|March 10, 2004|
|Today's hottest kanga-rouge|
Wine, like other commodities, is subject to trends and fads. Some people catch on to a particular wine and drink virtually nothing else. Then, put off by the price increases that often follow popularity, or simply bored by the same flavours day after day, they switch to another obsession.
The latest example of a hot wine is the Yellow Tail brand from Australia. It's such a torrid item, especially the Shiraz (LCBO No. 624544), that stores can't keep up with demand and you're likely as not to find empty shelves when you go looking for it.
I'm not sure what it is about Yellow Tail that makes it so popular. It's good, commercial wine, but there's not a lot on the nose and the flavours are fairly one-dimensional sweet fruit, probably with some residual sugar. It's not a very distinctive Shiraz, but it's fine as a quaffing red.
I can't help thinking it's riding on the tail (as it were) of Wolf Blass Yellow Label (LCBO No. 251876), which was once everyone's favourite Australian red and the wine that just had to be on every restaurant wine list. Yellow Tail is a different grape (Shiraz versus Cabernet Sauvignon) but it's Australian, fruity, and it has "Yellow" in the name. And it's a lot cheaper: Yellow Label is $16.95, but Yellow Tail is only $11.25.
Maybe Yellow Tail's label is an important selling point. I recall the first time I saw it, at Vinexpo in New York City in 2001, I was so impressed that I photographed it. I don't know if the name or the label came first, but they don't actually fit. The tail of the kangaroo on the label isn't yellow - it's more red and brown.
Actually, I've read that the beast isn't even a kangaroo, but a wallaby. Does this make Yellow Tail a Yellow Label wallabee?
I've heard that the label is a generic design created by an Australian woman who offered it to a number of wineries before the producers of Yellow Tail picked it up. The wineries that turned it down must roo (sorry!) their decision.
Now, although an attractive label will sell the first bottle, the wine itself sells the next, and Yellow Tail must have a lot of appeal to keep leaping off the shelf the way it does. Of course, it's pitched to the flavour profile that's made the New World, and Australia especially, so successful in the last few years: fruity, sweet, low acidity and the barest trace of tannins. It confirms that although many people say they like dry wine, they really prefer some sweetness.
Yellow Tail has hopped over much of the Australian competition in the United States. When it was introduced in the U.S. in 2001, it was expected to sell 25,000 cases. It sold more than 200,000. Last year, Americans knocked back 4 million cases.
How long will the Skippy Shiraz phenomenon last? In part it depends whether the producers can maintain the current quality. But interruptions in supply can generate demand and delay palate boredom, and I suspect Yellow Tail is going to be with us for a while yet.
- - -
Two exceptional bargains among today's four wines. During March, one-litre bottles of Banrock Station Chardonnay and Shiraz are selling for the usual price of the 750-ml bottle. The other two wines are good value at their regular prices.
Banrock Station Unwooded Chardonnay 2003 Take a break from over-oaked Chardonnay with these fresh peach, apricot and melon aromas that lead to a mouthful bursting with refreshing fruit and acidity. This is a versatile food wine that will pair well with many medium- to well-seasoned chicken and pork dishes. Alcohol 13.5 per cent; $10.50 for one-litre bottle . LCBO No. 624478.
Banrock Station Shiraz 2002 Fruit-forward in the classic Australian style, but not an over-the-top jammy Shiraz. The dominant fruit are dark plums, black cherries and blackberries, with spicy notes, a whiff of menthol and light tannins. Good with medium-seasoned red meat-based meals. Alcohol 13.5 per cent; $11.50 for one-litre bottle. LCBO No. 624643.
Lamberti, Merlot-Sangiovese 2002 An Italian blend of the most popular international and Italian red grapes, this shows bright red fruit flavours (plum, cherry, berry) punctuated with spice. It's nicely balanced with enough acidity to pair well with tomato-based pasta dishes. Alcohol 12.5 per cent; $10.10 a bottle. LCBO No. 517623.
Fetzer Zinfandel-Shiraz 2002 A full-bodied, all-but-organic California red blend of the grape varieties that make big reds. Look for spicy robust fruit like black cherry and dark plum, with black pepper notes. It goes very well with well-herbed baked pork tenderloin and sweet root vegetables. Alcohol 14 per cent; $13.10 a bottle. LCBO No. 606335.
|Home Welcome A Short History of Wine Wine Classes Presentations Wine Facts and FAQs Newsletter Archives Contact Me|