Wine Australia: Classic Blends and Alternative Varieties

Winery owner Justine Henschke holds bottle next to WA Susan Barros

Very interesting tasting of Australian wines Susan Barros organized today for the first Wine Australia Tasting of 2011 — Unusual Varietals and Classic Blends. It was a casual, walk-around format and good presentation of “what’s up” in Australia these days.

I have to say that after tasting these wines, I rushed to the office to break out my James Halliday “Wine Atlas of Australia!” to look up all the regions, soils, climates and producers! 

The message is that Australians are becoming increasingly enchanted with Southern European varietals. So now you are asking: did it work? How do the wines taste?

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The answer is as expected: the wines were fine, with the whites mostly crisp and refreshing and the reds, overall, good and occasionally exceptional.

Here are my notes:

2010 Mitolo Jester Vermentino – McLaren Vale
Crisp and refreshing wine with racy acidity and snappy, juicy peach.
2010 First Drop Bella Coppia Arneis – Adelaide Hills
Plush white wine with fuller body and nectarine flavors with slightly bitter finish of peach stone.

2009 Hope Estate Verdelho – Hunter Valley
Soft peach aromas with well balanced palate of concentrated white fleshed fruit, medium acidity and tannin with a finish of peach.

2007 Henschke Tilly’s Vineyard – Barossa Valley
Exotic nose of white fleshed fruit and raw almonds, with fuller palate of super ripe peach and rich buttered almonds.

2010 Robert Oatley Limited Release Gewurztraminer – Mudgee
Piercing nose of concentrated – almost dried – apricot, lively acidity and ripe spiced apricot on the palate, long finish.

2009 Robert Oately Tempranillo – King Valley
Spice, oak, dust, and bright cherry life saver on the nose and palate, and though candied a bit, a delightful wine with a concentrated cherry finish.

2007 D’Arenberg The Cenosillicaphobic Cat Sagrantino Cinsault
Full boided red with spice, oak, and rich concentrated cherries on the palate. Great pairing with a juicy steak.

2008 First Drop Minchia Montepulciano – Adelaide Hills
Wow – burst of black cherry juice on nose and palate, with some spice and complexity. Pure black cherry fruit with delicious sour cherry finish.

2008 SC Pannell Pronto Tinto Grenache Touriga Shriaz Monastrell – McLaren Vale
Very well balanced style of red with great concentration of fruit. Fabulous integration of fruit and oak.

2006 Massena Howling Dog Durif – Barossa Valley
Concentrated black cherry on the nose and palate, with earthy flavors and a med+ finish.

Traditional Cabernet Blends

2008 Moss Wood Ribbonvale Cabernet Merlot – Margaret River
A favorite – Exceptionally aromatic nose leads to palate with concentrated and well integrated flavors and spice, long finish.

2006 Cullen Mangan Malbec Petit Verdot Merlot – Margaret River
A favorite – Elegant wine with highly polished flavors of very good concentrated fruit.

2006 Giant Steps Harry’s Monster Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc – Yarra Valley
Inky cherry fruit makes for a juicy wine with great texture and a long finish.

2005 Penley Estate the Chertsey Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc – Coonawarra
A favorite – Intense black cherry on the nose and palate with intensely concentrated fruit, very well balanced with lots of finesse and elegance. Finish of vanilla infused black cherry.

2006 Elderton Ode to Lorraine Cabernet Shiraz Merlot – Barossa Valley
A favorite – incredibly well balanced wine with a “point on” nose of pure red cherry and finish of luscious ripe red fruit.

2005 Yalumba The Signature Cabernet Shiraz – Barossa
A favorirte – Richly concentrated fruit on nose and palate, very elegant well balanced wine with tightly integrated fruit and oak.

Shiraz Blend

2008 Turkey Flat Butchers Block Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre – Barossa Valley
High acidity and some good cherry fruit, med+ finish

2007 Penfolds Bin 138 Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre – Barossa Valley
Well balanced wine, very aromatic, with concentrated cherry fruit.


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