Australian red wines tasted and tested


January 31, 1993|By Michael Dresser

The following Australian wines, all purchased in Maryland, were tasted in recent weeks. Wines are listed in order of quality within categories. Unfortunately, the Grange Hermitage mentioned in the accompanying article was beyond our budget, but every vintage tasted in the past has been exceptional.

Cabernet sauvignon

* 1988 Parker Coonawarra Estate, Terra Rossa First Growth ($36). This excellent wine almost lived up to its lofty price tag, but not quite. It has fine concentration, lovely blackberry and cedary flavors, and a seductively creamy feel, but it fell short of what several reviews suggested. Second growth maybe, but that isn't bad.

* 1989 Parker Coonawarra Estate Terra Rossa Cabernet Sauvignon ($20). This rich, full, flavorful wine, with its appealing flavors of black cherry and cassis, would knock you out at $10, but at $20 it just lacks a certain grip. Good wine, but overpriced.

* 1988 Peter Lehmann Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Valley ($12). This minty, ripe, intensely flavored wine lacks subtlety, but has an appealing note of black cherry flavor. Fair value.

* 1989 Black Opal Cabernet Sauvignon, Mark Cashmore Winery, Southeastern Australia ($10). Rich, full, supple, leathery and very Australian. Not complex, but good chunky fruit.

* 1990 Montrose Cabernet Sauvignon "Bin 101," Southeastern Australia ($8.49). If you like sweet oak and more than a hint of leather, this is your kind of wine. It's a medium-weight, fruity wine with great charm but not much complexity. Perfectly ready, it's a good value.

+ * 1990 Wyndham Estate Caber

net Sauvignon "Bin 444" ($7.49). A fruity, plummy, appealing wine with little complexity but good chunkiness and straightforward charm. Not as good as the Wyndham shiraz.


* 1991 Rosemount Estate Shiraz, Southeastern Australia ($11). This wine has a fabulous structure and intense black cherry, chocolate, herb, rare meat and new oak flavors. Is it elegant? No, but with this level of vibrancy and raciness, who cares? Another two or three years could give it even more depth. Lovely, and a great value.

* 1990 Black Opal Shiraz, Mark Cashmore Winery, Southeastern Australia ($10). This big, thick, earthy wine is loaded with blackberry fruit. You can question the elegance, but not the concentration. If you like a hearty mouthful of wine that can go with chili, give this a try.

* 1990 Wyndham Estate Shiraz "Bin 555," Southeastern Australia ($7.49). Here's a dense, soft-textured, ripe, chocolately wine with decadent blackberry flavor. All straightforward, nothing subtle, lots of fun.

* 1990 Peter Lehmann Shiraz, Barossa Valley ($8). This fresh, light wine is a bit hollow in the middle, but there is some pleasant Beaujolais-like fruit and some nice black cherry aroma. Superficially attractive.

* 1989 Balgownie Estate Bendigo Shiraz, Victoria ($11.45). There's a certain brutish charm to this rustic wine with soft texture, blackberry and earthy flavors and easy simplicity. It's rather pricey for what you get, though.

* 1989 Taltarni Victorian Shiraz ($12). Dried-out, too acidic, dull and one-dimensional. This wine suffered

death by oak.

Cabernet-shiraz blends

* 1990 Mitchelton Victorian Cabernet (50 percent) Shiraz (36 percent) Merlot (14 percent), ($11). This ripe, slightly herbal, forward wine bears a surprising resemblance to one of the chunkier Saint-Emilions from Bordeaux. Not obviously Australian, it combines ripe, forward fruit with excellent structure and black currant fruit. This crowd-pleaser from one of Australia's hottest wineries can be kept for two years or drunk now.

* 1991 Rosemount Shiraz (65 percent) Cabernet (35 percent), Southeastern Australia ($9). This top-notch, medium-weight value is soft, fruity, intense and forward, yet it has surprising length and complexity. Lush black cherry flavors add special charm.

* 1988 Penfold's "Bin 389" Cabernet (60 percent) Shiraz (40 percent), Southeastern Australia ($16.49). This medium-full, leathery, chunky wine is quite good but doesn't really kick into overdrive. Good wine, poor value.


* 1990 Tyrrell's Long Flat Red ($7). A fruity, medium-bodied wine with light leathery flavors and solid, blocky honesty. This wine made more sense at $3 a bottle, but it's still a decent quaff.

Pinot noir

* 1990 Mountadam Pinot Noir, Eden Valley ($25). This astonishing wine is a dead ringer for a fine, medium-weight Burgundy. It has the feel, the tone, the light red color of a fine Beaune. The price is high, but it's in line with what you'd pay for a fine Burgundy of this quality. Two years might help it, but drink it before 1997.

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