representative of Aussie wines as a regular in these forums. Stephen Harvey, where'd you go?!  ;-)  Also a number of decent threads on the subject, if you were to do a Forum Search.

I've personally had a lot more good wine from Oz than from Austria, though I've also had plenty of the latter (and plenty of rubbish from Oz before I learned to dodge it). Assume it's that critter-wine cheapo-bomb image problem they have that's getting in the way of your education, Jon.

Terence, hopfully this thread will gain long legs. And you're not going to get much sympathy from me about the Melbourne weather. Just move up to the Gold Coast, or at least Sydney!  That's what most of my friends except the true diehards have done. I'm afraid weather trumps good coffee.  ;-)

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Reply by GregT, May 31, 2012.

"In fact, when I first clicked on this post I was thinking it was an Austrian wine thread."

Funny.  A few years ago nobody cared about Austrian wine and Australian was the most popular thing in the US. Life changes I guess.
 
Anyhow, Terence - you can check Wine Searcher for an idea of what's available. All of the big producers and a lot of smaller ones as well. Even tho sales are hurting these days, it only means that they went from many gazillions down to only zillions - Australian wine is still a huge part of the US market.
 
Mostly lower-end tho, i.e. Rosemount, Yellow Tail, the various offerings by Lindemans, Penfolds, Jacobs Creek, etc. In addition, I'm seeing stuff that was never on sale before - various bottlings of Clarendon Hills, Mitolo, and Peter Lehman for example, all the things Sparky Marquis is or has ever been involved with, even smaller production things like the wines from John Duval.  It's a good time to be interested in those wines as the prices have never been better.
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Reply by Richard Foxall, May 31, 2012.

Sparky Marquis?  Now you've got me, GregT.  I admit Australian wine is not my strength, but I'm gonna have to google that one.

Can we please hijack this thread to literature references, where I have a chance? Which is to say I currently have no Australian wine in my basement.  Check my tasting notes here and elsewhere and I've probably commented on 4 bottles in the last few years.  Maybe it's time to try again, with a blind GSM taste off.  Cali v. S. Rhone v. Australia.

Oh, wait, I went on a Tahbilk binge--four bottles of Marsanne-- a while back.  Good stuff, and pretty cheap.

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Reply by GregT, May 31, 2012.

Fox -

he made Fox Creek, Parsons Flat, Henry’s Drive, Shirvington, Integrity, Marquis-Philips. Partnership with Phillips broke up, Phillips kept the name and hired a new winemaker, and Sparky and his wife started Mollydooker.

Fox Creek was one of the first Australian red wines to get high praise from Parker some years ago. Henry's Drive and Shirvington as well. Had a 2002 Henry's Drive Cab just a few nights ago matter of fact.  Marquis-Phillips got really high points for wines that weren't all that costly and those were kind of benchmark wines for Barossa Shiraz in the US.  Big, juicy, super ripe, all done up.The whites are actually more interesting in some respects - he does Verdejo for example.

Sparky came up or at least popularized a term he calls "fruit weight", which is what he's looking for in his juice. With the Mollydooker line-up, the fruit weight reached Gargantuan proportions. They're at some point beyond reason.  Tasting his entire line-up, the best to me was a wine that was somehow a little less over the top than the others. He laughed and explained that it was done by his wife. She's somehow a lot more subtle.

He's a really engaging guy too - something I've found very common with Australian winemakers, more so than those of anywhere else for some reason.  And he's no dummy. He knows exactly what he's doing. To talk to him is to gain an education in viticulture. He knows exactly what is going on in the soil and the vines and he cares a great deal about that. It's very similar to having a conversation with a really knowledgable person from the Loire Valley or the Rhone.  It's just that his aesthetic is utterly different.  Kind of like Iron Maiden vs Thelonious Monk.

 

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Reply by dmcker, May 31, 2012.

"Kind of like Iron Maiden vs Thelonious Monk."

So what, Nicholas Joly is Monk?  ;-)

I've noticed the same about a lot of people in and around the wine industry down there. You'll still run across a curmudgeon or two, but a lot more 'hail fellow, well met' there and in those smaller islands across the Tasmanian Sea.

How'd you find the 2002 Henry's Drive? I haven't found them to age all that well, though I've only had a dozen or so, and who knows, maybe they were damaged in shipment.

