WTN /WineAdvisor: Is there a "White Shiraz"? (Yarraman 05 Semillon-Verdelho)

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WTN /WineAdvisor: Is there a "White Shiraz"? (Yarraman 05 Semillon-Verdelho)

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Jan 24, 2007 1:13 pm

Is there a "White Shiraz"?

Pardon the rhetorical question, but some days it seems that big, powerful Shiraz dominates Australia's wine exports to the extent that we forget about all the other good wines coming from Down Under. Yes, even white wine.

Like the U.S., Australia grows and makes wine from a bewildering array of grape varieties, all of them immigrant vines with their roots in Europe. There's Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Grenache and Mourvedre and Riesling and even a splash of Muscat and a shot of Zinfandel.

But one Australian quest seems to remain a vinous Holy Grail, more a dream than a reality: Where's the "White Shiraz"? I'm not talking about a pink-wine-from-red-grapes here, but a white <i>equivalent</i> to Shiraz, a grape that thrives so well in the continent's climate and soils that it can make a uniquely Australian wine with huge economic potential.

While Chardonnay does well from the Hunter Valley through South Australia to the Margaret River in the far West country, and Riesling from the Clare and Eden Valleys can be a delight (more about that in Friday's edition), neither of these white wines strikes me as expressing Australia as boldly as Shiraz does with the reds.

Two white varieties that carry relatively little weight in the Old Country, however, do seem to have potential to take off in Oz; much as Malbec, lightly regarded in its French homeland, has skyrocketed in Argentina. Let's have a quick look at them both:

<b>SEMILLON</b> is used in France almost entirely as a blending grape with Sauvignon Blanc to make White Bordeaux and, at its pinnacle, the great dessert wines of Sauternes and its neighbors. In Australia - particularly in the Hunter Valley northeast of Sydney - it has a long history as a table-wine variety. (And, in a twist on European place-name borrowing that perhaps outdoes even California "Chablis" and "Burgundy," it was long marketed as "Hunter <i>Riesling</i>.") It's also grown in Chile and spottily in the Western U.S. With managed yields and careful vinification it can make a rich, almost honeyed but sturdily acidic white with considerable cellar potential. Overcropped and grown for profit, it makes forgettable jug wines.

<B>VERDELHO</B>, a Portuguese grape, was once so widely planted on Madeira that it bestowed its name on a Madeira style, between Sercial and Bual in sweetness. It has almost died out there, although the name remains. In Australia, too, it was a major wine grape during the 1800s but lost popularity. In recent years, however, it has been coming back strong, with varietally labeled Verdelho becoming common in recent years. High in acidity with a citric lemon-lime character, well-made Verdelho can be a refreshing table wine or a strong structural element in blends.

Today's featured wine, continuing this week's focus on Australia, is a 60-40 blend of Semillon and Verdelho from <b>Yarraman Estate</b> in South Eastern Australia, the broad wine region that includes both New South Wales (Sydney) and Victoria (Melbourne). Closed with a sturdy metal screw cap, it offers startling complexity, good texture and balance in a food-friendly wine of unusual character for just $10, making it one of my best white-wine values of the still-young year.

<table border="0" align="right" width="115"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/barn0122.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Yarraman Estate 2004 South Eastern Australia "Barn Buster" ($9.99)

This blend of Semillon (60%) and Verdelho (40%) is a rather pale straw color with glints of gold. Pleasant and complex aromatics blend a whiff of tangerine, a breath of honeydew melon and a distant piney note that's not resinous but pleasantly reminiscent of a breeze through a conifer forest. Flavors are consistent with the nose, light-bodied, fresh and tart, pineapple and a hint of ripe mango shaped by snappy acidity that hangs on as a palate-cleansing element in a long finish. Very fine indeed. U.S. importer: Robert Whale Selections Ltd., Washington, D.C. (Jan. 22, 2007)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> It was splendid with an Asian seafood-and-pork partner at the dinner table: Cantonese-style shrimp with lobster sauce.

<B>VALUE:</B> Food friendly, balanced and surprisingly complex, it's a fine value in the $10 range.

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> It's not meant for aging and best enjoyed while the fruit flavors are fresh, although it should hold up well for a year or two under the metal screw cap.

<B>PRONUNCIATION:</B>
<B>Semillon</B> = "<I>Seh-mee-yawN</i>"
<B>Verdelho</B> = "<I>Vehr-DALE-yoh</I>"

<B>WEB LINKS:</B>
Curiously, the Yarraman Website does not show Barn Buster in the company's portfolio, hinting that - as is surprisingly common Down Under - it may be a special label made entirely for export and not available at home.
http://www.yarramanestate.com
The U.S. importer has a fact sheet on the 2004 vintage, which was similar but blended the grapes in slightly different proportions:
[url=http://www.robertwhaleselections.com/tastingnotes.cfm?tastingnotesid=197&ourwinesid=35]http://www.robertwhaleselections.com/
tastingnotes.cfm?tastingnotesid=197&ourwinesid=35[/url]

<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Check prices and find vendors for Yarraman "Barn Buster" on Wine-Searcher.com.
[url=http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/Yarraman%2bBarn/-/-/USD/A?referring_site=WLP]http://www.wine-searcher.com/
find/Yarraman%2bBarn/-/-/USD/A?referring_site=WLP[/url]

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Is there a "White Shiraz"? (Yarraman 05 Semillon-Verde

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed Jan 24, 2007 1:45 pm

I am a (closet) Verdelho fan so thanks for this promotion!!!
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Is there a "White Shiraz"? (Yarraman 05 Semillon-Verde

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Jan 24, 2007 1:48 pm

Bob Parsons Alberta. wrote:I am a (closet) Verdelho fan so thanks for this promotion!!!


