Excellent value in these Australian wines

I have been rather neglectful of Australia in recent months so this week I want to focus on one of the great icon estates of Australian wine as a way of showing that there is more to this country than big blowsy Shiraz and Chardonnay.

Don’t get me wrong, big is often good and there is a reason Australia went from zero to Ireland’s biggest selling wine during the 1990s. At one point almost 30% of the wine sold in Ireland was Australian.

What Australia can struggle to provide however is light clean and fresh tasting wines to match simply cooked food.

My advice is to look above the bargain bins to the cooler areas such as the Rieslings of the Clare Valley and Tasmania, the Pinot Noirs of the Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra, and of course the Cabernets and Chardonnays of Western Australia.

Cullen Estate was founded in 1971 by Diana and Kevin Cullen in Wilyabrup in the heart of Margaret River south of Perth.

The first vineyards were planted in the region in only 1967 (Vasse Felix) so this was a leap of faith by the Cullens.

Like those other great maritime-influenced westerly vineyards of Bordeaux and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon grows remarkably well here and it is Bordeaux blends that have made Cullen’s reputation.

The current winemaker is Vanya Cullen, daughter of the founders, and she took the further step of converting the vineyard to Bio-Dynamic in 2003. The vineyard was the first carbon neutral winery in Australia and their 50 hectares produces some of the most subtle and exhilarating wines in Australia.

My selections this week are three stunningly good Cullen wines plus a couple of other Aussie wines I found on special in SuperValu, and one outlier from Spain that I had to mention this week as I suspect it will sell out fast.

Secastilla is from the Gonzales Byass Family of Tio Pepe fame and the wine is excellent value.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Nugan Estate McLaren Parish Shiraz 2012, McLaren Vale, Australia — €12

Excellent value in these Australian wines

Stockist: SuperValu Nationwide

McLaren Vale is one of the warmer places in the region so this doesn’t quite fit in with the themes mentioned above, but I couldn’t resist mentioning this given the low price. Huge ripe sweet forest fruit aromas, sweet plums and ripe blackcurrants and lingering anise and spice flavours.

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2011, Clare Valley, Australia — €15

Excellent value in these Australian wines

Stockist: SuperValu Nationwide

Jim Barry Estate are one of the Clare Valley pioneers and Lodge Hill vineyard is one of the highest in the Valley so this is as close to cool climate Shiraz (13.5% ABV) as you will find in South Australia giving mint, eucalyptus and liquorice aromas, bright blackcurrant fruits on the palate and on the finish. Excellent value.

La Miranda Secastilla Garnacha, Somontano, Spain — €8.33 (6 for €50)

Excellent value in these Australian wines

Stockist: SuperValu Nationwide

Somontano in the foothills of the Pyrenees can be a source of great value like much of regional Spain. Made from 100% Garnacha (Grenache) this is packed with bright juicy fruit with lots of cherry and plum aromas and lingering blackberry fruits. At a guess I would have put this wine at around €16 so the current SuperValu deal of 6 for €50 is pretty outstanding.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

Cullen Mangan Vineyard Sauvignon/Semillon 2012, Margaret River, Australia - €28.99

Excellent value in these Australian wines

Stockists: Bradleys www.bradleysofflicence.ie, Mitchell & Son, The Corkscrew, On The Grapevine

A blend of 54% sauvignon blanc, 43% semillon and 3% verdelho at a very old world 11.5% alcohol by volume. As usual, grapes are dry-farmed bio-dynamically and as 2012 was better for sauvignon it is a larger part of the blend than usual. Fragrant soft creamy lemon aromas with touches of vanilla.

Cullen Mangan Merlot/ Malbec/ Petit Verdot 2013, Margaret River, Australia €28.99

Excellent value in these Australian wines

Stockists: Bradleys, Mitchell & Son www.mitchellandson.com, The Corkscrew, On The Grapevine

Another classic Bordeaux blend with merlot at 63% and malbec at 25%. Wild yeast ferment and at 11% alcohol by volume this is understated and complex. Packed with maraschino bitter cherry aromas plus plums, violets and spice. Balanced and generous fruit while still very fresh and with good dry stony touches.

Cullen Diana Madelaine 2011, Margaret River, Australia - €87.99

Excellent value in these Australian wines

Stockists: Bradleys, Mitchell & Son, Terroirs Donnybrook www.terroirs.ie

Cullen’s flagship red and one of the great red wines of Australia. Unlike the other oft-cited great Aussie reds however, this Bordeaux blend is mostly cabernet based (80% ) and is elegance personified. There aromas of violet-scented blackcurrants and hints of chocolate and star anise.


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