For many years while I was living in San Diego, Australian wines were great finds at Vintage Wine and Barrons wine shops. Demand and interest was there, and well chosen selections by John Lindsay and the Barron's buyers made finding wines from new producers to the USA market like Elderton and Lakes Folly great deals and great wines. Over time with more shopping I found deals on Aussie reds and whites up in Orange County and Los Angeles that gave great joy and lots of fun tastings.
Then something happened. Aussie wine prices skyrocketed, wines lost their distinctive character, oak and tannin became the standard, while fruit and unique flavors disappeared. As time went on the Australian wine market also went through a bunch of changes. Consolidation, shrinkage in exports, a currency imbalance and taxation all hit the boutique producers hard. As the Wall Street Journal's Lettie Teague wrote, the market pretty much saw many producers stop shipping to the USA.
Well, it seems, the Aussies are trying again to make headway into the USA, and what's more, it's the boutiques that are making the waves. Sure you can always find a good bottle of Penfolds or Hardy's, but for me it's the joy of the small Aussie producers who make the difference. Two trips back in 2013 to Australia's Hunter Valley, McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley showed me that there are many a great local producer that we never see in the USA, or are just starting to.
I for one enjoy a good glass of Australian Chardonnay from cool climate regions, and just get excited at their interpretations of Grenache and Syrah, which they call Shiraz. Aussie wines are also great for laying down, as they age well, and like wines from New Zealand, Portugal, Greece and Czech Republic, are darn good values when you compare the quality to price ratio.