Here in British Columbia, our long-term love affair with Australian red wines seems to have waned.
In the ‘New World’ category we’ve been distracted by funky new Malbecs from Argentina, complex Carménères – alone and in blends – from Chile, intriguing Petit Verdots from California and cheeky kitchen sink blends from South Africa.
And while this was going on, Australian winemakers just kept upping that ‘jammy’ factor in their red wines. Today, however, many winemakers in Oz have dialled back that exorbitant and sometimes excessive ‘fruitiness,’ At the risk of generalizing, Australian reds are much more food-friendly, now – still voluptuously ripe but remarkably well-balanced!
Coming out of that largely imaginary region known as South-East Australia, Laughing Bird Shiraz (673186) $11.79 overflows with dried cherry, dusty raspberry and spicy plum aromas and flavours with an intriguing wisp of cassis in the finish. Well priced for mid-week sipping!
Another exceptionally affordable red from South-East Australia, Crocodile Creek Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon (886119) $16.50 is seriously sippable. All blackcurrant fruit up front, it slides seamlessly into earthy, peppery blackberry with a twist of sage in the finish.
Wrattonbully lies between Padthaway and Coonawarra in the terra rossa-rich rolling hill country of South Australia’s Naracoorte Ranges. Wrattonbully is a temperate region that is especially well-suited to the production of high-quality red wines. Gently hilly slopes facilitate cold air flow and lower relative humidity, minimising the risk of frost and disease.
Parker Favourite Son Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot (42812) $18.99 shows the trademark bright fruit and deep flavours associated with the Wrattonbully region – brooding black-purple colour with aromas of blackcurrant, cedar, cappuccino and even violets. As the wine takes on air in the glass, the fruit peels back and the wine gets remarkably Bordeaux-like.
The Barossa Valley is a renowned wine-producing region northeast of Adelaide, in South Australia. The area encompasses towns such as Tanunda, Angaston and Nuriootpa, and an array of high-profile wineries offering tours and cellar-door tastings. Shiraz grapes are the local speciality.
From the Barossa Valley, Hesketh’s ‘The Protagonist’ Shiraz (504076) $20.79 oozes ripe berries and dusky dried plums with a very generous and old-fashioned over-the-top vat full of juicy blackberry, eucalyptus and mint aromas and flavours.
When wine lovers think of Barossa, it is this valley and the wine growing region that comes first to mind. Very few know of the Battle of Barrosa – fought in 1811 outside of the Spanish port of Cadiz during the Peninsular War between France and the combined forces of Spain and their English allies.
A vinous rematch of the famous 1811 battle at Barrosa Ridge where Spain and France collided. Chaffey Bros. La Résistance! takes up the fight for the traditional French varieties of the Barossa and pitches gnarly old vine Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre into defence against the invading foreign marauders. During the historic battle a single British division defeated two French divisions and captured a regimental eagle – but ultimately failed to break the siege of Cádiz.
At Chaffey Bros. in the Eden Valley, winemaking brothers-in-law Daniel Chaffey Hartwig and Theo Engela make small batches from grapes from the Barossa and Eden Valleys in South Australia. Whether they are named whimsically or historically, these are fighting wines!
A blend of 55 per cent Grenache, 33% Syrah, and 12 per cent Mourvèdre, Chaffey Bros. ‘Battle for Barossa’ – La Résistance! – GSM (755645) $33.99 offers up a medley of black cherry and strawberry aromas and flavours. Underpinning the fruit, subtle oak and caramel notes round out the finish.
The town of Margaret River lies in Western Australia’s South West region, 9 kilometres inland from the Indian Ocean. Named for the town, the Margaret River wine growing region has a Mediterranean-style climate, without extreme summer and winter temperatures, provides ideal conditions for growing wine gapes – like France’s Bordeaux in a dry year.
Spiced up with a splash of Malbec, Devil’s Lair Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon (190132) $51.40 is all red and black berry fruit with and earthy sprinkle of leafy forest floor aromas along with vanilla, hazelnut and dried cherry. In the mouth it’s green herbs and ripe black cherry. Subdued tannins and a lengthy finish.
Regardless of your favourite price point or historical perspective, take time to rediscover the voluptuous red wines Australia continues to offer us!
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