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The Australia Newsletter: August 2005

Greetings from Australia!

We neednít look only to Germany for Riesling bursting with acidity. In Australia, producers seem to favour a high acid, no sugar model that is lick-smacking refreshing. The dominant flavour in all of these wines is the taste of fresh limes and that occasional blast of petrol. Two to seek out:

2004 Wynnís Coonawara Estate Riesling

2003 Tamar Ridge Tamar Valley (Tasmania) Riesling

Also rocking with acidity is the 2004 Nepenthe Adelaide Hills Unwooded Chardonnay. Itís not just lean rails of acidity; rather itís filled with a core of green apples. Another wine from the Adelaide Hills is the 2004 Chain of Ponds Black Thursday Sauvignon Blanc. Itís quite acidic as you might expect, but the flavours are not only herbaceous; thereís also lots of ripe tropical fruit.

In the states, Australia is probably best known for Shiraz and two from the Barossa Valley really stood out for me. The first was the 2000 Annieís Lane Copper Trail Shiraz. It smelled of berries, cassis and berry cobbler. The mouth featured a balanced combination of berry and oak flavours, supported by firm but soft tannins. The second, a 2000 vintage from St. Hallett, was their Old Block Shiraz. It too was a combo of berries and oak framed in a very elegant structure Ė filled out in the palate, not aggressively tannic, yet not thin either.

The Port-style wines of Australia are quite good value for money. In the ruby style there is the 2003 Morris sporting a bright purple, inky appearance and very ripe berry fruit in the mouth. The nv Penfolds Club Reserve Aged Tawny is crŤme caramel personified.

Another fortified wine that I found quite delicious is called Rutherglen Muscat. Named for one of the many Muscats, this one called Muscat ŗ Petit Grains Rouge, is also known as Brown Muscat. Itís grown in the Rutherglen region of north-eastern Victoria, east of Melbourne and south of Sydney.

There are two things I found stunning about these wines. First, the intense viscosity is pierced by a citrus-orange zip, balancing the wine and keeping it from being cloying. Second, unlike many of the fortified French Muscats, the alcohol is buried in the wine. Even at 17%, thereís no burn, just the weight of the alcohol is there underneath. The two stunners we tried were from Seppelt, the DP 33 and the DP 63. Both smelled of raisins and fruit compote Ė the DP 63 a bit more Malmsey Madeira-like in complexity.

In a less rational section of the price universe, I tasted some excellent wines from Brian Croser, an industry icon in Australia. Heís known worldwide as well, for the wines of Petaluma, named after, you guessed it, that former hot-bed of poultry production in southern Sonoma County. He spent some time here years ago and his fond memories led to naming his winery Petaluma.

In a tutored tasting, we examined three vintages of Chardonnay from a single vineyard he calls Tiers. The site is located in a warm spot in the cool Adelaide Hills. He aims to position this wine side-by-side with the legends of Burgundy.

Heís done it, both in flavours and unfortunately in price. If you can find this wine, you might have to spend $100 per bottle; but if price is no object, this manís wines deserve your attention. What was delicious was to taste the seamless integration of high acid Chardonnay fruit, lashings of new oak, and 100% malolactic that I couldnít detect, building complexity without an overt butteriness.


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