Ryan Chartrand

Where women glow and men plunder. Can’t you hear, can’t you hear that thunder? You better run, you better take cov’a. Yes, I love Men at Work that much.

But seriously, Australia has a long history of producing excellent wine. Since the first settlers, aka convicts, were shipped to Australia, these settlers wasted no time. Vines were planted as early as 1788, making them some of the oldest in the world.

Australian wine offers us, the United States wine consumer, a terrific value. Because of this, Australian imports have increased from 1.75 million cases in 1995 to 20 million cases in 2005 (wineaustralia.com).

In fact, the Australians beat out the French for second largest exporters to the U.S. recently, now second only to Italy.

Aussies love their wine. In fact, Australian wineries produce produce the equivalent to 1 billion bottles of wine for domestic consumption. Not to mention, most Aussies could probably drink an average American under the table. They drink 22 liters of wine per person annually, versus our puny 9 liters.

With nearly 60 different wine regions and 2,000 wineries, Australia offers the most diverse wines in the world. The Coonawarra region is one of the most famous regions in Austrialia. Founded by Scottish settlers 150 years ago, the region offers intense Cabernet Sauvignons with great classic fruit flavors. Another famous region is the Hunter Valley. Located close to Sydney, the Hunter Valley is the oldest wine region, boasting vines from 1825. This region is best known for its complex Shiraz and well balanced Chardonnays.

I tried an excellent 2005 Penfold Shiraz Cabernet ($5.99, Trader Joe’s) blended wine labeled Rawson’s Retreat. This wine was very smooth and luscious, giving off beautiful raspberry flavors along with hints of coconut and spice.

Another Aussie pick was the 2004 Rosemount Estate Shiraz ($5.49, Costco). This one had slightly higher spirits, containing ripe blackberry and toasted cedar. I found it to be a little louder than I usually care for, though if you enjoy busty Shiraz, it may be your cup of tea, mate!

I would recommend pairing these robust Aussie red wines with steak or lamb. In fact, lamb is nearly a daily indulgence for Australians. It makes sense; they have all this excellent wine and holes in the ozone thanks to their sheep. You have the ever so popular UGG Boot and great lamb because of this. I’ve got an awesome recipe for lamb that I hope you find “Sweet as!”

Greek Style Lamb Kabobs

Kabobs:

ú 1 pound boneless lamb cut

into 1-1/2 inch cubes

ú 24 grape or cherry tomatoes

ú 24 1-1/2 inch chunks of onion

Marinade:

ú 4 garlic cloves, minced

ú 1 bunch of fresh oregano

ú 1 lemon, juiced

ú 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

ú Kosher salt

ú Freshly ground black pepper

ú Hummus

ú 8 large pita bread

Directions:

Combine garlic, oregano, lemon juice and olive oil in small bowl. Season marinade with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add lamb cubes and toss. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 4 to 6 hours.

Drain meat cubes; discard marinade. Thread lamb, tomatoes and onion onto skewers. Grill on medium heat for 12 to 15 minutes or until done. Turn kabobs several times, brushing with marinade. Serve with warm pita bread and hummus.

Lauren Jeter is a 2005 wine and viticulture graduate and is pursuing a master’s degree in ag business.

Submit any recommendations, recipes or favorite wines to laurenjeter@gmail.com.

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