When I arrived at my moderately priced hotel in Los Angeles yesterday afternoon, a wine reception was in progress. Small hotels and inns often offer an early-evening pour of something local, especially in wine country, but we were in midtown L.A., many miles from the nearest vineyard. I imagined the choices might be something from Santa Barbara, the nearest region of note.
Having just flown in from San Francisco on a rainy day, hours late due to rain up and down the West Coast, a glass of wine and a slice of cheese seemed like just the thing.
To my surprise, it was not even an American wine but a couple of mass-market Lindemans wines from Australia. These were wines I knew well, having reviewed them regularly for Wine Spectator. The Shiraz 2006 (87, $8) had bright fruit, a polished texture and enough crisp acidity to be refreshing. In times past I found the Chardonnay Bin 65 more generous with flavor than it has been recently, but the 2007 (84, $8) won’t offend anyone.
Aussie wines in this category have gotten a tough rap recently. Once remarkably reliable, the province of big wineries that know how to make clean, attractive wines, the category has been infiltrated by less-qualified winemakers and négociants bottling whatever rejects they can get their hands on and slapping cute labels on them to get them to sell. These lesser wines have dragged down the whole category and made it less reliable.
But the good ones continue to deliver pleasure and represent excellent value. Some critics damn even these for being “industrial” and soul-less, but I’ll tell you, as I settled into a soft couch after an arduous flight, that glass of the Shiraz, with its lively balance and generous fruit, was just the thing. Would I have preferred a more complex wine? Sure. But this was fine enough, and it I could get it, free, right there in my lobby.
In recent tastings I have also been favorably impressed with the direction Yellow Tail is going. The giant of the category, which dominates Australian imports to the U.S., used to make its wines so sweet, even the reds, that it was easy for me to pick them out in blind tastings. Not any more.
The basic Yellow Tail wines are still a little sweet, but recent vintages have cut back on the residual sugar, and the wines feel much better balanced. Even better, for $3 more per bottle, the Reserve series has been pushing consistently into the 85- to 89-point range. In the basic range, which sells for $8 at full markup, look for the less obvious blends. Try the Shiraz-Grenache, the Shiraz-Cabernet and the Cabernet-Merlot.
Bruce Nichols — Naples, — February 25, 2009 10:05am ET
Michael Tracy — Corona, CA — February 25, 2009 10:17am ET
Apj Powers — Dallas, TX — February 25, 2009 1:21pm ET
Apj Powers — Dallas, TX — February 25, 2009 1:27pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — February 25, 2009 1:42pm ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions