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It’s Not Only About Shiraz in the Land Down Under!

When most people think of Australian wines, they think of Shiraz! There’s obviously a reason for that. Syrah, or Shiraz as the Aussies like to call it, is the most widely grown grape “down under”. Cabernet Sauvignon, however, is now number two, and there are producers making some wonderful wines utilizing this number 2 grape!

In the 1960s, Australia was a lot better known as the land of kangaroos and surfing. Fast-forward to the 21st Century and things have changed! From 1988 to 2008 Australian wine exports increased over 98% and today Australia has become known for quality wine. They still, of course, have kangaroos and surfing! In fact, my husband and I had a wonderful Australian vacation a few years ago where we golfed amongst the kangaroos in Geelong!

I recently had the opportunity to taste wines from Bordeaux side by side with four Bordeaux blends from Australia, and I honestly was surprised at the results on my tasting sheet. Now I’ve had great respect for Australian wines for years, even traveling there to further my knowledge, but I have to admit that I thought that I’d prefer the wines from France. I was wrong!

Here are the Australian wines I tasted:

Balnaves The Blend 2012

51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc

This Bordeaux blend is from the Coonawarra region, known for its bright red soil called terra rossa over a limestone base. This soil combination is known for killer Cabernet Sauvignon!  The nose has a touch of mint and cedar, with lots of dark fruit. The palate has the fruit along with some licorice, and has a velvety mouth-feel. What a great wine for about $25 retail!

Yalumba The Menzies 2012

100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Also from the Coonawarra region, this wine takes its name from Sir Robert Menzies, former Australian Prime Minster and lover of wine! With cedar, mint and black currant on the nose, this purple colored wine has juicy blackberry, black currant, some tobacco and a bit of olive on the palate. It needs some time, but this wine is going to be lovely. The tannins are nicely structured and balanced with the dark fruit.

Woodlands Estate “Margaret” 2011

100% Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine is from Margaret River, Western Australia’s premier wine region known for its wonderful examples of Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2011 “Margaret” is very fragrant with dark fruit, dark chocolate, tobacco and pencil shavings on the nose. The palate is ripe, but well balanced with cigar box and a lovely earthiness. This wine will be absolutely dynamite after some time in the cellar!

Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 1 2010

Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot

Yarra Yering Vineyards is located in the Yarra Valley, a short 28 miles from the beautiful and bustling city of Melbourne. Although mostly known for producing lovely examples of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the Yarra Valley also does wonderful things with Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.

The 2010 Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 1 is from estate Cabernet Sauvignon vines planted in 1969. This wine is very different from the others. The herbaceous nose has lots of earth, clove and pencil shaving, along with dried black fruit. The palate has violet, some nice dark fruit and some barnyard funk. This reminds me most of a Bordeaux, with great acidity and longevity!

By the way, the “No. 1” stands for their Bordeaux Blend, while the “No. 2” is their Northern Rhone blend!

While visiting Australia a few years ago, my husband and I had only two days to taste in Yarra Valley. I had my heart set on tasting at Yarra Yering, but unfortunately they were closed BOTH of those days due to the horrific bushfires that overtook the region the month before. Instead we went next door to Warramate Vineyards where we had a lovely tasting. Warramate also makes some beautiful wines, and we counted our blessings that they were open. We no longer have any of Warramate’s wines in our cellar, but we do have fabulous memories of their wine and the lovely young lady who hosted our tasting! I’m including a photo of us sitting on their deck overlooking their vineyards.

Back to my Bordeaux vs. Australia tasting, there obviously wasn’t a dud in the bunch! I of course still LOVE the wines of Bordeaux, but this tasting reminded me of the high quality of wine coming out of Australia and the fact that they can totally compete with the finest wines of the world!

If you every have the chance to visit Australia, jump on that plane. Not only is it a beautiful country, they have great wine and beer and some of the nicest people in the world!


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