We are devoting this month to rediscovering much-maligned Australia. After more than a decade of building a house of cards on the haunches of Yellow Tail & the like, Australia has taken a step back & a good, hard look at itself. In the process of producing much higher-quality & much more compelling wines, a few trends are apparent.
We’ll take a look at 3 of them here….
2011 Vasse Felix Chardonnay
100% Chardonnay. Trend #1: Cool-climate whites. For so many years we were saturated with buttery, tropical, high-alcohol, over-oaked Chardonnay grown in warm climates where acidity didn’t stand a chance. It’s time to step back into the light. Cool-climate, lower-alcohol whites have been on the rise for several years now – grown on the rugged coasts & high up in the hills. Australia’s stepped away from heavy-handed use of oak barrels, staves & chips, letting clean crisp fruit sing through. Vasse Felix (founded in 1967) is in the Margaret River region, on the extreme craggy South Western coast. This Chardonnay offers bright, delicate fruit and a tight acid structure.
· Top 100 International Winery, 2012′ Wine & Spirits USA
· Australian Winemaker of the Year 2012 – Virginia Willcock’ Gourmet Traveller WINE
2011 Langmeil Three Gardens SMG
Barossa, South Australia
Shiraz, Mataro & Grenache. Trend #2: Don’t reinvent the wheel, build on your strengths. Langmeil boasts the oldest Shiraz vines in Australia, dating back to 1843! The Barossa is Australia’s most famous wine region, comprising the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley. Historically, a Barossa vigneron referred to his vineyard as his garden. The three gardens referred to in this wine are in Tanunda, Lyndoch and Vine Valere. The red SMG blend plays to Australian strength, is extremely successful & has its roots in France’s Southern Rhone Valley – where the “M” is for Mourvedre (aka Mataro). Though bright & juicy, expect pepper & sweet spice to dominate the palate – this is a full (14.6% abv) warm wine that joyfully welcomes cool weather. No oppressive new oak here – maturation is in seasoned oak for 12 months so fruit and spice are retained, as well as finesse.
2011 Running with Bulls Tempranillo
100% Tempranillo. Trend #3: Experimentation with Mediterranean varieties better-suited for warmer Aussie climates. Much of Australia is hot and for years, international varieties e.g., Cabernet Sauvignon, and even Shiraz (Syrah) dominated the scene. The styles were one-dimensionally full-bodied and high octane. More recently producers have begun looking at grapes that can handle heat and still produce graceful wines. Tempranillo grown in the warmer reaches of Spain, is a perfect example of what Yalumba, Australia’s oldest winery is trying out. Jancis Robinson: “I was impressed by how varietally true and attractive this wine is. A sweet floral nose is followed by a devilishly alluring, lightly leathery Tempranillo palate. Well done, those Aussies! There is lots of lip-smacking fruit but some structure and real Tempranillo character here.” This bottling is named for founder Hill Smith’s 1978 Pamplona run with the bulls at the San Fermin Festival.