Aussie wines that make people go 'Wow!'

SOMEHOW we just had a feeling that a tasting with Sparky Marquis would be different.

The male half of the team behind Molly Dooker wines (on which Robert Parker has bestowed more 90-plus scores than any other winery) has a reputation of being not exactly shy - even by Aussie standards.

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Sparky and (wife and master-blender) Sarah Marquis blew through town last week. They were actually en route between heli-skiing in the Purcells to YVR, heading home to McLaren Vale to go (a) go-kart racing and (b) join the harvest. But someone suggested it might be a good idea to do a tasting in Vancouver. And Sparky obliged.

The wines are unique for their incredibly concentrated fruit intensity and also for Sarah's quirky label designs.

They also attained instant fame in 2006 when Parker declared The Boxer as the Best Value Red Wine in the World, Two Left Feet as the second best, and the Maitre D' as the fourth, while The Violinist was named the Best Value White Wine in the world.

We won't recreate the whole tasting here but we can give you a few Sparky-isms of note:

- "We drink two things: Molly Dooker. And Jack Daniels."

- "When we make wine we ask ourselves three questions: Would I drink a glass? (if 'no', Sell off the juice); Would I drink a bottle? (if 'no', sell as bulk wine); Would I drink a bottle by myself? (If 'yes', we

- "I age my wines for as long as it takes to find a corkscrew."

- "We make wines that make people go 'Wow!'" - and believe me, they do.

The wines are about as shy and retiring as Sparky himself.

They're among quite the most extraordinarily fruit-focused wines you'll ever taste - a result of Sparky's meticulous vineyard management, and Sarah's intuitive blending. Sparky calls it the "Marquis Fruit WeightT" and says in a good wine you should be able to discern the moment when the fruit-forward entry shifts to reveal the wine's structure and tannin balance. The longer the time, the greater the weight rating.

If you're a true Aussie Shiraz lover, you already know about the likes of blockbuster Velvet Glove, Carnival of Love and Enchanted Path, where to find them - and what they cost.

We've never actually kept score but we're pretty sure it's the first time we've tasted seven 90-point plus wines in quite such rapid succession.

And learned the Molly Dooker shake . . . but that's another story.

Interestingly, while there's no denying the power and complexity of a wine such as Velvet Glove (which Mr. P has bequeathed 99 points) we were also impressed by the relative value offered by the "Lefty" (entry) range.

- The Maitre D' 2009. Medium-to full-bodied, cassis and chocolate notes with structured tannins and juicy acidity. Excellent fruit and acid balance. Very food friendly. Think anything grilled; BCLS $35.99.

- Two Left Feet 2009. Mainly Shiraz, with Cab and Merlot. Quite plush with black fruit, vanilla, anise and black pepper notes through a layered mid palate to a lingering spicy end; BCLS $35.99.

We suspect we could drink a bottle of either one.

...

Belly's Budget Best

Spring has sprung, the grass is riz: I wonder where the Riesling is . . .

- Frisk Prickly Riesling 2010.

I mean, come on, how can you resist with a name like that? Plus, even though it's mainly Riesling, it also has a splash of Muscat Gordo, which might appeal around these parts, especially as it's overall only 9.8 percent alcohol. Floral on the nose with vibrant lemon lime on the palate and nice touch of spritz. A fun wine - from that "other" Victoria, as in Australia - perhaps with some Pad Thai; BCLS $14.99 Specialty.

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