Costco wine buyers sample Australia’s
many viticultural treasures wines of Down Under
Costco’s wine buyers pause
for a photo with winemakers at the Henschke Hill of
Grace Vineyards in Eden
Valley, South Australia.
WBy Annette Alvarez-Peters
“WELCOME TO THE LAND Down Under,
mates,” was a common greeting for an international contingent of Costco wine buyers
during a journey to Australia last March. In
seven rapidly paced days we traveled to eight
different wine regions, visited nearly 20
wineries and evaluated more than 250 wines.
Australia is one of the world’s top-produc-ing wine regions, with 2,000 wineries, and
is currently the largest exporter of wines
(in gallons) to the United States. Australian
wineries feature state-of-the-art equipment,
and Aussie winemakers are some of the most
highly trained anywhere—world-class by
Australia’s winemaking history is two centuries old, although worldwide exposure and
acclaim date from the mid-1980s. Australian
wine country is, quite simply, unpretentious.
We met with large corporate producers as well
as small, boutique artisans. All were equally
casual, friendly and enthusiastically serious
about their creations.
Our itinerary focused on some of the most
important viticultural areas in South Australia. Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Eden and
Clare valleys, and Coonawarra, among others,
are situated between arid desert to the north
and cool coastlines. South Australia has
never been affected by phylloxera, an insect
that has destroyed the roots of vines through-
kangaroos and koalas, Aboriginal dancers
and “cookin’ on the barbie.” Thankfully, we
experienced them all. Kangaroos roamed
the Eden Valley vineyards of Grant Burge
Vineyards. We fed “’roos” during an excursion
to the Cleland Wildlife Park, located in the
hills above Adelaide, where we spied on
sleeping koalas in the gummy trees (aka
eucalyptus) and handled indigenous snakes
for special photo ops. We enjoyed many fabulous meals on the barbies.
March ushers in the fall harvest season in
South Australia. At many of our destinations,
grapes were being picked late at night to
avoid daytime heat and to reach the last vital
levels of “brix” (sugars) in the fruit. It’s a busy
and important time of the year, yet our hosts
were friendly, hospitable and determined to
enhance our education in a most pleasant
and professional manner.
out the world. As a result, a number of vineyards in these prized regions produce grapes
from vines planted in the mid-19th century,
imparting uniquely rich flavors.
Many wine scholars believe Australia’s
wine industry is the most dynamic and innovative in the world. From outstanding entry-level wines, such as Marquis Philips, to highly
acclaimed wines, such as d’Arenberg’s The
Dead Arm or Penfolds Grange, Australian
wines are world-class.
Shiraz (Syrah to the rest of the world) is
the most widely planted red grape in Australia.
During our wine evaluations, we found
Barossa Shiraz made big, blockbuster wines
with notes of blackberry, cassis and chocolate, while the cooler-climate McLaren Vale
Shiraz wines were big and dense with hints of
spice and pepper. And we found sparkling
Shiraz, a deep purplish red, frothy bubbly, to
As for us, we hiked stunning vineyards,
sampled stellar wines from barrel and bottle,
and met the most wonderful winemakers.
Australia is a beautiful place, with wonderful
people and fabulous wines, a place all wine
lovers must visit—people lovers, too! C
Annette Alvarez-Peters is an assistant
general-merchandising manager at Costco
who oversees the national wine, spirits and
That’s not to say that we
limited our tastings to Shiraz.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a very
important red variety that is C woisn teco
often blended with Shiraz,
exhibiting wonderful notes of lis t
cedar, along with black and red Australian wines*
fruits. Chardonnay, the leading Henry’s Drive Shiraz
white varietal, is made in a variety of styles from oaked to Three Rings Shiraz
unoaked, exhibiting flavors of Wolf Blass Gold Cabernet Sauvignon
apples and pears. And we found Item #32609
lovely dry Rieslings, featuring Trevor Jones Virgin Chardonnay
lively acidity with fruit flavors of Item #486924
grapefruits and lemons. Peter Lehmann Riesling
Of course, any travelogue of *Not all wines available at all locations.
Australia would be shamefully See costco.com for more wine choices.
incomplete without accounts of