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Careful, Kiwis! Aussies have a super sauvignon

At $11, Palandri’s 2004 Boundary Road Sauvignon Blanc is a Down Under version of a nice Sancerre — at half the price.

Until now, Palandri was just one more relatively new Australian wine label — a colorful and  attractive label dominated by a lizard — in search of an identity.  The reds, which were first exported to the United States a couple of years ago, weren’t bad, but weren’t distinguished, either.  (So what else is new when it comes to inexpensive to moderately priced Australian wines?)

Now comes Palandri’s first white, the 2004 Boundary Road Sauvignon Blanc.  I’m sure the company didn’t plan on a relatively modest bottling of sauvignon (5,000 cases) becoming its signature wine. (I use the word “company” because Palandri is a big winery and a publicly held corporation whose Web site is geared toward investors as well as wine lovers.)

But in a sea of sauvignon from all corners of the wine world, Palandri’s stands out. It also made me wonder, is Australia the new New Zealand when it comes to sauvignon blanc?  We’ll have to see.  What I do know is that Palandri has a hit on its hands with this round and delicious inaugural white.

The style is a bit softer than that of New Zealand, a bit more edgy than that of California.  The $11 wine reminded me more of Sancerre from France’s Loire Valley, let’s say, but without the Sancerre price tag.  Twist off the screw cap (I’m still trying to figure out the best way), pour a little and the wine greets you with aromas of fresh and slightly candied lemon and lime.

There’s more of that in the mouth, with pink grapefruit, pear and strawberry joining the mix.  The wine has medium body, lively acidity and a lingering finish that invites you to take another sip, which is what I did over the course of a couple of evenings as I enjoyed it while cooking.  It was just fine the second night.

Strikingly, the label lists alcohol at 12 percent, which is modest by Australian standards and accounts for its relatively light and refreshing character.  Like most sauvignons (and generally for the better, in my view), aging is in stainless steel, with no exposure to oak.  (By contrast, one California sauvignon I sampled recently had so much wood that it was hard to tell that it wasn’t a chardonnay.)

Palandri, by the way, is in Western Australia (southwest, to be precise) and the wine is made from a blend of estate-grown grapes from the Margaret River area and fruit sourced from the lesser-known Frankland River region.

Sauvignon blanc is one wine that Australia is decidedly not known for.  Based on Palandri’s Boundary Road offering, that perception could change.

Edward Deitch's wine column appears Wednesdays. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at EdwardDeitch