A Wine Lover's Weekly Guide To $10 Wines - A Southeast Australia Rose
We have plans to review several fine Australian wines to accompany our columns on fine French, Italian, and German wines. This is our second review of an inexpensive Australian wine (the first was a Shiraz tasted early in this series.) When you think of red Australian wines you most likely think of hefty products, not roses. But don't jump to conclusions or you may miss out on some really good wines.
The Coonawarra (Aboriginal for wild honeysuckle) region of southern Australia is famous for powerful Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Its terra rosa soil is rich red clay over limestone and the climate is quite similar to Bordeaux, France. Kym Tolley is the owner-founder of Penley Estates, named for Penfold on his mother's side and Tolley on his father's side. Both families are well-known Australian winemakers to say the least. Tolley studied under Australia's greatest winemaker, Max Shubert, the creator of Australia's absolute number one wine, Penfold Grange, rarely found for less than $300-400. In fact, some of the early vintages go for more than $20,000. Unless we follow in the footsteps of that lucky guy who literally stumbled upon Australia's largest gold mine, we definitely won't be reviewing Penfold Grange in any of our wine columns.
OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.
Wine Reviewed Penley Estate Over The Moon Rose 2007 13.5 % alcohol about $9.50
Let's start with the marketing materials. Penley's rose is a quirky cuvee of Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay [see below], and Cabernet Sauvignon. They get the most out of their all-star lineup, crafting a vivid, refreshing wine with layers of strawberry, plum, and cassis fruit flavors. Serve this at your next Sunday afternoon barbecue party and your friends will be 'Over the Moon".
According to the producer, the Merlot is floral, the Pinot Noir is strawberry-like, and the Cabernet Sauvignon supplies cassis and a little dry tannin. Despite those marketing materials the producer makes no mention of Chardonnay grapes. I started by sipping this wine alone. It was quite sweet with almost a candy-like flavor, but with refreshing acidity. The first meal consisted of chicken slow-cooked with dates and olives, accompanied by a medley of roasted white and sweet potatoes, and green beans. The wine's sweetness melded with the chicken's sweetness and it did a good job of cutting the grease. I got bubble gum as well as strawberries. The finish wasn't bad.
The second meal was cold barbecued chicken with potato salad, coleslaw, and eggplant in a tomato and vinegar sauce. Strawberry was the predominant flavor. This must be what a strawberry wine cooler tastes like but I confess with pride that I will never know for sure. The potato salad made the rose taste round however the bubble gum resurfaced only to disappear again when faced with the coleslaw. The powerful eggplant muted the wine.
The final meal centered around a simple omelet. The wine was nice and fruity. This was a relatively good combination. Canned palm hearts muted the wine as did some spicy tortilla chips.
I finished the tasting with two cheeses. The first was a rather sweet whipped cream cheese. The rose was fruity but very short. In the presence of a marbled cheddar cheese this liquid retained its fruit and was somewhat longer.
Final verdict. I would not buy this wine again. While it didn't send me over the moon it might have got me over the crack in the sidewalk. I'll be tasting some big Australian reds fairly soon.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but would rather just drink fine German or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches various computer classes at an Ontario French-language community college. Check out his global wine website http://www.theworldwidewine.com with a weekly column reviewing $10 wines and new sections writing about (theory) and tasting (practice) organic and kosher wines.