Wine of the Week: Zinfandel from Australia? Why Not?

Australian winemaker Groom produces world-class Zinfandel.

Wine of the Week: Zinfandel From Australia? Why Not?

For decades, California has claimed ownership of the Zinfandel grape. There was some justification because the greatest versions of the wine came from Sonoma, Paso Robles, and various places in between. They had everything a New World wine lover could ask for, from intense fruitiness to a powerful amount of tannins, all ideal for a grilled meat. They were also great bargains. Then the world caught on and two problems arose. First, the winemakers began aiming for the highest possible extraction, which sadly led to tongue-stunning levels of alcohol, sometimes in excess of 17%. Second, they decided to press the limits on cost. Suddenly wines that used to run under $15 were fetching prices over $50. It was inevitable that other countries would eventually throw their hats in the ring.

Enter Marschall Groom Cellars, a tiny, family-owned operation in the Bar­ossa Valley of Aus­tralia. Their vineyards are owned by the Marschall family and the Groom family, but the wines are called Groom. The crown glory of their real estate is 87 acres in the Kalimna appellation of the Barossa Valley. The vineyard's reputation is assured because it is directly next to Penfolds Kalimna Vineyard, world famous as the home of Grange, Aus­tralia's most renowned and expensive wine. The families decided to devote eight of those acres to Zinfandel and the results are in: Groom's Barossa Valley Bush Block Zinfandel is spectacular wine. It's reminiscent of the wines we used to get from Sono­ma's Dry Creek appellation, with a juicy mouthfeel, sufficient tannic grip, and lovely aromas of cherries and raspberries with just a touch of butterscotch from the restrained use of oak barrels. Add in a bit of inflation and the fact that the wine has a $20-22 retail price, and that puts it in the range where those great old Sonoma Zins used to be. Groom Zinfandel is available at East End Wines, Swift's Attic, and parkside.

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