Aussie wines are on fire. New brands keep storming into the American market, commanding more shelf space and grabbing market shares. Most of the action has revolved around a simple formula-offer a catchy name and cute label on a bottle of decent juice at a great price, and watch the sale roll up. But a recent visit to Boise by Jane Delaney, proprietor of The Ravensvale Group, is a reminder that there's more to Australian wine than small penguins and colorful tails. Originally from down under, Delaney's motto is that she offers "The Wines Australians Drink at Home." If her portfolio is any indication, they are drinking very well indeed. Here are a few favorites:
2004 Richard Hamilton Riesling, Slate Quarry, $13.99
From the southern tip of McLaren Vale, the cool coastal climate offers an ideal environment for fine Riesling, this wine being an excellent example. Lovely floral aromas are led by lime and orange blossom and backed by crisp peach. Nice lime and grapefruit flavors, with a bit of mineral. Shows excellent acid balance with just a hint of sweetness on the finish. Excellent value.
2002 Matilda Plains Shiraz Cabernet Merlot, $12.99
Blackberry and mocha aromas with a light bit of earth on the nose. Dark berry and cherry fruit in the mouth complemented by notes of chocolate, anise and spice. The tannins are soft and most noticeable on the smooth, fruity finish. An impressive wine at a great price.
2002 Jinks Creek Shiraz, $31
Sublimely rich fruit and meaty aromas remind one of a Côte Rôtie. Every bit as big in the mouth, the dark berry and plum fruit flavors play against light vanilla, leather, tobacco, spice and earth. The finish goes on and on in a wine that is surprisingly approachable now. Begs to be paired with meat dishes, the richer the better.
Shottesbrooke Bernesh Bray Fine Old Tawny Port, $34
Aussies love their port-so much so that you can buy it in a 3-liter over there. Needless to say, the Shottesbrooke is a few steps up in quality, arguably the best tawny I've had from down under-or anywhere else, for that matter. Seduces you with enticing aromas of caramel, spiced orange, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla, almond and more. The flavors are surprisingly fresh with ripe, dark fruits, fig, orange, almond and spice. Sweet, but not cloying-an outstanding tawny port.