The Best New Releases from Australia, Part Two

Wine collectors who used to chase after high-priced, high-octane Barossa shiraz in the late 1990s and early 2000s now admit to owning those bottles about as readily as they'd fess up to their hidden porn collections. The collateral damage of a maturing wine market is that wines that aren't perceived as cool, or grown-up enough, are summarily rejected, even reviled, by collectors who want to display their sophistication. And what could be less sophisticated than a jammy, flamboyant, 16% alcohol, oaked-up fruit bomb?

But the irony is that even before consumers began turning their backs on this style, most importers had already begun bringing in more elegant and balanced Australian wines. To say that I saw fewer ooze-monsters this year is a major understatement. Admittedly, I didn't seek them out, although I did taste a handful of 2009s from Mollydooker (The Boxer, Two Left Feet, The Maitre d' and Blue Eyed Boy) that were their predictable over-the-top, vaguely wine-like and, to my taste, undrinkable selves. Such concocted wines, by all reports, are mostly dead in the retail and restaurant market now, a situation that I'll be the last to lament. Still, anecdotal evidence suggests that too many American wine buyers are now lumping the grotesque with the elegant when it comes to Aussie wines. They seem to think that a shiraz from the cool, high-altitude Eden Valley tastes the same as a confected version from a broiling-hot flat patch of land better suited to growing dirt. Of course, since many of them have never tried a cool-climate Australian wine they are simply running on prejudice and stereotype.

The silver lining for many top Australian wineries is that the Asian market for their wines is thriving. Much of the slack created by America's current indifference toward even the most exalted Australian wines has been energetically picked up by South Korea, China and Singapore. Exports of high-end Australian wines are also on the rise to Russia and much of Eastern Europe, so while their industry admits that they're feeling the pinch in the U.S. market, they're not crying into their Coopers just yet.