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01.26.2005

Current Releases Down Under: A Report from Australian Harvest Day 2005

Australia has recently overtaken all other sources as the location from which America imports the most wine. The success of Yellow Tail and several other value wine brands has imprinted them as a producer of excellent value wines in the minds of consumers everywhere. This is not only true at the bottom end of the scale but across all price ranges and types of wines. Simply put, you get a lot more quality for your money wineaustralia.jpgwith Australian wine than nearly anywhere else on the planet.

Couple this value orientation with a tradition of crafting excellent Syrah based wines, and you can imagine how I might not pass up the opportunity to attend Australian Harvest Day 2005, a public tasting event showcasing hundreds of Australian wines from recent vintages, as well as some artisanal food producers.

Overall, the event was worthwhile to attend if you're interested in making a mental note for next year, however there were a lot of very low-end producers there, so without a little knowledge it was possible to taste a lot of unremarkable producers before hitting a good one. If I hadn't been familiar with many of the names, I might have been quite disappointed. However, I was able to sample some wines from producers that consistently do great things, as well as some who are much smaller and interesting.

In addition to the normal routine of wineries pouring their stuff, they also had a couple of tables set up to showcase particular varietals, and in particular the aging potential of Shiraz. Most notable on offer was a 1992 Lloyd Reserve Shiraz, a smaller personal label from Coriole Vineyards in McLaren Vale which ended up being by far the best wine I tasted all day (Score: 9.5/10).

I was also glad to have experienced the wines of Grant Burge and Peter Lehmann for the first time, which were excellent across the board.

Here are my scores from the tasting at which I sampled most of the nearly 300 wines on offer. Note that when I refer to a "Rhone Blend" it most always is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre, and when I refer to Shiraz-Viognier blends, they are usually 90-95% Shiraz with the remainder Viognier.

OUTSTANDING WHITES:

  • 2000 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay, Margaret River. Score: 9.5/10. Cost: $65.
  • 2001 Petaluma "Piccadilly Valley" Chardonnay, Clare Valley. Score: 9.5. Cost: $30.
  • 2002 Yering Station Estate Chardonnay, Yarra Valley. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $17.
  • 2002 Yering Station Estate Reserve Chardonnay, Yarra Valley. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $35.


    OUTSTANDING REDS:

  • 2000 Grant Burge "The Holy Trinity" Rhone Blend, Barossa Valley. Score: 9.5. Cost: $35-40.
  • 2000 Grant Burge "Meshach" Shiraz, Barossa Valley. Score: 9.5. Cost: $85-95.
  • 2002 Yalumba Shiraz (9% Viognier), Barossa. Score: 9.5. Cost: $32.
  • 2002 Sons of Eden "Romulus" Red Blend, Barossa. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $40.
  • 2003 D'Arenberg "Laughing Magpie" Shiraz-Viognier, McLaren Vale. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $24.
  • 2002 Grant Burge "Filsell" Shiraz, Barossa Valley. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $30.


    BEST VALUES

  • 2002 Yering Station Estate Chardonnay, Yarra Valley. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $17.
  • 2002 Greg Norman Estate Chardonnay, Victoria. Score: 9. Cost: $11.
  • 2003 Ambaley Estate Chenin Blanc (15% Savignong Blanc). Score: 9. Cost: $13.
  • 2002 Turkey Flat "Butcher's Block" Rhone Blend, Barossa. Score: 9. Cost: $18.
  • 2003 D'Arenberg "Laughing Magpie" Shiraz-Viognier, McLaren Vale. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $24.
  • 2003 Yangarra Old Vine Grenache, McLaren Vale. Score: 9. Cost: $20.


