Friday, January 25, 2008

Aussie Shiraz: Maybe I was wrong after all?

There is one tasting I try not to miss every year; it’s the ‘Wine Australia Festival New York’. This is when Australia comes half way around the world to show metro area distributors, restaurateurs and retailers what they have to offer.

I show up half heartily and with a sour stomach to taste through these wines yesterday (1/24/2008). I must be nuts, right? Wrong.

I found some very interesting stuff amongst the ocean of typical Shiraz and blends. I have been very critical as of late, and may have been rough on Aussie Shiraz. For the most part, I do believe that the winemakers are adjusting toward the elegant styled, and leaving the bombastic style behind, and my tasting notes from yesterday reflects my thinking on this subject.

Too many of these wines were still monstrous fruit bombs though. I never changed my glass more than I did this day. The residue made my glass almost opaque on more than one occasion.
I worked my way around looking for familiar names first. I came across Green Point & Cape Mentelle. The latter was offering the 2004 Margaret River Shiraz, which was pretty great. Even better than the Reserve Shiraz which I found dry and austere. The Shiraz is from the Margaret River region on western Australia. Great blueberries and violets with smooth cocoa atop a wonderful mouth feel and lush tannin base. This is a complex wine with a great finish. I doubted the price and looked thrice, $25. 90/100. My second ‘find’ is the Yering Station 2005 Reserve Shiraz Viognier: This had a wonderful super elegance with boysenberry, white pepper, and blueberry. The Viognier added a slight floral note. This was a deep serious wine that goes on forever. I like the fact that it did not have a catchy name other than Shiraz Viognier. Very Rhone like, but keeping its roots firmly in Australia. A tremendous winner. 95/100. Next up was the 2004 Tintara Shiraz Reserve: I always have found the Tintara line-up a great qpr, and this Reserve is no different. The difference lies in its amazing classy styling of fruits and tannic structure. Wonderful refined dark fruits surrounded by the most deft tannin level I have ever experienced in a Tintara. Breed and finesse is abounding here. 93/100 ($50). My fourth ‘revelation’ wine is very different but still Shiraz: the 2005 Tyrrell’s wines DB 24: This was probably the single best wine I have ever tasted coming out of Australia. Period. Ultra pure dark red black and blue fruits. The tannin level is so complex, we need another word for complex. This wine would appeal to the world-class claret drinkers out there. It is so claret like I needed to use the world again. Pure lush midpalate, with a finish that confounds. 24 months in oak, this amazing wine is a real treat of the senses. A Cabernet drinkers Shiraz. 96/100. ($80).
Last but certainly not least is a wine called 2005 Yangarra Cadenzia. Cadenzia seems to be a special McLaren Vale membership wine that at the moment there are only six of. A GSM blend, this one had all the stuffing’s: Elegance, structure, style, class, and…value. Lush and fragrant, this defies its price tag. $25. I defy you to find a better GSM blend for this money. I mentioned to the winemaker that after I have heard the spiel, I reckoned I would hear a price to match like say... $65ish? Nah, this is the super QPR of the day. 92/100

The problems I have found with many cabernet's coming out of Australia are usually the greenness, or over extraction. I wish I could find one comparable to the Napa style (Michael Chiarello, please don’t sue). For the most part they leave me wanting, and are unbalanced. I did find an interesting one or two though: The 2003 Jacobs Creek St Hugo had a smooth eucalyptus nose and palate. This harkened me back to Heitz Martha’s of yesteryear, if just for a super slight second. Deep red fruits and a smooth underlying tannin base. All this with a decent midpalate. Nice cocoa and tar notes were in the house as well and this begged for food, although I think the eucalyptus would tire out quickly. 89/100. The second was the 2004 Parker Estate First Growth. ($65). A great Bordeaux styled blend that had great dark ad red fruits with some cocoa, leather, anise, and tar. A nice bottle of wine, if a bit pricey. 90/100

The Shiraz was the stars of the day. Some worth seeking out. My palate still loves those cool climate Syrahs, where ever they may come from.