Are you old enough to remember falling in love with Aussie wine? With their easy-to-read varietal labels and easier to drink wines, they introduced an entire generation of Irish people to the joys of drinking wine. You no longer needed a degree in French or Italian and an extensive knowledge of geography to order a bottle of wine.
For much of the 1990s and the following decade, sales increased every year until Australia became the best-selling country in Ireland, outstripping France, our traditional favourite. But then it all went a little sour. As the Australian dollar soared in value, and Australian wine producers turned their eyes to China, sales of their wines here took a battering. They were even overtaken by Chile as our most popular wine. Last year China overtook the United States as Australia’s biggest market, with sales worth some $520 million, so the Australians probably weren’t too worried.
During the same period, the world moved away from those big fruit-filled wines that Australia excelled in, and began looking for something a little more subtle. Australia has a wide range of climates (it is the same size as Europe after all) and has always produced a diverse range of wines. In addition to Shiraz and Chardonnay, you could find low-alcohol, high quality Riesling from the Eden and Clare Valleys, and Semillon from the Hunter Valley. But over the past decade, the industry, one of the most dynamic in the world, began concentrating on other cooler climates and lesser-known grape varieties. They also began focusing on high quality wines for the premium market .
Last month the Australian wine marketing body sent a deputation here to introduce their wines to a new generation of the wine trade. We were treated to a very impressive range of wines made from Petit Manseng, Marsanne, Arneis, Grüner Veltliner, Moscato, Dolcetto, and Touriga Nacional alongside some excellent Pinot Noir, Semillon, Riesling and sparkling wines. There was plenty of Shiraz and Chardonnay too, but they were lower in alcohol and more subtle in style, so if you still see Australian wines as a blunt instrument designed to cudgel you into submission, it is time to rethink.
Premium wine costs money to make, and sadly most of the wines were over €20 a bottle, and many were not (yet) available in Ireland. If you are a Pinot fan, the brilliant Gembrook Pinot Noir is available for €576 a case from Berry Brothers. But two of those listed below were included. The Tahbilk Marsanne is one of my favourite wines and brilliant value for money. Prosecco fans should certainly try out the ridiculously moreish frothy Innocent Bystander. The Graham Norton Shiraz, like his other wines, is very gluggable.
Exquisite Collection Limestone Coast Chardonnay 2016, Australia
Clean fresh textured red apple and pear fruits with a hint of spice.
Tahbilk Marsanne 2014, Nagambie Lakes
Expressive fresh pear, peach and tropical fruits. Crisp and dry with a lovely unique character all of its own.
Stockists: Wines Direct, Mullingar & Arnott’s.
Innocent Bystander Moscato 2017
Dayglo pink, bubbly and sweet with juicy grape and cherry fruits. Frivolous and fun.
Stockists: Mortons, Clontarf Wines, Drink Store, Redmonds, Martins, McHughs, Mitchells, O’Donovan’s, Red Island, Red Nose Wine, Wineonline.ie
Graham Norton Shiraz 2015, South Australia
Exuberant and showy – not unlike Norton himself, a big wine with heady ripe plums and spice.
Stockists: Tesco, SuperValu, Centra.