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. US Importer: Old Bridge Cellars, San Francisco. (Mar 2, 2003)

FOOD MATCH: It worked well with pork chops but might be better still with the smoky heartiness of grilled red meat.



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