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Sue Courtney

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Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by Sue Courtney » Wed May 31, 2006 9:53 pm

After reading a couple of recent articles on Australian Shiraz and Australian red wine in general, I have to ask the question, is there much US interest in Australian red wine any more?

Tim White in the Australian Financial Review (May 26 - 28, 2006) says that Aussie Shiraz has become a bit tedious and predictable, just like chardonnay was a decade ago. (Even less, as I remember a tasting of ten top NZ chardonnays just 5 years ago and the descriptions given could have been interchanged between each and everyone of them - I called it the 'straight out of wine school winemakers' syndrome').

White says that making Shiraz has now also become formulaic. He says that vineyards carry significant crop loads and 'sugar ripeness above all else' has become an obsession. Add to that heavy and obvious acid adjustment and added tannins, not that these winemaking techniques are new. He says a lot of the Barossa and McLaren Vale wines are going into "pretty ordinary oak", too.

However the article also hypes some wines that are exceptions, including Penfolds Grange, which at AUD$466 is about 25 times the price of the average, grunty, everyday drinking Aussie Shiraz.

Ric Einstein, aka TORB, has written an interesting article on torbwine.com, where he has made some studies of how Australian wine is less topical on US wine forums than it used to be. He also has some figures on the reduced percentage of shipments from Aus to the US in the higher priced category.

I guess one clue as to how much US interest there is on Aussie reds, will be revealed in the number of 'reads' this thread gets and who, other than down under lovers of these wines, responds.
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Bill Buitenhuys

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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by Bill Buitenhuys » Wed May 31, 2006 10:41 pm

Good question, Sue. From the number of bottles of Yellow Tail and other assorted animal labels that are sold here my guess is the interest of the general US wine consuming public is pretty high. But for the geekier of us, I have seen a decline. Recently a shop owner told me something along the lines of "We need to redo our Australia section because these wines just arent selling anymore". He wasnt taking about the penquins and yellow tails, just the Fine Wines.

On a personal level some of my earliest wine geek moments were with Aussie shiraz but over the last year or two we havent had many here at all. Part that decline is due to simply us venturing off to other lesser explored regions but part is due to the overall heft of the wines. I just don't drink as much really ripe, heavily wooded, higher alcohol content wine these days be it a typical Aussie shiraz or a Cali cab.
I had a Kaesler Old Vines recently that I really enjoyed but at $40 there are so many other wines on my Want List ahead of it. Some of the more affordable and enjoyable I've come across are from Kangarilla Road and Moss Bros (Margaret River).
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by Tom N. » Wed May 31, 2006 11:49 pm

Hi Sue,

I still buy the occasional Oz Shiraz for drinking with barbeque in the summer. But, I have to admit that I am buying more old world cabs and NZ pinots lately than OZ shirazs. The high alcohol in shirazes gets to be a bit much for me. And if I want a really big wine, I usually grab a cab from my cellar.
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by Robin Garr » Wed May 31, 2006 11:50 pm

Sue Courtney wrote:After reading a couple of recent articles on Australian Shiraz and Australian red wine in general, I have to ask the question, is there much US interest in Australian red wine any more?


Sue, adding to Bill's comments, it seems to me that Oz Shiraz retains a considerable following in the US in two major categories - the Yellow Tail/Little Penguin crowd and the points followers.

This forum doesn't incorporate much of either, but it would surprise me if the folks who follow the Good Shepherd aren't still into the Shirazes that he blesses, at least.

I can't say I'm off them entirely, although I do tend to be selective and look for the less monolithic, and also the less blockbusterish GSMs in favor of the pure Shiraz. I like Coriole's wines in general, for example; and might give a second look to a Western Australia or Coonawarra Shiraz, possibly McLaren Vale, but less inclined to risk Barossa for fear that any unknown wine will be a point-seeker.
Last edited by Robin Garr on Wed May 31, 2006 11:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by Tom N. » Wed May 31, 2006 11:54 pm

Robin Garr wrote: although I do tend to be selective and look for the less monolithic, and also the less blockbusterish GSMs in favor of the pure Shiraz. I like Coriole's wines in general, for example; and might give a second look to a Western Australia or Coonawarra Shiraz, possibly McLaren Vale, but less inclined to risk Barossa for fear that any unknown wine will be a point-seeker.


Robin,

Your buying pattern mirrors mine. The last Oz wine I purchased was a GSM, which I tend to really enjoy. I also find that they are better food wines than most shirazs.
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by JoePerry » Thu Jun 01, 2006 12:48 am

What everyone else said.

The Shiraz I like (Best's, Seppelt, Tahbilk, Clonakilla, Craiglee, Langi Ghiran, etc.) when they can be found here, are in a very competitive price range.

Once in a while, when I am looking at a limited selection of wines for one reason or another, I'll grab a Rosemount Shiraz or something similar for cheap fun drinking, but that is my limit (and I think everyone else's too)...

