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04 August 2005

Yummy Yellow Tail?

Yellowarning_1I worked in a wine store during last year’s holiday season.  I took the job as something of a wine/social experiment.  I was curious to see what people bought for parties, gifts and themselves.  I met serious bargain hunters:  “Which is better - the four dollar Chardonnay or the three dollar White Zinfandel?”  I also met very generous gift givers:  “Help me find the very best bottle of wine in the store.”  Yet the holiday refrain I heard most often (seemingly every five minutes) went like this:  “Where is the Yellow Tail Shiraz?”  Somewhat less often I heard the same question with the words ‘Chardonnay,’ ‘Merlot,’ or ‘Cabernet’ substituted for ‘Shiraz.’  In fact I heard these words so often; I began to think my name was, “Sir Where-is-the-yellowtail.”  In case you’ve been living on the International Space Station, Yellow Tail is an Australian line of wines that are selling like Wham-O boomerangs of the 1970’s.  I carried out entire ‘Tail cases for customers.  I had to restock the shelf every 30 minutes!  I got really tired.  I wondered what all the fuss was about?  On the surface, Yellow Tail seems to be like many other budget wines from Oz.  It has a catchy name (though not as catchy as my favorite Aussie name, Woop Woop).  It has a fun label - which, come to think of it, is bolder in color than many other wine labels.  It costs between eight and ten dollars - just like dozens of other Aussie wines.  So, what gives?  For three weeks, I watched a river of Yellow Tail flow out the wine shop’s doors.  I was getting curious. I began experiencing the urge to try Yellow Tail.  I tried to resist, but resistance was futile.  One night as I was leaving the store, I noticed a single, lonely bottle of ‘Tail Shiraz sitting on the shelf.  I walked by the bottle, and, as inconspicuously as I could, grabbed it, paid for it, and made a b-line for home.

FruitpunchOnce home, I opened the bottle and right away smelled the ‘Yellow Tail aroma’ - Gigantic bunches of red fruit.  I sensed I was about to drink a glass of cherry-flavored HI-C.  Not only did I smell fruitiness, I sniffed sweet caramel and vanilla (this would be SuperExtraBigOakiness for all you wine geeks).  In the glass, Yellow Tail was a vivid ruby color.  I was beginning to feel that everything about this wine would be big and bold.  My first sip confirmed that feeling:  Red pie-cherries and red raspberries belly-flopped on my tongue.  However, something surprised me; the wine was sweet!  Not Hostess Cherry Pie-sweet, but my tongue did indeed sense some sweetness.  After that, my mental (training-) wheels began to spin.  I concluded that Yellow Tail wines are popular for two reasons:  1) they are reasonably priced and 2) the wines are quite easy on the palette.  Let me explain.  Many wine drinkers’ first experience with wine was not too positive.  The wine many of us tried for the first time was harsh, not terribly appealing to the nose and pretty icky/painful to drink.  So imagine you drink wine for the first time and it happens to be Yellow Tail Shiraz.  Rather than swearing off wine because it tastes like vinegar and going back to beer, you think, “Wow, wine is yummy.”

Now, I’m not saying Yellow Tail is “wine for beginners.”  I’m saying that it is a wine that won’t offend too many taste buds.  And, as a result, Yellow Tail is one of the most popular wines around.  I don't particularly like it. As someone who enjoys drinking wine while cooking and who drinks a little more wine with dinner, I find it a bit overpowering.   If you like Yellow Tail…great!  However, if every wine bottle in your house has a bouncing kangaroo on the label, it might be time to diversify.  Some suggestions:  If you like easy-drinking, cheap reds and want to serve wine with dinner try René Barbier Mediterranean Red (from Spain).  It’s only six bucks.  This red is a good, easy-drinking wine that works with a wide range of food.   If you prefer bold, fruity, red wine, try Fairview, Goats do Roam (from South Africa).  And for you cute-wine-label-animal lovers, you’ll love the Goats label.  It’s a seven-dollar wine that is juicy and fruity, yet balanced with some spiciness and tannin so it works well with pizza, pasta and burgers.  Cheers to cheap red wine.


