The Friday Fermentable: Australian Shiraz recommendations from the WSJ

The Friday Fermentable has been the unfortunate victim of my aim to lose some weight by cutting alcohol out of my diet. Since mid-November, I have lost 14 pounds but am now permitting myself two glasses of wine on each weekend evening. Hence, I am choosing carefully.

(I should note, for the record, that a dear cancer research colleague of mine remarked upon hearing of my new "diet," that "it is irrational for any scientist to intentionally remain sober, especially in this funding climate.)

So, in easing back in, The Friday Fermentable shall be short and will derive from today's "Tastings" column in the Wall Street Journal written by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher.

Their goal was to find values in Australian Shiraz, preferably under $20/bottle:

For a time, inexpensive Australian Shiraz was a reliable everyday wine. It was fun, affordable, easy to drink and great with informal food. But quality has suffered over the years. In our most recent broad, blind tasting, in 2002, we found most inexpensive Shiraz unimpressive -- simple, sometimes sweet and not very pleasant. Worse, we found that most of them basically tasted the same, which certainly isn't fun.

They also let us in on a little consumer secret:

About half the wines in our tasting had critter labels. Australian winemakers have led the way in cute labels, but we've generally found that kangaroos, dogs, birds and other animals are not good indicators of the quality of wine inside the bottle.

There were two big winners in the subset of their index that I like to call the Pharmboy Financially-Challenged Challenge:

Lindemans Wines 'Bin 50' 2005 (South Eastern Australia) - $4.99

Deakin Estate 2004 (Victoria) - $5.49

Both were ranked Good/Very Good and beat out most of the 50 bottles the couple purchase that were mostly in the $13-18/bottle range.

Lindeman's is a perennial great value here in the US and one I have been drinking in some form or another since my graduate school days. I think that the first Cabernet Sauvignon I have ever truly enjoyed was a Lindeman's 'Bin 45' that I must have had around 1988 or so.

Deakin Estate is not one I see commonly in the southeastern US but is certain worth seeking out.

By the way, I just learned that while the article is subscription only, there is a free videocast of Dottie and John available based on their weekly tastings. The Shiraz tasting is here.

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Wow, I'll have to try them both! I've always stayed away from Lindemann's just because they were so ubiquitous. I don't think I've ever seen the Deakin.

I believe I've had the koonunga hill, but I don't remember it, so I'll have to pick up a bottle of that, too!

The video notes that the newer release, the 2006 Lindemans Bin 50, has risen to the obscene price of $6.99. Of course, these aren't going to be the meaty wines available at over $20. But for the price of a glass of wine in a restaurant, Lindemans is worth a shot.