"Do you come from a land down under? Where women glow and men plunder…"

by Katie Pizzuto on February 4, 2010

in Australian Wine,Uncategorized

I was supposed to take part in a Taste Live event a couple of weeks ago, but what with FedEx’s indefatigable determination to spend the rest of its pitiful existence cock blocking me (in a manner of speaking) and such, the bottles for the tasting didn’t arrive in time. I’d apologize to Elderton (whose wines we were supposed to discuss) but in the immortal words of George W. Bush, “it wasn’t my fault.”  The wines, when I eventually tasted them, were a breath of fresh air as far as Australian wines and my palate are concerned, so they’re getting their 15 minutes here, now…better late than never (the also-immortal words of my husband).

Elderton Wines sits in the heart of south Australia’s Barossa Valley, a wine region with residents like Jacob’s Creek, Yalumba, Penfolds and Peter Lehmann. And though it’s certainly a source for what are considered to be Australia’s best, the generally hot climate of the Valley tends to produce grapes that ripen very easily. That means high levels of sugars and low levels of acids, so many winemakers practice acidification in order to balance the wines. The high sugars result in high alcohol levels that are sometimes offset by practices like reverse osmosis, but are more often left in place, creating wines that top off at about 15.5%. Historically, winemakers in the Barossa also use very short maceration periods and rack them into oak barrels before fermentation is even completed. That can leave a seemingly smoother wine, but it often has to have extra tannins added in. And the extensive use of oak (American in particular) is also characteristic of the region, sometimes overly so. All this is to say that many Barossa wines are flabby, overoaked messes (and often enological Frankensteins) that leave you with a hefty buzz after a couple of glasses.

Elderton’s wines had none of the above—a pleasant surprise for a doubtful drinker. Their 2006 “Tantalus” shiraz/cab blend (about $15) only had a short stay in old American oak, thus not trampling over the beautiful notes of plum and cherry. It had a great smokiness to it, but most impressive was its balance, and its 14% alcohol was really kept in check—no overpowering mess here. THIS is what Barossa wines in this price range should aspire to. Period.

The shipment also included a bottle of Elderton’s 2005 “Command”, their single vineyard shiraz (about $85). It’s a big, dark, opulent, brooding wine with absolutely no baked, jammy flavors. Decanting is pretty much a given for this chunk of a wine, but again, the “chunkiness” is balanced with beautiful acidity. Once it blows off a little, it reveals itself to be a masterfully crafted wine, though laying it down for a few years would certainly serve it well, too, especially since the cost prohibits making it your “Tuesday Night” house wine.

And you’d think I’d be most impressed by “Command” but I wasn’t. The wine that most impressed me was Elderton’s 2008 Unoaked Chardonnay (about $15), not because it was the best wine of the bunch, but because it was a lovely, untethered chardonnay in a region where chardonnay often gets oaked to hell, and is subjected to malolactic fermentation which usually produces a big, full-bodied, creamy mess. This harkened back to a nice, everyday Chablis, with hints of tropical fruit and crisp acidity. Full, but lithe. An Australian chardonnay that you could, in fact, drink at room temperature…happily.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Linsey February 4, 2010

No comment (non-wine drinker here) except for its a great coincidence that you have chosen a song snippet title from men at work, who have just lost a court case yesterday and could lose a fortune for plagerising a girl guide song from 70 years ago for this very song


2 Cameron Ashmead February 5, 2010

Thanks for saying nice things about our wines – it means a lot!


Cam Ashmead


3 Don February 5, 2010

I have had a lot of Australian wines in the past. Lots of ones with Kangaroos on the label, I thought they had to have them on there for international trade reasons, apparently I was wrong. I always found them to be high on acid and low on body. A runny, watery mess. Sounds like I will need to give these guys a try. I still maintain that the vintner makes all the difference and they must have a good one down there!


4 Katie Pizzuto February 5, 2010

@Lin…will hunt down info on that….had no idea!

@Cameron….my pleasure. The wines were great.

@Don…no marsupials on the label, I swear. There’s a law against bringing those into my house….definitely hunt these guys down.


5 Coupe 60 February 8, 2010

Great notes on the Elderton’s Katie…I know an NJ store where you can get a great deal on the 06 Command…I mean not as good as the free deal that you were bitching about because it didn’t arrive fast enough, but still a good deal at way below the suggested $85 price tag …Now I may have to check it out…


6 Katie Pizzuto February 8, 2010

And I assume you’re gonna keep that store’s name all to yourself, huh? 😉


7 Coupe 60 February 8, 2010

I didn’t know if you wanted unpaid advertising on your earnest little site…


Here’s the link <$60…and I might add that their forums have the best site moderators anywhere on the internets….and very attractive ones as well…


8 Katie Pizzuto February 8, 2010

You do realize it says it’s the Ashmead and not the Command, right?! Hence the price difference 🙂 Though I have no doubt that it’s probably a great bottle of Elderton wine.


9 Coupe 60 February 8, 2010

Damn it I thought it was the command…I suck


10 Katie Pizzuto February 9, 2010

You’re still a top-notch moderator, Lou…don’t let it bring you down 😉


11 Rob February 9, 2010

It would be nice if the TTL wines would not be sent the day before the actual tasting…


12 Katie Pizzuto February 9, 2010

You’re not kidding, Rob. Expecting another shipment today, for one tomorrow…hope everyone gets theirs with the bad weather we’re expecting and such! They need to include a little more flex time in shipping.


13 Coupe 60 February 9, 2010

Damn – stop you bitching about the free wine that you are receiving…You don’t hear Jay Miller Bitch…He gets his free wine, bangs out a quick 92+ rating and moves on…


14 Katie Pizzuto February 9, 2010

LOL, I could care less when it gets here…I feel bad for the winery because they’re going through a lot of trouble to put an event together, and are spending the money in wine and shipping. Trust me, wineries aren’t knocking down my door to send me samples….remember, I’m the one who just may talk a lot of smack about it if I don’t like them.


15 The Wine Commonsewer February 10, 2010

I have found that Fed-Ex ground service is really not up to snuff. Methinks they shoulda stayed with Overnight.


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