Yellow Tail has a new sparkling wine ready to market in the United States, and it tastes for all the world like prosecco.
I got a preview of the big winery's newest effort the other day. John Casella, the managing partner of the family-owned winery that makes Yellow Tail, brought a sample with him when we had a quick visit in San Francisco.
Yellow Tail, the Australian wine brand, came out of nowhere to become the largest selling label in America in this decade, relying on a soft, sweet, fruity style that connoisseurs love to hate but wine newbies lap up. Having spent some time talking and tasting with Casella, I believe him when he says he's simply making the kinds of wines he likes to drink. I don't sense a single cynical nerve ending in him.
Casella's winery in Griffiths, where big yields in big vineyards are the norm, pumps out millions of cases of the popular beverages, including scads of Shiraz and Chardonnay.
"They're sweet, but balanced," says Casella. "I took the same approach with the sparkling wine. I dislike the heavy acid tartness in a lot of sparkling wine. I don't think novice wine drinkers like that, either."
Maybe snobs will like it, too. Casella told me he took a bottle with him to a cured meat judging in Australia, where several notable palates selected the best sausage. "I opened the bottle and they loved it," he added. "It's really good with salame."
Made of Sémillon and Traminer, the wine shows aromatics that at first reminded me of sparkling Loire wines, which can be made with Chenin Blanc. But the spicy character and bibulous fruit flavors are more reminiscent, in the end, of prosecco, the easygoing fizzy wine of northeastern Italy. The sweetness level is about the same as or less than what I taste in the Yellow Tail Chardonnay. And I've had sweeter prosecco.
The sparkler, which is called simply "Bubbles" in Australia, will be released in September in the U.S. as Yellow Tail Sparkling Wine. On the circular label, the familiar icon of a kangaroo is surrounded by a ring of bubbles.
At about 10 bucks, it will make a fine late-summer quaff.