A few months back, I extolled the virtues of Australian Shiraz. Top names like Penfold's Grange are pricey, but our tasting revealed a number of exceptional bottles in the under-$20 range. This time of year, with those Christmas bills pouring in and the Taxman lurking just around the corner, budgets are tight, so we decided to seek out even better bargains. The bad news is that there were a number of wines that just didn't measure up. The good news is that several were quite good, the standouts all coming from the 2004 vintage. Here are three Aussie Shiraz in the $10 range that we found worthy.
2004 McWilliam's Hanwood Estate Shiraz, $9.99
Located in southeastern Australia, this is one of the country's oldest wine estates, originally founded in 1877. The aromas lean toward the meaty side with nuances of plum, caramel, chocolate and black pepper. The flavors are bright and lively with ample berry fruit, touches of anise and coffee and a good hit of acidity on the finish. Nice on its own, but at its best when paired with food.
2004 Woop Woop Shiraz, $9.99
Woop Woop, which is Aussie slang for a small, unimportant town in the middle of nowhere, also makes their Shiraz from grapes sourced from southeastern Australia. While they don't have the history of a McWilliam (this is only their fourth vintage) they are clearly on to something. The wine starts with a nice oak component backed by cherry fruit and white pepper aromas. Made in a fruit forward style with the emphasis on soft cherry and dark plum, there are hints of black pepper on the finish. It's definitely a crowd-pleasing style.
2004 Yalumba Y Series Shiraz Viognier, $9.49
This wine from Australia's oldest family winery (at over 150 years, it beats out McWilliam), is a real standout and a definite best buy. In the Rhône tradition, 7 percent Viognier is added to the blend, resulting in a richly aromatic wine with dark berry, violet, spice, licorice and plum. The grapes sourced from South Australia produce an exceptionally well-balanced wine with supple berry and cherry fruit flavors, light tannins and a long silky finish. What's not to like?
This week's panel: Fawn Caveney, Tastevin; Dave Faulk, Porterhouse Meats; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op; Karen McMillin, Idaho Wine Merchant; Kevin Settles, Bardenay