7.28.2012

Wine column no. 37: Give those Aussies a try

Mention Australia and inevitably someone will bring up koalas. Or kangaroos. Or that fabulous Hollywood creation, Mick Dundee.
But wine? That's not on a lot of people's minds when they consider the sixth-largest country by total area. And it's too bad it isn't, because two wines from South Australia definitely deserve to be
discussed.
The first is the 2009 Jacob's Creek Reserve Riesling, which we found at The Fresh Market for about $13. Yes, The Fresh Market now sells wine, and many of the bottles on its shelves aren't found elsewhere in the Tri-state (that we've noticed, at least). That's good for us and it's good for you, too, since the number of grape nuts in this area just continues to rise.
Now, this white isn't for you Moscato lovers, meaning you won't get many residual sugars here. Instead, think very dry, crisp and light, though some citrus flavors were able to sneak through. Personally, it wasn't my preferred style of Riesling, since I can tolerate some sweetness. But Greg was all over this one, and he said he'd definitely get it again. This bottle containing 12 percent alcohol would go well with seafood. In fact, it'd be a great wine to drink under the stars in this summer heat, since it's also rather refreshing.
This is what world-renowned Master of Wine Jancis Robinson had to say about this vintage that she expects will cellar well:
"The great thing about the Reserve Riesling 2009 is that although it is dry, it is also lip-smackingly juicy on the mid palate – not one of these dry wines that seems to suck the saliva out of your mouth," she said.
Robinson added that South Australia is quite known for its dry Rieslings, and to think -- it all started when a German immigrant planted the first commercial vineyard on the banks of Jacob's Creek in
the Barossa Valley in 1847.
Johann Gramp was a Bavarian who missed drinking the wines of his homeland, so "instead of changing his habits, he decided to start growing grapes and attempt to make the wine himself," according to www.jacobscreek.us. "It was a way of adapting to a new country, but still staying true to his character."
Those grapes liked their new home, too. More than 160 years later, the company Gramp started with his wife became a family business that is now owned by Pernod Ricard USA, a spirits and wine company.
But there's another way to sell wine, and that's through the use of negociants. A negociant is essentially a person or firm that sells and ships wine as a wholesaler, according to The New Wine Lover's Companion by Ron Herbst and Sharon Tyler Herbst.
That made finding information about the 2006 SlipStream blend of 72 percent Shiraz and 28 percent Grenache a bit difficult, as this wine doesn't come from any one estate. Instead, this McLaren Vale creation, according to http://spiritofwine.blogspot.com, was made by three well-known winemakers: Ben Riggs, Reid Bosward and Stephen Pannell.
They all make wines for wineries that are imported by Epicurian Wines, which was founded by Benjamin Hammerschlag. An American, he worked as a wine buyer for a grocery store in Seattle before he became a full-time wine importer, and his philosophy is essentially this: Find complex, balanced wines from Australia, and make them affordable. Hammerschlag's done just that with the SlipStream, which came in at about $19.99 at Vecchio's Italian Market and Delicatessen in Newburgh, Ind. But take note, because from the start, this 14.5 percent alcohol blend was immediately acidic. We remedied the acidity by pouring the wine into our glasses through an aerator, and that made a big difference. For one thing, adding air to the wine smoothed it out, so it wasn't as biting to the tongue, and the acidity that was left just seemed to brighten the overall red fruit flavors. The aerator also enhanced the raspberry nose. This Shiraz/Grenache blend was a solid pairing with some grilled chicken breasts we had marinated in lemon juice, garlic, basil, paprika, oregano and salt, too. We'd have no problem getting this one again. Shiraz, meanwhile, is one of the most well-known red wines coming out of the McLaren Vale in Australia. Grenache is planted there, too, and the two blended together make the SlipStream quite tasty. So the next time someone brings up Australia, mix it up by talking about some of the country's fabulous wines. Everyone knows about the koalas and kangaroos; it's the wine that really deserves a mention.

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