I’ve mentioned before that there seems to have been a sort of blowback against Australian wines in the last couple years, following a decade of popularity. The sales of Australian wines are down, especially in the $20+ range. Maybe I’m reading into things too much, but in my tastings, I’m starting to notice that Australian wines in more recent vintages 2008 and 2009 tend to show a little more restraint and a little less alcohol and plush, ripe fruit.
As I’ve stated before, this is a trend that puzzles me, especially considering the fact that consumers are flocking toward other fat, hot, new world wines, such as Argentinian malbec, Spanish red and modern California Cabernet.
This was on my mind when tasting through some new offerings from R Wines and their sub-labels Southern Gothic and Marquis Philips, newly returning to Binny’s shelves. When tasting through these wines, I began to smile, smirk, and even giggle a little.
The lineup is unapologetically plush, with massive fruit and eyebrow-raising alcohol levels. The 2008 Poor Thing Grenache is a super-modern lightweight with notes of strawberry candy on the nose, with basic light cherry candy on the palate and touches of spicy oak. The 2008 Southern Belle Shiraz is ridiculously jammy, showing tons of weighty fruit on the palate blackberries and currant in an overblown style. This McLaren Vale shiraz spent time in Bourbon barrels. Seriously.
I was surprised at how these wines contrasted with my experiences with past vintages. Their prices have been cut almost in half (down to $18.99), and they have taken a stylistic shift from slightly Rhoney and subtle to massively modern and fat. Mr Jay Miller of The Wine Advocate said of the massive Southern Belle, “It lacks only complexity.”
The 2008 Marquis Philips GG Grenache is even fatter than the shiraz, with an incredibly wood-influenced nose of cedar and red fruit, and a palate of chocolate covered cherries and then more chocolate. It shows crazy weight, boasts an alcohol of 17.6%, and is almost unrecognizeable as grenache. Mr. Miller again: “It is what it is.” This is a steal at $19.99, again for fans of the style.
But the show stopper was the 2008 Grail of Lisa Shiraz. Available only in limited quantities, this wine impressed me most with its thickness. I don’t mean that it has a full texture, I mean this liquid is the most viscous wine I have ever had in my mouth that does not claim to be a dessert wine. The fruit is black cherry, plum and currant and obliterates any possible subtlety. The alcohol is 18.3%, which is a lot of alcohol, but it doesn’t seem hot for all its weight. This wine is unreal; it is a caricature of over-the-top Australian shiraz taken even farther over the top, all the way to the other side, and it is completely unapologetic in doing so.
I once had the fortune of meeting the winemaker of these wines, Chris Ringland. He is a humble and softspoken guy who doesn’t seem to hold any misconceptions about what he does, which is to make wines that people can enjoy right now. That’s how I see this particular lineup. They aren’t classic wines, but they are worth the time (and the twenty bucks) of any fan of wine as an experience unlinke many others.