If your idea of an Australian wine costs $5.49 and features an animal on the label, you should know that the Aussies have more to offer. Moving up a little in price can reap big rewards in terms of quality. Australian varietals grow better in different parts of the massive country, just as varietals do elsewhere. It’s 2,800 miles from Southeast Australia to the Margaret River Valley, yet Americans lump the entire country together. Each region is known for producing the grape that performs best in its soil—here are some top picks.
This month’s selections are available at Hennepin Lake Liquors, 1200 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-825-4411.
Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz 2005 (Barossa Valley), $15.99
Aussies refer to the syrah grape as “shiraz.” It’s a big wine with a rich deep color and an intense nose. Plum and nutmeg notes taste like fall. Try it with venison from your neighbor’s last hunt.
Wolf Blass Yellow Label Shiraz 2005 (South Australia), $7.95
It smells like cherries and tastes like strawberries—as easy a drinking red as I’ve had in a long time. This is your after-work red for fall. No food needed, but it goes with an array of meats—from salmon to pork chops off the grill.
Yangarra Vineyards Old Vine Grenache 2003 (Mclaren Vale), $21.95
Grenache from the south of France is medium-bodied and earthy. This is a blackberry fruit bomb with black pepper and a long finish. Pizza with Italian sausage just jumps to mind.
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (Margaret River), $38.95
The Margaret River is Australia’s Napa. This wine is expensive, but still only about half of what a comparable Napa cab would be—and the Margaret River wine has more age on it. It’s big, bold, and balanced, but I think I got to it a bit early; it could go another five years in the cellar. Rare beef tenderloin and a great dining partner is all it needs.
Leasingham Magnus Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (Clare Valley), $8.95
A nice affordable blend with more fruit and body than all the other Australian wines—plus it’s a buck or two less. Give yourself a treat and trade up to this wine for an everyday red. It drinks well on its own or with pasta with red sauce.
Bill Coy runs Vintage U, which organizes wine tastings, classes, and events for corporate groups, wine enthusiasts, and the general public. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.