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10 Refined Australian Wines

Australia is known for juicy, full-bodied, super-luscious Shirazes. But as F&W's Ray Isle reports, a new wave of cool-climate reds and whites has been changing that perception.

White

2008 First Drop Wines The White One ($10)

This unusual white blend—Sémillon, Chardonnay and the Italian grape Arneis, which recently gained a foothold in Australia—has rich lemon-curd flavor but is light in alcohol (only 12 percent).

2008 Slipstream Sauvignon Blanc ($15)

Importer Epicurean Wines draws on its lineup of talented winemakers to produce wines from different regions for its Slipstream label. For this crisp, minerally bottling, winemaker Dan Pannell sources grapes from the cool Pemberton region of Western Australia.

2008 Vasse Felix Chardonnay ($18)

Vasse Felix was the first winery in Western Australia's coastal Margaret River zone, and it remains one of the best. Its '08 Chardonnay, from an excellent, rainless harvest, brings lime and spice notes (from French oak) together with an impressively long finish.

2008 Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Dry Riesling ($28)

One of Australia's best Rieslings, Frankland Estate's vivid, stony Isolation Ridge bottling comes from an organically farmed hillside vineyard in the far western Frankland region. Its vibrant lime and lime-zest flavors balance a dry, talc-like minerality.

2006 Kooyong Clonale Chardonnay ($30)

This Mornington Peninsula white suggests Burgundy's Puligny-Montrachet. It's gorgeously refined, with nectarine and spice notes lifted by vivid acidity.

Red

2008 Devil's Corner Pinot Noir ($15)

Devil's Corner is named for a calm area of Tasmania's Tamar River, where sailors once took refuge from the rapids. The winery's '08 Pinot offers silky blueberry fruit and lasting flavors.

2008 De Bortoli Windy Peak Pinot Noir ($17)

De Bortoli, one of the largest producers in Victoria, makes a wide range of good wines. Among them is this lively, black raspberry–inflected Pinot.

2006 Redbank Fighting Flat Shiraz ($19)

High-altitude vineyards—around 2,600 feet—in Victoria's up-and-coming King Valley region provide the fruit for this aromatic Shiraz. It tastes of fresh mulberries and blackberries, full of flavor but not heavy at all.

2008 Innocent Bystander Shiraz/Viognier ($20)

Winemaker Phil Sexton headed to the Yarra Valley specifically for its cool-climate growing conditions. He makes wines like this fragrant, finely drawn red.

2006 Leeuwin Estate Siblings Shiraz ($20)

One of the premier producers in Western Australia, Leeuwin is particularly known for its graceful and expensive Art Series Chardonnay. But this peppery Shiraz from the winery's ocean-cooled vineyards is an outstanding deal.

Collector's Value: 2005 Penfolds St. Henri ($65)

It's a great Australian rivalry: the powerful, intense Penfolds Grange versus the more elegant, restrained Penfolds St. Henri. Grange may be more famous, but St. Henri, with its layers of blueberry, licorice and dark chocolate, can develop for years in a cellar just as gracefully. And it's about one-eighth the price.

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Published March 2010
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