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Elegant Pinots, Shiraz and Chards
A New style of Australian Wine from Yarra Valley, Victoria

By Marita Leonard
Big, brawny, burly and bold best describe the style of Shiraz from Down Under. They leap out and throw a jam pie in your face and embrace you with a warm and welcoming hug as you drink your wine with a slab of beef from the barbie. We are all familiar with these big, rich, concentrated, full flavored and deeply colored monster red wines.

But the Aussies are coming up with a surprise. They have been turning out some magnificent premium style wines.

Subtle and elegant

From a continent that extends 3000 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean, Australia has made a dramatic impact on the wine industry over the past decade. It is the second largest importer of wines to the US after Italy. In 2003 alone they exported over 28 million cases worldwide. From affordable every day potables to magnificent single-vineyard Shiraz from hundred year old vines, Australia is blessed with a terroir composed of some of the worlds most ancient and weathered soils.

Winemaker James Gosper from Green Point Vineyards is inviting us to try a more subtle and elegant style of Shiraz hailing from the cool region of the Yarra Valley. There, he is producing Chardonnays and Shirazs that are brilliant expressions of what the cool climate of the Yarra Valley and its ancient terroir are capable of.

His approach is to craft wines that are more French in style, a bit more refined and elegant, similar to the wines found in the Rhône Valley.

The Green Valleys of Yarra

In 1986, legendary Champagne house, Moët & Chandon, purchased a site known to locals as "Green Point" in the Yarra Valley of Victoria. This stretch of land was named by locals because as summer descended it remained green longer than the nearby terrain. The reason for this was because the deep weather-beaten silt-stone soils would retain moisture long into the summer months and longer than elsewhere in the valley.

The Yarra Valley is Victoria's oldest wine growing region. The first vineyard was planted in 1838 by William Ryrie, a farmer who had moved south in search of fertile land. This is one of the worlds finest cool climate wine regions and the early settlers saw the potential for these vineyards to produce wines of uncommon finesse and elegance.

The climate of the Yarra Valley is ideally suited for Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, and for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, two of the essential grapes of Champagne; which is why Moët & Chandon chose this area for producing their Aussie sparklers.

Chardonnay is the Yarra Valleys' most widely planted white varietal, turning out sophisticated elegant wines. Domaine Chandon has been making sparkling wine in the region since 1986, "The best selling bubbly," according to Gosper, and this summer will be releasing their still wines under the Green Point Vineyards label.

Green Point Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Victoria 2002 ($15.99)
Light, gold straw color with a perfumed nose of fresh pineapple and peaches and well integrated spicy oak with a touch of vanilla and a hint of nuts. Fresh, vibrant acidity cleanses the palate with a mouthwatering splash of ripe nectarines finishing with a nutty citrus kick.

Green Point Chardonnay Reserve, Yarra Valley Victoria, 2002 ($25)
Bright greenish-gold hue, almost Chablis-like. An elegant bouquet of fresh fruit with hints of fresh toast and lemon scented hazelnut crème. This graceful wine dances over your tongue with flavors of summer figs and tree-ripe peaches with a flinty yet creamy texture that lingers on and on.

Green Point Shiraz, Victoria 2002 ($18)
Deep, intense crimson color. Bright dark fruit leaps out at you with a whisper of white pepper and anise. Full-bodied style with supple tannins. A seamless wine exhibiting a berry-richness that sweeps over you.

Green Point Shiraz Reserve, Yarra Valley, Victoria 2002 ($25)
The cool Yarra Valley climate adds a touch of elegance to this Shiraz. A wine with more beauty than brawn. Displays refined aromas of blackberry fruit and violets. Silky fruit combined with subtle traces of mocha and spice add to the complexity. Well balanced and graceful with a never-ending finish

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