Best,
Joe

p.s. still, if anyone finds any Best's Bin 0 for in the $30s, let me know :wink:
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by Suzie Q » Thu Jun 01, 2006 1:03 am

I do think that the land down under is doing a remarkable job with grenache of late. However, I am still in love with the blend of Rutherglen Shiraz/Petite Sirah (Durif).

Oz Shiraz will never go out of style, but the international market is a fickle one, and will always embrace the lastest trends.
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by michael dietrich » Thu Jun 01, 2006 1:59 am

I am a retailer here in Oregon. I certainly think that Australian Shiraz has lost some of its luster. I have seen many many of the high point wines drop off in sales as their prices have gone up. There are still some excellent wines out there. These are the ones that have the balance between the tannins, alcohol, and extract. My favorite producer is Torbreck. I feel that they have that intensity that is balanced with acidity and weight. But as a whole category I have seen New Zealand coming up strong. This wine business is a constantly shifting arena. It is never static. That is why I love it.
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by ClarkDGigHbr » Thu Jun 01, 2006 2:36 am

Very good observation. It made me reflect that I, too, have purchased very little Australian Shiraz in the past few years.

A year ago, I did succumb to some irresistible price temptations, such as excellent markdowns on Rosemount Balmoral and Torbrek Struie Barossa. Then back in January, I attended an Australian Reds tasting and decided I needed to bond with some Penny's Hill McLaren Vale, simply because I wanted to be able to really enjoy it in 3-4 years.

This is pretty selective buying. Otherwise, I pretty much pass on these wines.

-- Clark
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by Bill Spohn » Thu Jun 01, 2006 10:51 am

If they were becoming less popular it would serve the retailers right.

The North American marketing boys have been selecting the Oz wines with 15%+ alcohol, big sweet flavour profiles and ignoring the many available wines (e.g. Western Australia) that have more classic proportion and balance.

Not everyone wants to tuck into a high RP score jam monster every day.

I question how many of the bloated blousy examples (I noted many in the 2002 2003 range I wasn't sure would age well) will last.

Maybe they will now have to turn to other Ozwines and the buying public will learn that not all wines from down under are like the ones they've been buying?
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by SFJoe » Thu Jun 01, 2006 11:22 am

To answer the title question for my part, no, not for a decade.
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by Dan Donahue » Thu Jun 01, 2006 12:48 pm

I suspect a large part of the decreased demand was due to the large jump in prices a few years back. Not a surprising result. Now that the prices are moderating there are a few I'll probably start buying again.

I have continued to buy some Shiraz/Viognier blends and some of the Two Hands. Unfortunately Two Hands switched to Paterno and I suspect they'll buck the trend and will become more (maybe much more) expensive.
Last edited by Dan Donahue on Thu Jun 01, 2006 1:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by Jenise » Thu Jun 01, 2006 12:56 pm

I'm with everyone else. I returned home from my last trip to Australia with about four cases of just-released 98 Shiraz and I have bought nary a bottle since but for tastings I organize (that is, not for my personal cellar.) Off the top of my head, the principal exceptions have been the Charles Melton Rose of Virginia, some Margaret River reds, and some excellent bone-dry Margan shiraz rose which I bought on sale for the rather telling price of $1 each. And I often recommend Wynn's Coonawarra Cab as an outstanding--and unspoofulated--value to people looking for value under $15.

I've not pursued them further for similar reasons that others describe--I'm more sensitive to and less tolerant of high alcohol than I used to be. Plus, I don't like extracted fruitbombs and prices on the better Shiraz got too high at about the same time that French wines became more affordable.

It's also true that almost no one I know (on the U.S. side of the border) is searching out the better Australian wines these days.
Last edited by Jenise on Mon Jun 05, 2006 4:01 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by JC (NC) » Thu Jun 01, 2006 1:02 pm

I'm still interested in Australian Shiraz or red blends but not buying a lot of it. I find Wynn's Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon to be a great value and I prefer it to the Wynn's Shiraz. Paringa Shiraz is a good value. I buy an occasional Shiraz from Kay Brothers and have enjoyed a tasting of Brothers in Arms Shiraz from Langhorne Creek in South Australia. Bought some Tin Shed Shiraz and LJ Shiraz after a previous tasting but haven't been repeating those purchases. Right now my interest in Washington State Syrah has been piqued by a trip to Washington last summer so I would be more inclined to look for or order a domestic Syrah.
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Sue Courtney

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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by Sue Courtney » Thu Jun 01, 2006 5:16 pm

Tom N. wrote:Hi Sue,
.... I have to admit that I am buying more old world cabs and NZ pinots lately than OZ shirazs. The high alcohol in shirazes gets to be a bit much for me. And if I want a really big wine, I usually grab a cab from my cellar.


Good to hear you are supporting wines from my country. Although I've seen the alcohol in some NZ pinots creeping up too. Perhaps it is more subtle, in line with the more subtle oak regime.
Cheers,
Sue
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by Sue Courtney » Thu Jun 01, 2006 5:25 pm

Robin Garr wrote:I can't say I'm off them entirely, although I do tend to be selective and look for the less monolithic, and also the less blockbusterish GSMs in favor of the pure Shiraz. I like Coriole's wines in general, for example; and might give a second look to a Western Australia or Coonawarra Shiraz, possibly McLaren Vale, but less inclined to risk Barossa for fear that any unknown wine will be a point-seeker.


