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Wine Value Archive

© Copyright 1997 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

Wines of Australia and New Zealand

Cloudy Bay 1996 Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc ($13.99)
This long-awaited treasure finally got to our local market, seemingly months behind its arrival all over the rest of the world. The good news, though, is that the price did not go up from last year, although with a rumored Wine Spectator 94 rating coming down the pike, that may not last. It's delicious, as expected, although it seems to me that its style has changed a bit from past vintages. It still has that intense Sauvignon quality that I love, but it seems like a bigger, brawnier, more powerful wine than before -- did last year's really rise to 13.5% alcohol? -- which is OK, I guess, but somehow it seemed to lack the balance of past vintages.
Indent It's a clear, pale greenish-gold color, with delicious "green" Sauvignon Blanc aromas of gooseberry, green-chile and just a faint whiff of the characteristic "cat spray" or "boxwood." Flavors are consistent with the nose, adding ripe citric notes; full and round, with substantial body added by firm acidity and warm alcohol. Very mouth-filling and ripe, almost overpowering the food on the table (roast chicken). A lot of wine here, but the volume's set almost too high; maybe it will come together with a little time in the bottle. Importer: Cliquot Inc., NYC. (May 29, 1997)

Penfolds 1992 Bin 389 South Australia Cabernet Sauvignon/50% - Shiraz/50% ($13.99)
- Very dark reddish-purple, shading to black. Ripe berry fruit and oaky vanillins on the nose; full black-fruit flavor, lemon-tart acidity and ample tannins. Holding up well, it drinks nicely now but will definitely benefit from more time. Hit of the evening. Importer: PWG Vintners, Monterey, Calif. (May 26, 1997)

Selaks 1996 Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc ($11.99)
. Clear, pale brass color with full, pleasant green-chile and olive aromas. Full and bright flavor, a crisp and delicious citric "snap" with that green-chile character adding complexity. Clean and consistent in a long finish. Importer: American Estates Wines Inc., Philadelphia. (May 24, 1997)

Penfolds 1994 Koonunga Hill South Australia Shiraz/61%-Cabernet Sauvignon/39% ($8.49)
Very dark in color, almost an opaque reddish-violet. A bit of a vinegary whiff at first, not really unpleasant, makes me wonder if they used Beaujolais-style carbonic maceration on at least some of the grapes. It blows off to reveal light black pepper and pleasant, plummy fruit. Juicy, grapey fruit flavor, full and quite tartly acidic. Decent wine to quaff with chow, but a little on the rough side to sip with cuisine. Importer: PWG Vintners USA Inc., Monterey, Calif. (March 2, 1997)

Penfolds 1995 Bin 2 South Eastern Australia Shiraz/79% - Mourvedre/21% ($8.49)
Dark ruby in color, with good black-fruit and fragrant pepper aromas and the American oak character called "weedy dill." Ripe and full fruit flavor, grapey and ripe, with firm tannins and flavor nuances that follow the nose. Very much in Penfolds' "house style," almost reminds me of a baby Bin 707. Importer: PWG Vintners USA Inc., Monterey, Calif. (Dec. 22, 1996)

St. Hallett 1993 Gamekeeper's Reserve Barossa (Australia) Red Table Wine ($8.99)
Bright ruby. Fresh berry fruit aroma; soft juicy fruit with a prickly not-quite-carbonation on the tongue; varietals undisclosed, but certainly vinified in a "Beaujolais" style. Importer: Marine Trading Consultants Inc., San Rafael, Calif. (Nov. 18, 1996)

D'Arenberg 1993 "The Dead Arm" McLaren Vale (Australia) Cabernet Sauvignon/52% - Shiraz/48% ($22.99)
The ominous name alludes to ancient vines on which one branch has died, purportedly concentrating the flavors of the fruit on the remaining "arm." It's a very dark, almost inky purple color, with a luscious, almost jammy aroma of ripe berries and spicy oak. A blockbuster on the palate, with huge fruit and fragrant black pepper. It reminds me -- favorably -- of a big California Zinfandel. Importer: Old Bridge Cellars, San Francisco. (Nov. 18, 1996)

Lindemans 1996 Bin 65 South Eastern Australia Chardonnay ($5.99)
Clear straw color. Tropical fruit aromas, pineapple and a whiff of butterscotch. Full, buttery, slightly sweet, oak and simple fruit flavors; warms to a brassy, metallic edge that I don't find appealing. Importer: PWG Vintners USA, Monterey, Calif. (Oct. 28, 1996)

Evans & Tate 1994 Barrique 61 Western Australia Cabernet/94% - Merlot/6% ($13.99)
Very dark garnet. Good black-fruit aroma with oaky vanilla; full, ripe fruit flavor, fresh and tart, soft tannins and cherry-berry notes in the finish. Good wine, shows some potential for cellaring. Importer: Astra Wine Imports, Roswell, Ga. (Oct. 19, 1996).

