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Written by Jacqueline Coleman, BT Contributor   
February 2019

Red, white, and you: Agreeable wine for $15 or less

HPix_Vino_2-19old your horses and don’t put away the red wines yet. As we slip into February, we still have a few more months of pleasant weather to continue our vino tinto drinking days. And if you chose to forsake drinking in January, we welcome you back to the good life here at Vino.

Let’s focus this month on reds from Down Under. Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters of wine and produces many of our easy-drinking, easily affordable favorites. Even if you aren’t a big fan of such brands as Yellow Tail, it’s hard to deny the mass popularity of the many varieties this label produces for export, and the fact that brands like it have put Australia on the American wine consumer’s map.

Without any native grapes growing in Australia, viticulture there did not get under way until vines were imported from Europe. Though the vines came earlier, the industry didn’t find viable success until the mid-1800s. All six states in the country now make wine, but most of the wine production is concentrated in the southern states, where there are adequate temperature changes, meaning cooler nights that are so necessary for wine grapes to produce quality fruit. Syrah, or Shiraz as it is known in Australia, has taken off as a popular bottle varietal and gives Australia a grape name to call its own.

Let’s try some new wines as we dive into the month of love. In fact, you may just fall in love with one of these economical Australian reds.

It’s hard to say no to a wine when the price for two bottles is just slightly above $10, so it’s worth a shot to try the 2016 Little Penguin Cabernet Sauvignon. A plum and cherry nose gives way to a darker fruit Cabernet. With a touch of blueberry on the palate, along with very mild tannins, the Little Penguin glides through with a smooth finish.

For another great value at the price, check out the 2016 Trackers Crossing Cabernet Sauvignon. Blends of red berries attack the nose and mouth, and linger toward the back of the throat. Mild tannins and a bit of oak join the red and black fruit medley to make for a decent-drinking casual Cabernet.

The 2016 Blass Reserve Release Cabernet Sauvignon spices it up on the nose with some pepper and vanilla, and lots of rich, dark fruit. A little more on the heavy side, compared to the first two wines, this bottle also comes with a bit more character and is a steal at $8.99.

A favorite of the group is the 2017 Yalumba Y Series Shiraz. With a typical jammy Shiraz signature, the big fruit flavors mellow a bit to a smooth, medium-minus body. Pleasant and enjoyable with all the traditional characteristics of the varietal, I’d recommend this bottle of Shiraz for any backyard barbecue.

Though definitely showing a bit of its age, the 2012 Black Opal Cabernet Merlot is a surprisingly agreeable bottle. There are lots of red fruits in this lighter-bodied Cabernet blend, but it’s got enough structure to hold its own. It’s not a wine I’d put next to a big, bold ribeye, but one that can be enjoyed on a balcony overlooking the water on a romantic February night.

It would be a shame to write about Australian wines and not include one from Penfolds winery, one of Australia’s oldest wineries and revered for the iconic Grange label. While Grange doesn’t exactly fit in the price point for Vino, you can find the 2016 Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz for under $15. With an earthier complexity, in addition to bold raspberry and blackberry flavors, this Shiraz is a very pleasurable and drinkable wine. There is not too much of the usual jamminess on the palate, and a hint of spice completes the profile for this medium plus-bodied wine.

This final wine was top on my list, and apparently on the list of other drinkers, too, as it was tagged by Total Wine as the No. 3 Shiraz/Syrah in the store. The 2017 Gumdale Shiraz has a fuller mouth feel, with ripe red fruit and accompanied honeyed spices. Medium tannins match with the right acidity and pepper to make this wine an ideal accompaniment to a Sunday roast.

 

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