Down Under:

Wines from Australia, New Zealand deserve renewed respect.

Trevor Jones is the quintessential Australian: a genial, forthright, unassuming bear of a man with a huge mustache and the sense of humor to match. But use the term “fruit bomb” and Jones is not amused.

“There’s been a lot of talk over the last few years about Australian being ‘fruit bombs.’ It’s unfair,” says the owner of Trevor Jones Fine Wines, which has produced some of his country’s better vintages of the past few years. Indeed, the days of wines from Australia and New Zealand being judged by certain well-known, extremely inexpensive brands are finished, wine fanciers say, and the better products of the Land Down Under are worth another sip. They include:

— 2006 Trevor Jones “Boots” Grenache – Fruity on the front palate and savory on the back. It sells for about $16 at fine restaurants and liquor stores.

— 2003 J.P. Belle Terroir Shiraz – Bright natural acidity, with notes of blackberry, minerals and smoke with a grade of 94 from Robert Parker. It sells for about $75 at finer restaurants or online.

— 2006 Deakin Estate Merlot – Combine oak, cherry and spice and you have it. A super value for about $10 per bottle, online or at wine sellers.

— 2004 Penfolds Bin 60A – Intense and resinous, this rare cabernet sells for about $350 a bottle, if you can find it.

— 2004 Kennedy Point Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough – An up-and-comer from New Zealand that is crisp and a bit flowery, perfect with seafood. It sells for about $15 online.

Oysters: Perfect with wine, perfect for February

The seas around Australia and New Zealand are famed for their oysters, as are the seas around Florida, and recalling the properties for which oysters have been famed through the ages, what better month for wine and oysters than February? It helps to know a little about the (alleged) shellfish for lovers, though:

— You want live oysters or shucked oysters. If the “live” oyster doesn’t close, toss it. It’s dead. Live oysters won’t have cracks, either.

— Live oysters will stay alive for about a week when refrigerated to 41 degrees F. Keep them in a container with the lid slightly open. Drain excess liquid daily.

— Shucked oysters should be surrounded by a clear, slightly gray liquid.

— Store shucked oysters up to five days, having refrigerated them in a sealed container on ice.

— Wash your hands carefully after handling oysters.

— While not a serious threat to healthy individuals, consumption of raw or undercooked oysters by at-risk individuals may cause serious illness or even death from Vibrio vulnificus bacteria. People who have liver disease, diabetes or a weak immune system, should avoid raw oysters.

Serving raw oysters:

Pile crushed ice and/or coarse salt. Arrange the oysters on the dish. Serve with lemon wedges or juice, black pepper or your choice of sauces, of which mignonette is traditional. Make it by combining a tablespoon of crushed peppercorns, three tablespoons of finely minced shallots and two-thirds cup of good sherry vinegar. Steep overnight before serving.