I need to start jogging again. I could use the exercise. And by again, I mean that the last time I put serious effort into jogging, I was in high school. So I went to buy some running shoes.   The most plain pair of running shoes I could find.   Apparently, all modern running shoes are designed by comic book artists with attention deficit disorder and people who have stock in  foam rubber companies. Where can I get a pair of shoes that offer good cushion and arch support without all the flashy foil wiring and the suspension bridge Aquatread sole and the pyrotechnic reflective day-glo blue logos?   What I'm getting at here is that I'd rather pay for something of substance, something classically designed that works well, than for flashy gimmicks. Maybe I can work this out to be some kind of analogy for wine?   -----   There's been a lot of chatter lately in the world of wine about Australia sales are down, especially in the big-ticket wines that earned the country so much attention just five years ago. A recent article by International Wine Cellar's Josh Reynolds (in the July/August issue) begins with By now the Australian wine industrys problems have been well documented. In a recent blog post entitled Is Australia Really Dead? Wine Spectator's Harvey Steiman ponders the declining sales and also the dropping costs of wines imported from Australia. The main theme seems to be that many consumers are turning away from the stereotype Aussie red huge, over-extracted fruit bombs lacking in elegance but overboard on alcohol and palate impact.   They're tired of the flashy running shoes, so to speak, and are looking for a more timeless and classic shoe ... er ... wine. Yep. There's the analogy.   One great trend, though, is that there is a real buyer's market in Australian wine right now, if you know which wines to look for. Consumers can find a lot of great values under $15, mostly in classic labels that existed before Australia really took of as a category about, say, eight or ten years ago, and also in a lot of newer bottlings that offer more than just one-dimensional fruit.    

Some Great Australian Values

  2008 Marquis Philips ShirazFor fans of big shiraz with a backbone: the 2008 Marquis Philips Shiraz hasn't hit Binny's shelves quite yet, but keep an eye out for it soon (we still have plenty of the 2007). Winemaker Chris Ringland of R Wines fame has taken over the winemaking for this brand, but the '08 shiraz is a step away from his usual super-jammy profile (and away from the trend of slightly sweet, over-oaked past vintages of Marquis Philips wines). With a big dark nose, the shiraz balances sweet and jammy fruit with great weight, herbal and olive qualities, and tannic structure, leading to a much bigger finish than the $12.99 price tag would suggest.   2008 Clos Otto Boxhead Shiraz2007 Epicurean Bistro GrenacheA couple of newer wines you might not have tried: The 2007 Epicurean Bistro Grenache is deeper than you might expect in an Australian grenache. It's lighter on the nose, and shows a little Rhone-like funkiness, but shows wonderful deepth on the palate, with licorice under blue raspberry and red cherry fruit, along with hints of spice. And for a real value, check out the 2008 Boxhead Shiraz from Clos Otto. For $10.99, this shiraz shows a lot of dimension, displaying notes of raspberry and plum, plus cola (or maybe root beer?) and herbal qualities that I usually associate with much more expensive wines.   2006 d'Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz2007 d'Arenberg Stump Jump GSMAn old standby, actually my measuring stick for reasonably priced Australian shiraz, is the d'Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz, still a great value (it was an easy recommendation at fifteen bucks five years ago, and it's still $15.99 today). The 2006 is textbook: good fruit at the plum jam end of the fruit spectrum, balanced with black pepper, tannin and acidity to create a well-rounded Shiraz. Also from d'Arenberg, there's the always popular Stump Jump GSM a lighter Rhone-style Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvedre blend with a little spice, a little stewed tomato and a little cherry fruit that comes together to make a tight wine and an exceptional value at under ten bucks. And if you like the Stump Jump GSM, keep an eye out for the 2008 Stump Jump Shiraz, deeper than the GSM and showing great fruit and black pepper. The shiraz should make its way to Binny's shelves sometime soon.   -----   Along with these recommendations, never hesitate to ask any Binny's wine guy for his suggestions on Australian values we've all got a few favorites, and more times than not, we'll talk your ear off on the subject. Do you have a favorite Australian value or two? Have you turned away from Australia all together? If so, what do you enjoy now? Bad metaphors aside, do you at least agree with me about the running shoes? Let us know below, leave a comment!   My low-top brown plaid Chuck Taylors  The potential irony in all this, from where I sit at least, is that as Australian sales decrease, as customers avoid big, jammy Australian reds, the sales of Spanish and South American wines are growing exponentially both categories are quickly becoming known for super-modern, overextracted, and generally big reds.   But then, I've never really understood trends. But I am pretty sure my plaid Chuck Taylors go great why my tan and black Houndstooth pants. Classic.