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Column: Celebrating Australia Day with these “Beaut” Aussie reds

Three South Australian red wine recommendations

Next Wednesday is Australia Day. On January 26th 1778, Governor Arthur Philip founded Sydney as a penal colony comprising 1,030 people, of which 736 were convicts.

To help celebrate Australian’s national day, I’ve chosen three delicious red wines from the Land of Oz, all available at BCL stores. Ironically, all three wines are from South Australia, which was not founded by convicts but by free settlers.

I chose South Australia for a couple of reasons. First, it produces more wines than any other Australian state. Over half of Australia’s wine production originates in South Aussie. And second, I lived in Adelaide, South Australia for a year and I recently spent a month revisiting the major wine regions of South Australia.

Let’s go to one of the best wine regions in Australia, the Barossa Valley and talk about the Yalumba 2018 Barossa Grenache Shiraz Mataro (aka Mourvedre) ($25.99; 93 points). Yalumba was founded by Samuel Smith in 1849 and it’s one of Australia’s oldest family wineries. The blend is usually referred to as a GSM, which is based on a Cote du Rhone blend.

The 200 million-year-old soils of the Barossa are among the most ancient on Earth. Their rich mineral content and low to moderate fertility restrict vine vigour and contribute to small yields of exceptional quality fruit and flavours.

The Barossa is blessed with its own Mediterranean micro-climate that comes with more sunshine hours and less humidity than either of the world’s other great red wine regions, Bordeaux and Burgundy. Such warm, dry climatic conditions, combined with the acidic, mineral richness of the Barossa’s ancient soils, contribute to low yields of tiny but flavour-intense fruit.

The Yalumba GSM displays medium cherry-red hues with a light red rim and an aromatic bouquet of dark and blue fruit with spice. On the palate enjoy layers of strawberry, raspberry, boysenberry, black cherry and a sprinkling of cinnamon. It’s juicy, elegant, and full of mouth-watering fruit with smooth chocolate tannins which conclude on an earthy strawberry finish!

If you find Barossa Shirazes on the heavy side, this Yalumba will lighten the load. I grew very fond of GSM’s when I visited Oz in 2018. Enjoy with roast chook (chicken!), teriyaki beef, mushrooms in a wine sauce, and any dish with rosemary, sage, thyme, or red pepper.

And now, the 2019 Barossa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($21.99; 91 points). It’s a much darker red than the GSM indicating more body and rich fruit extract. The aroma reveals lots of vibrant dark fruit with tea leaves and forest floor. Black currant and plum flavours are abundant along with hints of tobacco, medium tannins, and a dark chocolate finish.

Serve with Peking Duck celebrating the upcoming Year of the Tiger, or do an Aussie match with a rack of lamb and béarnaise sauce.

Finally, open a Majella 2018 ‘Musician’ Cabernet Shiraz from Coonawarra ($19.99; 92 points). It’s a 70-30 per cent blend that has been selling at this amazing reasonable since 2004 and has won numerous medals. Cabernet Shiraz is a unique Australian blend, which was one of my favourites when I was an exchange teacher Down Under. It’s produced in this small region in South Australia’s southeast near the Victoria border famous for Cabernet Sauvignon which thrives in its Terra Rossa soil.

As expected, the Cab-Shiraz’s colour is a very dark red. Like the Australian character, this delicious drop is very bold but likeable. The aroma exudes black and blue fruit with floral notes of eucalyptus and mint, earthiness, and licorice. There are oodles of blackberry and blueberry flavours along with mint, and vanilla.

Because it is a blend, the Musician is more complex than a single variety; it’s a wine chorus rather than a solo artist. And because Shiraz skins are thinner than Cabernet, the blend has smoother tannins than a Cab Sauv.

Enjoy with Roast Beef on Australia Day or Robbie Burns Day the evening before, or Osso Bucco, short ribs, or sharp cheddar. Cheers, mate!