Today's Sponsor
 The California Wine Club
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In This Issue
 Rediscovering Australia A memorable Sydney banquet that I'd love to attend inspires me to crack a couple of bottles from Down Under.
 Coriole 2002 "Contour 4" McLaren Vale Sangiovese-Shiraz ($14) An offbeat blend of the Italian Sangiovese with Australian Shiraz, but the always reliable Coriole does it well.
 Plantagenet 2004 "Hazard Hill" Western Australia Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc ($11) Very fruity indeed, a burst of grapefruit and mangoes is carried on a lightly prickly texture that makes for a charming aperitif.
 The California Wine Club Sample the club's International Selections and receive 50 percent off your first month!
 This week on A battery of Syrahs and Shirazes, another 100 new wine releases, and some Valentine tips from our WineLovers Community.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index The Wine Advisor archives.
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Rediscovering Australia

If you're like me, I expect you go through inexplicable phases in your wine-tasting choices. As hard as I try to spread my wine interests around the world in order to experience as many grape varieties and wine regions and styles as I can, those traditional favorites - red wines, mostly, from Italy and France, California and maybe Argentina - keep turning up on my table.

But variety is not only the spice of life, it's also one of the most appealing things about wine-as-hobby for me, and it doesn't take much of an impulse to jar me out of my rut.

A crisp, elegant invitation that arrived just the other day, sent up from Down Under by my good friend Warren Mason, prompted me to realize how long it had been since I've reported on some good Australian wines.

The invitation, announcing the 2006 awards presentation and banquet for the Sydney International Wine Competition, was a kind gesture but not really practical for me with the banquet just a week or two off. But the Australian wine part? That was easy.

When I think about wine in the context of "Old World" versus "New World" styles, I tend to think of Australian wine as being distinctly New World, perhaps even more so than the wines of California, typically defined by fruit-forward, mouth-filling and often strongly alcoholic characteristics, often showing a distinct presence of oak. Of course, Australia turns out a lot of wine, not all of it alike, and all generalizations are dubious - even this one.

In selecting a red and a white for today's tasting, I steered clear of Barossa Valley Shiraz, stereotypically the most blockbusterish and one-dimensional of Australian wines, in favor of a red from the lovely McLaren Vale (on the other side of Adelaide from the Barossa) that softens the Shiraz with a measure of Sangiovese; and for the white went to Western Australia, a region that's building a reputation for wines of relative elegance.

The results? They both still seemed essentially "Australian" to me, but there's nothing wrong with that. Thanks, Warren, for the reminder. I wish I could jet over to Sydney for the banquet.

For those of you who are closer to the land Down Under, the Competition's 2006 Awards Presentation Banquet is a memorable wine-lover's event, well worth the toll. A dress-up event calling for black-tie or lounge suit, it's Saturday, Feb. 25, 2006, in the Grand Ballroom of the Shangri-La Sydney Hotel, 176 Cumberland Street at The Rocks. Price per person is AUD$200, or AUD$1,900 for a table for 10. Events will include a Premier Tasting of the Competition's Blue-Gold Award Winners for 2006, followed by apéritifs and a five-course banquet with courses chosen to complement the three top wines in each of the Competition's five Style Categories.

It has been my great pleasure to judge the Sydney International Wine Competition twice, and I regret that a scheduling conflict forced me to miss a turn this past year. I look forward to getting back over in the future. Meanwhile, if you're within range of Sydney this month, the banquet would be well worth attending. For more details and booking information, you'll find information and a form at

And no matter where in the world you reside, if you love wine and food, you should visit the Sydney International Wine Competition site often. In my mind, it's the world's best wine judging because it rates all its wines in compatible style categories and judges the winners not only on their own merits but also on actual tastings with food, each wine accompanied by appropriate dishes made to match. The Website includes extensive tasting notes from judges past and present (you'll even still find some of my comments there), as well as lots of recipes for Jacquie Mason's outstanding dishes. Highly recommended for your wine Internet bookmarks:

If you'd like to ask a question or comment in more detail on today's topic (or any other wine-related subject), you'll find a round-table online discussion in our interactive WineLovers Community, where you're always welcome to join in the conversations about wine.

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Here's a simply formatted copy of today's Wine Advisor, designed to be printed out for your scrapbook or file or downloaded to your PDA or other wireless device.

