2018-03-01 / Wine Notes

Wines Down Under

Robert D. Richards, CSW

It’s harvest time. The wineries are buzzing with crates of grapes pouring into the crusher-destemmers and presses. Well, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, that is. Vines in this country won’t even start waking up from their long winter’s nap for another month or so, but vintners on the flip side of the world are busy making some of the great wines that we’ll be tasting before long — some as soon as late fall.

Australia and New Zealand rightfully have made a name for themselves in the wine world. In the 1980s, wine lovers started recognizing a distinctive style from this part of the world. The climate, soil and maritime influences all combined to make a unique taste that was quintessentially New World, yet could also emulate some Old World qualities, such as minerality.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc became a mainstay on restaurant wine lists, and there it remains. A crisp, acidic, citrusy, grassy, herbaceous blend of aromas make that wine a great partner to food, especially shellfish like oysters, clams and shrimp. The tanginess of Asian cuisine provides a nice accompaniment as well. Tangy cheeses like feta also work well with this wine.

In Australia, the signature wine is Shiraz. This grape (which is called Syrah elsewhere) has been growing in some vineyards since the mid-1800s, providing the world’s oldest Shiraz vines still in production. The grape can grow in a variety of climates, and that’s why it is found all over Australia. That’s also why the flavor profiles can differ among regions. Shiraz is sometimes co-fermented with Viognier (the floral white wine) or blended with Grenache and Mourvedre. Shiraz-Cabernet blends are also popular.

Shiraz is a full-bodied red wine and can stand up to bold food flavors like roasts, barbecues, lamb and hearty beef chili. •SCM

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc Small Parcels Spitfire 2016
(#33572, $16.99)
Tropical aromas top off this offering from a respected New Zealand producer. Expect hints of mango, peach and citrus.
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand 2015
(#72773, $27.99)
This wine harvested during the winery’s 30th anniversary provides classic notes of grapefruit and lime zest.
Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz Australia 2013
(#49586, $23.99)
Dark berry notes with hints of chocolate highlight this medium-bodied Shiraz.

Robert D. Richards, CSW, is a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators and has passed the first-level certification of the prestigious Court of Master Sommeliers.

Return to top