It is no secret Australian wines are a hot ticket in the United States. Fueled in part by the Yellow Tail phenomenon, we recently surpassed the UK as the number one Australian wine importer. But while the low end accounts for much of the sales growth, we are also seeing expanded interest in premium Australian brands. Last week, two of the top importers of Australia's best were in Boise to show off their lineup, and they presented some terrific wines.
Everything I tried from South Australia's d'Arenberg wines impressed me. With vineyards dating back some 80 years, their lineup of reds showed remarkable depth. From the top of the line 2002 The Dead Arm Shiraz ($60), to the more pedestrian 2002 The Stump Jump GSM ($10.99), these were richly extracted, well-balanced wines.
One of the best whites tasted was the 2002 Leeuwin Estates Siblings ($18.99), a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Lots of ripe fruit aromas with honeyed melon, fig and gooseberry. The flavors blended tropical fruit with dark currant, backed by a touch of white pepper on the finish. Another wine to look for in the near future is Leeuwin's 2001 Artist Series Chardonnay ($62), considered by most to be Australia's top Chard and just rated an amazing 98 points by Wine Spectator.
Three Shiraz from three different producers were particular standouts. First up, the 1999 Craiglee Shiraz ($32) was surprisingly subdued and elegant for an Australian red. White pepper on the nose, with soft berry fruit flavors and impeccable balance, this was a charmingly styled wine with a long smooth finish. Bigger and bolder, the 2000 Pikes Shiraz ($18.99) still had excellent structure, with expressive berry and cherry fruit, nice mocha and subtle oak. It was an easygoing, fruit-forward wine, sure to please. Equally impressive, The 2002 Ned and Henry's Shiraz ($17.99) displayed seamless dark berry fruit, soft tannins and a supple, almost creamy finish that was completely irresistible.
One last white wine really wowed me--the 2003 Pike and Joyce Pinot Gris ($16.99). The melon and peach fruit flavors were as rich as anything from Oregon, but the overall impression was of a better-balanced wine with just the right level of acidity. Absolutely delicious and the perfect white to pair with late season wild salmon. :