This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Friday, May. 16, 2008 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20080516.php.
This wine's no dog
Following up on Wednesday's report on an offbeat, affordable Australian white blend, let's look Down Under again today for another wacky Aussie label that offers surprising quality for a low-end price.
Today's featured wine, 2006 "Yard Dog" from Red Heads Studio in McLaren Vale, looks at first glance like a typical Bordeaux blend. But read the fine print more closely and you'll find the proportions are upside-down: There's only 30 percent of the usual suspect Cabernet Sauvignon and just 15 percent Merlot.
All the rest, more than half of the blend, comprises Petit Verdot, a relatively uncommon Bordeaux grape that usually shows up as only a splash in the blend if at all.
Petit Verdot is considered an excellent grape - black, concentrated, tannic and spicy. It was much more widely planted in Bordeaux a century ago, but it fell out of favor because it needs a long growing season to ripen fully. That's a problem in cool Bordeaux, but not at all in McLaren Vale.
It's not surprising that Red Head Studios brought it back in this hefty red. A cheeky reaction to large, corporate wine making in Australia and around the world, Red Head was created specifically to afford wine makers a small workshop where they can let their imagination run free and make experimental wines in small batches.
For more information about Red Head Studios, here's an article in the Australian wine-industry publication, WineBiz.com:
Now, here's my report on Yard Dog Red. I doubt that anyone would mistake this for a French wine, not with its hefty 15 percent alcohol and ripe, fruit-forward style. But you wouldn't mistake it for a Barossa blockbuster either: There's surprising balance and even a touch of elegance at the core of all that alcohol and fruit. And the $10 price is amazing.
Red Heads Studio 2006 South Australia "Yard Dog" ($10.99)
This offbeat Australian wine is made from Bordeaux grapes in unusual proportions: It's 55% Petit Verdot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot. Very dark garnet in color, it's almost black at the center, clear violet at the edge. Intense fruit aromas, blackberries, blueberries and plums. Ripe and juicy fruit carries over on the palate, balanced by soft but sufficient acidity and a hearty whack of 15% alcohol, perceptible more as texture than heat. U.S. importer: Vine Street Imports, Philadelphia. (May 14, 2008)
FOOD MATCH: A wine for beef, it went quite well with smoked beef brisket from a local barbecue restaurant.
VALUE: An impressive version of the ripe-fruit, high-alcohol style at a bottom-end price. U.S. retail prices vary from $8 to $12, depending on locale.
WHEN TO DRINK: Although the Bordeaux grapes and high alcohol should carry it for a few years, it makes sense to enjoy this wine's young, exuberant fruit while it's fresh.
The U.S. importer provides a fact sheet on 2006 Yard Dog Red here:
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