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The Bargettos

The Bargettos, Beverley, Tom, John and Martin, third-generation California winegrowers.

by Fred McMillin
for February 1, 2001


Another Aussie Posse?

A dozen low-priced Australian wines rode into town last October and overwhelmed their California counterparts, nine matches to three. (See "The Aussie Invasion" in the October 2000 WineDay Annex.) That is, a $12 Aussie Chardonnay or Cabernet, usually outscored a $12 California counterpart. So, we promised to take a look at the higher price range, and here are the results.

As before, the margin is the number of votes given the winner minus those given the loser. The wine that vanquished its opponent by the largest margin is listed last. We included a couple of New Zealand and Tasmanian wines on the Aussie team.

Winning Winner Price Year The Wine
Margin Aussie
2   X $25 '98 Pinot Noir, Bargetto, Santa Cruz Mountains
8 X   $21 '98 Chardonnay, Isabel, Marlborough, New Zealand
9   X $19 '95 Merlot, Buena Vista, Carneros
10 X   $29 '96 Sparkler, Clover Hill, Tasmania
10 X   $40 '97 Blue Mountain, Rosemount, Shiraz-Cab, Australia
21 X   $20 '97 Traditional, Rosemount, Bordeaux varietals, Australia
23   X $17 '97 Syrah, Kendall-Jackson, Vintner's Reserve,Apln.—Ca.
27 X   $15 '97 Shiraz, Jacob's Creek, Barossa Valley, Australia

The Down Under Wonders did it again, 5 matches to 3! Here's the explanation.


It's The Price, Stupid

The U.S. public is well aware that Australian wines are good values. Imports from Australia have tripled in the last five years. The 1999 Aussie imports were forty percent over those of 1998. They are now arriving at a rate of over five million cases a year. Rosemount, one of the leaders,just topped one million cases into the U.S.A. for the first time.

Why such success? Wine Enthusiast publisher Adam Strum answers it this way. "The American market is hungry for quality wines that are more affordable." To summarize, the quality is there and the higher prices are not there.




  • Is the oldest of the seven continents.

  • Has about the same time with the vine as California. The first wine vines arrived down under in 1788, California's about a decade earlier.

  • Has not had either of these problems that hit California: Prohibition and the phylloxera insect.

  • Is a better consumer of wine. Their annual consumption per adult is 26 bottles while the U.S.A. is closer to 12.

  • Often has plenty of roses in its vineyards. They can show pertinent plant health problems before the vines reveal them.

  • Has its first appellation system coming to your nearest theater. In California, when the feds tried to define the Napa Valley appellation as limited strictly to its physical structure, nearby vineyards objected loudly and finally were allowed to also use the prestigious Napa Valley words. Right now a similar battle is underway in Australia, and of all things, it involves a prime Cabernet Sauvignon district, just as Napa did. In this case the name is Coonawarra, and its proposed area has shrunk drastically to about 67 square miles. The lawyers are warming up in the nearby, excluded regions.

    Credits: Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast.


    About the Writer

    Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.


    This page created February 2001