Aussie Power

Header-image-StephenBy Robert K Stephen (CSW)

(TORONTO, ON) – To be labelled a major wine producer in this world, countries need a good stock of both whites and reds from different geographical styles and terroirs, and to be able to export internationally. France and Italy come to mind, but the Australians muscle in the major category with reds, white, and sparklers.

Canada has the potential, but it will need more than ice-wine exported abroad before it becomes a major wine power? Sad but true, because Canada produces international-class reds, whites, sparklers, and sweet wines. But, aside from a couple of dusty bottles of Inniskillin white I once saw in Las Vegas, Canada is known only for its ice-wine.

The Custodian is a consistently good wine from Australia’s McLaren Vale.

Dark ruby in colour. A Grenache. Full of earth, blackberry, crème de cassis, raspberry, bacon, and freshly baked cherry pie.

On the palate, solid and thick tannins, but the finish is relatively short. Lots of black fruit and liquorice, but good acidity controls what might have otherwise been a fruit bomb.

Restrained but not quite elegant. Let it breathe a bit and a certain light elegance begins to sneak in. I’ve kept some Custodians for close to a decade and they do soften out a bit. (The Custodian 2012, McLaren Vale, d’Arenberg, McLaren Vale, 750 mL, 14.6%, LCBO #713040, $19.95, Square Media Group Rating 90/100) I would suggest this vintage is good until 2022. If you are drinking now, best to decant a half hour before pouring.

The Custodian is so decent let’s try another McLaren Vale by the name of Penny’s Hill Crackling Black Shiraz.

It’s darker in colour than The Custodian. Almost black purplish. Lots of blackberry, pomegranate, and rich black cherry on the nose.

Restrained on the palate and, again, not a big jammy fruit bomb so many Aussie wines have been accused of being. Restrained notes of blackberry, black cherry, and blueberry pie kept in check, but a well measured dose of acidity.

Short finish with notes of chocolate and red plum. A respectable Shiraz; Syrah in the rest of the world. Pleasant and drinkable, but this is really a foodie wine. Not being a visitor of Australia I can’t really suggest a local food match, but dare I say a kangaroo steak? (Penny’s Hill Crackling Black 2013 Shiraz, 750 mL, $21.95, 14.5%, LCBO #396473, Square Media Group Rating 87/100)

Australia is a major Chardonnay producer. This Mr Riggs Cold Chalk Chardonnay is pale gold in colour.

On the nose there is definitely some oak to be picked up, but hardly distracting. Also, the usual suspects of apple, pear, and cantaloupe.

On the palate the oakniness fades and there is honey, pear, and lemon meringue pie.

A simple Chardonnay, and one might say a bit limpid on the mid-palate. Short finish. (Mr Riggs Cold Chalk 2014 Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills, Mr Riggs Wine Company, McLaren Vale, Australia, 12.5%, LCBO #438242, $20.95, Square Media Group Rating 86/100)

Jip Jip Rocks sounds very cool or very Australian.

This Shiraz is black plum in colour. Heady aromas of black fruit, particularly blackberry, raspberry, and the tiniest scent of mint and pine needles. Very typical Aussie, slightly over the top Shiraz.

On the palate, very rich and creamy black cherry, Santa Rosa Plum, and any dessert that focuses on blackberry. Tannins and acids beautifully in sync, so please don’t take this wine as a fruit bomb. It’s a particular Aussie wine and occasionally it’s fun to drink on its own or with grilled lamb in a yogurt and garlic marinade.

Perhaps 2 or 3 years to tame the fruit, so now may be the best time.

I was going to make a comparison with Ontario reds but on the way home I saw a sign in from of a United Church stating, “Comparison robs one of joy”. Accordingly no comparison will be made today.

(Jip Jip Rocks, 2013 Shiraz, Padthaway, Jip Jip Rocks, Padthaway, Australia, 14.5%, 750 mL, LCBO #673897, Square Media Group Rating 90/100)

The Mollydooker The Maitre D is black plum in colour. Rather restrained aromas of blackberry, pear nectar, bacon, and black cherry all framed rather elegantly with black fruit. Again loads of black fruit on a very long finish.

Moderate tannins, but the fruit never loses control and is subtly part of the finished product. No hedonistic fruit bomb, yet no dainty lady, this wine shows very restrained Australian power. Perhaps with a different winemaker this wine just might knock your shoes off.

Let’s pull out all the stops and say this is a sophisticated wine that could easily fit into Old World wine categorization. (Mollydooker , The Maitre D 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, 16%, 750 mL, LCBO #246629, $29.95, Square Media Group Rating 92/100)

I’d say drink within 3 years as there aren’t simply enough tannins to maintain a long term relationship. The obscene amount of alcohol is so very cleverly integrated here there is no heat on the palate.

I would say wonderful with grilled lamb and organic sweet potato fries. Stands tall on its own without food. Sort of like a Joe Don Baker in the 1973 Film Walking Tall. At 16% you just might get hit on the head with a baseball bat.

Let’s continue with a Mountdam Eden Valley Riesling. Platinum almost in colour.

On the palate is white peach, pineapple, and pineapple cream pie all built on a slight frame of lightly toasted whole wheat bread.

Very clean and awfully weak on the palate. I struggle to find remnants of any aromas here, but there is a faint whispering of grapefruit, persimmons, and plain old water.

I can’t complain about the craftsmanship of the wine and there is absolutely nothing wrong with its structure. At best we can be complimentary and say it is light and delicate.

Perhaps just the wine for a hot summer day. And just perhaps its simplicity may grow on you. (Mountdam Vineyards Eden Valley Riesling 2013, Mountdam Vineyards, Eden Valley, Australia, 13.5%, $19.95, 750 mL, LCBO #288266, Square Media Group Rating 84/100)

Two Hands Wine AustraliaGetting to the end, let’s finish with a with Hands Field of Joy which is a Shiraz from Clarke Valley. I have an immediate thought, as I pour this purple elixir, that it’s going to be big.

Massive waves of black fruit assault the nose, blackberry, cassis, and sweet old cherries.

On the palate is very concentrated black fruit, again with cassis and blueberry taking the day, and a touch of pepper on the finish.

A fruit bomb is a wine where the fruit just overtakes everything. In this case it is well hidden by both acids and tannins.

This is a rich, full-bodied wine the Australians can excel in, but have come under criticism for high alcohol, knock your socks off wine. True this wine clocks in at 15.6%, but its heat is well disguised. This is the mark of a good, not your everyday, type of wine, but muscular and assertive, like the original Mad Max film. (Two Hands, Fields of Joy, 2013 Shiraz, Two Hands Wine Limited, Maranaga, Australia, 750 mL, 15.6%, $28.95, LCBO #4322963, Square Media Group Rating 92 /100) The tannins are moderate but reticent. Not a long ranger. Drink by 2019.

Click for the latest news

About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)
Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write." Email Robert Stephen