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franklin county times

Getting around to Yellowtail wines

By By Stan Torgerson / wine columnist
August 4, 2004
I knew that sooner or later we were going to have review Yellowtail wines. Like so many other things, wines are subject to peaks and valleys in popularity. When I first started collecting wines, Lancers and Matuse were the "in" wines. Now you literally can't find them on the shelf of even the largest wine stores.
About 10 years ago Riunite took over. They didn't sell it merely by the case or the barrel. It sold by the tank car. It still sells, but not at the same level as Yellowtail. Nothing does.
This Australian import is the biggest seller in the country, all variations considered. I suspect Beringer white zinfandel is still the leading individual bottle as it has been for several years.
This past weekend we bought five bottles of Yellowtail chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah and the cabernet-syrah blend. A panel of six tasters was assembled, four men and two ladies. All had a certain amount of expertise about wine.
Surprises … good and bad
Chardonnay: The tasting began with the chardonnay. It was probably the most pleasant surprise of the evening. Make no mistake. It's not a $25 chardonnay, but it's sweet and it's fruity without the flavor of oak. The finish is very nice. I'd buy it in an instant for people who don't know that much about wine, but simply want something to enjoy on the patio during a warm summer evening.
Our combined, and then averaged, rating was 83.5 on the 100 point scale, meaning it fell in the "good" wine classification. For about $6, it is an excellent buy.
Cabernet: Then we moved on to the cabernet and went in the exact opposite direction. This is a terrible wine. It tastes like Welch's grape juice with alcohol poured in it. There's nothing complex in its flavor and nothing to recommend it. It tasted as if sugar had been added. Our rating was 70.5, right at the bottom of the "poor" scale.
Merlot: On we went to the merlot and discovered another pleasant surprise. Fruity with full-bodied flavor, this wine was a pleasure to drink. The finish is excellent and while the aroma is very average, we excused it because of the lovely taste. Our panel rated it 81.6, again in the "good" wine category.
Syrah: When I drink a syrah, I always look for the peppery flavor that makes this grape distinctive, whether it is from Australia (where they spell it shiraz) or America. Yellowtail's syrah simply did not have it. No pepper means no flavor for this wine.
It is difficult to make a poor syrah, but somehow Yellowtail has managed to do it. Our combined rating was 74.6, meaning middle bracket "poor," but still better than the cabernet sauvignon. You won't find any in my wine cellar.
Cabernet-syrah blend: The blend was the most discussed wine of the evening. I thought putting two bad wines together would result in an even worse wine but actually they seemed to help each other, to cover the flaws of the other.
However, I was a committee of one. Two tasters did, however, think it was adequate and each gave it an 80. I gave it an 82. The other three tasters marked the syrah down in the 60s which means "poor." The composite rating was 74.3, second lowest of the night.
Mixed verdict
So now you have our verdict. The chardonnay and merlot are very nice and bargains in the $6 and $7 price range. I'd buy them again. The cabernet-syrah blend is a matter of personal preference. Maybe yes. Maybe no.
Yellowtail's cabernet sauvignon and syrah are to be avoided. Whatever the cost, if you can't drink it and enjoy it, it is no bargain.

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