Behind the Label

Yellow Tail

In 2001, Yellow Tail debuted 110,000 cases of its basic Shiraz—with a yellow wallaby on the label. By 2006, annual sales had soared to 8 million cases, making Yellow Tail the U.S.’s top-selling imported wine. We like the Reserve Shiraz ($11), with good blackberry notes.

Black Swan

Australia’s Black Swan sold nearly 1.5 million cases of Shiraz, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon last year. In 2004, it introduced tiny 187-milliliter bottles—each holds about one glass of wine. Its 2005 Merlot ($7) is decent for the price.

Smoking Loon

The best-selling domestic Cabernet Sauvignon under $10 in the U.S., with annual sales close to 300,000 cases. Smoking Loon’s 2005 bottling ($9)—with oaky, spicy notes and nice currant flavor—was also the best in the F&W tasting of wines in this category.

The Little Penguin

Launched three years ago, this Australian producer’s label, which features an adorable penguin, most closely resembles Yellow Tail’s. The wines cover a wide range of varietals, but the juicy 2005 Shiraz ($8), with straightforward berry flavor, is the winner.