Wine & Spirits

TASTING NOTES: A reinvigorated Aussie wine industry

In a push to reinvigorate their fortunes around the world, the Aussies are de-emphasizing the industrial-strength brands they’ve become known for and promoting new varietals and blends from specific regions and single vineyards — a rejuvenation that’s front and centre in May’s LCBO promotion of new Australian labels. BY DAVID LAWRASON

Illustration by Chantal Fournier

Diehard fans of australian shiraz may still be tippling their favourite potion oblivious to the fact that Australian wine has increasingly fallen out of favour in recent years. Wine fashion is as fickle and as furious as a brush fire, and Aussie sales at the LCBO (and around the country, for that matter) have been spiralling downward for over two years as Australian wine prices remained at a high point, creating a value vacuum that has quickly been filled by Argentina, Chile, and South Africa. Australian brands have also suffered from the backlash against huge industrial-strength brands with cute critter logos and sweet and blandly similar flavours. However, when I visited Australia recently, I discovered that a cleansing is underway. Indeed, there is a strategy to de-emphasize bigness, avoid cuteness (although sometimes Aussies just can’t help themselves), and promote new varietals and blends from specific regions and single vineyards. These themes of rejuvenation are front and centre in a special LCBO May promotion of over 30 new Australian labels. Put away your corkscrew — they are all screw cap!


De Bortoli Deen 2008 Vat 4 Petit Verdot
$14.95 • Riverina, Australia • 89 points
Petit Verdot is a Bordeaux grape that doesn’t ripen well in Bordeaux. But sunny Oz gives full reign to its floral violet and blackberry aromas and gives its searing acidity a comfy home. It’s full-bodied and quite lush, yet sinewy, with firm, juicy blackcurrant acidity and ample dusty, slightly green tannin. Here’s one for the cellar. Best 2013 to 2018. LCBO 222265.

Kangarilla Road 2008 Shiraz
$18.95 • McLaren Vale, South Australia • 89 points
Shiraz remains Australia’s signature red, but growing regionalism and single vineyard wines prove it is not a one-trick pony. Maritime McLaren Vale, virtually a suburb of Adelaide, makes the smoothest, juiciest examples. This has a fragrant nose of black cherry/blueberry, pepper, chocolate, and a touch of tobacco character. For drinking anytime. LCBO 212738.

St. Hallett 2008 Gamekeeper’s Shiraz Cabernet
$14.95 • Barossa, South Australia • 88 points
Barossa is perhaps the best-suited place on the planet for blending two of the world’s most noble grape varieties. This is full-bodied, creamy, and soft, with classic Barossa dark cherry/prune fruit and a cascade of menthol, chocolate, pepper, and clove nuances. A 2-D barcode on the neck tag leads you to the Lehmann website for more information. LCBO 212670.

Barwick Estates 2009 White Label Pinot Noir
$13.95 • Western Australia • 87 points
The label does not specify the Pemberton origin of most of the fruit, but this enclave deep in Australia’s cool southwest is worth watching. This is a bargain pinot with lifted sour cherry fruit, evergreen, gentle wood smoke, and clove. It lacks the finesse of more expensive brethren but packs authentic flavours well beyond its price. LCBO 215194.


Cooralook 2008 Pinot Gris
$14.95 • Victoria • 90 points
Both light Italian-inspired pinot grigio and rich Alsatian pinot gris are hot in Australia right now, especially in cooler Victoria. From the latter camp, this pinot gris is rich, ripe, and complex (one-third aged in neutral oak for added texture), with ripe pineapple-apricot, honey, and wildflowers. It’s full-bodied, warm, and very spicy, with excellent length. LCBO 212712.

Xanadu Next of Kin 2009 Chardonnay
$14.95 • Margaret River, Western Australia • 89 points
Overblown, over-oaked Aussie chardonnay has taken a beating in the global market. The style is changing radically, and cool Margaret River leads a new generation; this is a bargain example. Expect toasted almond, pear, vanilla, and flecks of green cedar. It’s mid-weight, taut, zesty, and dry, with a very spicy, mouth-watering finish. Excellent length. LCBO 212647.

Yalumba Y Series 2010 Riesling
$14.95 • South Australia • 89 points
German Lutheran settlers made riesling the most widely planted white grape in Barossa and neighbouring Eden Valley north of Adelaide. This is a full-bore style, with apricot, spearmint, and typical riesling petrol. It’s quite full-bodied, with a touch of sweetness, but the finish is dry, sparked by lime and minerality. LCBO 212753.

Devil’s Lair 2010 Fifth Leg Semillon Sauvignon
$15.95 • Margaret River, Western Australia • 88 points
Bordeaux-inspired semillon/sauvignon white blends are a signature of Margaret River south of Perth, where the Indian Ocean-cooled climate accentuates crisp, refreshing greenness not unlike New Zealand sauvignon. This has subtle lime, nettle, and passion fruit, as well, with good weight and richness. LCBO 212613.

The Insider 2010 White by Knappstein
$14.95 • Clare Valley, South Australia • 87 points
Tim Knappstein is the best-known winemaker in Clare — a unique, cooler region an hour north of Adelaide. The area is famed for riesling, which is combined here with aromatic gewürztraminer. Riesling dominates the palate, with intense lime, avocado, and mineral flavours softened just a bit by gewürz’s spice and melon fruit. It’s zesty and long on the finish. LCBO 212746.