A young wine blogger told me recently that he was tired of all those big, heavy, rich, concentrated red wines from Australia.
I was irked. Having been to Australia 16 times in the past 20 years, I have toured most of that country's numerous wine-growing regions and I love Australia's top wines with a passion I can't reveal in words.
And what this young man was saying simply made no sense. The best red wines in Australia are balanced and age nicely.
As we continued to talk, he made a few more remarks and it was then that I realized he was speaking of some of the more odd concoctions that have come out of Australia in the last few years — wines some Americans think fairly represent Australia's wine industry.
For the most part they do not.
What the blogger said about Aussie red wines being big and rich mirrors what wine critic Robert Parker wrote well over a decade ago when he gave some of his highest scores to Aussie reds. He praised them as "some of the world's biggest, fullest, most powerful dry reds."
This is somewhat of an aberrant style of wine for Australia — a nation that has been making fine wine for perhaps 100 years longer than has the United States.
I had lunch the other day with James Gosper, the new marketing director for Wine Australia. The wine we had was an Aussie classic: 2009 Brokenwood Semillon from the Hunter Valley, a delicate white wine with less than 12% alcohol. It is so crisp it calls for simple seafood.
As we chatted, Gosper said the era of huge red wines from Australia may have passed. He said he sees more fine dining establishments seeking more structured, food-friendly wines of the sort for which Australia always has been noted.
As we chatted, I began to think about how so many Americans got the wrong impression of many wines in this world as a result of high scores for styles that are obviously to the liking of Parker. And I suspect that people who got their only knowledge of wine from Parker's writings are missing some of the finest of taste experiences.
For instance, Australian riesling is typically a bone-dry wine with remarkable personality. Cabernet sauvignon from Coonawarra is a distinctive, age-worthy wine. Grenache and Shiraz can be big and rich, but many others are more balanced and food friendly.
As the Australian dollar strengthened to parity with the U.S. dollar in the last few years, the cost of most Australian wine rose, and that has caused a decline in sales of Australian wine in the United States. Sales of Aussie wines here were down more than 12% last year.
But an educational effort that Wine Australia has undertaken with the nation's top sommeliers is having a major impact in major cities, and Australian wine sales remain strong in Canada and the United Kingdom.
<CF103>Wine of the Week: </CF>2008 Penfolds Shiraz, Coonawarra ($26) — A bold aroma of plum, dark cherries and a trace of pepper is married to relatively rich mid-palate fruit, with a hint of underbrush in the finish. Beautifully managed tannins, so the wine isn't astringent.
[END_CREDIT_0]Sonoma County resident Dan Berger publishes "Vintage Experiences," a weekly wine newsletter. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.