In a tasting for a magazine article, I tasted eight wines from Australia in the £4 to £10 price range. Whilst one or two of these wines were a bit over-ripe to my palate, and would become quite tiring to drink after a glass or two, they were generally excellent in the fruit-driven style that has become an Australian hallmark. Their prices also seem quite competitive given their quality. UK suppliers and current prices are given for each.
Rymill Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 1995
Dark crimson/purple colour. Extremely rich nose, almost like Port, with over-ripe aromas of mulberries, damsons, vanilla and exotic spice. The palate displays firm tannins, but these barely stand up to the sheer opulence of the fruit and the wine struggles to find a balance. It would undoubtedly cellar well for a few years, and might be easier to drink then. For now it is quite a stunning experience, but too rich for my taste. Majestic, £7.99
Sainsbury’s Australian Cabernet Sauvignon (non vintage)
Warm ruby colour. Nice, juicy blackcurrant fruit on the nose rounded out with vanilla oak. Warm berry flavours on the palate with a nice smoky edge and a chewy texture. Maybe a little bit dried-out on the finish, but not enough to spoil its appeal. Sainsbury, £4.99.
Simon Hackett, McLaren Vale Old Vine Grenache 1997
Medium crimson colour tinged purple at rim. Fragrant, perfumed if rather reserved nose. After some time it develops complex, incense and charcoal aromas. The palate is dominated by acidity and tannin that should adopt a more subtle role with cellaring, allowing the red berry fruit to emerge. Promising. Peckhams, £7.75.
Normans (S.E. Australia) “Jesse’s Blend” 1997
Interestingly, this is the second release of this wine in 1997 and this time the blend is different. I really enjoyed it first time round, but now it contains a proportion of mourvedre instead of the less glamorous ruby cabernet, along with shiraz and grenache. The result is a wine with a bright ruby colour and a nose of dark, briary fruit, earthy and with hints of the barnyard. On the palate it is smooth and flavorsome, with juicy, berry fruit, a coffee richness and a nice spicy finish. Great value. Oddbins, £3.99.
Banrock Station Mataro/Grenache/Shiraz 1998
From this year’s vintage and made by Hardy’s. The wine is a pale to medium ruby/pink. It has an earthy nose, with hints of the farmyard, rotting vegetation and animal notes. There is also dark berry fruit. On the palate these very brooding flavours follow through, but plenty of sweet, ripe, strawberry fruit then emerges. Though it is soft and mouth-filling, it lacks concentration and finishes rather weakly. A decent expression of these grapes and a tasty wine nevertheless. Sainsbury, £4.29.
Peter Lehmann “7 Surveys” Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre 1996
Quite a pale, ruby/purple. Warm and inviting aromas of spice and winter-berries on the nose. Dark and warming. On the palate it has plenty of fruit, with lots of nice, earthy nuances of chocolate, smoke, cinammon and creamy oak. The finish is long and shows good acidity and tannin. Very nice stuff, drinking well now. Oddbins, £6.99.
Rosemount Estate Shiraz 1997
Vibrant purple/pink. Very appealing nose of pure blackcurrant and raspberry fruit, black pepper and rounded, vanilla notes. On the palate lush and generous with good body and plenty of rich, forest-fruit flavours. Long and smooth, with some high-alcohol heat in the finish, it is very drinkable but also a bit one-dimensional. I would have hoped for more depth and complexity at this price. Sainsbury, £7.49 and widely available. Rymill
Majestic Coonawarra Shiraz 1995
Very deep, dark crimson colour. Nose is pure blackcurrant fruit with lots of cracked black pepper and a creamy edge. On the palate it is firm with fine, sweet, supporting tannins and smooth black fruit. There is real intensity to the flavour and great concentration. Chewy, dense and weighty with a long, powerful finish. Very good. Majestic, £8.99.