Coriole Coriole 2002 "Contour 4" McLaren Vale Sangiovese-Shiraz ($14)

This is a blend of 55 percent of the Italian variety Sangiovese (perhaps best known as the leading grape in Chianti) with 45 percent of the Australian Shiraz (Syrah), grown in the lovely McLaren Vale wine region not far south of Adelaide. It's dark garnet in color with a reddish-violet edge. Pleasant wild-cherry aromas lead into fresh and bright red-fruit flavor with a whiff of spice and a distinctly oaky edge, with crisp acidity to provide structure. I don't think I would mistake it for Chianti in a blind tasting, with its New World fruit-forward character, mouth-filling texture and perceptible oak. But it shows its Italian ancestry in its inviting, quaffable flavor and food-friendly acidity. U.S. importer: Robert Whale Selections Ltd., Washington, D.C. (Feb. 11, 2006)

FOOD MATCH: It paired very nicely with an Italian-style dinner of polpettine (veal mini-meatballs) over spaghetti with a "pink" sauce of fresh tomatoes and a bit of cream.

VALUE: The mid-teens seem a fair range for this inviting table wine.

WHEN TO DRINK: Not made for long-term cellaring, but I see no reason why it wouldn't keep for several years on the wine rack.

The winery Website is online at
For a fact sheet on this specific wine, see the importer's Website,

Look up prices and locate sources for Coriole "Contour 4" Sangiovese-Shiraz on

Inniskillin Plantagenet 2004 "Hazard Hill" Western Australia Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc ($11)

Although it appears at a glance to be the same blend as White Bordeaux, this Australian white reverses the usual proportions with a predominance of Semillon (75 percent) over Sauvignon Blanc (25 percent). The transparent straw-color wine bears little resemblance to a French wine, either, with its fruit-forward frapefruit and mango aromas, which carry over intact on the palate, juicy and snappy tropical fruit nicely shaped by crisp acidity, with a prickly petillance that tickles the tongue. U.S. importer: Robert Whale Selections Ltd., Washington, D.C. (Feb. 12, 2006)

FOOD MATCH: It worked well enough to wash down pork chops, but its fruit flavors are so intense that it tends to dominate the fare; maybe be best suited as a quenching summer aperitif.

VALUE: Certainly reasonable at this price in today's marketplace.

WHEN TO DRINK: Best drunk up over the coming year while all that exuberant fruit and prickly carbonation remains young and fresh.

Here's a link to the winery Website, which features its Plantagenet and Omrah labels as well as the budget-price Hazard Hill line:

Check vendors and compare prices for Plantaganet's Hazard Hill wines on

California Wine Club
The California Wine Club's International Selections

Sample The California Wine Club's International Selections and receive 50 percent off your first month!

The California Wine Club's International Selections highlights limited quantity wines from countries like France, Spain, Italy and South Africa ... to name a few!

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  • Two bottles of outstanding wine, hand-selected from some of the world's best smaller, family-owned wineries
  • An engaging full-color newsletter with details on the wine and country of origin
  • Discounts on reorders
  • A 100 percent satisfaction guarantee

This monthís shipment is from Nugan Estates in New South Wales, Australia, and features the 2002 Saviors Rock Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2003 Saviors Rock Chardonnay. This Cab is all about earth, spice, raspberry, blackberry, currant and cherry. With figs on the nose and biscuit and butterscotch on the palate, the Chardonnay is delightful.

Join today and receive this month's Australian shipment for just $38.50, thatís a 50 percent savings. Call 1-800-777-4443 or visit
Some restrictions may apply.

This week on

Some highlights of recent articles on that I hope you'll enjoy:

WebWineMan: Shiraz-a-ma-Taz
Richard Fadeley and his tasting team at the Columbia (S.C.) Free Times assemble more than 20 Syrah and Shiraz wines from all over the world for their monthly tasting.

Bucko's Wine Reports: Midwinter 2006 Releases
New-releases columnist Randy "Bucko" Buckner keeps things on an even keel this month with his regular report on 100 new wines, including a selection of value wines to please a wide variety of palates, plus a few heavy hitters.

Hot topics in our WineLovers' Community
Our WineLovers' Discussion Groups, the Internet's first wine forums, are the No. 1 place online to ask wine questions and participate in the civil and intelligent discussion of good things to eat and drink. Drop by today!

Top 10 wines for your Valentine
Looking for a romantic gesture to please a loved one on Valentine's Day? Along with the traditional flowers and chocolates, consider sharing a bottle of fine wine. To help make up your shopping list, here are our Top 10 recommended wines for a Valentine. Check them out, and tell us your favorites, in our WineLovers Community!

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 Compare, contrast, taste, enjoy (Feb. 10, 2006)

 Value favorite: Muscadet (Feb. 8, 2006)

 $100 Valentine (Feb. 6, 2006)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Star anise (Feb. 9, 2006)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:

 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions, click here


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Monday, Feb. 13, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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