    VERY GOOD TO EXCELLENT WHITES:

  • 2002 Cape Mentelle Chardonnay, Margaret River. Score: 9. Cost: $24.
  • 2004 Yering Station M.V.R. Marsanne, Viognier, Roussanne blend. Score: 9. Cost: $18.
  • 2002 Greg Norman Estate Chardonnay, Victoria. Score: 9. Cost: $11.
  • 2004 Dominique Portet "Fontaine" Rose (Cab, Merlot, Syrah). Score: 9. Cost: $17.
  • 2003 Ambaley Estate Chenin Blanc (15% Sauvignon Blanc). Score: 9. Cost: $13.
  • 2003 Petaluma Riesling, Clare Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $20.
  • 2003 D'Arenberg "Money Spider" Rousanne. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $23.
  • 2003 Annies Lane Riesling, Clare Valley. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $12.
  • 2002 Tin Cows Chardonnay, Yarra Valley Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $12.
  • 2001 Katnook Chardonnay, Coonawarra Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $18.
  • 2004 Dominique Portet Sauvignon Blanc, Yarra Valley Score: 8.5. Cost: $20.
  • 2003 MAK Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills. Score: 8.5. Cost: $18.
  • 2003 Green Point Reserve Chardonnay, Yarra Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $25 .
  • 2004 Cape Mentelle Chardonnay, Margaret River. Score: 8.5. Cost: $15.
  • 2004 Yering Station Pinot Rose, Yarra Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $ .
  • 2003 Fengrove Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc Blend. Score: 8.5. Cost: $10.
  • 2004 Nepenthe Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills. Score: 8.5. Cost: $13.
  • 2004 Mitchell "Watervale" Riesling, Clare Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $13.
  • 2003 Chalotte Street Chardonnay. Score: 8.5. Cost: $13.
  • 2003 Tamar Ridge Riesling, Tasmania. Score: 8.5. Cost: $20.
  • 2002 Kidman Chardonnay, Yarra Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $10.
  • 2002 Katnook Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Coonawarra. Score: 8.5. Cost: $15.
  • 2004 Vasse Felix "Adams Road" Chardonnay, Margaret River. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
  • 2002 Vasse Felix "Hextbury" Chardonnay, Margaret River. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.


    VERY GOOD TO EXCELLENT REDS:

  • 1999 Katnook "Odyssey" Cabernet, Barossa. Score: 9. Cost: $55.
  • 2003 Yangarra Old Vine Grenache, McLaren Vale. Score: 9. Cost: $20.
  • 2002 Grant Burge Shiraz, Barossa. Score: 9. Cost: $35.
  • 1999 Peter Lehmann "Eight Songs" Shiraz. Score: 9. Cost: $50.
  • 1999 Peter Lehmann "Mentor" Cabernet Blend, Barossa. Score: 9. Cost: $60.
  • 1997 Peter Lehman "Stonewell" Shiraz, Barossa. Score: 9. Cost: $80.
  • 2002 Turkey Flat "Butcher's Block" Rhone Blend, Barossa. Score: 9. Cost: $18.
  • 2002 Campbells "The Barkeley" Durif (Petit Sirah), Victoria. Score: 9. Cost: $25.
  • 2002 Yering Station Shiraz-Viognier, Yarra Valley. Score: 9. Cost: $38.
  • 2001 Charles Melton "Nine Popes" Rhone Blend. Score: 9. Cost: $35.
  • 2002 D'Arenberg "Ironstone Pressings" Rhone Blend, McLaren Vale. Score: 9. Cost: $ .
  • 2002 D'Arenberg "Galvo Garage" Bordeaux Blend, McLaren Vale. Score: 9. Cost: $32.

  • 2002 Yalumba Grenache (132 year old vines), Barossa. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $32.
  • 2003 Yangarra Shiraz, McLaren Vale. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $18.
  • 2001 John Hengell Shiraz, Barossa. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $28.
  • 2000 Skillogalee Shiraz, Clare Valley. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $25.
  • 2002 Brokenwood "Rayner Vineyard" Shiraz, McLaren Vale. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $30.
  • 2002 Turkey Flat Old Vine Grenache, Barossa. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $19.
  • 2002 Turkey Flat Cabernet, Barossa. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $22.
  • 2002 Turkey Flat Shiraz, Barossa. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $17.
  • 2002 Campbells "Bobbie Burns" Shiraz, Victoria. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $30.
  • 2002 Wirra Wirra "Church Block" Red Blend, McLaren Vale. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $15.
  • 2003 D'Arenberg "Stump Jump" Rhone Blend, McLaren Vale. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $8.
  • 2002 D'Arenberg "D'arry's Original" Shiraz (50%)-Grenache (50%) Blend, McLaren Vale. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $14.

