Tag Archives: Australian wine

Expensive wine 77: Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2012


Leeuwin chardonnayCall it irony or coincidence or whatever, but Australian wines keep showing up in the monthly expensive wine post even though Australian wines are a drag on the market and aren’t famous for being expensive. Bring on the Yellow Tail shiraz, right?

Nevertheless, that producers like Leeuwin are making these kinds of wines points to the quality that has been overlooked in Australia’s troubles over the past decade. The Leeuwin chardonnay ($70, sample, 14%) is top-notch, even for the price, and if it isn’t high-end white Burgundy (chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France), it’s not supposed to be.

Look for rich, delicious apple fruit, as well as what the wine magazines called baked apple aromas, with a little cinnamon and spice mixing with the apple. Also, the wine has a full mouth feel, which you should get at this price. This is a New World chardonnay, a little heavier and with a little more oomph than white Burgundy, but it understands that quality is about more than oomph. In this, it should age well, losing some of the heft and becoming more refined over the next several years.

Drink this chilled with classic chardonnay cream sauce dishes; it’s also the kind of wine to give as a gift for someone who wants to explore high-end chardonnay, and understand that terroir exists in places other than California and France.

Winebits 398: Chenin blanc, drunk animals, Australian wine


chenin blancBring on the chenin: The Wine Curmudgeon has an ally in his long-running effort to convince consumers and winemakers that chenin blanc makes terrific, affordable wine: Eric Asimov of the New York Times. He writes: “Chenin blanc, the white grape of the central Loire Valley, is one of those grapes achieving new life in the United States.” Granted, Asimov’s idea of chenin is a world apart from mine in price, but the principle is the same. Chenin blanc makes delicious, interesting wine, and it’s about time winemakers other than those at Pine Ridge and Dry Creek (the links refer to the each winery’s $10 Hall of Fame chenin) realized it.

A bear in the woods: Can animals get drunk from eating rotting fruit? That’s a popular urban myth, but mostly debunked by the Atlas Obscura website. Its a well-written and entertaining post, quality journalism, and cites a variety of reasons, including the low levels of alcohol that most wild fruit can produce after it ferments. And it doesn’t miss the big one — the very, very big one. An adult bear, which can weigh as much as 600 pounds would have to eat hundreds of rotting apples in one sitting to get a buzz. Which, as an expert notes, isn’t very likely.

More bad news down under: Australia’s wine exports to the U.S. fell eight percent in the 12 months through June, just one more sign of trouble for the Aussie wine business. It’s hard to remember, but just five years go, the country was the second biggest exporter to the U.S. behind Italy. Or, to look at it another way, using some rough math, Yellow Tail accounts for about half the Australian wine sold in the U.S. That doesn’t leave much room for anyone else, and the sales figures show it.

Expensive wine 75: John Duval Plexus 2011


plexus 2011John Duval is a legend in the Australian wine business, someone who made some of the greatest wines in the country’s history when he worked for Penfolds and who has produced consistently outstanding wine on his own since leaving Penfolds in 2003. His wines are an example of the best of Australia, blending terroir, craftsmanship, and that sixth sense that the best winemakers have about what should go where.

The Plexus 2011 ($39, sample, 14%) is a red blend that does all of that, combining shiraz, grenache, and mouvedre to produce a wine that is somehow both powerful and sophisticated, soft and structured, cultured and free-spirited. In this, it does what so much great wine does, marry what seem to be contradictions to produce something greater than the whole.

Look for lots of berry aromas, followed by ripe but not quite jammy blackberry and cherry fruit and some spice and black pepper. That the alcohol is so low for an Australian wine speaks to Duval’s respect for terroir and to work with what the grapes gave in a cool vintage, rather than to force high alcohol to please critics. Not surprisingly, the 2011 Plexus only got 89 points from the Wine Advocate, about what it gives very ordinary $15 California chardonnay.

Highly recommended and a steal at this price, especially given how much junk is for sale that costs more than $40 and gets 94 points. We tasted this in my El Centro class, and the students were flabbergasted that this style of wine could be this delicious and taste so completely different from anything they had tasted before.

This is a Father’s Day gift for anyone who loves red wine and wants to take a step forward in understanding how wine can be different depending on where it’s from. Serve this with any red meat or Father’s Day barbecue.

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