A Wizard of Oz

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“Passion is everything,” is the motto of lively and enthusiastic wine-maker John Quarisa. Born in Australia of Italian heritage, John has consistently been recognised for his winemaking skills for over twenty years. He has received some of Australia’s top wine honours and in 2004, was awarded the Jimmy Watson Trophy in Melbourne and the Stodart Trophy in Brisbane, reaching the pinnacle of Australia’s wine show circuit.

On completing his Wine Science degree, John (who also believes that “you just can’t take life too seriously”) has continued to work on expanding his wine-making experience. He’s made wines for some of Australia’s largest and most well-known brands and developed a reputation as a committed, quality winemaker who knows how to make a wine that people will love to drink.

John Quarisa, winemaker and international wine show judge inspects 50-year-old vines.John Quarisa, winemaker and international wine show judge inspects 50-year-old vines.

Over the last decade, John has made a huge contribution to improving Australian wine through his work as a wine show judge. Today, he focuses on developing his Quarisa range of wines (including the successful “Johnny Q” range), as well as wine consulting and judging. Here are two relatively new additions to the Quarisa family of wines.

30 Mile Shiraz 2008 (red), Australia (Wine Connection Bt. 449)

This really looks the part; a real Shiraz (SHEE-raz).  It’s a rich, dark crimson with hints of purple and a slightly oily appearance, which always seems to me a good sign. The aroma is quite complex. Rich black cherries, spices and fresh pepper come through first. If you really concentrate you might pick up wine gums and raspberry jam. I thought I could pick up a faint whiff of licorice too. Open the bottle about half an hour in advance, so that the wine has a chance to reveal its aromatic secrets.

The wine showed every sign of being a turbo-charged Shiraz and I was expecting it to hit the palette like a torpedo. To my surprise and delight, it has a beguiling gentle touch. The wine is dry of course, but has a soft, almost silky mouth-feel and a satisfying smooth foundation of tannin with beautifully balanced fruit flavours. There’s a lovely long and soft, dry cherry finish too. This is a real beauty, no doubt about it. If you like a big, bold and luscious Australian Shiraz with over 14% alcohol content, give this a try. You will not be disappointed.  Neither were the wine professionals, for it has already won several prestigious awards. Try it with grilled red meat or bring it out for that special barbeque.

30 Mile Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (white), Australia (Wine Connection Bt. 449)

This is a smooth, delicate straw-gold colour and looks very inviting in the glass. The aroma is rather soft and restrained. Actually, it is a bit shy at first, but I prefer a wine that reveals itself gradually, not the “in-yer-face” aromatic style of some New World wines. There’s a lovely fresh grassy smell of sweet gooseberries, typical of Sauvignon Blanc (SOH-vihn-yohn BLAHN) with a hint of mandarin oranges and a faint peppery aroma in the background. Once the bottle has been open for a while, the aroma blossoms superbly. So I’d suggest that to get the best out of this wine, chill it in the fridge and then remove the screw closure about half an hour before you need to drink it.

The wine is dry as the proverbial bone, with just the tiniest hint of seductive sweetness. It has a firm, medium body with a full and satisfying flavour of gooseberries and a long and refreshing citrus aftertaste. It’s only 12% alcohol, but there’s quite a dash of acidity, typical of this grape variety. It gives the wine a lively, zesty quality.

This really is a well-made wine and seems to suggest food (especially seafood, chicken or Thai dishes) but I’d be quite happy to drink it on its own if you twist my arm. You won’t need to twist it very hard.