Keeping alive the spirit of adventure, let's have a go at
a few recent releases from lesser known regions: Alge ria and Australia.
Algeria's reputation as a wine growing country has
been colored by stories of gutsy red wine finding its way into France, to be labeled as burgundy or rh.one. Such pre-independence tales were as legendary as the exploits of the Foreign Legion: a little truth and a lot of swagger.
After the French left Algeria in 1961, wine production was halved. Then the government introduced a control system, similar to the French AOC, and the declining quantity was offset by improved quality.
Rather surprisingly, about 35 percent of the national economy is estimated to be linked to wine, almost all of which must be exported from this Moslem country. The Russians are happy to take whatever's going. They import more than two-thirds of the total and impose few restrictions.
We are fortunate in having a respectable, consistent brand in our market: Le Sable (the sand, appropriately). It's a cabernet sauvignon, blended with a little syrah.
The '78 is medium bodied, smooth, and uncomplicated. An hour or so of breathing rounds out the sharper edges, turning it into a pleasant, all-purpose red for $3 or less.
From the deep south, Down Under, Taltarni of Moonambel, Victoria, Australia, has returned to Washington with its '79 releases. The '78 Shiraz and '78 Cabernet Sauvignon were well received here. Full of fruit and tannin, needing to be laid down, they positively waltzed the Southern Cross.
In some ways, the '79s are better wines. The Cabernet Sauvignon, $8.50, is softer and lighter than the '78, partly due to the vintage and partly intentional, according to Dominique Portet, Taltarni's manager. The '79 Shiraz, $8.50, has a powerful nose and firm earthy taste.
Another, longer established Victorian name is that of Brown Bros. of Milawa. Their '79 Muscat Blanc ,a petits grains, $6, stood out in their first venture into Washington two years ago. It's still enjoyable drinking, with a light grapey nose and fresh, off-dry taste. The '80, due soon, is fuller, richer and livelier. The delicious '80 Muscat Blanc Late Harvest, $6, has a crisp, medium-sweet finish.
A couple of Brown Bros. reds are available too. The '78 Cabernet Sauvignon, $6, is a sound, medium-bodied, table red, with definite cabernet characteristics. No extra aging or breathing is recommended.
Of more complexity and finesse, the '79 Cabernet Sauvignon Family Reserve, (Koombahla Vineyard), $9, is from new plantings in the Ovens Valley, in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range. It is deep colored, mature in nose and taste, soft and full of fruit.