5 Australian Wines to Try
By Joe Czerwinksi
January 24, 2014
Today, American interest in Australia’s middle-class and high-end wines is coming back.
Flash back to 30 years ago and imagine yourself browsing through your local retailers’ wine racks. Think there is a section labeled Australia? Probably not.
Just five years later, in about 1989 – when I spent some time working in a Manhattan wine shop – Australian wines were muscling their way onto the shelves. Back then, the $7 Chardonnays and $9 Shirazes offered terrific value, easily outdistancing California’s ‘fighting varietals.’
There wasn’t much interest in the wines at higher price points. Penfolds’ 1986 Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon was terrific, but few of the store’s customers were willing to spend $25 to try it.
Inevitably, word got out about the great quality of Australia’s best wines. More and more of them found their way to America, and by the early 2000s, dropping names like Noon, Glaetzer and Riggs was a sure sign that you were in the know.
Yet a few years later, as quickly as you could say, ‘Global Financial Crisis,’ interest in these wines crashed. Many of them disappeared from the American market following 2008. Others lingered on store shelves, overpriced memories of a passing fling.
Today, American interest in Australia’s middle-class and high-end wines is coming back. Even though exchange rate changes mean the wines are no longer the screaming bargains they once were, they can still represent good value. The best combine Australia’s beneficent climate, old, ungrafted vines and winemaking skill into modern masterpieces.
This issue’s Buying Guide includes a good number of wines that fit that description, as well as a number of Best Buys for $15 or less. At the macro level, focus on South Australian red wines from the 2010 and 2012 vintages, which look to be the best years for the region in some time.
94 Leeuwin Estate 2010 Art Series Chardonnay (Margaret River). Having earned its reputation as one of Australia’s finest Chardonnays, the challenge is then to maintain that level of quality. The 2010 Art Series certainly does that. Enticing aromas of woodsmoke, peach and pink grapefruit give way to intense flavors of citrus and stone fruit on the palate. It’s full bodied, yet with great focus and length, ending crisply despite the wine’s inherent richness. Drink now – 2020, perhaps longer. Old Bridge Cellars.
91 dâ€™Arenberg 2010 d’Arry’s Original Shiraz Grenache (McLaren Vale). A terrific value, this 50-50 blend displays gentle oaking and a hint of warm asphalt, just enough to highlight the wine’s plum and black cherry fruit. It’s full bodied and features a long finish, outlined by wonderfully fine, dusty tannins. Drink now – 2018. Old Bridge Cellars. Editors’ Choice.