Alas, some of the best Australian wine values are exceedingly difficult for U.S. consumers to experience because they aren’t exported to our country. And that’s a shame because Australian winemakers have ventured far beyond shiraz and, for the last decade, have grown and produced some excellent varietals. But due to a combination of high U.S. tariffs and an Asian market that loves Australian wines, the outstanding Aussie wines just aren’t making it to the U.S.
We recently had an opportunity to travel to some of the well-known (and lesser-known) wine growing regions in southern Australia. Visits to the Yarra Valley, McLaren Vale and Clare Valley turned up some outstanding wine values: bottles that cost less than $20 but competed with wines costing three times that amount. While most of these wines are not available in the U.S, if you happen to come across them (or find yourself in Australia anytime soon), you should snap them up. Because currently the U.S. dollar is about 25% more valuable than the Aussie dollar, making these wines all excellent values.
Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Shiraz – (US$ 14) This winery exports a lot of its output/”plonk” to the U.S. but this particular wine hasn’t been exported….yet. It is aged in old whisky barrels and is as smooth and flavorful as any wine we tasted in Australia. Who would have thought that gargantuan winemaker Jacob’s Creek could produce such an interesting and mouth-pleasing wine at this price! Wine.com claims to be selling this wine, but at $19 a bottle and an excessive shipping charge, it isn’t the value that it is Down Under.
Graham Stevens “The Family” Shiraz – (US$15) One of the best wines we tasted in Australia……period. This very small winery in McLaren Vale is helmed by a winemaker with over 50 years experience. He’s an unforgettable character and so is this amazing value-priced shiraz.
Innocent Bystander Shiraz and Chardonnay ($13) This Yarra Valley winery produces some lovely value-priced wines. The many we tried were uniformly excellent values and very consistent in quality. However, the shiraz and chard stood out.
Coldstream Hills Shiraz Reserve – (US$20) A lovely shiraz produced by this Yarra Valley microwinery.
Kangarilla Road Sangiovese – (US$20) A lovely version of this Italian wine produced by this McLaren Vale winery. While Kangarilla does export some of its wines to the U.S., this varietal hasn’t left the Australian shores. Like other South Australian wineries, Kargarilla is moving to other varietals and, so far, we are impressed.
Pimpernel Shiraz – (US$25) Some very interesting shiraz is produced by this unconventional Yarra Valley microwinery. All of them were beautifully crafted, exhibiting slight differences in taste but all were of high quality.
Dixon’s Creek Petit Verdot – (US$25) This was beautifully expressive varietal produced by this Yarra Valley microwinery. If you happen to be in the vicinity of this winemaker, the petit verdot makes a stop mandatory.
Oliver’s Taranga Fortified Grenache – (US$30) This fortified varietal is jaw-dropping nectar in a 500mL bottle. By far, the best fortified that we tasted in Australia and at $30, it is a steal. This winery also makes some high-end shiraz that compete with some of Australia’s best, but their tawny grenache almost justifies a trip to Australia, on its own.
Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Pinot Noir – (US$40) A lovely pinot produced by this South Australian winery close to Melbourne. While not cheap, it was as good (if not better) than $80 pinots sold in the U.S. and New Zealand The winery has won awards and, recently, a 97 point rating from James Halliday, the Australia wine reviewer.
Skillogaree Travarrick Shiraz – (US$50) A beautiful premium shiraz (limited edition) crafted by this Clare Valley microwinery. Not cheap, but an outstanding value that surpassed any of the $100 wines we tried there.