Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Studious Walkabout

Whether novice or pro, if you want to increase your wine knowledge you've got to taste...a lot. You've got to try as many different wines in as many different styles as you can. Tough job, I know.

That means getting out to winetasting events as often as possible and to your favorite retail stores -- the ones that not only want to sell you something but help educate you. I've discovered many great wines this way, especially great value wines. But if you want to learn about truly distinctive wines, a cut above the typical bargain stuff, it can be tough.

That's why I was pretty excited to attend a tasting this weekend at one of my favorite stores that was featuring a lineup of artisan wines from Australia. Parker of late has celebrated many of these wines. But for a long time, Australian wines -- at least those that we get here in the states -- have been painted with a fairly broad brush. Known for their fruit forward, exuberant personalities, they've never been regarded as the most subtle or complex of wines -- with a few notable exceptions.

The wines I tasted Saturday tell a different story. A representative of the Grateful Palate, an importer only recently working in Connecticut, was there showing off a number of Aussie wines, each one rich but with individual personality. Eschewing the cookie cutter stuff, the Grateful Palate portfolio exhibits lots of terroir and style. The good news is that lots of Australian wines really do have complexity and personality wrapped in rich fruit. The bad news is now we have to read up on Australia's geography and climates to figure it all out.

Saturday was a learning experience, but it was most of all fun. These were all delicious wines, whether you wanted to take notes or note. Here's the rundown:

Trevor Jones, Chardonnay "Virgin" 2004 $19.99: A tank-fermented, non-oaked new world Chardonnay. Rich but not too fat, with good acidity and freshness.

Trevor Jones, Grenache "Boots" 2003 $15.99: A delicious, zesty red packed with raspberry and chery flavors. My vote for value wine of the tasting.

Hare's Chase, Barossa Blend 2004 $16.99: A blend of 70% shiraz, 16% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and tiny amounts of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. Aromas of cherry, black currants. Generous fruit, almost lush, but the least interesting in my book.

Marquis Philips, Shiraz 2004 $16.99: Deep purple with powerful berry aromas and vanilla. Thick fruit with lots of spice, pepper. A tad rustic.

Teusner, Shiraz "The Riebke" 2004 $23.99: Nice blackberry and licorice aromas, a touch of anise. Loads of fruit with an impressive underlying acidity. Unique and and very enjoyable.

Brothers In Arms, Shiraz "Langhorne Creek" 2002 $32.99: Opaque purple color with aromas of crème de cassis, flowers and blackberries. Full-bodied, dense and chewy. Built for the long haul. In my opinion, best in show.

Parson's Flat, Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 $42.99: This fruit-forward effort is an extroverted, super-ripe, smoothly-textured, mouth-filling wine that is a lot of fun to drink.

Marquis Philips, Cabernet Sauvignon "S2" 2004 $36.99: This full-throttle Cabernet is loaded with fruit and spice, but is nicely balanced. It also can be enjoyed very soon.

Trevor Jones, Old Tawny Port "Jonesy" NV $11.99: A blend averaging 46 years with a great bouquet of candied fruit with rich vanilla and hazelnuts.


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