Wines from down under: Australian wines

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    Australian wines

    Australian wines (Photo Shutterstock)

    Here are some red Australian wines that show restraint but capture the spicy characteristics of Australia. They are ripe. They taste sweet. Yet they are not over the top with alcohol.

    The Vine Street Imports wines listed below are new to the Washington area market and should have wider distribution in a few weeks.

    This list is of red Australian wines from $13 to $40. Looking for more budget-friendly wines? Check out these wines under $15.

    Australian wines from $13-$40

    Domaine Terlato-Chapoutier Shiraz-Viognier 2010

    • Great Value; Three stars
    • Victoria, Australia, $20
    • This French-American joint venture combines Michel Chapoutier, a legend in the northern Rhone Valley, with Anthony Terlato, the U.S. importer who made Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio a sensation in this country. The result is an Australian Cote Rotie, a compelling combination of earth, fruit and spice. Those of us who bemoan the globalization of wine should celebrate this example of international cooperation. Alcohol: 14 percent.
    • Bacchus.

    Alpha Box & Dice Mistress 2009

    • Three stars
    • McLaren Vale, Australia, $40
    • This is a fascinating blend of two Portuguese varieties: touriga nacional, one of the main grapes in port and the fine red wines of the Douro Valley, and tinta negra molle, a grape more common to Madeira. Add a judicious splash of cabernet sauvignon and you have a blend that defies convention. Winemaker Justin Lane explains that the Portuguese varieties were common in Australia for fortified wines before the modern desire for table wines spurred growers to change most vineyards over to syrah (shiraz) and cabernet sauvignon. Alcohol: 14 percent.
    • Vine Street Imports/Lanterna in D.C. and Maryland; J.W. Sieg in Virginia.

    Dandelion Vineyards Lion’s Tooth of McLaren Vale Shiraz-Riesling 2009

    • Great Value; Three stars
    • McLaren Vale, Australia, $25
    • Whoa. This wine seemed a bit awkward at first, which could be attributed to the screwcap. (Many wineries are still figuring out how to adjust sulfur additions to avoid problems with screwcaps.) Decant it for a half hour, however, and you have a rich, spicy, racy wine brimming with blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, eucalyptus and mint. Fermenting the shiraz on the pressed skins of Riesling grapes gives the wine an enticing, irresistible lure. Alcohol: 14 percent.
    • Vine Street Imports/Lanterna in D.C. and Maryland; J.W. Sieg in Virginia.

    Pyren Vineyard Broken Quartz Shiraz 2010

    • Great Value; Two and a half stars
    • Pyrenees, Australia, $20
    • Here’s a terrific example of the type of Australian shiraz that made me fall in love with this type of wine in my early explorations. It is rich with black fruit, herbal with mint and eucalyptus, and sweet with ripe, jammy flavors and texture. Alcohol: 13.6 percent.
    • Vine Street Imports/Lanterna in D.C. and Maryland, J.W. Sieg in Virginia.

    Heartland Stickleback Red 2009

    • South Australia, $13
    • Great Value; Two stars
    • A delightful blend of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and the Italian varietals dolcetto and lagrein, this is made by famed Aussie winemaker Ben Glaetzer. There’s tradition here, in a hint of tobacco flavor that calms the more familiar Australian enthusiasm. Alcohol: 14.5 percent.
    • M Touton Selection.

    Wine ratings

    Three stars Exceptional, two stars Excellent, one star Very Good

    Prices are approximate. Check to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.

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    Source: Dave McIntyre/ Special to The Washington Post

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