The Event
Australia and New Zealand
© by Sheral Schowe
The five-week World of Wines class has started again, with a fine beginning at CIAOS Italian Restaurant. The featured wine-producing regions were Australia and New Zealand. Wines were evaluated in terms of vision, olfaction, and gustation.

Our opening wine was Lindeman’s Cawarra Semillon Chardonnay 1997 from Southeast Australia ($9.90). If you are looking for a great Chardonnay in magnum to serve a multitude of guests without breaking the budget, this one is a real crowd-pleaser. It is a light Chardonnay, not over-oaked, with plenty of bright apple and pear flavors with citrus overtones. The addition of the Semillon, which in this wine is actually a higher percentage than the Chardonnay, has flavors of fig and honey to round out the citrus-like acidity.

Taking the Semillon to the next step in quality and heritage was the Penfolds Old Vine Semillon 1996 from Barossa Valley, Australia ($8.95). The honey and fig characteristics really shine in this wine, along with the citrus. Due to the ancient vines from which the grapes are derived, there is also a slight toastiness to the flavor as well.

Our next two wines, both Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand, were served simultaneously for comparison. The first was the Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc 1998 from Marlborough ($9.95). Next came the notorious Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 1997, also from Marlborough, at the time of purchase about $18.00. For true Cloudy Bay aficionados, this was the first choice, for flavor and style. For the majority, however, the Villa Maria, at half the price, was of equal quality, flavor, and intensity. Both are good choices, but if your pocketbook is a little tight you certainly will not be short-changed with the Villa Maria.

The next wines managed to convert several white wine lovers into red wine devotees. The Elderton Shiraz 1996 from Barossa Valley, Australia ($27.95) was definitely the favorite of the evening. It has a deep purple-red color, matching its inherent fruit flavors of black raspberry, plum, and black cherry. There are hints of coffee and chocolate with enough tannin to keep this on your shelf for a while.

Another winner for the evening was the D’Arenberg Custodian Grenache 1996 from McLaren Vale, Australia ($19.95). The color is more plum garnet. The flavors consist of red raspberry, black cherry, boysenberry, with overtones of tobacco and spice. As it opened up in the glass, more aromas of smoke became apparent.

May 13, 1999

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