Australia's Lehmann wines offer authentic value
Australia's Lehmann wines have always struck Wine Adviser Paul Gregutt as authentic. He says they don't seem to rely on the usual tricks of the trade that signal Cheap Wine! to more practiced palates.
Special to the Seattle Times
Pick of the week
Domaine Sorin 2011 Terra Amata; $12
FROM THE Côtes de Provence, this lovely rosé is round and full-bodied, with flavors of fresh-picked strawberries. Surprising concentration for the price, with plenty of juicy acidity. (Distributed by Grape Expectations)
WHERE ARE the best wine values coming from? Washington state for one, and two weeks ago I profiled the outstanding wines from Jones of Washington. This week we'll look at one of my favorite Australian producers, Peter Lehmann.
With colorful labels depicting Lehmann in profile, the bottles seem to be trying for some critter wine hipness while retaining their distinctive, broad-bottomed shape. But whether or not you like them, it's what's inside that counts.
Lehmann wines have always struck me as authentic. They don't seem to rely on the usual tricks of the trade that signal Cheap Wine! to more practiced palates. James Halliday, perhaps the pre-eminent Australian wine reviewer, has given Lehmann a five-star rating — his highest. The new lineup of five wines, all priced at $13, are impressive for their ability to showcase proven strengths while keeping up with the latest trends.
Moscato — slightly sweet and slightly spritzy — has suddenly become a favorite among wine drinkers, and there is no better time than late spring/early summer to grab a bottle for sipping on the deck or patio. Lehmann's 2011 Art Series Moscato checks in with alcohol at just 10 percent. The mix of exotic tropical fruits ramps up the flavor interest, and the hint of spritz keeps it lively. Sip it as an aperitif or to accompany a fruit-centric dessert.
The 2010 Art Series Chardonnay is another classy effort, blending fruit from both the hot-climate Barossa Valley and cooler Eden Valley. Just 12 percent alcohol, with a percentage of barrel-fermented juice, this has none of the buttered-popcorn and vanilla-syrup character of many inexpensive chards. Crisp apple, melon and citrus fruits are set in a refreshing, leesy base.
Lehmann's 2011 Art Series Pinot Grigio completes the trio of fruit-driven, refreshing white wines. Also listed at 12 percent alcohol, it is distinctive and varietal, with flavors of pear, grapefruit and . . . not making this up . . . a bit of cactus. OK, you might not get the cactus part, but trust me, it's a lovely bottle, great for all manner of fried foods or just a bowl of chips.
The two red wines I sampled were complementary blends of shiraz. The 2010 Art Series Shiraz Grenache showcases the strengths of both grapes, which are mainstays of many pricier Australian wines. From the Barossa region, they were fermented in tank and not given any oak aging. The result is a wine with lively berry fruit flavors and plenty of richness at 14.5 percent alcohol — a fine barbecue, burger and pizza wine.
Finally, there is the 2010 Art Series Shiraz Cabernet. Here in Washington we often see cabernet blended with syrah; it's a great matchup. The Australian version uses the rather austere, slightly herbal cabernet as a backup to the ripe, fruity shiraz. It's substantial and plummy, with hints of light chocolate and tobacco.
About Wine Adviser
My column is all about sharing the joy of exploring all the world of wine. I want to guide people to make inspired choices, and encourage them to try as many different styles of wine as they can. I will always seek out the best wines at the best prices. Wine Adviser runs on Sunday in Pacific Northwest Magazine.