AUSTRALIAN SHIRAZ ON THE COMEBACK TRAIL!!!

Difficult as it may be to imagine now, Australian shiraz not too long ago was a target of American wine lovers in a range of price categories. High-end bottlings had cult-like followings and were strictly allocated by retailers, and internet wine boards buzzed with praise for dozens of producers. But that’s all changed now. Among America’s label-fondling crowd, Australian shiraz is now widely ignored, the country’s vinous reputation here soiled by way too many cheap imitations that are caricatures of the truly great wines produced there.

The good news is that American importers have responded to Australian shiraz’s diminished stateside allure with more carefully curated portfolios. And today, aggressive pricing makes many under-$25 bottlings among the world’s great wine values. During this year’s annual tastings for The International Wine Cellar’s in-depth report on new releases from Australia, I came across a good number of shirazes that deliver superb bang for the buck. The ones that I most preferred exhibit the flamboyant fruit character for which the country is known, but with a degree of restraint that allows them to work well with a wide range of foods. Make no mistake, these are mostly big, intensely flavored wines that few will confuse with restrained Rhône Valley syrahs, but they are far removed from the stereotypical ooze-monster stereotype that has given the Australian wine industry a black eye. If morbid curiosity compels you to experience what such wines taste like, I have one word for you: Mollydooker.