When is a "bad vintage" really a good one? It's a happy paradox that occasionally happens when a quality-minded winemaker deems a season's fruit not quite fine enough for their top-of-the-line cuvees, so they skip the marquee vintage altogether and pour the normally prestige grapes into their lower-tier wines.

I wouldn't exactly call The Boxer from Mollydooker "low" anything. This powerhouse Australian shiraz has gained an almost cult following in recent years, with pre-order lists at wine shops like Frank's in Wilmington that are usually reserved for pricier bottles. But there's no doubt the 2008 Boxer has benefited from the fact that Mollydooker owners Sarah and Sparky Marquis only bottled their $25 entry-level "Lefty Wines" this year due to a heat wave and early harvest.

So no Blue Eyed Boy ($55) or Velvet Glove ($185) means the '08 Boxer has even more complexity than usual, with tobacco spice, violets, and cedar wrapping around a tight core of ripe blueberries and plum, and polished cocoa tannins that soar across the tongue. As fruit bombs go, this one's as focused as a cruise missile.

The Mollydooker 2008 Boxer is $24.99 (code: 22322) in Pennsylvania.

- Craig LaBan