A new newsletter will hit mailboxes next week covering most of the new, big buys. This edition of the Grapevine will focus on a recent wine tasting I attended in New Orleans and a Focus On: Austria to cover some some new arrivals from that country.
BTW – there are still a few seats available for the Anything but Chardonnay class on July 17th. This program looks at some of the more exotic white wines that are finding their way onto the shelves as well as a few traditional grapes produced in non-traditional areas. I plan on showing a couple of Austrian white wines, see the attachment, as well as some new Australian, Spanish and Italian wines I have found. Almost all of the wines featured will not be aged in oak so the differences between American Chardonnay will be obvious. The program will begin at 7:00 pm, the price is $25 per person and there is six seats available. Prepaid reservations are required, 72 hours notice is required to cancel.
My worldwind trip to New Orleans last Tuesday was very educational. I flew up in the morning, attending a wine tasting of new releases from The Grateful Palate, had lunch at Acme Oyster Bar, and flew home. The ballroom at the Hotel Monaco was filled with at least 100 new wines from our friend, Dan Phillips aka Captain Bacon, and featured new releases as well as a couple, new value priced wines. For those not familiar, The Grateful Palate is a portfolio of Australian wines featuring many of the highest rated producers in that country. They also offer a small food catalogue of unusual but delicious comestibles as well as 30-40 different offerings of bacon. Two summers ago we hosted an event with the owner, Dan Phillips, in an event we called Bacon and Big Reds, which was a huge success.
I worked the room with vigor and managed to taste almost 100 wines in three hours. I came away with some thoughts about this portfolio and the current state of high end, Australian red wine. I like the 2003 vintage better than 2002 and most of what I could see of the early 2004 releases. The wines seem to show better balance compared to the 2002’s which always seemed hard edged to me, the 2004’s did not seem to show the same levels of concentration.
My order of preference for red grape varieties from Australian that I would buy for me to DRINK is; Grenache, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon. The order of preference for red grape varieties from Australian that I would buy to SELL; Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache.
If this sounds funny, after tasting almost 90 red wines I have decided that I am lukewarm to most Aussie Cab. I see a few versions I like but most have disjointed, stiff tannins that veil fruit flavors that seem green to me. There are always exceptions of course but after reviewing my notes I only put one star (on a three star scale) after two Cabs. Maybe it is current vintages, time will tell.
As for Aussie Shiraz, it is still the high octane fuel in the super heated engine that is “down under” wine enthusiasm. I found better precision in the 2003’s but many 2002’s appear to me as muddled and out of balance. Shiraz wines were still the biggest categories of hits for me with a couple three star wines and several one and two star finds.
The big hit for me was the stunning wines I found based on Grenache, sometimes alone and sometimes bottled as blends, usually GSM’s. (Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre) This was the smallest category in the room but virtually every wine I sampled earned at least one star and a couple earned three. Unfortunately none of the wines were cheap and they were all rare but they will find their way onto the shelves in late summer or early fall and you will probably see them here first.
The new Focus On: Austria is a feature I created for white wines from Austria. This was a super hot category among cork dorks a couple of years ago but now that the kettle of off the fire the prices are starting to drop and make sense. Those of you who only enjoy drinking big, thick Chardonnays will probably not find the category very interesting, the wines are bone dry and a bit edgy. If you enjoy the kind of wine that zips across the palate and wipes your slate clean; read, taste and enjoy.