The Land Down Under Produces Wonderful Wines



A review of some recently released Australian wines.


By Louis Marmon


Gazette Newspapers  December 19, 2007


Look to Australia when choosing a wine to complement a winter meal or for snuggling beside a cozy fire. Many of the latest Australian releases have a remarkable complexity along with their characteristic bold fruit profile. While some (like the 2006 Craneford Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2006 Oliverhill Petite Sirah) require several years of cellaring to achieve their peak, all the wines listed here are drinking perfectly now.


An example of the Australian fondness for blending varietals is the tasty St. Mary’s Bells & Whistles 2005 ($17). Comprised of 65 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 percent Shiraz, 11 percent Cabernet Franc and 4 percent Merlot, it has spicy aromas with soft black cherry, plum, clove and mint notes. Also very good is the medium-bodied St. Mary’s Cabernet Sauvignon House Block 2004 ($22) with red berry, currant and cherry flavors.


I wanted more of the value-priced Nugan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($12), a medium-bodied effort that begins with tobacco and black cherry aromas followed by soft lush black plum and cassis flavors. Equally pleasing was the Eppalock Ridge Heathcote Cabernet/Merlot 2004 ($32) that has black fruit and cherry fragrances that seem to burst from the glass along with graceful blueberry and black berry flavors with a hint of clove at the end.


Tait “The Ball Buster” 2006 ($19) is a great wine for a great price. A blend of 78 percent Shiraz, 12 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 percent Merlot, it has coffee and oak aromas and soft, mouth-filling blueberry and black plum flavors. Made from 80-year-old vines, the full-bodied Tait Cabernet Sauvignon Basket Pressed 2005 ($30) has scents of vanilla oak and blackberry with balanced spicy plum and chocolate flavors followed by a lush cherry finish.


Susana Fernandez and Duncan Ferguson are creating some remarkable wines at Cascabel, including their gorgeous Cascabel Monestrell 2005 ($29) that has smoky, earthy scents, spicy blackberry, black cherry and plum flavors and a very long finish. A marriage of Grenache, Mourvedre and Shiraz, the full-bodied Cascabel Tipico GSM 2005 ($22) has anise and cherry aromas with blueberry, mocha, cherry and mushroom notes. Certainly worth looking for is the Cascabel Tempranillo / Graciano 2005 ($29), a medium-bodied blend with a spicy cherry aroma, earthy black fruit and red berry flavors and a delightful finish.


With deep dense flavors that will only get better over the next few years, the Steve Hoff Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($28) is delicious. It begins with cedar, mint and cherry fragrances, which progress into well-balanced black currant, cherry and blackberry along with a touch of vanilla during a very long, elegant finish. The Steve Hoff Shiraz 2005 ($28) is also very good, with white pepper and blackberry aromas along with smoky black fruit, raspberry, licorice and spice notes.


Two other excellent blends are made by the Kurtz Family Winery. The medium-bodied Kurtz Family Boundary Row GSM 2005 ($20) is comprised of Grenache, Shiraz and Mataro with cherry and mushroom aromas and floral, red and black fruit flavors. The Kurtz Family Seven Sleepers 2005 ($17) contains Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Grenache, Merlot, Mourvedre and Malbec. Smoky spice aromas progress to plum, chocolate, blackberry and dark cherry notes at the end.


The Ross Estate Old Vine Grenache 2006 ($22) is made from 95-year-old vines and has floral aromas and soft, almost sweet raspberry flavors. Equally fine is the medium-bodied Ross Estate Shiraz Reserve 2005 ($36) with pronounced blueberry, anise and plum fragrances coupled with spicy black and red fruit, coffee and vanilla notes.



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