Robert Oatley is one of the great men of the Australian wine industry. He'd already made one fortune, in coffee, when he planted the first vineyards in the Hunter Valley in 1969. At the time Australian wine was not exactly highly regarded; in fact it was barely regarded at all beyond the country's shores. But Oatley was a visionary, and he brought the same passion for quality that had led to his success in the coffee business to his new wine venture.
And in this he was similarly successful. By the early 1980s his Rosemount wines were critical and commercial hits from Sydney to London. The U.S. followed shortly thereafter. Robert Oatley, more than anyone, created the "Aussie Style" of modern, full-flavored, accessible wines.
Rosemount is now owned by brewery giant Fosters Group (FGL:AU), but that doesn't mean Oatley has settled into easy retirement. In 2006, at an age of nearly 80, he launched Robert Oatley Vineyards—intent once again on reinventing the Australian wine industry. This time he is making wines with the same easy approachability but with a more subtle and dialed-back intensity. The world's taste in wine is growing up, and Oatley's wines are evolving along with it.
I encountered his new Robert Oatley Shiraz 2007 ($18), this week's wine of the week, at a dinner at the Australian Consulate in New York and was wowed by it.
It's all jazzy fresh fruit up front, laced with a smoke-tinged spiciness. It has a full, rich body from the judicious use of new oak, balanced by the sort of crisp acidity that's all too rare in Australian reds. There's even a hint of that quintessential Oz eucalyptus mintiness.
I later drank it at home and found it powerful enough to stand up to a spicy marinara sauce over gorgonzola ravioli. But I can't help thinking how great it would taste, just about this time of year, served a little chilled with a big, juicy steak right off the grill.
When to Drink: Now
Breathing/Decanting: Not necessary
Food Pairing: Robust red meats and hearty tomato sauce
Grapes: 100 percent shiraz
Region: New South Wales
Web Site: www.robertoatley.com