I'm not prepared to back away fully from Monday's assertion that the selection of Australian wines sold in the U.S. is a little light in the consumer "sweet spot," the happy niche where quality and value cross in the $8 to $15 range.
But I was delighted by the many suggestions and specific buying tips that came in over the past couple of days. Today's article features a shopping list of your recommended good-value Australians, followed by my tasting report on one excellent (but sadly hard-to-find) bargain in a blockbuster-style Australian Shiraz.
First, though, a couple of observations: Several correspondents mentioned that the availability of good-value Australian wines may vary regionally within the U.S. Those in favored spots like Southern California and the District of Columbia reported sightings of plenty of low-end to midrange Australians with real flavor interest.
On the other hand, as one Australian jovially posted in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: "There are plenty of Aussie wines in the $8-$15 category, but ... they just don't get to U.S. We keep all the 'value' stuff!"
I'm sticking by my opinion that Spain, France and Italy offer a higher proportion of good wines at affordable prices and that the markup on Australian wine imports - the sought-after items in particular - tends to be higher than on wines from Europe. But I can't deny that "Oz" values do exist. In future, I'll work a little harder to find them.
So let's cut the bluster and move right along to your recommendations. First, four wines that won the popularity sweepstakes in that multiple correspondents mentioned them independently:
Thorn-Clark Shotfire Ridge Shiraz. Around $12 in some markets; other Thorn-Clark wines were also mentioned favorably.
Elderton Barossa Shiraz. Advised a Florida wine merchant: "If you get a chance to taste any of their wines DO NOT PASS IT UP!!!!"
Bleasdale Shiraz and Cabernet. Cited twice as a producer of excellent value wines, with particular notice to its Mulberry Tree Cabernet.
Marquis Philips Shiraz. "Absolutely amazing, especially for these prices," enthused a Nashville correspondent, who also recommended the Thorn-Clark. I received more notes extolling Marquis Philips than any other, prompting me to rush out and find one for today's report.
Now, listed alphabetically, the rest of your recommendations on affordable Australian goodies, all reported at $20 or less, with lower prices pointed out where mentioned:
Ballantrae Shiraz (under $10)
Finally, a reminder of the good-value Australian producers featured Monday and in other recent Wine Advisors: Tatachilla, particularly its "Breakneck Creek" bottlings; Leeuwin Estate, particularly its range less pricey than yesterday's featured "Art Series" labels; Brookland Valley from Western Australia's Margaret River; Wirra Wirra; and of course the lower-price items from major producers like Penfolds and d'Arenberg.
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Now, on to the tasting report on Marquis Philips, a big, bruiser of a Shiraz made by special arrangement between the Australian wine makers Sarah and Sparky Marquis and the American importer Dan Philips of Grateful Palate, whose wine portfolio is known for its collection of sought-after Australian wines.
Marquis Philips 2002 South Eastern Australia Shiraz ($15)
This inky dark reddish-purple wine shows almost black in the glass, remaining dark even when you hold it up against a light. Delicious Shiraz aromas rise from the glass, black plums, fragrant pepper and methol shading toward eucalyptus. Big, full and tooth-staining, its hulking 15.5 percent alcohol provides a warm, almost glycerin mouthfeel but stops short of raw heat; plums and pepper, a hint of dark chocolate and soft but perceptible tannins round it out. It emulates the in-your-face style of the high-end made-for-American-critics "blockbuster" Shirazes, but flies off the shelves at a fraction of the price of the sought-after "cult" labels. U.S. importer: Grateful Palate, Oxnard, Calif. (Sept. 15, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Red meat is Shiraz's target match, but this one went just as well with the robust flavors of Italian sausages with peppers and onions; it was a bit too much, though, for a side dish of fettucine with pesto.
VALUE: This is a Shiraz with the quality and power to compete at higher price ranges in today's market. Fine value.
WHEN TO DRINK: Made for immediate enjoyment, but I see no reason why it couldn't be cellared with good results, subject to the known tendency of Shiraz/Syrah to pass through a "down period" in roughly its fourth through seventh year. Drink young or save for age.
WEB LINK: I couldn't find information about this specific wine on the importer's Website, but you might enjoy browsing Grateful Palate's wine and specialty-food information at
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Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2003