Wine review: Down Under Shiraz 2008

Fred Franzia, the man behind Two Buck Chuck, is taking the Australians on, and the result is the Down Under line of wines. If I made $10 Australian wine, I’d be very, very afraid.

The shiraz (about $5, sample, available at selected Tom Thumbs) is much better made than I thought it would be, and much better than most of the Two Buck Chuck I have tried. It had typical shiraz flavor, though it wasn’t especially rich or tannic. This isn’t a big, blow-up-in-your-mouth shiraz, but that’s not necessarily a problem.

It’s more than acceptable to keep around the house in case you need a bottle of red wine, and most people who try it will be pleasantly surprised at the price-quality ratio. Serve it with most red wine food, and even roast chicken. There is also a cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, which I haven’t tried.

So how can Franzia’s Bronco Wine Co. sell this wine so cheaply? Franzia, in fact, has said that his goal is to undercut cheap Aussie imports like Yellow Tail by at least one-third. The answer is the Australian wine glut. Grape prices are so low in Australia that Franzia, acting as a negociant, can buy the quality grapes he needs, ship them halfway around the world, make the wine, and still sell it for less than Yellow Tail. The question, of course, is what happens when the grape glut ends in Australia and grape prices rise. My guess is that Franzia already has a plan for that.



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