Australia was 228 years old earlier this month, or at least that is when the white settlers arrived, as Brian Walsh of Wine Australia observed. Vines arrived a little later. Wine Australia held Australia Day tastings in London, Dublin and Edinburgh. The Dublin one was well attended and had plenty of really interesting wines on show, and quite a few producers looking for homes for their wines. I spent most of the time tasting sub €20 Chardonnay and Shiraz, and found plenty to write about over the next few months.
I also attended an excellent masterclass hosted by the erudite Brian Walsh, one of the most experienced Aussie wine hands, and John McDonnell who lent his own wisdom and a few good stories too. Great to see John back in the saddle, even if only for a day! We tasted twelve wines, six categorised as History and six Evolution. The stars for me were the first two white wines, along with a Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir and a Shiraz/Syrah from the Evolution section.
McGuigan Bin 9000 Semillon 2004, Hunter Valley
A mere 11%abv but a stunning wine; yellow apples, lanolin and grilled nuts, with a touch of beeswax. Still fresh and vibrant. Classic Hunter Valley, one of the world’s great wine styles. An amazingly cheap €19.99, although no stockists were listed.
Pewsey Vale The Contours Riesling 1999, Eden Valley
It said 2010 on the tasting sheet but we were treated to a mature version, probably by the agents Cassidys Wines. This wine is an old favourite; I remember one glorious sunny morning a decade ago, sitting in the back of an old pick-up with Yalumba winemaker Jane Ferrari, eating bacon and cheese muffins and sipping mature Contours, while looking out over the vineyard itself. Yesterday the wine was wonderful, clean and bright with complex ever evolving flavours that can only be Riesling. Sadly I do not think this vintage is still available. We will have to age our own stocks (the 2010 is €25.99) for a decade or so. But it will be worth the wait.
Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2013, Margaret River
Classic modern Aussie Chardonnay from one of the finest exponents. Fresh clean pure apple fruits, a lightly creamy texture and a subtle toasty touch. Good acidity and nice length. Very stylish, well-made wine. €24.90 a bottle.
Dalrymple Pinot Noir 2012, Piper’s River, Tasmania
Tasmanian Pinot Noir has improved massively over the last decade. There are now some serious wines (along with excellent sparkling wines and Chardonnay). A fresh nose with cool red cherries and raspberries and a touch of oak; the palate is surprisingly concentrated and muscular, almost trying too hard, with good just-ripe Pinot fruits. €43.99 Cassidys Wines.
De Bertoli Estate Grown Shiraz 2013, Yarra Valley
Made by Steve Webber, one of Australia’s best and most interesting winemakers, this is excellent cool climate Syrah/Shiraz with a lovely savoury elegance, some crunchy whole-stem fruit and tannins. Blanc cherries and damsons with impressive length.