Sunday, April 8, 2012

Last Word on Australia

The Aussie education took me much longer than I ever expected...but I will endeavor to continue with other regions in a more timely fashion. As I read back through my perspective on Australia it occurred to me that while I noted some exciting wines, the most important step might be missing for some readers.
Should people make the step up to many of the wines recommended in the series? Absolutely! Will they? Many will but many others have been so turned off by Aussie wines that some middle point must be reached.
With that in mind, here are a few thoughts about reliable wines at very reasonable prices:
Avoid Yellowtail at all costs. If you like that wine, you are unlikely to be reading this but if you are, more power to you. If you can stomach that stuff, do so. Keep your wallet happy. For me it is unpalatable.
Lindeman's makes some solid reds and whites, the Bin 65 chardonnay, Bin 50 shiraz and Bin 55 shiraz/cabernet are the best. Stay away from the merlot - this is generally good advice across Australia. Shiraz functions as their soft, approachable red and performs much better across the board than merlot. Don't eat at American fast food if you're overseas and don't bother with wines made the same way.
Wolf Blass makes some solid value wines, although they have crept up a bit over the years. The ugly yellow label wines offer the best value, especially chardonnay, dry riesling, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz/cabernet.
Penfold's, perhaps the originator of quality Australian wine for export still produces top-notch selections. There are few true bargains though. Reds are better than whites and the upper range items are much better than the less expensive. I recommend the label but can not wholeheartedly endorse the under $15 options. The Bin 389 cabernet/shiraz is outstanding, but also around $25.
To my palate, the offerings from Oxford Landing and Yalumba are not only some of the best values coming out of Australia but also offer balance rarely seen at the value end. Oxford specializes in low-cost wines and their whites are clean and fresh, especially the sauvignon blanc. The chardonnay is well-made and on the lighter side. The viognier is by far the best inexpensive example of the grape I have seen in years. I am much less enamored of their reds.
Yalumba has a similar deft touch with viognier and whites in general. While Yalumba's portfolio can get quite expensive, and sometimes merits the price, the 'Y' Series offers the best value. Try their viognier, riesling and unwooded chardonnay on the white side. The shiraz/viognier red is the only red I can recommend until you reach the Bush Vine Grenache which is outstanding (but closer to $20 than $10).
Enjoy your explorations Down Under!

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