What is it going to take for Americans to truly understand Australian wine? I ask this with all seriousness, because some of the most sophisticated wine drinkers I know still think Australia is nothing but big, fat, overpriced Shiraz and cheap, easy-drinking quaffers. It astounds them that Chardonnay, Riesling, Grenache and yes, even Pinot Noir, can be startlingly zippy and elegant.
Maybe it's the overwhelming commercial success of Yellow Tail, the largest-selling Australian brand in the U.S., and a big reason why Australia vies with France for No. 2 among imports in this country. Its popularity relies on clean winemaking and a dollop of sugar to make the wine go down easy. It's a formula not unknown among California's biggest-selling wines. Kendall-Jackson made its fortune on something like it.
At the other end of the spectrum, a handful of small-volume, high-ticket wines, mostly Shiraz made for all they're worth, have captured the imagination of certain critics and deep-pocket collectors. These were, and are, heady wines, and they can indeed be great, even if some are just overdone.
The long shadow of Yellow Tail and the inordinate attention paid to these very small-production monsters obscures the tremendous variety of character and style in Australia's worthy wines. And even as the economy puts upward pressure on prices, Aussie wines in general still represent quality for money.
My daughter is in Southern California this week with me and my wife, visiting family. She went to see a friend and stopped by BevMo to buy a bottle of wine to take to her. She grabbed a Green Point Shiraz 2005 (she said it was on sale for $10.99), which is a crisp, bright, relatively high-acid style wine from Victoria. It says so on the back label. They opened it, and loved it. That one ain't Yellow Tail, neither is it a big bopper. It's just savory, and good.
I've been writing about such diversity for several years. So have other writers. And many of the wines are doing well in the market. So here's my question. What's it going to take for the perception to catch up with them?
Fans of Australian wines: Do you notice this disparity in reality vs. perception?
Australian wine skeptics: Have you tried some of the top Rieslings, Chardonnays, Grenaches and Cabernet blends? What do you think?
David K Welch — Galveston, TX — January 17, 2008 2:42pm ET
Stewart Lancaster — beaver,pa — January 17, 2008 3:15pm ET
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Beverages And More #50 — San Diego, Ca — January 17, 2008 11:25pm ET
Bernard Mclaughlin — Chicag,Il — January 18, 2008 10:28am ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — January 18, 2008 11:39am ET
Bob Brack — Canada — January 18, 2008 12:37pm ET
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