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Hot Wines From Down Under: April 2006


2005 Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – This wine has intense acidity and the taste of bell peppers splashed with lime.

2004 Belllvale Gippsland Pinot Noir – Here you’ll find vibrant fruit carried forever by noticeable acidity.

2003 Fenestra Yarra Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – This Cabernet smells of the classic black currants with some earthiness. It tastes of vivacious fruit, framed with lively acidity and light tannins – dense yet drinkable now.

2003 Shays Flat Pyrenees Ranges Sangiovese – While this has a slight herbal component, I think it works with the overall package of fruit forward cherry flavors and ample acidity – very clean and delicious.

A Deeper Look
The Yarra Valley, just an hour outside of Melbourne is like a trip to Sonoma County. The town where I stayed is even called Healesville. Could make a good sister city for Healdsburg?

Punt Road, named for a byway in Melbourne where some of the early Victorian vines were planted, is featuring stunning yet affordable wines. The winemaker Kate Goodman is on top of the game, delivering the fruit of the grapes, without hiding them in oak. Conquest Beverage Group in New Orleans newly imports the wines to the U.S.. We may have to ask for them before they show up in our local shops. Favorites include:

2005 Pinot Gris, $22 – This is a roundish, more Alsatian style of Pinot Gris.

2005 Pinot Noir, $27 – This is a very delicate, cherry loaded Pinot that has the balance of acidity to make it a good wine with dinner. It is the antithesis of many of the overly ripe and alcoholic Pinots that we’re seeing more often in California.

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, $27 – There are leafy cigar box notes as you find in Bordeaux and the palate is all about dense fruit, ripe tannins and balancing acidity – simply delicious.

Miller’s Dixons Creek is situated on the Melba Highway just north of Yarra Glen. Being growers and winemakers, they have the luxury of choosing the best lots of grapes for their small production. I expect they’ll soon have distribution in the U.S. Look for their Petit Verdot. The barrel sample I tasted of the 2005 was delicious. Favorite in bottle:

2004 Shiraz – With just 9 months in American Oak, the sweet nuances are more of silky seasoning than a cloak of syrup – nice black pepper and black fruits.

De Bortoli, also in Dixons Creek, is well known for affordable varietal wine. What might be more of a secret in the States, is the top-drawer wines embracing organic methods and ample acidity.

Many Australian wines show luscious mouth feel, whether in rich Chardonnays or mouth-filling Shiraz. Yet the trend line is moving toward a restraint of richness and an embrace of acid. Paul Bridgeman showed me a number of barrel samples that exemplify this move: Chardonnays that tasted like Chablis, Sauvignons that tasted like Sancerre and Shiraz (labeled as Syrah) that tasted like a top Cornas.

Domaine Chandon proves again that good bubbly is made beyond the borders of the vaunted Champagne region of France. Their Green Point vineyards were planted a mere 20 years ago on an historic property that was a cattle ranch in the 1880s. The tasting room and salon overlook a splendid view of the Yarra where the landscape remains green longer than most in the summer season.

2002 ZD Blanc de Blanc, $28 - This 100% Chardonnay is textbook green apple, fully concentrated and long lasting. The ZD is for zero dosage. This wine, as well as four other Chandon sparklings is bottled for sale under crown cap. That’s right – the same sort of top you see on the wine during the secondary fermentation, like we used on soda pop long ago. The crown cap guarantees no risk of cork taint, which does exist in sparkling wines just as it does in still wines.


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