Defining the Australian Wine Palate?
There is a common, but debatable, impression that the American wine palate has been influenced by consumption of sweet carbonated drinks like Coca-Cola. This notion has even been implied in comments by Robert Parker; who also believes that the Japanese consumption of tea influences their preference of wine styles.
But what defines the Australian wine palate? Having been born in Australia and begun my wine appreciation there, but lived in the USA for the last 20 or so years, my own preferences seem to have changed. My early favorite wines were Penfold’s Bin 389 and Redman’s Claret (Shiraz). My memory of the latter is of a medium bodied wine with good Shiraz character and loads of acidity. When I first came to the USA (1982) my initial impression was that California wines lacked body, they were like diluted Redman’s! But I developed a taste for them as Aussie wines were few and far between in California wine shops in those days. Fast forward to the mid-90’s and the rise of Rosemount Shiraz. Others may know when the change occurred in this wine. Although others suggest that a special bottling is made for the USA. But what is clear is when I first tasted the wine in the USA it was vastly different from what I remember from Australia. All of a sudden here was a wine with ripe fruit flavors, in fact it smelled not unlike a glass of liquid blueberry/blackberry jam. It was a wine you could easily appreciate; the same is not so true of recent vintages.
The trend for these rich, ripe wines has continued to the present day as most Aussie Shiraz that reaches the USA are characterized by rich, ripe aromas backup up with the vanilla from American oak. Many say that these wines are made for the American market, but it is clear that the style is also favored in Australia. Critics like Halliday, Mattinson, and Oliver give many of these wines high points – it is not just a Parker phenomenon.