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Take a sip of Australian Shiraz and conjure up the wondrous wine regions from Down Under — the hot climate and undulating landscape of McLaren Vale, the cool ocean breezes and the ancient sea beds of the Limestone Coast, and the old stone wineries and hidden lake gardens of Clare Valley. Savor the plush, dark wine that is aromatic and endowed with firm tannins and a peppery berry finish. This distinct taste experience will become more familiar to wine lovers if the Aussies get their way. At last count, there are 1,199 Australian wineries exporting 3.5 million cases a year to the states. The winemakers are certainly doing something right, judging from the enthusiasm that the wines generated at the recent 11th Annual Australian and New Zealand Wine Expo. For the consumer, these remarkably affordable wines not only are drinkable now, but also promise to “cellar” for six to 10 years. I’ve found several Washington, D.C. area wine shops that stock premium Australian Shiraz, and there are many knowledgeable folks selling what Time magazine last year dubbed “liquid gold.” I plan to save a few bottles and taste them over time — I expect they will age gracefully. Two of the wines I selected for this tasting, Pikes and Brokenwood, were at the suggestion of a local wine shop clerk, and I quaffed golfer Greg Norman’s wine at the expo. I tasted the three in a group, and found each wine delightful in its own right. The 1998 Pikes Shiraz from Clare Valley ($20) is easy to spot — on its label is a pike, an unattractive sea creature with a long, narrow snout and sharp teeth. This dark garnet wine will appeal to those who enjoy medium-bodied, drinkable wines. The wines from this region are known for their “big” style (high alcohol content) and strong acidity, which gives them longevity. It has abundant flavors of raspberry, chocolate, vanilla, and dry, firm tannins, and the fruit is sweeter than the Brokenwood and Norman’s. Drink it now. The 1998 Brokenwood Shiraz, the current release, is from McLaren Vale, a predominately red wine region that boasts 40 other wineries. This wine retails for $24 and is a blend of grapes from McClaren Vale, King Valley, and Cowra, and is aged in American oak for 30 months. Cherry and currant predominate, and there are pepper, smoke, leather, clove, and mild oak flavors as well. It is well-balanced with moderate tannins. Try it now — and again in six years. The 1998 Greg Norman Estates ($15) from the Limestone Coast has flavors of blackberry and black cherry, spice and pecans. I like its very understated style — solid in the palate, without rough edges. This is a delicious wine with a vibrant finish. Drink it now and hold a bottle or two because it will probably become more lavish with time. We can hope that as Shiraz grows in popularity, more wine shops will be inspired to stock older bottles. Until then, enjoy these delightful reds that don’t break the bank. Elisabeth Frater is the co-author of a wine-inspired online novel, “A Red With Legs,” at http://www.darkwoman.com/.

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