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by Fred McMillin
for July 3, 1997

The Two Black Opals


  • Black Opal, the Jewel—The Black Opal is the most valuable of all opals. It is mined only in Australia.

  • Black Opal, the Wine—Black Opal wines were developed specifically for the American market. The grapes come only from South Australia vineyards.
The Rest of the Story: Black Opal wines were made to be as distinctively Australian as the gem of the same name. The producers surveyed American restaurants to learn what diners want in an Australian wine. Conclusion: Develop subtly savory characteristics that are particularly compatible with food.

To accomplish this, they explored a wide range of variables including 1)using juices of varying clarity, 2)using various yeasts, each creating a distinctive spectrum of flavors, 3)adding flavors by extending juice contact with the skins, etc. The results are clearly apparent in the '95 Black Opal RESERVE Chardonnay. You can detect those distinctive, savory flavors in the middle and back of the mouth. The result is a white wine suitable not only for fish, but for herbed chicken, honey ham, and your favorite veal dish.

'95 RESERVE Chardonnay, South Australia
Black Opal
Importer: Australian Benchmark Wines
Location: Raleigh, NC
Contact: Marketing Director Michael Parkinson, (919) 851-5955
Price: $13.50

Postscript: In winespeak, "South Australia" is not a general geographic description, but a defined wine area in central south Australia. It is the driest of the continent's five wine regions. It is the largest source (over 60% of national production). It became the leading region nearly a century ago when it escaped the phylloxera invasion that crippled its rivals.

--- Source: "Chardonnay, Your International Guide," by my Aussie friend, Alan Young.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

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