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Aussies know how to wine

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Trying to drag an Australian into the B.C. red wine section of a liquor store is no easy task. Even the harvesting seasons are polar opposites.

While B.C. will boast one of its best pinot noir vintages ever this year, I recently explored the fruits produced by the clay soils of the land Down Under, where some of the most famous lip-staining elixirs arise.

Not familiar with anything beyond the Aussie shiraz, I explored other varietals during an afternoon at the Wine Australia trade tasting in Vancouver last week. All wines are available at Whistler’s liquor stores, except for one that needs to be special ordered.

De Bortoli’s Yarra Valley Estate Grown Pinot Noir 2004 requires a little more organization if you want to serve it at a dinner party, but it’s well worth the effort. The second-largest family estate in Australia boasts a pinot noir rich with peach flavours and a finish that wakes your taste buds with a start. This $34 bottle is my favourite pick from my Down Under adventure.

I’ve also fallen in love with anything Viognier. Yalumba exploits the fruity fragrance in shiraz blends, including the Yalumba 2005 Hand Picked Shiraz Viognier. The entry-level wine,   priced at $18, is one big flirt. A sip opens the floodgates on peach and apricot fruitiness then steps out with a dry finish. A next step up, the 2003 Barossa, another Shiraz and Viognier blend, also flirts with a seductive nose, but definitely puts out with big taste for $24.

The Wolf Blass 2002 Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon for $23 was the biggest bang for your buck in kangaroo land. This classic wine with hints of mint is aged 20 months in American oak. The wine rep recommended a rosemary lamb dish as the perfect pairing.

Thorn-Clark 2003 Cuvee Terra Barossa, a blend of cabernet franc, merlot and shiraz, drank like a schizophrenic — this is a good thing. Wine Spectator rated the multi-faced $20 product of Barossa at 89 points. The winemaker explained the cabernet is fruity yet hollow, leaving the big rich fruit of the shiraz to fill in the gaps.

Thorn-Clarke’s Quartage Shotfire Ridge, again another blend with cabernet sauvignon instead of shiraz, was the grown up version of the Thorn-Clarke series with a savoury/sweet combination that was smooth and sensible. This jack-of-all-trades sells for $29.73.

The 2001 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, rated 90 points by Wine Access, was a big finish with spicy, black cherry flavour. The southern Australian red clay soil produces plenty of layered flavours, and the product sells for $22.

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