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Check out these Australian wines
Alok Chandra | October 28, 2006
Australian wines have made an impact on the world stage only in the last 20 years or so - from producing a lot of sweet, cheap, port-style wines upto the 1980s they are now producing a lot of dry, still low-cost, international-style wines that are "knocking the socks off" the established wine-producing companies from Europe and the US.
It helps if you are down-to-earth, willing to get your hands dirty, and have wines whose names one can pronounce, with labels that clearly spell out the grape(s) used. Far too many consumers have been burnt buying a "Ch�teau Pooh-Pooh" (or whatever) and finding there's plonk inside.
A quick primer on Australia's key wine-growing regions, which are easiest remembered by their proximity to the major urban centres: so Sydney has the nearby Hunter Valley, Melbourne the Yarra Valley, and Adelaide the Clare and Barossa valleys and McLaren Vale - with the Coonawarra region falling in between. Perth (in south-west Australia) has the Margaret River area, while the island of Tasmania is in a class by itself.
While Australian Shiraz has made a mark for itself worldwide, what is less commonly known is that each wine-growing region is famous for a particular wine.
So the Hunter Valley has great Semillons and Chardonnays in its upper part and Shiraz in the warmer lower reaches; the Yarra is famous for its delicate Pinot Noirs and creamy Chardonnays; the picturesque Clare makes fabulous Rieslings; McLaren Vale is best-known for its Shiraz, as is the Barossa, while the Coonawarra has lovely Cabernet Sauvignons; lastly, go to the Margaret River for Shiraz or Sauvignon Blancs.
True to type, Aussie winemakers have been the most aggressive in promoting their wines in India and today have a leading share of the retail market, while French wines and champagnes still rule the duty free roost and in embassies and hotels.
Among the first Aussie wines to hit retail shelves were "Hardy's Stamp of Australia" wines being marketed by Sula for around Rs 650, and Jacob's Creek so successfully sold by Seagrams (now Pernod Ricard) for Rs 850-900.
Brindco had the Cinkara and Peter Lehman wines (all around Rs 1,300), while Oxford Landing and Yellow Tail from Sonarys (Rs 1,100-1,200) were a great hit. Moet Hennessey has a fabulous range from Green Point (Yarra Valley, Rs 1,500) and Cape Mentelle (Margaret River - Rs 1,450-1,700), while Tahblik (Rs 1,200-1,500) and Mt Avoca (Rs 1,600-1,650) from the new Echidna Wines are sublime.
More recent have been the wines from the Howling Wolves group (Rs 950-1,200), who did a great wine dinner for the Bangalore Wine Club in September, and the Gum Bear & Coonawarra wines from the Watson Wine Group (Rs 750-1,050), which premiered just last week, of which more later.
Australia, at last count, had over 2,000 wineries, so we'll doubtless be seeing many more wines hit retail shelves and wine lists in the months and years to come. Suffice it to say that Australian wines offer the best of the "new world" style: fruit-forward wines, of good complexity and length, which are easy both on the palate as well as on the pocket.Here's mud in your eye, mate!