  • 2003 Yangarra Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre Blend, McLaren Vale. Score: 8.5. Cost: $21.
  • 2002 Yangarra Shiraz, McLaren Vale. Score: 8.5. Cost: $18.
  • 2001 John Hengell Grenache/Shiraz, Barossa. Score: 8.5. Cost: $22.
  • 2002 Wirra Wirra "Scrubby Rise" Shiraz, McLaren Vale. Score: 8.5. Cost: $10.
  • 2001 Jacobs Creek Cabernet, Barossa Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $15.
  • 2002 Yering Station Reserve Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley (the ONLY Pinot at the show that was drinkable) Score: 8.5. Cost: $30.
  • 2002 D'Arenberg "Footbolt" Shiraz, McLaren Vale. Score: 8.5. Cost: $14.
  • 2002 D'Arenberg "Coppermine Road" Cabernet, McLaren Vale. Score: 8.5. Cost: $50.
  • 2000 Leeuwin Art Series Shiraz. Score: 8.5. Cost: $30.
  • 2001 Grant Burge "Miamba" Shiraz, Barossa Valley. Score: 8.5. Cost: $15.
  • 2002 Howard Park "Leston" Cabernet, Margaret River. Score: 8.5. Cost: $19.

    So there you have it. I wish there were more Chardonnays on offer, as Australia is kicking out some excellent ones these days but the representation at this tasting seemed a little weak. Reds, especially Shiraz and those Rhone style blends are definitely Australia's sweet spot, and while there were also a couple of good Cabernets, most had that greenish unripeness that I detest in Cabernet.

    In summary, I stand by my assertion that Australia continues to be a shining star of value in the wine world. Good 'on ya, mate.

    Comments (4)

    James Mitchell wrote:
    01.26.05 at 6:04 PM

    I wish I could have been there, Australia has been putting out some amazing shiraz. One of my favorites that wasn't there was Kilikanoon. I just tasted the 02' Oracle (which was hard to find) and it was amazing, great complexity and an amazing finish. I have a Yalumba Octavius on the way and I can't wait.

    Alder wrote:
    01.26.05 at 6:10 PM

    I agree with you wholeheartedly about the Killikanoon. They are are awesome wines and I was sad to see them and others (notably Torbreck) missing from the lot.

    Cam Wheeler wrote:
    01.27.05 at 5:31 AM

    Sounds like a good event.

    I was almost going to do Nine Popes for the wacky name edition of WBW since it has an amusing story behind it as to how Charles Melton got some dodgy translation advice back in the 80's that Châteauneuf-du-Pape was literally "castle of the nine popes", rather than the actual "new castle of the pope".

    If you like the look of the 2000 Leeuwin AS Chardonnay, try and get your hands on some of the 2001, I believe it to be even better. The 2002 is about to be released over here but I haven't had a chance to try it as yet.

    A shame that Torbreck wasn't there, the '02 Runrig could well be the best non-aged Australian wine that I have tasted. Parker might have to give it 105.

    I think you'll see even more improvement in the value of Australian wines over the coming years as we are in the midst of a red grape glut at the moment and as long the Australian dollar continues to perform strongly against the USD, I think prices should come down a little.

    Ben Cleland wrote:
    02.02.05 at 4:32 PM

    Sounds like a brilliant tasting. I'm an Australian but because I live outside the major centres I don't get the chance to attend tastings with that sort of range.

    I'd certainly second the good scores given to the D'arenburg wines. They seem to be able to pump out wines that give great flavour, power and value for money.

    I note with interest that you tasted the Tamar Ridge 2003 Riesling. I worked in the Tamar Ridge cellar door for about 12 months and can confirm that Riesling has always been their best variety. They tend to age very nicely as well and their older Rieslings often do well at wine shows.

    Other varieties that are doing well at Tamar Ridge and Tasmania in general are Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurtraminer.

    As for the other wines you tasted, well that is a pretty quality line up with some of Australia's best wines. I'm glad you enjoyed them.

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