The other day, we came across a wine column in the New York Times which made the startling point, for us anyway, that Australian red wines “are all heavy-bodied and high octane, overwhelming combinations of thick fruit flavors, oak and alcohol,” and it is a shame that no subtler, “graceful” reds are produced and exported from down under. This from a very esteemed wine writer, a writer who some years previously had termed Australia the “land of fruit bombs and salesmanship and industrial wines with cute critter names.” Guess he has softened his stance a little …
The author was then admittedly pleasantly surprised by a recent tasting of several Australian reds which “were fresh, restrained and even savory, with, yes, finesse and moderate levels of alcohol.” He then, presumably in self defense of his aforementioned ill-informed statements, pronounced himself unable to locate such wines in his area. We wanted to scream “just look at our website,” or otherwise out of “your area,” as well as a few other unprintable things. Instead we took a deep breath, and a sip of the beautiful and inspiring Tahbilk Cabernet (and yes, it was “fresh, restrained and even savory”) and offer the following reminders.
Just like any other large wine producing country, Australia has a great variety of climate, soils, and styles. After all, who could possibly maintain that wines from, for example, California, Oregon, and New York are all alike? Would one judge second or third growth Bordeaux as inferior wines simply because France also exports wine with cute little bicycles on the labels?
In Australia, if you are looking for more reserved red wines and often, but not always lower alcohol, look to the cooler regions of Victoria, Western Australia, and Tasmania.
In Victoria, choices abound including Yarra Valley, Bendigo, Heathcote, the Mornington Peninsula, and McLaren Vale. Think Yarra Yering, Tahbilk, Mt. Langi Ghiran, or Yering Station. In Western Australia, beautiful cool climate styles are the norm. Think Moss Wood, Vasse Felix, Leeuwin, Frankland Estate, or Plantagenet. In Tasmania, producers of lovely, cool climate reds include Pirie, Framingham, and Tamar Ridge.
There are also other pockets throughout Australia which produce less extracted styles including the Eden, Clare, and Hunter Valleys. Henschke or Brokenwood anyone?
And while we are sharing these facts apparently unknown to the NYT wine writer, can we just add that sometimes there is nothing which can compare with those “heavy bodied, high octane, thick fruited” wines from Australia! Especially when paired with the right dish….or while preparing the right dish…..Aussie Aussie Aussie!