WHAT: The roller coaster ride with Australian wines continues. I fell in love with Australian reds years ago when their big, brassy, fruit-forward style burst onto the American wine scene.
For about 10 years it seemed that every vintage brought more great wines here, with new labels showing up like springtime pollen in Augusta. More vines were planted, prices dropped and the glut of grapes lead to some sloppy practices and nearly undrinkable wine being made.
Many were “hot,” overly alcoholic and over-the-top jammy. Many Americans love muscular red wines, but some of the Australian wines went too far. Serious wine drinkers turned their attention elsewhere and became highly selective with Aussie wines. Then, while we weren’t looking, the industry came roaring back.
Relying on great climate and terroir, Australian winemakers have steadily brought quality levels back to where they were when American wine drinkers took notice of wines from Down Under.
This Insurrection blend is a great example of the kind of wine being made in Australia right now.
It has big, bold complex flavors of ripe fruit with powerful aromas. The first sniff made me eager to get a taste, it was so inviting. The first sip didn’t disappoint, and neither did the last as the wine kept getting better the longer it was in my glass. I picked up flavors of plum, cherries and chocolate along with red berries and spice. It had a long, smooth finish.
The blend is 63 percent shiraz, Australia’s signature grape; 25 percent cabernet sauvignon and 12 percent merlot. Shiraz brings the berries and spice while the cab adds power and structure. Merlot smooths it all out.
Winemaker Steve Roden selected quality grapes from three cool climate vineyards in South Eastern Australia, where many great wines exported to the United States are made. The grapes came from Langhorne Creek, Padthaway, Clare Valley and Barossa Valley. Warm days and cool nights lead to thick skins full of rich flavor.
About 60 percent of wines from Australia come from South Eastern Australia, home to the well-known regions of Coonawarra, Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. Some of the finest red wine in the world has been produced in this region.
Growers let the fruit hang as long as possible before picking, leading to high sugar and alcohol content (15 percent for Insurrection). The wine was aged in 64 percent American oak and 36 percent French oak for nine months.
“I am extremely proud of this wine because it highlights all the things Australian wines are best known for: big, rich flavor, tons of fruit and immediate drinkability,” Roden said. “I defy you to find a bigger, better value than Insurrection. It’s a great solution to a problem that I, as a winemaker, relish, because we have so much great, powerful fruit to
work with in Australia right now.”
Australia’s sluggish export market has allowed Roden and others to buy premium grapes at low prices, keeping prices down for top-shelf wines like this one. It’s nice to see these big, bold shiraz wines back.
I would open this wine 45-60 minutes before drinking. Serve it at cellar temperature and let it warm up in your glass. It will continue to improve in the bottle for at least five years, and probably much longer than that.
WINERY: Insurrection Wine Co. produces just one wine under the direction of Roden, who has made many popular Australian wines such as Fish Eye and Foxhorn.
The Sydney native, who is vice president of operations for parent company The Wine Group, said he learned about wine from a favorite uncle. He started his first cellar when he was 18 (the legal drinking age in Australia).
Though he made mining his career, he gained more wine knowledge as he traveled around the world. As his passion for wine grew he decided to give up coal mining and started making wine.
Roden’s reputation grew as he worked for some of the top wineries that put Australia’s great wines on the map. He was among the winemakers producing big, hearty wines Americans love to drink.
Roden says his experience has given him an unwavering appreciation for wines with power, flavor and drinkability, and for finding the right Australian grapes to deliver those things.
He says he also has learned three important lessons:
• There’s always room for improvement.
• “Drinkability” is very important.
• The winemaking team is family. Good wines have to be made with fun and love.
The Wine Group started as a part of Coca-Cola Bottling of New York. Then in 1981 the management team used a leveraged buy-out to take over the wine business. By 1984 it was a privately held company. It is the world’s third-largest wine producer by volume.
With headquarters in Livermore, Calif., The Wine Group includes such labels as Almaden, Big House, Concannon, Corbett Canyon, Cupcake, FlipFlop, Franzia and Trapiche.
GOES WITH: This wine was a great match for my homemade chili, which has a bit of a kick to it. It’s a hearty, complex dish that starts with ground beef, Italian sausage and bacon and finishes with many herbs and spices.
Wimpy wines don’t stand a chance with this chili. I’ve had friends tell me the only thing to drink with chili is beer, and that is a good choice, but I still prefer a hearty red wine like Insurrection.
The bold fruit flavors and spices of the wine can handle everything this chili could throw at it. Every sip calmed down my taste buds after a spoonful of chili. The flavors all worked together.
You could also drink this with lamb or beef on the grill, roast chicken, spicy food and mature and hard cheese.