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Lenn in-laws buy this buy the case for their annual Xmas party (along with Cavit Pinot Grigio)'s always insanely popular.

Of course I'm the guy who has his own bottle (that I brought myself) of wine hidden in the side room...

Just before Yellow Tail hit it "big" in the US...I went to dinner with my wine-loving aunt...and we paied $45 (yes...45) for a bottle of this "new shiraz from down under."

You can get a 750ml of it around here for as little as $6 and a magnum for $10.

A guy I work with SWEARS that if you decant it and let it breath for a few really improves. I've not followed up on this experiment, however.


somehow decanting Yellow Tail just seems sick & wrong (I promise I'm not a wine snob...really!)


At the wine shop where I used to work, we stopped carrying Yellow Tail. Big box retailer down the street was buying so many pallets of it from Yellow Tail’s distributor, and selling it for rock-bottom low prices, that it actually became hard for us to get and not worth the effort to make about 19 cents per bottle. We’d have customers come in and their eyes would bug out: “You don’t sell Yellow Tail?!” like it was some sort of a crime. A few would leave the shop. But a few would be willing to try something different like Dinky Do (another $6 value shiraz, complete with kangaroo on label). And some daring souls would even spend a few extra dollars to upgrade to something better than purple sugar water!


"upgrade to something better than purple sugar water"

From your lips to god's ears..


Aussies don't drink Yellow Tail. It is an export wine produced primarily for the US and UK markets, although a lot of Australian shiraz in the lower price range is made in a similar style ... big ripe up-front fruit and raspberry cordial flavours.

If you want to try serious Aussie shiraz avoid anything that lists the region as 'South Eastern Australia'. That's a vast area that covers almost all the wine growing areas outside of Margaret River in WA.

You might like to try some cooler climate shiraz from the following regions of Victoria: Bendigo, Grampians, Great Western, Heathcote. Look for something from Seppelts like their Chalamber Shiraz or St Peters Shiraz.


Not so sure about that Alison. After just having spent 3 months in Oz, Tail was on the shelves of every bottleshop I visited.

You have a couple of the good cool climate areas listed, but the best we visited was without doubt the Yarra Valley, a mere 40 minutes drive from the centre of Melbourne. The best of the valley has to be the Yering Station 2003 Shiraz, and the Cabs and Merlots from Sticks Winery and St Huberts. The 3 cases I shipped back have arrived just this morning, so if you'll excuse me...


While on my honeymoon last August in Cairns, Australia, my wife and I visited a local wine store in hopes of buying a first aniversary bottle to take home. Just out of curiosity we asked the employee if they sold Yellow Tail. (I wasn't going to buy something I could buy at the local store back home, I was just currious). The employee said that she had never even heard of it and went to ask the owner about it. The owner had just ordered a case a few days before, because she said so many Americans had asked her about it. She said it was not a high seller amoung the locals, just the Americans who recognized the bottle. Now Cairns is in the North, so it may be different in Melborne and I also only went to one wine store.


I know that it's been a while since you wrote this, but I love your review of the Yellowtail! I do a column on affordable wines called Ten Dollar Tastings and welcome you and your friends to drop in and check it out.

Hope you're still doing this ... I like your writing style and your perspective. P.S. Found your site because I picked up a bottle of Yellowtail Shiraz and wanted some perspective on it before I opened it. Thanks!

Andrea Milnes

Well, it's currently 8:30ish and I'm typing this on a register in the Daveco Liquors wine department after having just finished reading this piece and then taking a leasurly stroll through the department to look like I'm doing something productive. Anyway, the only customer in sight proceeds to ask me, "Where is your Yellow Tail?" It just had a kind of perfection to it.

