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March 21, 2019

Australian Wine Today: Fresh, Crunchy and ‘Smashable’

The New York Times
March 21, 2019
by Eric Asimov

You can still find the inky blockbusters of 15 years ago, but much as America’s wine industry has reoriented toward balance, so has Australia’s.

MELBOURNE, Australia — This cosmopolitan city on the southern coast of Victoria teems with great restaurants of all sorts, and the diners there are often thirsty for wine.

Whether the restaurant is Chinese or Japanese, modern Australian or a wine bar that would not be out of place in Bushwick, Brooklyn, its tables are bound to have a bottle. Often, it’s the sort of fresh, light-on-its-feet wine that for so long Americans have considered antithetical to Australia.

The American vision of Australian wine has been locked in a rigid stereotype for years, ossified by a steady diet of extremes. For many Americans, Australian wines were epitomized either by cheap commodities like Yellow Tail, which sold by the millions, or jammy, alcoholic blockbusters, which were glorified by critics doling out 98-point scores.

No matter that a middle ground always existed. With a few timeless exceptions, those wines got little attention.This clichéd view of Australian wines reminds me of how Europeans tend to view American tastes. Regardless of the fact that wine styles in the United States have reoriented over the last 10 years toward freshness and restraint, many Europeans are stuck imagining that all American wines are the California rocket juice of a decade ago, when, to the critics, at least, bigger always seemed to be better.

My own view of Australian wine began to evolve around five years ago, after I went to a tasting in New York of some hard-to-find Australian bottles, the sorts of graceful wines that many Australians prefer to drink themselves.

Since then, I’ve wanted to visit Australia to get a better, firsthand understanding of its wines, which seemed to have far greater potential and diversity than what is easily available in this country. I finally had my opportunity this year.

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