A Walk Through the Wine Store: Part 3

It is amazing how the experiences and passion for wine that I have shared with friends has come to colour and enrich my life, and the way my friends and I share together.

Yesterday I received a very special little postcard from France from an Australian woman I met three years ago, who was visiting the Yukon for the first time.

We snowshoed and cross country skied together, and shared a good dinner and wine at my cabin. Her work for Médecins Sans Frontières had just taken her to Afghanistan for the better part of a year.

Over the ensuing years we have stayed in touch as she returned to Australia, then studied French in Quebec and did another MSF stint in Africa.

Upon completion of that gig late last year, she travelled to France, and kept me apprised of her travels and tasting through Champagne country, Bordeaux, and finally to her purchase of a small apartment in a village in the wine country of the Loire Valley.

And yesterday I received a clever wooden postcard of a Medoc wine label, mailed from my MSF friend in France, wishing me happiness for 2012. This little wine-related missive was a delightful small reminder of the connections that we sometimes make with the sharing of wine.

A month ago, I wrote part two of a wine drinker’s walk through tour of the Yukon Liquor Corp. (YLC) store in Whitehorse, and I wanted to continue the walk-through in this article.

Like the two preceding articles, this is dedicated to those folks who might traditionally be beer drinkers, or have just begun to think about buying a bottle of wine to try out. So we’ll turn from the New Zealand selections where we left off last time, and explore the Australian and Argentinean selections.

Australia has been a producer of wine grapes since 1788, and by the 1820s wine was regularly being made for domestic consumption. As early as 1822, Australian wines were being exported and one even won an overseas award.

By 1830, wines were being made in Hunter Valley, a region still famed for its wines 160 years later, and by the 1850 the Barossa Valley was producing significant wines. Wines from both of these regions are well worth searching out on your next visit to the YLC.

In the 1970s, watching the emergence of California as a source of world-class wines, Australia set its sights on replicating its success in the world wine market. Wine exports to the US market alonerose from 578,000 cases in 1990 to 20,000,000 cases by 2004.

Most famous of the grape varietals that Australia produces in its world famous “shiraz” grape wines. This is the same grape as the “syrah” grape often offered in Europe, but so successful has the Australian shiraz grape become, European wine makers are identifying their syrah wines as shiraz.

Today the YLC stocks a broad selection of Australian shirazes, as well as other excellent Australian grape blends.

For those just starting to explore Australian wines, the Yellow Tail lineup, particularly the Reserves, is not a bad place to start. Their shiraz, and shiraz reserve ($15.45 and $19.60, respectively) are a good place to start.

Comparing the regular to the reserve is instructive, and from there you could step to the Two Hands – The Lucky Country ($21.25), in my opinion, the best Australian shiraz under $25 carried at the YLC.

If you had the chance to try these three in succession, I think you’d get a good feel for the characteristics of the classic Australian shiraz. Serving with a streak would be a good way to go, though I also found that shiraz works particularly well with game meats such as moose, elk and mountain sheep.

Other vineyards to try include Penfolds, Lindemans, Rosemont estates and Wolf Blass. And if you are up for a real treat, try some of the higher-end Two Hands vineyards wines, that run from the high $20s up to $50 plus.

Two Hands has produced more consistently highly rated wines than almost any vineyard in Australia, and every wine I have tasted from them has been a delight!

You might also keep your eyes peeled for GSM wines, a term commonly used in Australia for a red wine blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre. This is the same blend found in wines from Southern France, including the famed Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Very tasty.

Well, that’s all for this time, but we’ll move on to Argentina and some European treats in an upcoming article.

In the meantime, I hope you have wine-related experiences that make you happy and introduce you to things you haven’t tried before.


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