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w h i t e

Tyrrell’s 1994 Semillon “Vat 1” (Hunter Valley) – Salty, with mixed white and green melons, lime zest, and a sweet/saline backdrop hanging over a tannic and high-acid structure. The finish is nearly endless. Marvelous! Those who mistakenly think the entire vinous output of Australia runs from massive to gihuginormous should give this a try. It is – apologies to Jamie Goode – a world-class wine. (5/07)

Rosemount Estate “Diamond Label” 2004 Riesling (South Eastern Australia) – This is mega-corporate wine. This is also quite good within that paradigm, and completely decent without it. Green apple and grape with the usual piercing, slightly overdriven acidity (perhaps all the acid lacked by so many other Aussie wines ends up in the rieslings) will brace and cleanse just about any food, no matter how biting. There’s not much of a finish, but then one hardly expects such things from titanic industrial winemaking. The bottom line: this is as solid a supermarket buy as you’ll find these days. (12/06)

Yalumba “Y Series” 2005 Viognier (South Australia) – Simple, relatively clean stone fruit with floral enhancements. It lacks exoticism and complexity, but neither is it heavy. A decent wine. (8/06)

Voyager Estate 2002 Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon (Margaret River) – Fruity and fresh, with fine, citrusy acidity brightening up some grapefruit, lime, lemon and gooseberry flavors. Very simple, but pure summer fun. (6/06)

Cullen 2003 “Ephraim Clarke” (Margaret River) – A sauvignon blanc/semillon blend. There’s sweat-covered grass and good acid up front – this attack is being led almost exclusively by the semillon – and a thick, long finish that’s full and luscious in a highly floral way. If there’s a criticism, it’s that everything ends on the goopy side. But it’s a pretty good wine nonetheless. (4/06)

Henschke 1995 Semillon “Louis” (Edna Valley) – Fig jam, pear skin, and nice (if sweaty) minerality with a zingy top note. Very nice. (4/06)

r e d

Voyager Estate 2003 Shiraz (Margaret River) – Big and monolithic, with dark, chewy black and blue fruit in tight layers over a leather and concrete foundation. Smooth and modern, but by no means overworked, and in fact quite balanced and drinkable for a massive block of wine. This should age, and the inevitable calming will probably help. (6/07)

Henry’s Drive 2004 “Pillar Box Red” (Padthaway) – Burnt, reduced essence of cola, with traces of charred espresso (reheated four or five times), a weedy, green tannic structure, and a lot of overpowering unpleasantness. The alcohol sticks out the instant one tries to pair anything…anything…with it. Heavy, tedious, and awfully sloppy. Bad wine. Bad wine. (6/07)

Voyager Estate 2003 Shiraz (Margaret River) – Big, upfront blackberry, blueberry and black cherry with zingy bursts of leather-textured tapioca and a fruit-dominated structure. This is shiraz at its juiciest, yet it’s neither overdriven nor overoaked, and it carries its own fruity balance with confidence and even a little bit of aggression. Good stuff. (2/07)

Marquis Philips 2005 “Holly’s Blend” (South Australia) – Sweet JuicyFruit™ cocktail mixer. Acid-deficient and incredibly obvious. (10/06)

Rosemount 2004 “Diamond Label” Shiraz (South Eastern Australia) – Dense, slightly charred blueberry with some sour/stale characteristics and a slightly spicy, but overly flat finish. This might improve with a bit of age, but it seems unlikely. (7/06)

Torbreck 2003 “Cuvée Juveniles” (Barossa Valley) – Big, full-bodied, and strongly-flavored, with dark plum and charred blackberry larded with double-smoked bacon. The fruit is on full display here, and while it’s a little ponderous without strongly-flavored food as a foil, it’s pretty difficult to dislike the high-decibel enthusiasm of this thermonuclear fruit device. (6/06)

Torbreck 2003 “Cuvée Juveniles” (Barossa Valley) – Full-bodied dark berries, but instead of leaden and concentrated (though the wine doesn’t lack for weight), they’re juicy and lip-smacking, with broad-shouldered complexities and a minimal amount of structure. A nice wine. (6/06)

Voyager Estate 2002 Shiraz (Margaret River) – Heavy leather, black plum, blueberry and blackberry with fuzzy, thick tannin and a little bit of acidity. Fruit-forward, but structured and relatively balanced, with obvious aging potential. (5/06)

Ferngrove 2003 Shiraz (Frankland River) – Big, chewy and a little overripe and overdone, with powerful blackberry jam and boysenberry syrup flavors turning to vinyl and char on the finish. Too much. (3/06)

Western Range 2002 Shiraz (Western Australia) – Smoked grapes and fun blueberry and blackberry fruit, but the finish shows somewhat confected, sour cherries and a slightly unpleasant burnt note. Heat damaged? My guess is no: it’s just the wine. (11/05)

Killibinbin 1998 Shiraz (Langhorne Creek) – Blueberry, mint and eucalyptus, showing huge, goopy fruit in a smooth, low-acid, and initially structure-free sludge that eventually promotes some peanut buttery tannin to the frontlines. With more air, it turns zingier, showing blackberry and concentrated, intense, soda-infused grit and black soil with a juicy, caramelized finish. Yes, it’s as crazy as it sounds. And at 16% alcohol, you’ll be crazy too. (11/05)

Penfolds “Rawson’s Retreat” 2004 Shiraz/Cabernet (South Australia) – Tastes like industrial New World gamay. There’s blueberry and plum, slight herbality, and grossly unintegrated acidity (one immediately suspects acidification) that’s partially volatile. Not good, but probably better than the alternative chardonnay. (2/05)

s w e e t  ,  f o r t i f i e d  &  u n u s u a l

Yalumba Muscat “Museum Reserve” (South Eastern Australia) – 375 ml. Overwhelmingly sweet (of course), with slow-caramelized dark brown sugar, maple and molasses lent bucketloads of baking spice from the long oak aging. I find differentiating these wines almost impossible – they’re mostly of a piece no matter the initial materials – except in two ways: their structure (which is especially key in the face of so much sugar) and their oxidative qualities (here at a relative minimum, given the style). This is a fairly simple, obvious expression, but it’s quite enjoyable (for non-diabetics) all the same. (12/06)

TJ Wines “Jonesy” Old Tawny Port (Australia) – Akin to pedro ximénez, though perhaps without quite so much prune. It’s painfully sweet, showing overripe, baked and caramelized blended sugars and a dark raisin concentrate character that speak of long, old-barrel aging. The acidity is a bit volatile and spiky. This is really much more reminiscent of one of the Aussie liqueur muscats or “tokays” than its authentic Portuguese namesake. (9/06)

Campbell’s Tokay (Rutherglen) – Ultra-sweet and ultra-sticky, showing lush sultanas in a painfully sugary goop. Good, but even non-diabetics have to watch themselves with this sort of thing. (8/04)

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