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Oz Clarke's Australian Wine Companion: An Essential Guide for All Lovers of Australian Wine    by Oz Clarke order for
Oz Clarke's Australian Wine Companion
by Oz Clarke
Order:  USA  Can
Kyle Books, 2005 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In his Introduction, Oz Clarke explains that he's not an Aussie, but he does love Australian wine, which he considers 'Good wine; enjoyable, approachable wine available to all, affordable by all.' He shares his own discovery of its quality as well as a historical perspective of the growth of the Aussie wine industry (525 million liters were exported in 2003!) At the back of the book are sections on vintages, wine region contacts and resources, and wine company ownership. This engaging guide is interspersed with enticing photos of the country's magnificent and varied scenery.

There's an explanation of the Australian wine classification system and a map of wine zones, such as Barossa and Hunter Valley. This is followed by a survey of the country's grapes, the main ones planted being Shiraz, Cabernet and Merlot in the reds, and Chardonnay by far in the whites. Newer grape varieties are also reviewed. Clarke talks about Australian wine styles from blends and cult wines to cask wines. He surveys vineyards (I love the photo of kangaroos amongst the vines, though apparently they're considered pests) as well as 'Technical Wizardry' in the winery. And he introduces the 'Wizards of Oz', personalities who put Australia on the world wine map.

Planning a trip to Australia? Clarke recommends great places to visit for wine tourism (I like the look of the balloon trip over vineyards). Each wine region is covered in detail (history and wine styles, wineries to visit, wines to try, when to drink them, best years, and comments on specific producers) - South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania, and Queensland and the Northern Territory. Australian Shiraz and Chardonnay wines have been favorites of my husband and I for many years now. Reading Oz Clarke's Australian Wine Companion makes me want to plan a tasting trip - what a wonderful winter vacation that would make.

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