More Tokay, Please!

In 1995 Australian wineries exported 1.6 million cases of wine to the United States. In 2004 they exported 20 million cases. Today they are the 2nd largest exported to the U.S.

The Australia Harvest Day tasting in San Francisco yesterday reminds one that the variety of wines being produced in Australia is enormous. It’s not just Shiraz and Yellowtail.

The tasting was people mainly by importers showcasing their book of various producers. There were also a number of producers holding fast behind tables with bottles in hand. By the time we got their, the crew of eager import reps and producers had that "deer in the headlight" look about them after having poured, talked and poured some more for more than 8 hours as the press, trade and consumers took their turns swirling and sipping.

The variety of wines being exported to the U.S. by the Australians goes beyond varietals to stylistic differences. This was pleasing. Too often you get the impression the Aussies are dedicated to the big-fat-luscious-fruitBOMB style of winemaking that comes in for too much criticism from snobs and people like me. I tasted chardonnays with wonderful balance, striking acidity and that citrus edge that leans on you before the fruit emerges. I tasted cabs that displayed not merely hedonistic gobs of galloping blackberry essence, but rather with deep but restrained fruit that hosted hints of herb and anise…a nice combination. And I tasted Rieslings that delivered that bone dry character and notes of petrol that I look for in that varietal.

Most impressive, in my mind, were the muscat and tokays. These sweet, spirit inspired wines might be the best value coming out of the continent. Chambers and Campbells make the best known versions. Susie Campbell was showing off her family’s $17 Rutherglen NV Tokay that was really stunning.

The Australians may just eat our (meaning everyone else’s) lunch in the wine world. The French are beside themselves worrying about their landing and subsequent attack on the continent. The Brits have practically agreed to a national takeover of their wine market by the Aussies. And the Americans…well…20 million cases!!

Posted In: Rating Wine


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