Understanding South Australia
This week we look at one of the wine world’s most heated discussions, whose outcome will affect longstanding traditions—not to mention how much you enjoy that bottle of wine you order. Millions of dollars, and thousands of people’s livlihoods, are hanging in the balance and everything hangs on one word.
My weekly radio program, The Wine Show (Fridays 11:30 a.m. to noon, FM 88.3 KABF Community Radio in Little Rock) is streamed live via the internet www.kabf883.org.
Marquis Signature Cabernet Sauvignon
There’s heated discussion among Australian wineries today, and it involves a seemingly simple couple of words—millions of dollars are riding upon the outcome, and some say even the welfare of the Australian wine industry itself. How much you enjoy that bottle of Australian wine you order is also in the balance.
Let’s begin with three words—South East Australia. That word ‘East’ can mean the difference between a wine coming from one of Australia’s most renowned wine regions and a wine that is blended from nearly the entire country of Australia, at least wine-wise. South East Australia has long served as a convenient name used by wineries for wines blended from the states of South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland. Wineries in South Australia don’t appreciate the confusion between their wines—some of the country’s best—and those blended from a three state region.
Wine regions develop reputations, just as wineries do. In the world of wine, broader appellations, or place names, are generally applied to lesser wines.
As an example, if I offered you a choice between a cabernet from Napa Valley and one from California, you’d probably pick the one from Napa Valley, based upon its reputation as a great place for cabernet. Imagine if your alternative was a cabernet from a three-state region. You might not want to pay as much for it. Newer, smaller Australian wineries would rather emphasize regional differences, not just for quality but for individuality of style as well.
Some shoppers look at the brand first and the appellation second. Large Australian wine companies offer wines in several “tiers” whose labels look very similar aside from the few important words that tell you where the grapes came from. It’s another lesson in how wine is, to a large extent, real estate. Location can be important. That’s why some wineries want to do away with the South East Australia term.
Marquis Signature Cabernet Sauvignon, and others as well, illustrate how good an Australian cab can be. It’s not just from the state of South Australia, but the Langhorne Creek area of South Australia. Big, deep, dark and dense, but at the same time not clumsy nor heavy-handed, it can remind us of why we first loved Australian wines in the first place. Price: $20-$25.