Offerings From Oz

(TORONTO, ON) – Australian red wines have a reputation for being bold and brassy. The public seems to have responded to this with a lesser appetite for Aussie reds. At one time I was in the anti-camp of too brassy reds from Australia. I still enjoy them occasionally, but the Aussies seem to have caught on to international sentiments and tightened up the flavours of their wine.

Take out the excess and you have a more drinkable wine. And drinkability means the sale of more bottles.

I can start you with a Portuguese example, as many of the red wines of the Vinho Verde region are wild and spastic. Fun and exciting, but unless you are eating the local food suited to these wines you might say, “A glass is enough.”

So, where is Australian wine these days? No better way to find out than to try a few new Vintages releases.

The Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run is a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Clare Valley Region. Inky purple in colour, it promises a wallop. It meets the standardized test of Cab Sauv aromas, meaning blueberries and chocolate covered blueberries. A solid cloud of blackberries, too.

Rich taste of blackberries, cassis, and smoky barbeque sauce. Tannic but, again, only if you swirl and swish and look for it.

This is not a brutish wine, but it certainly likes to assert itself with an Aussie flair. A rather short finish. Not complex, as it wears its heart on its sleeve. All said and done, a simplistic introduction to Aussie reds. Lots of flash, but not necessarily complexity.

I’d say good with meatloaf, rabbit stew, or a mushroom and tomato pasta. I can’t see much benefit to ageing this.

(Kilikanoon Clare Valley, Killerman’s Run Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Kilikanoon Wines, Penworth, Australia, 14%, $19.95, LCBO #675223, 750mL, Square Media Group Rating 87/100)

Like a good Aussie wallop? Then I think you’ll enjoy Oscar.

Dark red plum in colour. The nose is loaded with black currants, raspberry jam, black cherry, menthol, and dark chocolate. Subtle, but noticeable tannins. But, it goes down the throat like a velvet glove.

A big mouthful of black fruit with a medium length finish. This one may be a lusty Shiraz, but well made and within the boundaries of a rich wine. Great with mushroom risotto or some sauced up ribs.

Drink until 2020. Note that there is 4% Viognier (a white grape) in this wine.

(Oscar’s Estate Vineyard, Shiraz Viognier 2013 Barossa Valley, B & B Wines, Marananga, Australia, 15%, $18.95, LCBO #287961, 750mL, Square Media Group Rating 92/100)

“Stone Dwellers” sounds very primitive. It’s a 2011 Shiraz from Strathbogie Ranges.

Prominent aromas of blackberries, sour cherries, and licorice with some lavender. Quite tight on the palate with mid weight tannins. Somewhat flimsy cherry flavours that just fade and lose themselves in a short and light acidic bite.

A light weight, be it by New or Old World standards.

(Stone Dwellers Shiraz 2013, Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria, Fowles Wine, Victoria, Australia, 14%, LCBO #265967, $19.95, 750mL, Square Media Group Rating 84/100)

Two Hands Sexy Beast raises an interesting question. What is sexy for one may be unsexy to the other.

It has a ruby colour. Stiff and solid aromas of blueberry pie, dates, black cherry, and even more pie. Firm and far from jammy is confirmed on the palate with tight notes of cassis, blackberries, and sweet pink Florida grapefruit.

Moderate tannins. Not my idea of a sexy beast, but more like a Nun just busting to hit the dance floor. I expect, though, the Nun is going to bust out in the next five years. Medium and somewhat of a hard finish that will soften with some aging.

(Two Hands Sexy Best 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, Two Hands Wine, Marananga, Australia, 14.5%, $29.95, LCBO #19469, 750mL, Square Media Group Rating 90/100)

Now, as far a Sémillon goes as a white grape, it is rather scoffed at as inferior. However the “textbooks” seem to agree that Sémillon from the Hunter Valley is an exception, as it is capable of aging. Although my cellar is bare of these aged beauties, I can attest to a 15 year old Sémillon as being out of this world.

So, when I see a 2016 I blink twice. What is this baby doing in the marketplace so early on in its life? It is a Penmara from the holy land of Sémillon, The Hunter Valley in New South Wales.

Aromas full of juvenile pear, apple, pineapple, baked Alaska, and cantaloupe. It virtually reeks of potential.

On the palate, vanilla, pineapple, pear, and vanilla ice cream. Lots of subtle acidity and a finish that dissipates slowly. This one is a bit risky.

It lacks depth and complexity and enough acidity for the long haul. As it stands, it’s great for simple white grilled or poached white fleshed fish. I just don’t think it has the underlying richness to bother cellaring for a precious 10 years or so.

I rate wines as they taste now and not how they might taste a decade later. The finish is short, the complexity is lacking, so it loses my vote.

I am not going to be carried away by invitation. At best, this is a summer hotter than Hades bag in the box wine. I’d best just leave it as unrated, but if you like the brutal truth…

Of course, you can defer to Australian James Halliday who super inflates this wine to a 93. This is about the biggest differential I have ever experienced with another wine critic. This is perhaps the worst wine I have had in quite some time.

(Penmara, The White Ribbon Sémillion 2016, Penmara Wines, Hunter St, Muswellbrook, New South Wales, Australia, 10.5%, $14.95, LCBO #474031, 750mL, Square Media Group Rating 70/100)

The Jim Barry 2103 Lodge Hill Shiraz bursts with well disciplined blackberry, black currant, concentrated cassis, and warm blueberry pie. On the palate, very tight blackberry, charcoal, chocolate, and herbs.

Moderate tannins with a pleasing medium finish. Perhaps years ago these descriptive words might have raised scorn, but note that I say this is a tight and disciplined wine.

I go on to say this is an elegant powerhouse good until 2010.

Should go well with lamb sausage and stir fried veggies in an oyster sauce.

(Jim Barry, The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2013, Jim Barry Wines, Clare, South Australia, 14%, $24.95, LCBO #998476, 750mL, Square Media Group Rating 94/100)

It is with a slight chuckle that I survey a bottle of Mr Riggs The Gaffer. Why?

When I was a wee one, in moments of pity and compassion my parents called me a, “poor little gaffer.” In the English of yesteryear, a gaffer was an old man or a person in charge of others.

Back on topic, The Gaffer is a darkish red plum in colour. Again a disciplined set of blueberries, cassis, decadent black cherries, and sweet rhubarb aroma on the nose. Moderate tannins with a medium finish.

On the palate, concentrated blackberries, raspberries, and plums all marching in a disciplined column. I go as far as saying, despite its sensory mark of richness, it is all bottled up and not ready to drink quite yet.

I think this is cellar worthy and will improve and relax with the massaging effects of time.

(Mr Riggs, McLaren Vale 2014 Shiraz, Mr Riggs Wine Company, McLaren Vale, South Australia, 14.5%, $19.95, LCBO #47597, Square Media Group Rating 92/100)

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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