In researching my cover story on pizza (in the current June 30, 2008, issue of Wine Spectator ), I came across some truly inventive options that went well beyond toppings. In the end, the story focused entirely on more traditional pizzas and modern variations, and omitted the most intriguing idea of them all—charcoal-grilled pizza, made famous by Al Forno in Providence, R.
When word reached me in Australia that Robert Mondavi had finally succumbed to the ravages of time, I lifted a glass or two to his memory with a few Australian friends. But I held off writing about him, in part because I was traveling, in part because I wanted the news to sink in first.
In my continuing effort to understand Hunter Sémillon (see Hunter Sémillon, Part One , previously), I sat down with winemaker Phil Ryan to taste through two of the region's most venerable examples, from Mount Pleasant.
"Enjoy your rusty rainwater," said the South Australian winemaker. I had just told him I was off to Sydney, where I was planning long vertical tastings with the two leading producers of Hunter Valley Sémillon.
Few would think that the words "delicate" and "Australian Shiraz" could belong in the same sentence, but then they never would have tried Craiglee Shiraz. I am as guilty as the next big red Shiraz lover for dismissing this wine as light and pleasant, but inconsequential, although I have rated it highly in some vintages.
I have had enough aged Riesling in Australia to appreciate that the wines benefit tremendously from time in the bottle. At a few months to a couple of years old, they are all lime and floral and sometimes mineral flavors on a crisp, dry frame.
Torbreck RunRig is one of the champions of Australian Shiraz, made from grand old vines in Barossa Valley in a modern style. It also incorporates a dollop of Viognier, an idea cadged from Côte-Rôtie, where co-fermenting with the white grape is common.
For those who like to cellar wines instead of drinking them right away, Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz is just the thing. In some ways it's the polar opposite of Penfolds Grange, Australia's most famous (and extremely ageable) Shiraz.
Last year I blogged about my disappointment in recent vintages of d'Arenberg's high-end wines —Dead Arm Shiraz, Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon and Laughing Magpie, a Shiraz-Viognier. I said that I felt owner winemaker Chester Osborn had taken a wrong turn in his quest to make the Australian wines more French in style.
While other wineries dither about whether to use twist-off caps instead of corks for their current wines, Leeuwin Estate has taken it a step further. Australia's greatest producer of Chardonnay went back and rebottled its entire library under spiral.
Some wine writers, mostly the ones that rail against the 100-point scale, would have their readers believe that tasters like me and my Wine Spectator colleagues wouldn't recognize a great, delicate wine or one that wasn't a fruit bomb if it jumped out of the glass at us.
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