As someone who cut their wine teeth in Australia, and whose sister, uncle, aunt, cousins and various other rellies live there, I'm favourably disposed to Down Under. My first wine trade job was picking grapes in the Yarra Valley, while my second was working in a Melbourne bottle shop (our closest rival was at the time managed by Jeff Sinnott, who now makes great wines in New Zealand). But while ten years ago, I'd have pointed those in search of decent, affordable and reliable red wine to the Aussie aisles, now I'd direct them elsewhere - Chile, southern France, central Spain, southern Italy, Portugal. As volumes have grown, too many of the wines seem to have lost their souls. How do the current crop compare?
Lindemans Bin 55 Shiraz/Cabernet 2007, South Eastern Australia
Gentle, juicy but too varnish-like for pleasure, and with that really unpleasant claggy, daggy vanilla character cocking it up. Is it just too young? Yesterday's Chardonnay was the pick of the trio, but on current showing, this is just factory wine.
Hardy's Stamp Series Shiraz/Cabernet 2006, South Eastern Australia
If I wanted black fruit pastilles, I'd buy black fruit pastilles. Sorry Hardy's but I just don't get on with this at all. I want my wine to have a little edge, not be just confected and blobby.
Wolf Blass Red Label Shiraz/Cabernet 2006, South Eastern Australia
The old joke goes, Why did the Irishman wear three condoms? To be sure, to be sure, to be sure. This wine has sure-ness, safe-ness written all over it. Those who remember school-level chemistry may remember that reduction is the opposite of oxidation. This wine just hasn't had enough exposure to air, as is evident by the 'reduced' smell - like metallic, rubber wafer biscuits, and artificially 'bright' fruit flavours. Minor reduction can dissipate with time in the glass - this seems to be here to stay. Where's the spice? Where's the gutsy fruit? Where - and I find it bizarre to be saying this - is the unsubtle but alluring oak? Gave it to Jill and she said, 'Like you'd get in a cheap French cafe...'
I find it a sad day when Australia, the country which for many people invented everyday red wine, has a trio like this in its best-sellers. And I also find it astonishing in what is patently a red-wine country that for each of these brands, the Chardonnay outclasses the Shiraz/Cabernet. So tonight, Matthew, I may go and see if there is anything left in yesterday's Chardonnay bottles.