Tait The Ball Buster 2008

Tait - The Ball BusterPrice: $15
Maker: Tait Wines, Lyndoch, Australia
Varietal: Shiraz – Merlot – Cabernet Sauvignon Blend
Packaging: 750 ml bottle
Alcohol: 16%
Our Rating: 9.1 out of 10

One has to hope that a wine called The Ball Buster 2008 from Tait Wines would somehow live up to that name. Fortunately, this wine does. Its color is impressively dark, an inky purple that is almost black. It has an intense ripe berry and tobacco aroma, but even that doesn’t prepare you for the huge blueberry, plum, cocoa, and pepper blast to the palate. The fruit predominates. The finish is a little oaky with soft tannins. This wine reminds me of a big California Zinfandel – lots of complex fruit and relatively high alcohol content.

The Ball Buster is a blend of 77% Shiraz, 12% Merlot, and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon. Around the Web, wine bloggers liked this wine. The Weekly Wine Journal described it as, “almost like a liqueur with a very ripe blackberry flavor.” Thursday Happy Hour said The Ball Buster “went with everything from my prime rib, to pasta, roast chicken, and grilled sausage—a fantastic bottle to share over dinner.” The oddly named Drinking my way through Trader Joe’s Wine and Beyond… said, “I’m going to rave about this wine, because it is a total contradiction and I love contradictions.”

If you like big, bold, fruity reds, The Ball Buster 2008 from Tait Wines is a great choice and a superb value.

Yalumba Premium Selection Cabernet Merlot 2009

Price: $9
Maker: Yalumba, Angaston, Australia
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot Blend
Packaging: 2 liter box, push-button spigot
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 6 out of 10

One sip of Yalumba Premium Selection Cabernet Merlot 2009 transported me back to a lovely afternoon in Venice. Unfortunately, the memory was of a cheap, almost undrinkable bulk red wine poured from a stainless steel tank at the cost of a couple of euros for a liter and a half. (Rather than waste a bottle on that stuff, they pour it into a recycled plastic water bottle.) The setting was amazing, the wine, not so much.

Here’s the rest of the story. While traveling to Australia on business, I stopped into a “bottle shop” to explore the local retail scene. At least in downtown Sydney, wine seems to be sold in smaller shops vs. the big-box stores that one finds in the states. Recalling that Australia was the birthplace of boxed wine, I was surprised that only one brand, Yalumba, was represented with several varietals. Then again, there were just a few dozen bottled varieties. I picked up a box of the Cab-Merlot, which was nicely packaged in a 2-liter cask. The 2-liter size is nice, as it is compact and will reduce the boredom from having to finish a four-bottle equivalent 3-liter box.

Onto the wine itself… The earthy berry nose was weak and not promising. The first sip was a disappointment. A harsh off-note overwhelms what might be reasonable blackberry and cinnamon flavors and a not unpleasant tannic finish. The effect was rather prune-like. The wine seemed to improve slightly with extended breathing, but not enough to merit actually buying the stuff again.

It’s odd that one can find more, and better, Australian box wines in the States than in downtown Sydney. Of course, the shop that I visited was quite small. Perhaps on my next trip I can arrange an expedition to a bigger store.