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News from Down Under

I was scouring retail shelves looking for a pair of refreshing wines I could use for entertaining. As it turns out, I should have been poking around the outback.

What I turned up on my walk about was a pair of sparkling wines from Australia that are fresh, tasty and offered something unique to my guests.

On the light side, the delicacy of Emeri Sparkling Pinot Grigio blew me away. This medium sweet, medium bodied wine delivers subtle aromas of rose and lychee backed up with fresh honey. To taste, it is soft and only slightly fizzy - and leaves your mouth watering - a sure sign of a food friendly wine.

I enjoyed mine with salad and chilled shrimp - and it will also pair nicely with light pasta dishes, fresh fruit and cheese.

At about $12.99, this is, impressively, not a run-and-gun mass produced wine. It gets careful handling immediately after picking to minimize skin contact - that maintains it very light pink color.

Grapes are sourced from South Australia for this brand of De Bortoli Wines.

On the red side of the equation, I found another sparkler that really struts its stuff. The Black Chook Sparkling Shiraz crows with bold fruit forward characteristics, but finishes gentle and silky.

This non vintage wine is a well balanced blend of predominantly 3-year-old Shiraz, aged in old French oak barrels. It shows wonderfully smooth integrated fruit and a rich weighty texture across the palate. This is blended with a touch of younger vintage Shiraz that brings ripe, juicy fruit characters to the finished product.

This was awesome with seared Ahi tuna - and I could imagine it being a sensation with duck or grilled pork. Again, it's slightly fizzy, and I was turned off by the foamy pink "head" created by pouring the wine too fast. Pour gently to avoid this visual distraction.

Emeri Sparking Pinot Grigio - and Emeri Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc - are available at several local retailer. I only found The Black Chook at Habersham Beverage on Abercorn Street. It's around $20.

A deal at original price, now even better...

Last year, I wrote about Concannon Vineyards, a Central Coast producer with remarkable heritage - and stunning $10 wines that drink much, much bigger.

I was particularly enamored of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Syrah - both wines that presented far superior to the price tag. At the time, I gave a a solid "buy" recommendation for any of the Concannon varietals.

While researching the two wines for this column, I noticed something both shocking and exciting. Every Concannon label has been price dropped to $5.99 at Habersham Beverage stores.

That's news worth sharing.

As the global glut of wine, particularly California juice, continues to grow and as new vintages are being aged, watch for more crazy price drops. Ask your retailer about second labels. Several wineries have now created new labels to protect their mainline brands. I've seen these labels offered at 30-50 percent less than the main label - and the bottle contains the same wine.