Australia first won over Americans with good wine that had real personality and cost relatively little. Denigrated by some as “cheap and cheerful,” these wines have been blamed for Australia’s recent difficulties in the wine market, mainly because the inexpensive wines can be so appealing that higher-priced wines become harder to sell.
I just tasted through the latest lineup from a low-price stalwart. I sampled the wines blind, mixed with others of the same types in a series of tastings in the past two weeks. Among others priced much higher, Oxford Landing Estates held its own. The whole line, which carries a South Australia appellation, is priced at $10, but in places where discounting is common you can find them for around $7.
It was a pleasant surprise how often I pulled off the bag from a wine I just scored 86, 87 or 88 points to discover another good value. It happened so regularly that I wondered whether the current lineup represented a significant improvement. Turns out, half of the eight Oxford Landing wines in my tastings matched or bettered their highest scores of previous vintages. The others came within a point or two of their high-water marks.
More to the point, these wines showed fresh, lively, deft balances, alcohols mostly in the 13.0 to 14.0 range, with pretty, vivid flavors. Forget what you might have heard about all inexpensive Australian wine tasting soulless and lacking in personality. I liked, for example, the coffee and wet earth nuances that added depth to the fresh, lively, generous Cabernet Sauvignon 2010. The Shiraz 2009 also had a bright, lively structure, its raspberry and red cherry flavors delivering charm and lingering on the open-weaved finish. No big banger, that.
On the white wine side, the fresh-tasting Sauvignon Blanc 2010 showed an interesting apricot note behind the citrus, pear and herb flavors. The Chardonnay 2010, as always light and appealing, brimmed with apple and pear fruit, lingering easily on a silky finish. The Viognier 2009 was made in a bright and lively style, its pear, litchi and sweet spice character coming together smoothly against a silky texture.
These are, of course, wines to drink now. But for 7 to 10 bucks, that’s what I want.
I also noticed that the label had been changed to Oxford Landing Estates, an effort to underline that these wines are not cobbled together from disparate vineyards, purchased fruit or spare wines, but rely on a 650-acre vineyard in the Riverland area. It abuts the Murray River, inland from such high-profile regions as Barossa Valley, where the grapes are shipped to be made into wine by the vineyard and brand’s owner, Yalumba. That winery made its reputation over-delivering on quality at various price levels.
The flip side of such good values is that we consumers might reasonably wonder why we should spend more, unless the wines are significantly better or at least more ageworthy. Fair question. For me, I’m just happy to have the option. Only spend more if it can deliver something extra.
Angela Medeiros Slade — Oakland, CA — January 21, 2011 7:32pm ET
Don Rauba — Schaumburg, IL — January 23, 2011 9:38pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — January 23, 2011 10:14pm ET
Tim Mc Donald — Napa,CA — January 24, 2011 6:31pm ET
Jonathan Lawrence — somewhere in the world — January 25, 2011 10:41am ET
Charles J Stanton — Eugene, OR — January 25, 2011 12:45pm ET
Russell Quong — Sunnyvale, CA, USA — January 25, 2011 4:02pm ET
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