Australian Reds Get Restraining Order.


This is not a translation of Pravda Magazine bemoaning the fate of left-wing radicals for a G-20 meeting in Melbourne or Sidney. We are gathered here today to mark the moment that some brave winemakers in the Victoria State of Australia flew across the Pacific Ocean to present some truly wonderful wines; wines that they have purposely dialed down the Macho This is Spinal-Tap ripe grape knob to levels decidedly lower than 11. Welcome to the world of Australian Reds with harmony, moments of allegro and even a well timed crescendo.

My tasting of the Victoria State reds started with 3 Pinot Noirs, 4 Cabernet Sauvignons and finally a Portugese style dessert wine. The Aussies came here preaching restraint in the style of wine making they were featuring. As I mentioned in my last blog, they are trying to show off higher value wines that are differentiate themselves from the lower-end of the price scale Merlots and Shiraz’s that are more Kurt Cobain than they are Leonard Cohen if you know what I mean.

The Pinot Noirs hailed from the Macedon Ranges, Geelong and the Yarra Valley (full descriptions below). They were all good New World Pinots, but nothing more. I didn’t taste the craftsmanship in the wine making like I did with Chardonnays (see previous post) – I think that that you can only try to restrain Pinot Noir in the dry heat of Australia so much before it comes out constrained. The Best of trio was a Mount Gisbourne Pinot Noir 2005, form the Macedon Ranges. It had just enough country folksy roots and, just barely, not too much hook – just like when John Cougar was selling out arenas in the late 80’s. I would like to see if this wine goes all Mellencampy on us in a couple of years.

The four Cabernet Sauvignons all had something special worthy of high praises. This is where the restraint really shows in the creation of a wide range of tastes and wine styles from one grape in one region. There is a Chinese expression that goes something like: “One type of rice makes 10 thousand types of people.” With All four glasses poured in front of me an almost buttery cassis smell wafted up from the table, so I stuck my nose into all four glasses to discover which one was really turning me on. It was the Sandhurst Ridge Cabernet sauvignon 2004 from the Bendigo region. I have never fallen in love with the smell of a glass of wine like this. I haven’t had a Grape Crush like this since a can of pop cost 20 cents. I was nervous, should I ask it to dance – what if it said ‘no’, maybe I shouldn’t drink it, because I didn’t want ruin the memory. But of course I did – and I wasn’t really let-down at all. The colour was not as red as I would have imagined and nor was it particularly leggy. What she lacked in looks was made up for in every other category. It was all about the cassis taste and getting exactly right. A close second was the Olsen Wines Personal Reserve, with minty to plum taste and was leggy. The winemaker suggested this is a wine that could be cellared for 15 years. Whereas the best of the Pinot Noirs reminded me of John Cougar, these two cabs were much closer to the authenticity of Creedence Clearwater Revival. I could almost feel the resin coming out of the wood planks used in the vineyards barn as I consciously decided not to spit out much these wines. I will be planning a trip to Melbourne in 2020 to test the winemaker’s aging hypothesis.

Also of particular note was a Taltrani Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, which seemed to have a bone moving effect on all the professional sommeliers in the room. This is a wine geeks wine. I made three notes on it: dry, dry and dry. If your butcher ever tells you he has an extremely marbled cut of beef and you want to smother it in butter – this is the wine that will provide the all tannins it for you.

Finally the dessert Muscat. Winemaker Chris Pfeiffer was there to tell us that this fortified wine had spent six years in the barrel. Like the Cabernet Sauvignons the terroir of Victoria presented some unexpected scents. I picked up Calla Lilly on the nose of this more-floral- than-its-European-cousin digestif. It was refreshing to drink – however, less distinct in the mouth than on the nose.

Pinot Noirs:

Mount Gisbourne Pinot Noir 2005 – Macedon Ranges (Tomato nose and tobacco on the throat, 14.6% alc/vol) Suggested listening: The Eagles’ CD When Hell Freezes Over. A strictly commercial affair that tries to remind you of something great you had in the past.

Scotmans Hill Pinot Noir 2005, Geelong. (A Berry-Cherry New World Pinot Noir) Suggested listening: anything Motown.

De Bortoli Estate Grown Pinot Noir 2006, Yarra Valley. (An aluminum fist in a fleece glove as opposed to the coveted “Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove”)

Cabernet Sauvignons:

Olsen Wines Personal Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Yarra Valley. (Mint and restrained plum, very leggy grown on clay loam) Suggeted Listening: Rent the U2 Live in Chicago DVD circa Vertigo.

Sandhurst Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Bendigo. (Restrained cassis as it should be taste in a Cabernet Sauvignon, the most perfect bouquet of ripened fruit – I could swear it was like grapes being seared in butter) Suggested Listening. Dig into your closet and dig out a mix tape you made when you were 19. If you can’t find a tape player, make a playlist of up-tempo Arcade Fire tunes.

Downing Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Heathcote. (Some almond/flower and maybe vanilla on the nose and ripe silky grapes that caress the tongue. Great wine, even though I preferred the previous two) Suggested Music: Bags Groove by Miles Davis.

Taltrani Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 – Pyrenees. (Eat with well-marbled beef!) Johnnie Cash’s At Fulsom Prison or Ravel’s Bolero.

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