Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tasting Australian Pinot Noir and Shiraz From Wyndham Estate

Australia..Home of wine with kangaroos on it, and Penfolds Grange. To some people, a country that produces ridiculously over-ripe syrah (shiraz, mate!) and nothing else. There's far more to Australian wines than kangaroos and Penfolds though, from some wonderful white wines like semillion and riesling to an increasing focus on terroir-driven red wines. After suffering through a time when demand dropped almost off the table, we're seeing Australia's wine market make some effort to reset itself and better position it's products among the pantheon of wine producing countries.

I was sent some samples of wine from Wyndham Estate, their Bin 333 pinot noir and Bin 555 shiraz. Both can be found for under $10, so this was an exercise in evaluating the quality of admittedly cheap Australian wine that isn't called Yellowtail. Still, cheap doesn't always equate with horrifically bad wine, so I was intrigued to see if these wines showcased anything interesting (at their price points) that would make them potentially great values.

Wyndham has been around for a long time, George Wyndham planted the first syrah cuttings in 1830. His estate, located in the Hunter Valley of Australia's New South Wales territory, is considered to be the birthplace of Aussie shiraz.

2009 Wyndham Estate Bin 333 Pinot Noir
Very pretty color, pale ruby-red and clear all the way through. Looks like a young Burgundy or Dundee Hills pinot. Not a bad start, this is the first or second Aussie pinot that I have tasted this year.

Good aromas of wild strawberry, red cherry, and baking spice. There's a touch of green, stemmy scents too and I certainly don't mind the added dimension it brings. Plenty of acidity comes out on the nose too, making my mouth water and giving me the impression that this will be a highly acidic pinot noir.

That impression was confirmed with my first sip, lots of acidity but unfortunately not much else initially. There were a whole host of secondary flavors, cola, rhubarb, sour cherry, and spices but nothing ever came out as the primary. Also, despite the 13% alcohol, I felt it as a flabby, boozy weight across my palate, a clear indication of lack of balance. One positive was the impressively long finish, the sour cherry and spice notes tapered off quite nicely. That didn't make up for the boozy weight and hollow front-palate though. C+, PASS recommendation. There are better $10 pinot noirs out there, especially from Chile and California.

2008 Wyndham Estate Bin 555 Shiraz
I wish I had more to report on the color, the Wyndham Bin 555 is very much a shiraz, dark and opaque. Beautiful purple hue, but on the other hand we've seen this color before.

What I did enjoy was the nose, brimming with menthol, blueberry, dark earth, and black pepper. I  enjoyed how the menthol or eucalyptus aromas kept the ripe blueberry from dominating everything. Dark earth and black pepper were secondary but help up very well, enhancing the overall sense of this wine. Very, very pretty bouquet.

On the palate, strong flavors of eucalyptus and toffee show up first, followed by blueberry preserve and rounded out with a peppery spice. Wyndham's Bin 555 is lush, smooth, and very rich, a testament to the ripeness of the fruit and time spent in oak barrels. I would classify this is a "drink now" type wine, the tannins were silky and not out in force. Sweet ripe fruits made the finish nice and fun, without veering into the stewed-fruit part of the flavor spectrum.

A very solid effort and at around $10, worthy of a B and a BUY recommendation. The Wyndham Estate Bin 555 is a wine I'd happily open while sitting around and grilling up some steaks or burgers. Better yet, add bacon to the mix and explore the possibilities.

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The Australians are still making cheap wine, both of the Wyndham Estate wines are under $10 at most stores. They're imported by Pernod-Ricard, ensuring distribution across the United States. While neither are stunning deals, the Bin 555 shiraz offers a wonderfully budget-friendly summer red wine. The pinot noir needs work though, or may be just some time in the bottle. I hope to taste through the higher-end Wyndham Estate wines in the future, to see how good they can be.

These wines were media samples for review purposes.

Beau Carufel


  1. I'm not surprised. My experience has been Aussie Shiraz, even really cheap ones, are generally fairly decent, but cheap Pinot Noir often isn't worth it.

  2. I agree, even the cheapest of the cheap Aussie shiraz is drinkable at some point. With the cheap pinot noir, this one reminded me of crappy offerings here in the USA too.

  3. Sorry I'm coming late to the party! This was posted on my birthday ;) Happy to see you enjoyed the Shiraz and thanks for your honest comments on the Pinot - will see what I can do about higher ends :) A little bird told me there is some possibility to taste the Founder's Estate sooner than later!

  4. CC, don't be sorry, you had big plans for that weekend as I recall ;-)
    The Founder's're getting my wine-sense all worked up! That would be wonderful to feature here.