American wine drinkers, I think, largely labor under the mistaken idea that Australian wine can be summed up in one word: Shiraz. Not that I’ve got anything against the grape—Shiraz (known as Syrah pretty much everywhere else) is one of the great wine varieties of the world.
What people don’t realize, unfortunately, is the extraordinary variety of other wines that Australia produces. It’s not actually a surprise, when you think about it—after all, you can fit France into Australia about 17 times over, so wouldn’t it make sense that the Aussies might have enough different climates and terrains to grow more than one kind of grape? Besides, people have been making wine in Australia since 1791; if the only thing to put in the bottle were Shiraz, Australia’s winemakers would have long since expired from boredom.
With that in mind, here are a few great non-Shiraz Aussie values I came across on a recent trip there:
2012 Jacob’s Creek Riesling ($8) An appealingly juicy Riesling in a dry style, it’s got bright lemon-lime citrus flavors—simple, but tasty. The winery’s Reserve bottling (about $13) is a notch more complex, with floral notes and a lingering finish.
2012 Yalumba Y Series Viognier ($12) Viognier can easily become overripe and cloying, but Yalumba’s affordable Y series bottling comes off fresh and light-bodied, with juicy pineapple fruit.
2011 D’Arenberg The Stump Jump Red ($13) Chester Osborne, the guiding force behind D’Arenberg, is one of Australia’s most innovative winemakers (and marketers, for that matter). This spicy blend focuses on the deep plum-cherry flavors that are a benchmark of McLaren Vale Grenache.
2010 Heartland Cabernet Sauvignon ($15) Made by Barossa winemaking star Ben Glaetzer using fruit from the Langhorne Creek region, this is classic Aussie Cabernet: deep cassis fruit, firm tannins and a hit of spice on the finish.
2011 Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir ($17) Innocent Bystander is located in the Yarra Valley, one of Australia’s best Pinot locales, and this cherry-inflected, crisp red offers true Pinot character for under $20, a rare thing.