The Other Australia

Australian wine has a reputation for being heavy, fruity and oaky. Indeed, the popularity of brands such as Yellow Tail and Greg Norman seem to have helped brand Australian wine as big and brawny—the offensive linemen of the wine world. This style reflects Australia’s warm climate, but it’s also a conscious choice of wine makers who utilize techniques in the vineyard and cellar to maximize a wine’s body.

However, an increasing number of vintners are producing styles that downplay oak, alcohol and glycerin and focus on soil-specific flavors. Few of these would ever be confused as French wines, but it appears that Europe is the model.

Discover more elegant wines by looking to Australia’s cooler regions, such as the Margaret River, Eden Valley and the Adelaide Hills, whose soil and climate tone the wines.

Pewsey Vale Dry Riesling
Eden Valley, 2009, $17
A great example of the fresh lime qualities of Australian Riesling. This is serious juice—dry, bracing and very long. Try with trout baked with lemongrass.

Hewitson “Lu Lu”
Adelaide Hills, 2009, $19
Airy and herbaceous with a lovely citrus note that emerges smack in the middle of the mouth. Perfect salad wine and awfully good with shrimp.

Torbreck Shiraz, “Woodcutters”
Barossa Valley, 2008, $25
Fabulous value for such purity and concentration. No apparent oak and great Barossa flavors of blackberry and smoke in a streamlined and eminently drinkable red. A terrific everyday red.

Available at Madison’s finer wine stores. If unavailable, most purveyors will special order from their wholesalers if requested. Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.

Read more Off the Vine columns here.

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