13 January 2010

St. Kilda Wines of Australia

For the new year, here's a new pair of wines with a new name from St. Kilda, made by the De Bortoli family who came to Australia from Alpine Italy back in the 1920s.

The name of the wine comes first from St. Kilda, a beachside suburb of Melbourne in Victoria, though both wines are sourced from vineyards in the Riverina region of New South Wales. St. Kilda the town takes its name from a lonely, remote archipelago in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and doesn't refer to an actual saint. In fact, the name might just be the result of some poor translations. Ah, the joys of etymology.

2008 St. Kilda Shiraz
$14, 14% abv
Spice and black cherry, light body, smooth, short finish. Touch of green pepper, espresso. Serve with grilled lamb or pork and a savory sauce. While smoother than your stereotypical Aussie Shiraz, you're still going to want a flavorful main course to go along wiht this wine.

2008 St. Kilda Chardonnay
$14, 12% abv
Peach, apricot, minerals, full-bodied with lots of fruit, big brassy acidity. For a pairing, bring on the poultry that's been roasted with citrus of some sort: a chicken stuffed with oranges or duck stuffed with lemons, something like that. Even a game bird like quail roasted with slices of lemon would be incredible.

I like the Victorian/Baroque scrollwork on the label. An elegant, old style design element within modern borders, and topped by a convenient screwcap. I think it works a bit better with the red than the orange (more contrast makes it stand out better), but I'm quite happy with both from a graphics standpoint.

This wine was received as a sample from The Country Vintner.


Michael Hughes said...

I am very curious to see how Aussies fair in the next decade. It seems they had this stratospheric rise from the late 90s to just over a year ago. Now they seem to be slumping in sales. Just from a retailers perspective (granted I live within my Midtown bubble) we aren't selling much Aussie wine at all. What do you see as a consumer?

Benito said...


Great question, and take my answers with two caveats: 1) I'm the kind of customer that starts in the weird, dusty corner of the shop and then works his way forward, and 2) most of the Australian wines I've reviewed recently (including these) were samples that are not available in Memphis yet.

If I'm picking out an Australian wine, I want something with a reasonable alcohol percentage, something with personality, and something away from the South Australia powerhouses. If I see five unknown bottles and one of them is from Western Australia, I'll grab it. It's like making a conscious choice to pick Washington or Oregon wines.

Pure speculation: there are a couple of U-curves that I've seen people follow with wine in general. For instance, nearly everyone starts out with sweet wines like White Zin and inexpensive Riesling. If they get more interested in wine, they tend to leave the sweet wines behind and may even begin to ridicule the whole category. Then years later, they discover Tokaji, Sauternes, TBAs, Eisweins, etc. and realize that sweet wines can be complex, serious, and wonderful.

In a similar sense, we've got a whole ton of people that really got their first introduction to wine with inexpensive, fun Aussie wines 5-10 years ago. I think the more curious ones have probably moved on to Spain, Italy, or the Pacific Northwest in search of something interesting, and may feel like they've "grown out" of Australian wines. I think it's possible for them to come back around in the future, but it's going to be with smaller producers and regions.

More in a minute...

Benito said...

As a consumer, I'm becoming more of a fan of the style of laying out wines by body or grape than by country. Note that the St. Kilda labels don't scream Australia, and could easily stack next to California, Southern French, or Chilean wines of similar price and structure. While this method certainly helps out categories of wine like Lebanese that would otherwise be stacked in the back near the restroom, I think it can also help people break their preconceptions of big players like Australia or California. Where would a light, unoaked Chardonnay perform better? Stacked with all the heavy, buttery California whites or alongside introductory-level white Burgundies?

That's my perspective on the issue, anyway. Retailers and distributors, I'm happy to hear dissenting views. :)


Michael said...

I fell in love with Australian wines about 4 years ago and always gravitate to that section in any wine shop, although I tend to buy online a lot more. I also look to a bold red (preferably a Shiraz or blend - Like Stump Jump). I particularly like the 2008 Boxhead Shiraz especially when it's a great value.

Samantha Dugan said...

Michael and Benito,
Two years ago we could not keep Molly Dooker on the shelf, came in, went out now...well, we just red tagged Blue Eyed Boy from $54.99 to $39.99, so we are having to blow it out below cost...and that's one of the high scoring wines! At least in our shop, cannot give the stuff away.

I get what you are saying as far as diggin' a certain varietal for what it is more than where it is from Ben but, with a bog chunk of those Shiraz, there is nothing Syrah-like about them. Tasted blind the only thing that might give you a hint is over extraction. I think they sold a style, was fun for people for a bit but...how many chocolate covered cherries can you eat before you tire of them? Not all of them are gooey but a good clip of them are and I too will be very interested to see what happens in the next couple of years.

Benito said...

Other Michael,

I've had the Stump Jump and enjoyed it. Sometimes I really like the bigger reds, especially with something like a heavily seasoned grilled leg of lamb.

Sam & Michael Hughes,

Is Mollydooker being hurt by its style/origin or by price? Are people getting burned out on Grateful Palate cute branding? Thanks as always for the retail perspective!


Hampers said...

Thanks for sharing the review of 2008 St. Kilda Shiraz wine. It looks economical at $14. Will try it this weekend.