- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Nugan Family, Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, 2002, $12

Australian shiraz too often tastes fat and unfocused these days, the result of overcropped vineyards coupled with heavy-handed winemaking. The wines have lots of alcohol, and jammy fruit but little structure and nothing remotely resembling subtlety or finesse. This

category tasted much, much better a few years ago — before it exploded in popularity and profits started to come cheap.

There are exceptions, though — wines with bold flavor but clear structure, plus secondary flavors that enhance the dominant taste of ripe fruit. Nugan Family 2002 is an excellent example. Full-bodied, this wine tastes of plums and dark berries, with a cocoa-tinged finish. I sampled it at a tasting of more than 70 comparably priced shirazes. It blew away the competition.

This wine may develop added complexity with a year or two of bottle age, but it’s hard to imagine it getting significantly better. So drink it in the near term, with equally full-flavored foods such as burgers, ribs or steaks on the barbie.

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