Personally, I'm not technically a wine snob (I prefer the term "geek" thank you!) but I've progressed in the wine world past cutsie kangaroos and the like, lol. Sometimes it's good for like a cheapo bottle to bring to a backyard summer party since it is so universally popular, but I'm not a majopr fan of Refinery Wine.

Jerry S

I was in Oz a few months ago and not there long enough unfortunately to do a Yellow Tail comparison. But on recommendation of a large wine store in downtown Sydney, brought back 2 bottles of something with a cat from the Barossa Valley. I've had a few from there and so far they have been real winners.

Love Yellow Tail, I live in Prague in the Czech Republic and am so glad that we can get Yellow Tail here now finally. Everyone likes it that I know of.

Big Tex

The 'Tail is a solid little wine. Not great, not fancy, not award winning, but as a wine lover myself, I appreciate wines that open the door to the world of wine to others. This article hit the nail squarely on the head. Nothing has done as much as the 'Tail to bring in more wine enthusiasts since montezumas revenge.

Yellow Fail

I am a bartender in a hotel and one of the reds that we serve is Yellow Tail Merlot, which is very popular. So much so that I had to try it for myself. (I made the mistake of not trying it at work)
I must say that I have had many different wines over the last three years after converting from beer to wine and I find Yellow Tail Merlot to be incredibly gut wrenching and difficult to drink. It is so sweet that it is actually offensive. The wine is horrible and is the worst red that I have drank. Fortunately, it was cheap and didn't put me out too much. Still... I will never buy the cool-aid again.
Be prepared for a massive hangover if you drink a bunch of it. Otherwise, stay away from Yellow Tail!


Yello Tail is HORRIBLE wine. Give me a break. It is not even real wine: it is Kool Aid for morons who know nothing about wine.

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I'm not a huge Yellow Tail fan myself.. but it is pretty mild for people who don't LOVE wine or have a pansy palette. I would much rather a wine that tastes more like a wine instead of kool-aid.. But you can't change everyone. And hey, at least they were trying!


I really like the fresh & innovative perspective you did on the issue. Frankly speaking I was not expecting it when I started off studying. Your concepts were easy to understand. Glad to know that there’s an individual out there that definitely understands what they’ re discussing. Great job. Keep it up.


I consider myself discerning and a foodie. I find yellow tail wines engineered, forced, and they have an odd after taste.

I also am suspect of anyone who thinks they are good wines.

If you just want a wine to get f***** up on then yellow tail is probably perfect.

Having said all this, I understand individual taste varies. I go absolutely insane for dry reds from France, Italy and Spain.

Give me a Temperanillo, or Negroamaro wine and I can talk about it for hours.

I often say you can't go wrong when you buy a red wine from tuscana. This might very well be individual taste and I could just be picky.

I purchased a bottle of yellow tail shiraz, out of the austrailian wines I can tolerate the shiraz best. This wine is as I said before, engineered, forced. It has a high alcohol content which is nice.

I have found very few wines from australia that I can drink. (BTW the hangover will be worse in engineered wines.)

California produces more winners, and then up from there I'd say France, Italy and Spain have even more wines I would get excited about.




I recently decided to try yellow tail to find out what all the hype was about. I tried the Pinot grigio first a few weeks ago and it was ok. Last night I tried the merlot and managed to gag down a glass. Today when I woke up you would have swore I drank the entire bottle, I felt awful! Needless to say I will stick to the wine from local wineries in my area!


Yellow Tail is horrible swill. It is sweet sugary crap that appeals to AMERICANS because they know NOTHING about wine. If you like this in ANY way, you are a retarded moron who knows NOTHING about real wine.

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I'm not a huge Yellow Tail fan myself.. but it is pretty mild for people who don't LOVE wine or have a pansy palette. I would much rather a wine that tastes more like a wine instead of kool-aid.. But you can't change everyone. And hey, at least they were trying!


I hate wine snobs. Drink whatever pleases you, who cares where it came from or whether or not it's the "cool" thing to drink.

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The article is worth reading, I like it very much. I will keep your new articles.

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