By Phil Parker, wine writer and operator of Auckland Fine Wine Tours Ltd.
Like it or not, and all sports bigotry aside, Australia does pump out gazillions of litres of very good affordable wine. In fact, they have so much of a good thing right now because of overproduction, that growers have been forced to plough under their vines, the grapes not economically worth picking in some regions.
Red wine is what they do best, and South Australia with its hot, dry extended summer ripening season is the best place for Cabernet Sauvignon and the great Aussie icon – Shiraz. Particularly the Barossa region. That’s why so many Aussie reds have a jammy, almost overcooked quality, which some wine drinkers dismiss as too sweet and alcoholic. I love them.
Extended sunny weather means extremely ripe grapes and therefore high natural fruit sugars. This in turn gives wine yeasts a banquet of food for them to convert into alcohol during fermentation. The winemaker has the option of stopping fermentation any time he/she requires, but officially in NZ, wines should not be more than 15% alcohol. Any more than that, and the excise duties increase, and the wine taxed accordingly higher.
Therefore, many Aussie reds clock in at about 14.5% - which makes for really huge wines – inky dark, medium sweet, high tannins and knockout alcohol. Consequently the number of ‘standard drinks’ in a bottle of Barossa Shiraz is going to be a whole lot more than a wimpy Rosé, which may be as low as 10% alcohol.
So these really are wines which should be consumed with food – good hearty winter fare like roasts and casseroles are a good match.
Here’s a few bargain-priced rippers from the supermarket shelves.
LEASINGHAM Magnus Shiraz Clare Valley $NZ15.00
Medium style. Spicy, soft and slightly sweet. Classic Shiraz profile.
LEASINGHAM Magnus Cabernet Merlot Clare Valley $NZ15.00
Medium to full-bodied. Soft and very ripe, with mocha, blackberry and cherry flavours and lasting tannins. A total bargain.
ROBARD & BUTLER Shiraz $NZ 11.00