Reconsidering Aussie Red Wines

August 18, 2010

 Though I love white wines from Australia, I've become more and more disenchanted with the reds. They all seem to be port-like in their alcohol levels and are heavy and sweet, bludgeoning your palate with oak and fruit. Once the darling of critics and consumers in the halcyon days of the early 2000s, Australia is facing a bit of a crisis in its wine industry. As detailed in the Wine Spectator, there is a glut of Aussie wine out there to the tune of 100 million cases. (Good news: You'll get 10% off when you purchase by the millions.) Now everyone wants Malbec from Argentina and has left Aussie Shiraz holding the bag. So in my line of work I am getting all kinds of crazy deals and close-outs. Recently I had a red from Australia poured for me with a bit of age on it and I was really impressed: the 2004 Poonawata Estate Eden Valley Shiraz Monties Block. Even though it clocks in at a hefty 15% alcohol, which is pretty typical for South Australia, it was not drinking like so many over-the-top Aussie wines. Age has mellowed out the fruit and oak components and some really interesting secondary characteristics had appeared, like aromas of licorice and flavors of baking chocolate and coffee. (Normally I am loathe to detail aromas and flavors of wines as it reminds me of one of my pet peeves in this industry: mind-numbing, arbitrary, laundry list wine reviews.) So if you are tired of Aussie Shiraz, I suggest seeking out bottles with some age on them or explore the reds outside of the famous regions of Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. Here's a map. I would especially recommend checking out Western Australia and the cool(er) climate wines from Margaret River. I've even had some sparkling wines from Tasmania that are really cool.

So what do you think of Aussie Reds? Have you moved on to Malbec? Still drinking the classics? Or experimenting with new regions and grapes?

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Andrew Holt's picture

Good to see a few bottles of the 2004 Monties Block still around the place. I opened one last night- first look at the wine in 6 months and was quite pleased with the layers of complexity coming through now that it is showing some more mature characteristics. Eden Valley's cooler climate does give us a nice elegant fruit structure to work with. We had a large crop in 2004 and the Monties label came about from our declassifying the wine from our 1880 Shiraz label- so it is probably one of the better value wines to come from century plus old vines.
Andrew Holt, Poonawatta Estate

Jameson's picture


Thank for for the additional information! Now I understand even more what makes this particular vintage special. I think we only have a couple cases left and my assistant and I might just buy it all ourselves.


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MyncAcehypope's picture

native wit and a tongue that could give as good as was ever given him.