30 October 2009

Wines From Down Under Part 3

For the final four wines, I present the remaining bottles that didn't fit in directly with the first two groups, as well as being those that I found superior from a design standpoint.

2008 Wagtail Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5% abv from Coonawarra, South Australia. Black plum, dark cherry flavors, with a rich cocoa undertone. Mild for a 2008, and well-balanced in terms of fruit/tannins/acidity. Really impressed overall with this wine and it needs a grilled steak topped with a bit of blue cheese.

Now this is the kind of animal I like to see on a bottle of wine. The beloved Willie Wagtail is a little bird that runs around shaking its tailfeathers. It's the kind of critter I'd see on a nature special, not as the mascot of an energy drink or hero of a Saturday morning cartoon. I had to learn to identify birds in Scouts, and even to this day if I see a bird I don't recognize I'm liable to pull over the car and jot down some notes so I can look it up later. No, I'm not a serious birdwatcher, but I understand the thrill of seeing a new bird with your own eyes. I was so excited when a little kestrel built a nest in my neighborhood...

Another set of animal wines! This time using seahorses. Again, not the first thing that would spring to mind, but it's a classy heraldic layout with a maritime theme that would be appropriate as the logo of a major shipping conglomerate. Or a Bond villain. Or both.

West Cape Howe is based out of Denmark, Western Australia. (I imagine that name gets confusing at times. I live in Memphis, a town named after a city in ancient Egypt, and West Tennessee also has Milan, Moscow, and Paris.) The grapes come from the Great Southern Region, the largest wine region by area in Australia. I was excited to try two wines made from grapes I don't normally associate with Australia:

2008 West Cape Howe Tempranillo, 14% abv. Dusty strawberries and seeds, ashy with a strong earthy nose to it. Very unusual for a Tempranillo, and it would be hard to guess this was from Australia.

2008 West Cape Hope Viognier, 13.5% abv. Spicy, touch of grass, dry and full bodied, good fruit. I say bring on the shellfish: I'd love to try this with scallops, shrimp, and oysters. I like Viognier but this is the first time I've felt it would go really well with seafood.

The last wine of this eclectic lineup is the 2009 Vinaceous Divine Light Verdelho, 13% abv from Pemberton, Western Australia. Grapefruit, light, bright acidity, mineral, crisp. Dry and delightful. I was expecting something sweeter and this was a pure joy. Serve with cured meats and fresh fruit before a meal.

The four wines in the Vinaceous line are all laid out with a nod to Victorian circus posters. The ringmaster, fire breather, snake charmer, and this delightful little angel sitting on the trapeze. From a design standpoint this wine stands out from the other nine I've reviewed this week, but I like it. It's unique, it's catchy, not silly, and has the unrelated potential to make an interesting tattoo.

* * *

That wraps up our week-long salute to wines from Down Under. Keep an eye out for new and interesting bottles arriving from Australia and New Zealand, there's a lot more out there than the big guys like Yellow Tail. Currently these wines are available in about half of the states in the US, with full national distribution expected soon.

In accordance with the new regulations imposed by the Federal Trade Commission, I publicly disclose that these wines were received as samples from The Country Vintner. No additional gifts or compensation were provided.


Barbara said...

I haven't seen a willy wagtail in years. Even looked out for them on our bush walk last weekend.
I love verdelho and not a lot around here so I'll look out for the Vinaceous, although I don't like the label.
Coonawarra an area I haven't visited but look forward to someday.

Benito said...


Thanks for all of your background information on WA via Facebook--Perth is 11,000 miles or 18,000 kilometers from my house, so it's about as far from home as I could possibly travel without going into space. :)


Hieronymous said...

As an Aussie wine-lover I always find it fascinating to read international reviews of our wines. For a start many of the wines that make it out of the country are barely known here - there is a distinct segment of the market who produce for the export market only, some of which have trashed the brand internationally.

Yellow Tail is certainly available here in Oz, but is very much a budget brand that no-one of my acquaintance would dream of drinking. Likewise, there are a lot of elegant reds now being produced, but our rep has been tainted by the disproportionate proportion of 'fruit bombs' heading overseas.

That little rant over I'm glad to see some of the more diverse wine growing areas of the country getting some exposure. WA is certainly an up and coming area, and I would direct your readers to wines from Mornington and Yarra Valley in Victoria, and some of the Tassie wines. Orange is another region worth keeping an eye on.

The Barossa reds are great, but there's a lot more to the local industry than them.

Benito said...


You brought up a lot of outstanding points there, and I'm thinking about addressing them in a post for Monday. E-mail me if you have further thoughts at benjamin.a.carter@gmail.com

I'm creating some maps to explain how population distribution and wine growing areas are laid out for the benefit of my primarily American audience.

For instance, the city of Denver, CO is smack in the middle of the country and is home to roughly 2 million people. We might look at Alice Springs, NT and expect a similar population!