I've had a hard time warming up to Aussie Verdelho, Bob. I had to judge a very large flight of it at Sydney in 2003, and to be honest, I thought they all tasted exactly alike and none of them were particularly characterful. I'd have thought it was just my uneducated Yank palate, but my judging partner Louisa Rose, white-winemaker at Yalumba, seemed to agree with me.

This blend, though, really highlights the possibilities when you put the Oz rendition of these two grapes together.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Is there a "White Shiraz"? (Yarraman 05 Semillon-Verde

Postby Bill Hooper » Wed Jan 24, 2007 11:16 pm

On a side note...


MAN, does Australia market wine without friggin' ANIMALS on the Label? Next thing you know, they'll be putting Horses on the bottles... :D


Prost!
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Is there a "White Shiraz"? (Yarraman 05 Semillon-Verde

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Jan 24, 2007 11:27 pm

Bill Hooper wrote:MAN, does Australia market wine without friggin' ANIMALS on the Label? Next thing you know, they'll be putting Horses on the bottles... :D


I thought about that, Bill, but this animal isn't cute and cuddly. "Yarraman" is apparently aboriginal for "wild horse," and now that I think about it, nobody ever accused California's Wild Horse of being a yellow tail-style winery.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Is there a "White Shiraz"? (Yarraman 05 Semillon-Verde

Postby Bill Hooper » Wed Jan 24, 2007 11:30 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Bill Hooper wrote: now that I think about it, nobody ever accused California's Wild Horse of being a yellow tail-style winery.


Nor Stags Leap Wine Cellars!


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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Is there a "White Shiraz"? (Yarraman 05 Semillon-Verde

Postby Robin Garr » Thu Jan 25, 2007 12:58 am

Bill Hooper wrote:Nor Stags Leap Wine Cellars!


Nor Chateau Cheval Blanc! ;)

And what's the super-pricey Barbaresco with the big rhino on the label? I had lunch with the wine maker in Monforte once, but durn if I can think of his name. La Spinetta? Maybe ...
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Is there a "White Shiraz"? (Yarraman 05 Semillon-Verde

Postby Bob Ross » Thu Jan 25, 2007 1:55 am

Robin,

Crass commercial question before I wast a lot of time: can I make more money coming up with a white Zinfandel or with a blue rose?

Many thanks, Bob
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Is there a "White Shiraz"? (Yarraman 05 Semillon-Verde

Postby Robin Garr » Thu Jan 25, 2007 2:09 am

Bob Ross wrote:Crass commercial question before I wast a lot of time: can I make more money coming up with a white Zinfandel or with a blue rose?


Go for the blue rose, Bob. It's the holy grail of botany, isn't it?
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Is there a "White Shiraz"? (Yarraman 05 Semillon-Verde

Postby Tony Willett » Fri Jan 26, 2007 5:35 am

Rob, I too enjoy my verdelho, when it is good! In Australia there are considerable quantities of vin ordinaire under the verdelho label. However when you get "the good stuff", it is superb, like a bunch of trpical fruits. I do agree with Robin that there is however probably some lack of varietal variation.
I live in the Australian northern tropical state of Queensland and some writers refer to the verdelho grape as "the great white hope" for this state in that it is a grape that produces good wine making fruit in a hotter climate.
In the south east corner of QLD there is a grape growing region referred to as the "granite belt" and a particular winery (Robert Channon Wines) that produces a superb verdelho that has recieved many accolades. When I first tasted their verdelho in 2002, it was like no other white wine that I had tasted in my 25 odd years of wine experience (mostly quaffing stuff with my budget). Here is a link to their website;
http://www.robertchannonwines.com/
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Is there a "White Shiraz"? (Yarraman 05 Semillon-Verde

Postby Tony Willett » Fri Jan 26, 2007 5:39 am

Woops, being an amateur at this I posted my comments under those from Bob Ross rather than Bob Parsons from Alberta. Sorry.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Is there a "White Shiraz"? (Yarraman 05 Semillon-Verde

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Jan 26, 2007 9:55 am

Tony Willett wrote:Woops, being an amateur at this I posted my comments under those from Bob Ross rather than Bob Parsons from Alberta. Sorry.


No worries, Tony ... this forum software basically places new posts at the bottom, regardless. "Threading" is accomplished by using the "quote" function to include a bit of the prior post in your message to help folks keep track of which post you're responding to.

Nothing to be concerned about ... we rarely poke fun at newbies. :oops:
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Is there a "White Shiraz"? (Yarraman 05 Semillon-Verdelho)

Postby Ian Sutton » Fri Jan 26, 2007 7:28 pm

Penfolds would have us believe that Chardonnay (and for them, Yattarna) is the great white equivalent of Shiraz.

For me though, semillon is indeed the white grape, that offers real individuality, cellaring potential and aged complexity.

FWIW I tend to prefer the Aussie Cab & Cab Blends to Shiraz, partly as they're a little less hyped, and hence a little cheaper. Some great wines though.

Broad generalisation I know and I still enjoy Aussie shiraz

regards

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Is there a "White Shiraz"? (Yarraman 05 Semillon-Verde

Postby Tony Willett » Fri Jan 26, 2007 7:45 pm

Nothing to be concerned about ... we rarely poke fun at newbies.


Thanks for uour patience & advice Robin. I'm getting the hang of it; I think!!
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Is there a "White Shiraz"? (Yarraman 05 Semillon-Verde

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri Jan 26, 2007 8:41 pm

Tony Willett wrote:Woops, being an amateur at this I posted my comments under those from Bob Ross rather than Bob Parsons from Alberta. Sorry.


Whoa, no problem. Bob R and Bob P aka Doris are pals..then there is BobH. Watch out!!!!!
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