Cheap Aussie “plonk”

Source: Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation

Australia gets a bad rap in the world of wine, some of it deserved and some not. For the latter, consider that Australia was one of the first New World regions that really gave the old guard something to worry about. They made wine accessible to the Everyman by using great marketing, friendly label design, and understandable labeling that eschewed obscure Regional names for a simple grape variety.

Yet, Australia has committed many market sins, the greatest of which is the dilution of a whole country’s reputation by flooding the international market with cheap bulk wine. Back down under, the unsold reserves is referred to as a “lake of wine”, and a crisis has developed domestically as the markets have become saturated. Having grown too big, too fast, Australia was forced to get into the discount game to move mass amounts of cheap wine produced in irrigated, naturally dry desert land that never should have been planted in the first place. The Australian brand became known as “2-for-1″ in the UK, and consequently the brand image died. It’s lead to a reckoning in Australia where vines are being pulled, production is being cut, and wine is being liquidated in order to save a dying industry.

At this point, you’d think that we’d be reviewing some stellar examples of Aussie wine in order to prove to you that it’s still a region with class. (We do love Australia, especially as it’s Mrs Winecouver’s homeland.) Unfortunately, we’re not so kind. This blind review focuses on Aussie plonk, the kind that you see at every summer BBQ in the hand of friends who think it’d be great to bring wine, but have yet to delve deeper. This review focuses on Australia’s sins.

We rounded up three bottles of “South Eastern Australia” wine, of the same vintage, and variety: Shiraz. This is as good as it gets in the bulk wine world, and even though we missed some heavy hitters like Hardy’s, McWilliams, etc, we don’t think there’s much discernible variation in the $10-$15 price range. The term South Eastern Australia is key as it allows the producers to gather grapes from three large states: New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia; blending the good with the not-so-good and manufacturing wine on an industrial scale to sell at bottom dollar. This designation covers about 95% of Australia’s vineyards. In the fine wine world, this is known as a Vin de Pays, which can be interpreted as, a wine of Australia.

Here are the competitors. Click on the links below to see how each fared:

2009 Yellow Tail Shiraz

2009 Wolf Blass Shiraz Eaglehawk

2009 Lindemans Shiraz Bin 50

Now, we at Winecouver need to clear our palates and get on to drinking something good!

1 comment to Cheap Aussie “plonk”

  • Marcus Aurelius

    No one can deny the marketing savvy of Australian wine producers, but with an estimated oversupply of 100 million cases of wine sitting in storage (excluding wine lying on the shelves of liquor stores throughout the world), it certainly highlights the fact that at the end of the day quality matters. While it may take a while for the Australian wine industry to recover, history has repeatedly shown that positive change occurs during times of crisis. The Australian wine industry is going to have a make a lot of tough decisions going forward (including pulling vines), but an increased focus on quality has to be at the core, in my opinion. This probably means a higher average price point for Australian wines down the road, but if the quality is there, consumers will buy.

Wine truths

“Wine is the intellectual part of a meal while meat is the material.”
by Alexandre Dumas

Wine Ratings

★☆☆☆☆ - Poor quality. Avoid. Save your money. Between 80-84 points.

★★☆☆☆ - Average quality or poor value. Between 84-88 points. Some expensive wines are downgraded for bad value.

★★★☆☆ - Good. Between 88-92 points. Or a good value on the lower end of the point scale.

★★★☆☆ - Excellent quality. Between 92-96 points. Or a cheap yet good quality wine which is excellent value.

★★★☆☆ - Outstanding, best examples in the world. Between 96 and 100 points. A perfect wine.