Australian wine expert makes list for upcoming tasting
June 13, 2001
Normally, I select the wine for our monthly tastings. I'll consult with some knowledgeable local collectors, first about the theme and then the wines that will carry out that theme. A great deal of research also goes into choosing the wines to be tasted.
That's not the case for tomorrow night's Australian wine tasting, however. When Patrick O'Byrne from Tasmania, Australia, agreed to come and conduct the tasting of his country's wines, I turned the selection completely over to him and merely asked what he wanted me to buy. He made out a list and fortunately was able to get them all through Edna's Wine Super Market and the state warehouse.
O'Byrne's family has been in the wine trade for 100 years. He has spent 30 years in the business of viticulture, wine making and marketing, in other words in all aspects of the wine trade. He is currently the Ambassador of the Australian Premium Wine Collection and the importer of some of his country's finest wines. He is one of the most respected figures in the Australian wine industry. My telling him which wines to taste would be like me teaching Tiger Woods how to hit a golf ball.
His selections for the Meridian tasting truly run the gamut of Australia's wine making skills. There will be one white, five reds and a dessert wine seven in all.
We will begin with the Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling. This is a white wine from Western Australia, described recently by one critic as "Gorgeous Riesling fruit on a steely frame, with floral, apple and lime flavors, echoing on the long finish." Riesling grapes have a flavor all their own. They are best known as the source used for the great German white wines but don't expect the Australian version to taste like the German whites with their green apple flavor. This wine has a personality all its own.
Then, O'Byrne has followed with five reds, the first a blend of Grenache and shiraz called Hill of Content. America's foremost wine critic, Robert Parker, rated Hill of Content an 87, a very high rating for such a reasonably priced wine.
But this same Robert Parker gave a 93 to the next wine on O'Byrne's list, the Clarendon Hills Old Vines Grenache. This is a $40 bottle of wine and the reviews I have read indicate it is well worth it. It apparently bears a similarity in flavor to the great French Chateaneuf du Pape which is good enough for me. The chateaneuf has long been considered one of the world's greatest wines and is a personal favorite. A few years ago, a Chateaneuf du Pape was selected as the finest wine produced in the entire world that year.
O'Byrne then turns to what is considered Australia's finest grape, the shiraz. If there is any one wine on which his country has built its reputation it is the shiraz. I truly have never had a bad one but I've drunk many, many, many good ones and several that could be classified as great. Shiraz wines are big and bold, filled with fruit with a peppery aspect to their flavor.
The first of the shiraz on tomorrow's list is the Frankland Estate which was reviewed in a leading wine publication in this manner, "This wine explodes with wild berry, earth and oak aromas and has a meaty, leathery, almost savage flavor."
It will be followed by a shiraz produced by the world famous Pike Family of Australia. They have been growing and making wines under their own name since 1886.
The final red wine of the evening is the Elderton Shiraz. The Elderton Shiraz is one of the wines I selected in May for my monthly review written for the Mississippi Alcoholic Beverage Control Fine Wine List. These reviews go to every package store and restaurant in the state. I thought the wine was wonderful and said so. I believe you will, too.
The final wine of the evening will be a "first taste" for most of you. It is a dessert wine, the Joseph La Magia Riesling Botrytis. If you don't believe you like sweet wines, drink this one and remember at the same time what it is and what it is supposed to be. It is dessert in a bottle, thick, rich with a taste like honey, raisins, oranges, apricots and other delights. This is not a chug-a-lug wine. This is a sipping wine to be drunk in small quantities and enjoyed at the end of a meal.
O'Byrne will discuss each specific wine as it is served, as well as Australian wine in general. It should be both a tasting and a learning experience.
The cost for this particular tasting is $25 and there are a few places left. Call 482-0930 for a reservation. If you have your own tasting glass you are welcome to bring it. The tasting itself starts at 6:30 p.m. at Northwood Country Club. You do not have to be a member of the club to attend. Later, if you wish to stay for dinner, arrangements have been made for non-members but the club cannot accept your credit card. Your meal must be paid in cash. Members can, of course, sign their tickets as usual.
This opportunity to meet and share wine knowledge with a man from a foreign country who is an expert in the field is a rare opportunity for Meridian wine lovers and we look forward to the evening. We hope you will, as well.
Stan Torgerson, a longtime Meridian resident, has written a wine column for several years.