McGuigan The Plan – an Aussie shiraz that shows sense and sensibility
Australian red wines are infamous for high alcohol, jammy, too ripe fruit, and an absence of balance. So what’s the catch with McGuigan The Plan, which clocks in at an almost unbelievable 12.5 percent alcohol?
Chalk it up to the wonderful unpredictability of wine, where we should regularly discover how little we actually know. McGuigan The Plan ($13, purchased, 12.5%), though it’s from a top producer, is about the last thing one expects from an Australian red made with shiraz – it shows sense and sensibility, to steal a phrase. Yes, it’s rich and fruity, with lots and lots of blackberry. But the wine isn’t hot or sweet, the way some too alcoholic wines can be. Plus, there’s a little spice (and maybe even some pepper) in the middle. And I could swear I tasted a tannin or two. Honest.
In this, McGuigan The Plan is one more reason not to judge a wine before you taste it. It needs food, but with summer burgers or barbecue, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Father’s Day wine 2018: Four wines that offer quality and value — because that’s what Dad taught you
The Father’s Day wine 2018 news releases have been landing in my mailbox for a month or so, and most of them bore me to tears. I mention this not to bash wine marketing again, but to note that the releases don’t understand what Dad wants. It’s not about spending money; it’s about value and pleasure.
Which is the point of this year’s Father’s Day wine post. Keep the blog’s wine gift-giving guidelines in mind throughout the process: Don’t buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like.
This year’s Father’s Day wine suggestions:
• d’Arenberg The Footbolt 2014 ($18, sample, 14.6%): Australian shiraz’s fall from grace should not apply to d’Arenberg, an Aussie producer that makes some of the most interesting red wine in the world. d’Arenberg does it by combining terroir, top quality grapes, and — believe it or not — high alcohol in a fresh and intriguing fashion. This is shiraz for people who love wine, and not booze. Highly recommended. Imported by Old Bridge Cellars
• Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio 2017 ($15, sample, 13.5%): Prices for this Italian white are all over the place — probably because it’s more than the citrus-flavored tonic water of cheaper pinot grigios. Look for some lemon fruit and minerality, plus something that can only be called character. Imported by HB Wine Merchants
• Zolo Signature Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12.9%): This Argentine pink reminds me why I love wine — a $10 wine bought with no expectations and that gave me more than a bottle of enjoyment. It’s a syrah blend with lots of just ripe strawberry fruit, but not too heavy, too fruity, or sweet at all. Highly recommended. Imported by Vino del Sol
This red wine from the well-regarded Barossa does so much that other, more expensive, higher scoring wines don’t do. For one, it ages gracefully, becoming more interesting over the past three years without losing any of its varietal or Aussie character. For another, it does the clever name bit without being silly. Finally, the alcohol, though high, doesn’t get in the way and make you groggy after a couple of sips.
Look for deep, rich black fruit (black cherries? plums?), tannins that demonstrate how tannins should be done, and a jammy, almost refreshing, intensity that ties everything together. This is red meat wine, but wine that will complement beef, not relegate it to the back of the plate.
Highly recommended, and it’s worth noting that its original $40 price has been cut by one-third by a producer who understands the marketplace and wants to sell wine. Would that more producers felt that way.
You don’t have to buy Dad another tie. Wouldn’t he prefer wine?
Tired of ties? Worn out from from all those cheesy department store Father’s Day TV commercials? That’s what wine is for — to make Father’s Day 2014 more fun for everyone involved. Keep the blog’s wine gift-giving guidelines in mind throughout the process: “Don’t buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like.”
Some wine to consider for Father’s Day 2014:
? Juv y Camps Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2008 ($14, purchased, 12%): Delicious and surprisingly sophisticated cava — sparkling wine from Spain — with all sorts of things going on, including honey in the back, some citrus in the front, and even a little minerality. Toast Dad with this one, and impress everyone.
? Ch teau du Donjon Minervois Ros 2013 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): Look for sour cherry fruit and some minerality, though a bit thin in the middle. This is not so much a problem with the wine but with the quality of $10 rose, because the wine is quite tasty.
? Robert Oatley Wild Oats Shiraz 2011 ($15, sample, 13.5%): Lots of spice to go with the fruity Australian style (berries?). This is a wine that shiraz lovers will enjoy, as well as those of us who don’t like the style. A fine value, and highly recommended.
? Solena Pinot Gris 2012 ($17, sample, 13.5%) Top-notch Oregon pinot gris (apples, crispy, refreshing) that shows what the state can do with this grape. A bit pricey, but a fine gift for dads who like this kind of wine.
That the best news for the Australian wine business in the past couple of years is the decline in the value of the Aussie dollar says everything anyone needs to know about the struggles the wine industry is enduring Down Under.
There are too many grapes, too many indifferently made cheap wines, and too many expensive wines made in the Parkerized style that is no longer popular.
Having said that, I ?ve tasted several Australian wines in the past year that demonstrate that not everyone is at a loss about what to do next. Yalumba ?s $10 wines are everything that most of the rest of the country ?s $10 wines aren ?t.
And The Dead Arm ($65, sample, 14.5%), like most of d ?Arenberg ?s products, does the same thing for expensive wine. It ?s dark and interesting, with earthiness and spiciness up front and layers and layers and layers of black fruit flavors after that. It ?s not so much that it ?s well made; it should be for this price. The stunner is that it ?s a value at $65, an absolutely amazing and complex wine that tastes of Australia and the McLaren Vale region, but isn ?t over-ripe or over-alcoholic.
Highly recommended. Drink now, or buy to age for a couple of years or even longer. It should become rounder and more integrated and that much more fun to drink. What more can we want from a wine?
What's this? Has the Wine Curmudgeon gone soft on us? Two favorable reviews of Australian shiraz in the past month?
Indeed. Because, if nothing else, the Wine Curmudgeon believes in tasting the wine before judging it. And, even more than the Layer Cake wine of the week, the Two Hands ($30, sample) is an exemplary wine. Yes, I'm not a huge fan of this style, with its huge burst of fruit and high alcohol, and yes, wines made this way usually drive me crazy.
But you know what? This vintage of the Two Hands is full of rich, deep red fruit — but it's less overwhelming than it would have been a year ago. Plus, the tannins show a little more and most of the ashiness (the odd flavor that many of these kinds of wines have in the back) is gone. And the alcohol, for whatever reason, is more integrated into the wine and less annoying. All of this, I'm assuming, comes from letting the bottle age since I got it in 2009.
Highly recommended, especially as a gift for next week's holiday that must not be named. This is a beef wine, but it's a beef wine that will appeal to more people than you would think.
The Wine Curmudgeon has always been ambivalent about the Layer Cake wines, which have always seemed to focus more on the chocolate cake label than what was in the bottle. It’s not that some of them weren’t eminently drinkable, and I have reviewed them favorably (and those that weren’t elicited a reply from the producer). Rather, they always made me wonder if they would have been better with a more ordinary label and if had they cost a couple of bucks less.
Not this time, though. This version of the Layer Cake shiraz ($13, sample) is less expensive and isn’t as over the top as some of the other vintages. There’s less sweet fruit, the tannins are much more integrated, the 14.9 percent alcohol isn’t overbearing, and the wine shows some unexpected polish, especially on the finish. Having said that, it’s still a very Australian-style wine, with lots of cherry cola-ish fruit that practically explodes on your nose and in your mouth.
It’s a big wine that even those of us who aren’t all that fond of big wines can enjoy. Drink this with barbecue (beef, pork or chicken) or burgers and enjoy the label. Which is quite clever, especially when it doesn’t get in the way of the wine.