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Reply by Onin24eagle, May 31, 2012.

I've got close to 200 bottles in my cellar and only one is from Australia and that's a 2004 Oriel Sygnet Shiraz.  I've got a ton of German wines though.....

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Reply by Terence Pang, Jun 1, 2012.

Thanks for the starting up the conversation guys! Can't deny that Sparky and Sarah have reasonable prominence in the USA, in part due to the positive reviews from particular wine critics.

While Fox Creek from the 90s have been nice to drink, I have had really trouble with Henry's Drive and Mollydookers, especially those from hot vintages. The high alcohol levels 15%++ give me the impression of sniffing and slurping varnish.

I'm not sure I'm ready to credit Sparky with coining the term 'fruit weight' but his taste threshold is certainly less sensitive than mine because what he describes as robust flavours to me feel like drinking straight from syrup or liqour bottles. 

I've been down to their winery and met the couple who are one of the most hospitable hosts I've encountered in Australia. They're very proud of their wines, and no reason not to. They're certainly running a successful business.

I might pop round to a store to hunt down some Henry's Drive or older Fox creeks if they're available.

But what about the 'R' wine labels? They were wildly popular (or so I heard) since they were regarded as the 'second label' of Chris Ringland's wines. Although he hasn't made wine for that portfolio for a couple of years now, and there are less reviews of this range floating around, I was wondering whether they remain popular Australian wines in the USA?

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Reply by Terence Pang, Jun 1, 2012.

Fox,

the Tahbilk Marsannes are great value buys. They're AUD$12 here and are great drinking after some years of cellering, and worry-free too with screwcaps! I'm just coming round to drinking the 2005s, and my receipts said I paid $12 per bottle back then, so kudos to the winery for absorbing some cost of inflation!

The 1927 Marsanne is AUD$36 and have an edge of slate minerality on the feel. I just realiased how few of these I've tried. I don't actually own any, probably because of its cost since I can get 3 bottles of the other label for the price of one 1927.

 

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Reply by GregT, Jun 1, 2012.

D - Joly?  He's kind of like Ervin Nyiregyházi.  I.e., in his own league.

Glad I'm not the only one who thinks Australian winemakers are somehow different.  Actually, many, even most, are just fine, wherever they're from. But I've run into a few here and there, in France, Spain, and the US, who think they're just extraordinary beings striding across the planet. Have never met a single one from Australia like that.  Was recently at a tasting and the guy who makes Killerman's Run was pouring his wine. I wasn't even going to taste them but he invited me so pleasantly, and when I moronically confused Killerman's with Kilibinbin, he didn't bat an eye or make a disparaging snide comment.  Unlike a guy like say, Jim Clendenon.

The Henry's Drive was interesting.  A few years ago a Spanish friend brought one to a blind tasting. There were a few wine snobs there so he didn't ID it.  It didn't come out at the top of the tasting, but it did credibly well and everyone sort of took note.  I was actually rather impressed because when it was younger, it was incredibly oaky, sometimes verging on oak juice.  So I need room in the cellar and started rooting around for things that I should never have kept and I found a couple bottles of this. It's not the reserve, just the regular Cab.  At 10 years, I figured it should put up or shut up. 

Pretty syrupy.  The oak had receded a lot, but there wasn't anything that made me think of Cab particularly, and there wasn't a lot of structure.  It was sweet, fruity, and good enough for the type, but on release I think it was going for mid $20s - 30s and it really wasn't worth that in any way. I didn't pay anywhere close to that so I wasn't offended, but I was a little disappointed based on the showing a few years ago.  So what to say - a $25 wine didn't age well?  No shock. Based on my extremely limited sampling I'd probably drink them at say, 6-8 years, but that might be entirely erroneous. 

Terrence - the "R" wines are still around here and there. That was originally also a partnership with Phillips, but it went bust and filed for bankrupcy.  It's a good example of what happened to the US market for Australian wine, as many of the wines were made to be particularly sweet and fruity.

I have zero data on this, but I'd be willing to bet that at this point, in terms of US mind share in the wine collector's market, Ringland may be better known from his efforts in Spain. Those wines are frequently mistaken for Australian wines in blind tastings, so I guess it's a case of winemaker trumps terroir. That said, he's brought attention to those areas in Spain that they didn't have before, so they shouldn't be too bothered.