Hardy's 1993 Nottage Hill South Eastern Australia Cabernet Sauvignon/75%-Shiraz/25% ($7.49)
Very dark garnet. Ripe black-fruit and light, oaky vanilla aromas. Fresh, juicy fruit flavor, appropriate acidic balance, no tannins evident. Not a keeper, but very pleasant table wine for drinking up in the short term. Excellent value. Importer: International Cellars, Chantilly, Va. (Sept. 29, 1996)

Rosemount Estate 1995 Australia Shiraz/65%-Cabernet/35% ($7.49)
Clear garnet, not too dark in color. Light black-fruit aroma and a soft, simple cherry-berry flavor with a sprinkle of black pepper. Pleasant quaffing wine and a fair value, but I don't get a lot of varietal character out of it. Importer: Rosemount Estates Inc., Sonoma, Calif. (Sept. 20, 1996)

Penfolds 1994 Koonunga Hill South Australia Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon ($8.99)
Clear but very dark ruby color. Hints of black pepper and oaky "weedy dill" in a rather light aroma. Oak is dominant on the palate, but there's good ripe fruit there as well. Importer: PWG Vintners USA Inc., Monterey, Calif. (Sept. 18, 1996)

Cloudy Bay 1995 Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc ($13.99)
Clear brass color. Delicious aroma of fresh green chile peppers, so exuberant that it almost leaps from the glass. Full, citric fruit flavor, clean and bright, fresh and consistent in a very long finish. I love this wine! Importer: Cliquot Inc., NYC. (Aug. 2, 1996)

Penfolds 1993 Bin 407 South Australia Cabernet Sauvignon ($13.99)
Very dark garnet in color. Cassis (blackcurrant) fruit in the foreground, with oaky vanillins behind it. Extracted black-fruit flavor, so intense that it easily punches through a heavy curtain of tannins. Drinkable, even enjoyable at this time (especially with rare leg of lamb from the grill), but it will surely reward five years or more in the bottle. Importer: PWG Vintners USA Inc., Monterey, Calif. (July 18, 1996)

Penfolds 1993 Bin 2 Southeast Australia Shiraz/76% - Mourvèdre/24%, ($7.99)
Clear, dark reddish-purple. Spicy oak and mixed-berry aroma, surprisingly Zin-like, with subtexts of black pepper and the "forest floor" that I associate with Mourvedre. Good, fresh bramble fruit flavor, so extracted that it almost cloaks a good structure of fresh-fruit acidity. The soft tannins present when I last tasted this wine in December seem to be muted, and if anything, the fruit is more forward than before. Still a very good value. Importer: PWG Vintners USA Inc., Monterey, Calif. (July 13, 1996)

Penfolds 1993 South Australia Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz ($14.99)
Inky dark-garnet color. Intense blackcurrant fruit aroma with the "weedy dill" that's the trademark of Penfolds' American oak. Full, extracted black-fruit flavor over sweet oak and firm but palatable tannins. Definitely lives up to its "Baby Grange" moniker, and even at the elevated price, still an excellent value. Importer: PWG Vintners USA Inc., Monterey, Calif. (June 29, 1996)

Rosemount Estate 1995 Hunter Valley (Australia) Chardonnay ($9.99)
Clear bright gold. Ripe pineapple dominates the aroma, with mouth-filling tropical fruit, full and rich, on the palate. A definite edge of sweetness, but there's ample acidity to hold it in balance. Tropical fruit flavors linger in a long, warm finish. Importer: Rosemount Estates Inc., Sonoma, California. (Feb. 28, 1996)

Penfolds 1993 Koonunga Hill South Australia Shiraz/54%-Cabernet Sauvignon/46%, ($7.99)
Clear dark ruby. Plums and black cherries and fragrant black pepper aromas. Full tart-cherry and berry fruit flavor and sweet oak, smooth and ripe; soft and quaffable but with plenty of acidity for balance. Great match with an old-fashioned pot roast. Importer: PWG Vintners USA, Monterey, Calif. (Dec. 30, 1995)

Penfolds 1992 Bin 389 South Australia Cabernet Shiraz ($12.99)
Very dark garnet, almost opaque. Dill and other herbal-spicy notes, with oaky vanillins and a "toasty" quality. Rich, extracted and mouth-filling fruit, opens up like a blossoming flower. Very clean and ripe, almost a "fruit bomb," but salvaged by a firm acidic structure and palatable tannins. Finishes a bit short, but still a really remarkable wine; highly rated by Wine Spectator, so it's blowing out fast. Get it while you can. Importer: PWG Vintners USA, Monterey, Calif. (Dec. 16, 1995)

Rosemount Estate 1995 South Eastern Australia Shiraz/65%-Cabernet/35% ($5.99)
Clear dark ruby color. Pepper and plums and a whiff of Beaujolais-like bubble gum at first, blows off to reveal exuberant plum and blackberry fruit flavors, well balanced by lemony acidity. It's very forward, and yet there's structure here, and even a hint of tannin, to suggest potential for development over the next few years. Outstanding value. Importer: Rosemount Estates Inc., Sonoma, Calif. (Dec. 10, 1995)

Penfolds 1993 Bin 2 Southeastern Australia Shiraz/76%-Mourvedre/24%, ($7.99)
Very dark garnet color. Black pepper, tree bark and rich blueberry fruit aromas; warm, mouth-filling berry fruit, earthy and peppery, laced up with lemon-squirt acidity and soft but substantial tannin. Flavors clean and consistent in a long finish. Excellent wine! Importer: PWG Vintners USA, Monterey, Calif. (Dec. 9, 1995)

All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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