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Australian whites and reds at the Wine Group 24/04/2006 (TNB)

Our host bravely decided to challenge us with a line-up of mostly Australian wines. The results were as follows. The comparison of Lost Valley's 2004 Cortese with the 2003 Gavi from La Chiara was a victory for the old world wine that was a lot tighter, finer and more appetising than the rather grassy, forward, fruity Ozzy. And it's a lot cheaper.

The pair of Leeuwin Estate chardonnays were excellent, and served them blind we were wondering about really good Macon of some sort. The cheaper Prelude was very drinkable, balanced and decent value at 15 quid. The Art Series wine was more closed but ultimately more exciting with lots of concentration but real poise too. I don't think I will be buying it at a price somewhere in the high thirties but it is a wine of real substance that will probably penout nicely over the next year or two.

And so on to the reds. I was very struck in this lineup of six fairly upmarket wines by how soft and sweet all of them seemed - they were just miles from anything I would drink by choice. To me at least they seemed much closer to alcoholic fruit drinks than to wine as I understand it: a drink that offers a challenge to the palate and is mouthwatering and savoury rather than cloying and fruity. It occured to me that the wine-drinking world has become polarised - presumably a substantial proportion of today's drinkers think that these Ozzies are what red wine should be like. Since writing those words I have read Jancis Robinson in the FT claiming that in fact New and Old World styles are converging. It's an interesting thought but I disagree - even when wines are made in Bordeaux or the Rhone aim at a modern style they usually remain a bit drier, a bit more grown-up.

Somewhere in the midst of this Parker's review of the spectacularly undrinkable Henry's Drive (so sweet, I honestly wondered whether it might be intended as a desert wine) was produced - it's a 90+ point wine and the great arbiter remarks that it "is the type of wine that Eurocentric wine tasters and condescending elitists tend to dismiss". Guilty as charged, I fear, and of course we all collapsed in hysterics. (Just in the interests of accuracy, some research suggests this quote actually applies to their Reserve wine.)

I was a bit surprised that two of these reds were from Henschke, a producer I have admired. The Cyril Henschke Cabernet has usually been a bit too soft to me but this time the Mount Edelstone Shiraz also seemed rather that way. The latter was certainly the best of the wines and perhaps it would have gone down better if it hadn't followed the other wines - I find cloying sweetness tends to hang around on the palate and upset my perception of wines that follow.


Dinner added to Fine Wine Diary 10/05/2006   Return to top