No clue what others have, but in my cellar, glancing around I can see multiple bottles of various products from Armstrong, Balnaves, Blackbilly, Clarendon, Burge, Caliope, Campbells, Chat Reynella, Lehman, Craneford, d'Arenburg, Dutschke, Galah, Gumpara, Fox Creek, Marquis Phillips, Hastwell + Lightfoot, Duval, Henry's Drive, Jim Barry, Katnook, Magpie (a little-known but good producer of Mourvedre and GSM blends), Limelight, Mitolo, Mt. Billy, Leasingham, Oliver Hill, Samuel's Gorge, Rusden, Scarpetoni, Yalumba, Three Saints, Thorn-Clarke, Pierro, Pirammina, and Lucky Country, and I'm sure there's one or two more.

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Reply by JonDerry, Jun 1, 2012.

I'm still fascinated by what a huge perceived difference there is between say a 13.9% alcohol wine and a 15.1%, while it's only less than a 9% increase in alcohol, it's a world of difference in perception and preconceived notions. Not saying I'm not guilty of it as well, but I've had some really good 15+% wines.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Jun 1, 2012.

JD, lots of Zins don't taste hot at all at 15%.  Some grapes just have to get close to those numbers, IMO. It's when a grape that can make good wine at <14% goes to 15+ that things get edgy.  Here's where we get into typicity, to some degree:  Syrah is a different beast at higher ETOH.  Cab isn't so hugely different, but the emphasis changes from structure to fruit, and the ability to age appears to go down. A 9% difference in ETOH content is probably seriously noticeable, although I don't know what the Weber's Constant for alcohol is, but for many stimuli, it's a lot less than that, maybe 2%.

GregT, I did drink a few bottles of Oliver Hill not too long ago when K&L had a special on a "second" bottling.  But the geek in me now wants to hunt down Magpie, given my love of GSM blends.

Iron Maiden v. Monk is not a question of preference.  Monk really is better.  As to the friendly winemakers, I have to say that I think there's a bit of stratification in California.  Napa is big and corporate, mostly, and the owners and winemakers can have a sense of entitlement from the fame of the region.   But not all, by any stretch.  Go back and look at my notes on Bell--but that's a non-cult boutique label.  Central Coast is not my expertise, but I sense that the general air of superiority that one sometimes detects around Santa Barbara may pervade some areas.  However, farther north, I got a personal email from one of the Garys (Franscioni) when I asked if I could come by the winery--had I checked the website, I would have seen they are not open to the public at all.  (There are good reasons.)  He was really nice about it.  Up in Dry Creek, I think there's a lot of pseudo- Australians.  They're so friendly you cannot believe it.  Could be most of them work land that has been in the family a long time, or started out farming before they realized they could make really good wine.  Or are just kind of like that--Michael Talty could easily be an Australian, based on the ones I traipsed through Europe with.

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 1, 2012.

BTW, Fox, pls check your inbox.

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Reply by Lucha Vino, Jun 3, 2012.

Where is Stephen Harvey?!

I have some Penfolds, Tatiara, Henry's Drive, Mount Langi Ghiran, Molly Dooker and Poonawatta in my cellar.  We have lots of other Australian wines available in Seattle.  Check out madine.com to get an idea of the labels available here.

As a side note - for whatever reason Sparky Marquis seems to show up in Seattle a couple of times a year.

 

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Reply by superab, Jun 3, 2012.

Interesting thread I have to say and have enjoyed everyones comments and thought so far. As an Australian who now lives back in Australia but used to live in the USA for sometime, I fear Terence that if you only post tasting notes for the Australian wines found commonly in the USA, you will be tasting the "worst" Australia has to offer....lol. Its unfortunate that typically the only wines found in the USA are from big wine corporations, run by accountants who are after volume and quantity over quality. But thats just my humble opinion. From the many conversations I had with wine drinkers and lovers in the USA it seems the American perception of Australian wine is 1 dimensional based only upon cheap labels that find their way onto the American shores. Yes I'm sure the discerning wine buyer could find some good Australian wine, but all the average American has to gauge Australian wine is from the wine that turns up on their supermarkter shelves. And from the Yellowtail, Jacobs Creek and Penfolds I used to see on the Seattle stores all I can say is nooooooooooo!!!!!!!

