Australian with finesse
Speak of Australian wines, and many wine lovers in the rest of the world will respond with the stereotypical assumption that you are talking about a huge, fruity, oaky, inky, "blockbuster" wine.
After all, quite a few of Australia's red-wine exports fit this description, not least because critical acclaim has created a market for big'n'brawny Australian reds that command a much higher price in the Northern Hemisphere than they do at home.
As I start looking forward to a return visit Down Under in a few months, - I'll be a judge at the Sydney International Wine Competition in October as well as checking out a few wineries, vineyards and good places to eat and drink in Australia and New Zealand - I'm making it a point to devote attention to some of Australia's other wines.
After all, Australia is about much more than just Grange, Hill of Grace, "cult" specialties with lofty Parker ratings ... and Yellow Tail. It's well worth getting to know this country and its wines from a broader perspective.
Today's wine, for instance, is a Shiraz, but it's a Shiraz with a difference. In contrast with many of the sought-after reds from Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale (near Adelaide), this wine from Bendigo - a historic gold-mining town in the state of Victoria, in the mountains northwest of Melbourne - is full and ripe but also balanced, complex and multi-dimensional. It's not a cheap wine, but its $24 price tag places it at half the price (or less) of many of its blockbuster brethren.
Balgownie Estate 1999 Bendigo Shiraz ($23.99)
Inky dark blackish-purple, it looks like a typical Oz Shiraz. Menthol and fragrant pepper aroma notes are typical, too, with plenty of plummy black fruit to carry them; spicy oak and a floral note as heady as gardenias come up with swirling. It's ripe and full on the palate, but not as bruising as the biggest Australian reds. There's balance here, and behind the muscularity, a lush, pleasing texture like soft velvet. The dash of Viognier in the blend is not immediately apparent - this is no Australian Cote-Rotie - but the wine's overall impression is not just brawn but style, and I like it. U.S. importer: Old Bridge Cellars, San Francisco. (March 2, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: It worked well with pork chops but might be better still with the smoky heartiness of grilled red meat.
VALUE: Pricey, but as noted, good value by the lofty standard of top-rank Australian reds.
WHEN TO DRINK: The back label suggests aging for 10 years, and I have no reason to doubt it will last that long, given good cellar conditions.
Public Service Announcement:
Greensboro Free Library wine raffle
The friendly folks at the Greensboro Free Library in Vermont are running a fund-raiser that may be of interest to wine lovers everywhere: They're raffling off 10 cases of Heitz 1997 Bella Oaks Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, a sought-after wine from a historic Napa producer with a retail value of $600 per case.
Ten winners will receive one case each, and a maximum of 2,000 tickets will be sold at $50 a ticket (tax-deductible in the U.S.), so the odds of winning with a single ticket are 200 to 1 at most. The drawing will be conducted at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 15, 2003, at the Library, and winners need not be present to win. All winners will be notified within 48 hours. Library staff and trustees are not eligible. The Library will ship a case of wine to each winner at its expense. Winners must provide a legal "ship to" address within the U.S. (but entries from other countries are welcome, provided that they can arrange to have the wine shipped to a U.S. address). Winners must be over 21 years of age, and a person over 21 years of age must sign for the prize upon delivery. Prizes will be delivered within 30 days after the drawing.
For more information, and an entry form, click to
Greensboro, a village built around scenic Caspian Lake, hosts a summer community of more than 3,000 part-time residents, but its year-round population totals fewer than 770 people, many of whom are below the poverty level. The Library provides critically needed services to all of the people of Greensboro, but especially early learning and reading for children. The Library is desperately in need of funds to continue to provide services and to maintain its facilities; raffle proceeds will go to buy books and materials, replace the roof and fix the library building, and pay the professional staff.Administrivia
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Wednesday, March 19, 2003