***Australia Day 2021***
Conditions allowing, the UK manages to put on a good show over the New Year, but Australia, around Sydney Harbour, really is spectacular, you have to admit!
It’s one of those iconic locations that work well on a grand scale and, for Australia, their national day on 26th January is probably an even more important celebration. It’s all about people, parties, fireworks and, no doubt, the odd bottle of the local wine being consumed.
The vastness of the Australian landscape dwarves anything here in Britain and places such as Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the majestic Blue Mountains in New South Wales are difficult to comprehend unless you’ve actually seen them, first hand.
And then there’s the wildlife!
How can you associate any other country with the Kangaroo, Koala and ‘duck-billed’ Platypus?
But “Down Under” is the place where they make a lot of wine. Much of it is Shiraz for reds and Chardonnay for whites. The styles may have evolved over the past few decades but, if you want bags of ripe fruit flavour all wrapped up in velvety oak, then these wines are not to be missed. You can see a Kangaroo any day of the year. In Adelaide you can even eat one. Mmm…Tasty burgers.
Buy Yalumba “The Y Series” Shiraz Viognier, South Australia, 2019 £11.99/bottle
Grape varieties: Shiraz with a splash of Viognier.
An exotic mixture of aromas such as Turkish delight, blood plums, violet, blueberry and white pepper. Medium bodied, deep crimson red with flavours of dark cherry and spiced fruit cake. The tannins are fine and mouth coating and the finish is plush and round showing the synergy of blending these two varieties.
So, for those of you who have too much time on your hands: Yes, the photo is showing the Blue Mountains (in NSW) and No, Yalumba isn’t based in that state. It’s in the Barossa Valley, South Australia. Don’t be so picky… it made a nice image!
The Kangaroo is found all over Australia, so you can’t catch me out on the Botham-Merrill-Willis picture. Those wines are made in the McLaren Vale, South Australia, which happens to be the region where I experienced one of my earliest memories of great Australian Shiraz. Mellow, velvety texture, deep, dark chocolate richness and background spiciness. Very moreish indeed.
A “free” to drink, already opened bottle of Hardy’s “Eileen Hardy” Shiraz I found in a tasting room in Adelaide, was an amazing wine… I kept hold of it because all the other bottles in the room were of the Hardy’s “Stamp” variety… about ten times cheaper and certainly not the same tasting experience!
Another favourite was Chester Osborn’s d’Arenberg “Dead Arm” Shiraz which was tasted after a lazy, beach-cricket match, played out somewhere along the 30km of coastline that forms the boundary of the McLaren wine region. I seem to remember Geoff Merrill also being there… you wouldn’t forget his trademark moustache… but it was very hot and much wine was poured… I think I remember correctly.
Anyway, Mr Merrill, along with a fairly well known pair of British cricketers (Ian Botham & Bob Willis) decided to collaborate on a winemaking venture and “B-M-W” was born. Strangely enough, that abbreviation isn’t used on their wines sold in Europe.
Buy Botham Merrill Willis Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia, 2014 £19.75/bottle
Grape variety: 100% Shiraz aged in oak for 28 months.
A deep rich red with touches of youthful violet hues. With a warm and inviting aroma. Initially liquorice, dark fruits and menthol come forward which opens up to reveal white pepper and dried herbs, fresh earth and savoury meats. The palate is well balanced from start to finish. Finely textured and structured with fresh dark berry fruit, spice, coffee and chocolate and finishes on a savoury fruit note.
Chardonnay, on the other hand, has had very varied fortunes. Emerging into the limelight in a style that was very often drenched in vanilla/oak flavours, it became everyone’s “go to” white wine, especially at £3.99 a bottle, but then, just as rapidly, fell out of favour with the fickle, British wine-drinking public.
Quality wines made of Chardonnay can be beautiful; a work of art. A winemakers dream, as much of the flavour comes not only from the fruit, but from various techniques such as malolactic fermentation, lees stirring, using barrel fermentation (or not) and ageing in casks of different “toast” levels. These all affect the texture, structure and ageing capability of the wines.
From a visit, way back in 1992, my out-and-out favourite Aussie Chardonnay was Adam Wynn’s, High Eden, “Mountadam” wine. I’ve rarely tried anything as good in the years since then.
Adam came top in his class (in Burgundy) and made stunning, but very hard to find, wines. Each barrel in his winery used a different cooper using wood from different French forests, all with different toasting. Samples from the many individual barrels were amazing and the, even better, final blend was out of this world. In 2000, Adam sold up, so the wines made today at the estate in South Australia are not quite as unique as the early, original ones.
Margaret River, south of Perth, in Western Australia is another renowned area for the greatest in Australian Chardonnay with the likes of the exceptional (& very expensive) Leeuwin Estate “Art Series”, along with Vasse Felix and Moss Wood making delicious examples.
These days, with the dislike of oak influenced white wines, some producers such as Yalumba have been releasing “Unwooded” styles that more suits today’s palate. Not trying to imitate Chablis, the wines offer a fresher tasting character, but still with lots of peach and tropical fruit flavours.
Buy Yalumba "The Y Series" Unwooded Chardonnay, 2019 £11.99/bottle
100% Chardonnay, fermented in stainless steel.
The aroma of this chardonnay greets you with a rich aroma of freshly just picked peaches on a warm summer day, cashew nuts and clotted cream as well as a hint of flinty complexity.
The wine on the palate is fleshy with flavours of pineapple, guava, peach and exotic spices. The wine is textural, with expressions of nougat giving the mid palate a lovely richness, the wine finishes clean and crisp.
If you still hanker after the classic, big, oaky Chardy, then the Botham-Merrill-Willis is a great buy.
Buy Buy Botham-Merrill-Willis Chardonnay, McLaren Vale, Australia, 2016 £19.75/bottle
100% Chardonnay fermented and matured in French oak hogsheads for 17 weeks before bottling.
This rich, Burgundy-style Chardonnay has intense flavours of peaches and melons with overlying herbaceous tones. These are balanced by structured acidity, softening oak and an explosive finish.
And there you have it. The best of Australian Shiraz and Chardonnay at under £20 a bottle.
What more could you want? Kangaroo burger, anyone?