It would be interesting to though to see what other wines have made it over and if its only the big wine corporations that have made it onto the US shores. I'm also wondering if the seperation of Treasury WIne Estates from Fosters group and other big wine corporation mergers and acquistions will change the mix of Australia wines on American shores.

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Reply by Terence Pang, Jun 4, 2012.

Hi superab,

I certainly couldn't survive torturing my taste buds by limited my tastings to the Australian wines commonly available in America. I think we can already glean a particular style of wines based on the labels that have been mentioned here so far - MollyDooker, Henry's Drive (couldn't even find it at Dan Murphy's yesterday?!), Jacob's Creek, Tintara and the dreaded Penfold's mention.

But I think it will be a good exercise for me to at least attempt to try some of these wines, just to remind myself of the sort of wines that casual drinking American's are basing their impression of Australian wine upon. I'll declare that they aren't wines that I'd drink or keep in my celler, but that should prevent me from checking them out from time to time.

Speaking of which, I'll bust open a Fox Creek later, the 2010 Resolve Shiraz. And just for dmcker's austrian read, I've got a Salomon Gruner Veltleiner too. But those will have to wait till after my tasting of some Luke Lamberts this arvo.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Jun 4, 2012.

The problem with Aussie wine in the US right now is the vicious cycle:  The better wine shops rarely have a real Aussie expert and don't devote display area to it.  So no one will spend on it, and the stores have no reason to give it more space. The Jug Shop had an expert named Chuck Hayward back in the early nineties; he's now at JJ Buckley if you are interested in finding Aussie wines in the US and willing to have them shipped.  I'd say tell him I sent you, except he won't remember me, only the woman I was dating at the time.

Of course, Aussie wines will always have to overcome the stigma of being the butt of a riotous Monty Python bit. Come to think of it, that was my first exposure to them.

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Reply by Terence Pang, Jun 4, 2012.

Before I post up the TNs for the Fox Creek, I really need to recommend that you guys seek out Luke Lambert's wines. The caveat being that his wines are stylistically different from the generic Australian shiraz, and even within the Yarra Valley itself, his wines stand out as being from another world. He currently works off a single vineyard which has a 70m elevation difference running up the slope of a hill, resulting in a Reserve wine made from the vines at the top of that hill which is very different from the fruit off the valley floor.

He does have a USA distributor, and I'll try to locate the contact later. The estate label (AUD$38) ~5000 btls, and the Reserve (AUD$75) ~500btls.I sat down for a tasting organised by Sommeliers Australia yesterday, and honestly, couldn't meet a more humble, soft-spoken and honest winemaker. While he's got a Uni degree, he picked up his winemaking skills in Italy, and models his wines after Clape (Cornas). So if you like the rustic, traditional kind of wines to go with food, this is one to seek out. The 2010 releases are brilliant.

I'll post up notes on these as well.

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 4, 2012.

Fox, great link. Welsh claret (wonder if it's somehow like their rarebit) and Chateau Chunda, indeed!

 

It's only a flesh wound. Or is it Mollydooker juice?

 

Sorry if this offends any sensibilities... ;-)

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Reply by Terence Pang, Jun 4, 2012.

Just for GregT who first mentioned Sparky and Fox Creek here (even though he doesn't make FC wine anymore, though I think Sarah's parents still own the winery).

Fox Creek The Resolve Shiraz 2010, McLaren Vale. AUD$14 from Dan Murphy's. The story attached to the label speaks of the old tree that still survives on the property despite the drought of recent years. Strangely, this label is nowhere to be found on the Fox Creek website. Simple aromas of black plum juice and black cherry liquor with a peppery hint. Full-bodied wine with medium fine tannins and plenty of acidity. Thick flavours of plum skins and dark cherry, hint of anise. Drink now as a quaffer for the BBQ.

And for Jon:

Salomon-Undhof Groovey Gruner Veltliner 2009, Krems Stain A D Donau, Austria. AUD$22 from Dan Murphy's. Probably not the freshest vintage to be drinking right now, perhaps Constance Chamberlain could comment on that. Pale yellow colour, grassy notes with faint India curry powder on a backdrop of lemon fruit aromas. Dry, full-bodied white wine with high level of citrus acidity. Simple flavours of lemon and pith, clean and straight-forward. Touch of white pepper on the finish. Certainly drink now, but I'm curious as to how long Gruners can last, and do they develop secondary characteristics like Riesling?

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