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franklin county times

Australian wine expert to conduct upcoming tasting

By Staff
June 6, 2001
Australian wines have become a major factor in the American wine market. Shiraz has been their grape of principal choice, but some great cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays also come from that country. In the main, they combine outstanding quality with affordable prices, a winning combination for the local wine consumer.
That's why we are thrilled to announced that Patrick O'Byrne from Tasmania/Australia will be in Meridian June 14 and will conduct our monthly wine tasting on that evening.
Normally, these tastings take place on the last Thursday of the month. But the opportunity to host O'Byrne was offered to us by Norman Rush, the Mississippi distributor for many of the best wines from Australia. Rush has been noting the sales growth of fine wines in Meridian and the ever-growing popularity of these monthly tasting events.
O'Byrne's family is celebrating its 100th year in the Australian wine industry during 2001. He personally has been in the wine business for over 30 years.
As a graduate of Roseworthy, the southern hemisphere's version of the great wine-learning programs offered at the University of California-Davis, O'Byrne has experienced all aspects of the Aussie wine trade, viticulture, wine making and marketing.
He is one of the most respected figures in the Australian wine industry, currently the Ambassador of the Australian Premium Wine Collection and the importer of some of Australia's finest wines.
He has suggested wines for our tasting that will include several shiraz, a grenach/shiraz blend and at least two rieslings. He will describe, pour and discuss six wines or more, as well as discuss the Australian wine industry itself.
Wines he has recommended include the Frankland Estate ISO Ridge Riesling, Hill of Content Grenache/Shiraz, Frankland Isolation Ridge Shiraz, Pikes Shiraz, Elderton Shiraz and Joseph La Magia Riesling Botrytis.
Botrytis is called "The Noble Rot" and is a very desirable characteristic that develops in certain years, depending on the climate. Some of the grapes are left on the vine at the end of the growing season and they begin to dehydrate. When they are subjected to extreme cold, a chemical change occurs that enhances their flavor and their sweetness. It is welcomed by growers of grapes to be used for sweet wines because botrytis can create some of the world's greatest dessert wines in years that this condition becomes possible. The wine thus enhanced is also quite expensive, ranging from $40 to $50 per bottle and up.
The wines to be served for this particularly unique tasting are produced by grapes from different microclimates. Rush assures me they are all dramatically different.
I have personally tasted the Elderton Shiraz, one of the wines to be served. The bottle notes on that wine say this: "The family Shiraz vines now over 40 years in age are grown on the estate in rich alluvial silt and red brown earths which are a major determinant in the softness, complexity and consistency in Elderton wine."
The winemaker says his wines have the added complexity of 12-18 months maturation in French and American oak barrels.
Frankly, I loved it. It is big, it is soft and it is luscious. I gave it a 91. I can hardly wait to taste the other wines on O'Byrne's list.
The cost for this particular tasting will be $25 per place. We do require a reservation and advance payment in order to know how many bottles of these wines to purchase.
The phone number to call for a reservation is 482-0930. Send your check to Wines Unlimited, Post Office Box 5223, Meridian. The date is June 14 and the place is Northwood Country Club. Start time is our usual 6:30 p.m. You are not required to be a member of Northwood to attend.
The public is invited, as it is at each of our monthly tastings. Arrangements have been made for you to stay and purchase dinner if you wish after the wine portion of the evening ends. This is a one-of-a-kind event, so plan to attend.
Stan Torgerson, a longtime Meridian resident, has written a wine column for several years.