Personally I find most McLaren Vale Shiraz just as big and blockbusterish as Barossa, not that I mind that. I must say I have enjoyed Margaret River Shiraz, when I get to see it. It is far more cool climate, sometimes even a little Rhonish in style - more akin to NZ than Barossa in my opinion. There is also some interesting, more cool climate Shiraz coming out of Victoria and Heathcote, in particular, seems to produce an amazing intensity and depth of colour. The use of Viognier cofermented with Shiraz, when done well, is also toning some of that monolithic character down.

Cheers,
Sue
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by Sue Courtney » Thu Jun 01, 2006 5:30 pm

Suzie Q wrote:I do think that the land down under is doing a remarkable job with grenache of late. However, I am still in love with the blend of Rutherglen Shiraz/Petite Sirah (Durif).

Oz Shiraz will never go out of style, but the international market is a fickle one, and will always embrace the lastest trends.


Hi Suzie,
Have you tried the Morris Durif? I had a 2001 the other night and the colour was still so vivid and bright, and the flavour so primary, I thought it 2 years younger. Tasted blind, it was obviously Australian from where I sat, but a nice point of difference from the often sweeter-fruited Shiraz.
Cheers,
Sue
Last edited by Sue Courtney on Thu Jun 01, 2006 5:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by Sue Courtney » Thu Jun 01, 2006 5:32 pm

michael dietrich wrote: But as a whole category I have seen New Zealand coming up strong. This wine business is a constantly shifting arena. It is never static. That is why I love it.


Hi Michael,
New Zealand coming up strong is always good for a kiwi to hear. Is it mainly Pinot Noir? Are you seeing any NZ Syrahs over there yet?
Cheers,
Sue
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by Tom N. » Thu Jun 01, 2006 11:53 pm

Sue Courtney wrote:Good to hear you are supporting wines from my country. Although I've seen the alcohol in some NZ pinots creeping up too. Perhaps it is more subtle, in line with the more subtle oak regime.
Cheers,
Sue


Sue,

You will be happy to hear that my son and I had a 2004 Delta pinot (TN below) tonight that we liked so much, we went out and bought another bottle and picked up a 2004 Kim Crawford pinot, as well.

This translucent ruby pinot had an enticing fragrance of earthy mushrooms, cherries and a hint of beet root that intoxicated the nose. Great silky tannins on the mid-palate with bright red fruit (strawberry and cherry) and a medium finish of juicy fruit. This palate pleaser went really well with food. A nice match with my veggie spring roll and ginger chicken.
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by michael dietrich » Thu Jun 01, 2006 11:57 pm

I am in countdown mode for my trip to New Zealand. We get to start in San Francisco with a New Zealand trade tasting before we leave for NZ.
I am looking forward to our trip. We are bringing along several cases of mainly Oregon wines for some comparative tastings while we are there. I look forward to hearing the comments from the NZ wineries. I expect some interesting discussions.
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by BillCallos » Fri Jun 02, 2006 10:42 pm

speaking of Australian wine, I have been enjoying a very nice mix of Cabernet/Siraz mix 60% Shiraz and 40% Cab Lake Breeze Bernoota 2001 The color is Deep Crimson The Nose is Blackberry, Plums, Currants and Black Cherry and the Palate is Smooth, Round, Spice, and Soft Tannins with the finish being Long with bitter chocolate the cost is only arount 21.99 per bottle and it will cellar for to 5 years to peak....very very nice wine............Best Regards, Bill
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by Sue Courtney » Sat Jun 03, 2006 5:27 pm

BillCallos wrote:speaking of Australian wine, I have been enjoying a very nice mix of Cabernet/Siraz mix 60% Shiraz and 40% Cab Lake Breeze Bernoota 2001 The color is Deep Crimson The Nose is Blackberry, Plums, Currants and Black Cherry and the Palate is Smooth, Round, Spice, and Soft Tannins with the finish being Long with bitter chocolate the cost is only arount 21.99 per bottle and it will cellar for to 5 years to peak....very very nice wine............Best Regards, Bill


Lake Breeze - I'd never heard of that one before but a Google search tells me it is from Langhorne Creek. There's some good wine coming out of that district, which is cooler than the Barossa. I will look out for it, should it make its way to NZ.
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Re: Is there any interest in Australian Shiraz any more?

by Jeff Grossman/NYC » Sun Jun 04, 2006 1:49 am

My Shiraz habit follows the course laid-out by Jenise pretty closely. I had lots of interesting 98s, and, since then, nary a geeky drop. Every now and then I know that I should look into the cooler-climate wines but then my wine $ inevitably end up turning towards Italy....

I am a big fan of crisp NZ whites and buy those regularly for the house.

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