Tuesday, 16 February 2010

A mixed bag of Ozzie wines

I attended a tasting recently organised by wine educators David Swaddle and Sarah Tohill.  The speaker was the ebullient Ray O'Connor who was Young Wine Writer of the Year in 2007.  He has spent time visiting vineyards and wineries in Australia, a country he is passionate about.  

I more or less stopped drinking Australian wines (or in fact, any New World wines) when I moved to France in 2000 but having moved back to the UK recently I have inevitably ended up drinking Chilean Chardonnay instead of Mâcon, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc instead of Sancerre, Australian Shiraz instead of Crozes Hermitage and Argentinian Malbec instead of Cahors.  I still hanker after the leaner, less ripe, more acidic and tannic, food-friendly French style but I must say that through the odd New World wine event in London recently I have noticed that many wine makers are holding back on the upfront, over ripe, jammy, sweet vanilla, overly oaked, in your face tastes of the 1980s and 1990s and are making more subtle, interesting wines that benefit from ageing, and being partnered with food just like good French wines (or those from Italy, Spain etc.).  As Ray said, Australia wants to lose its supermarket image. 

We tasted a Wolf Blass Sparkling 2008 Yellow Label (£9.99) made by the traditional (Champagne) method from Pinot Noir & Chardonnay which had a lot more finesse than I expected with an attractive fruit and yeasty, bready character whilst remaining bone dry.

The Chardonnay Juniper Crossing 2007, Margaret River (£8.75) had a slightly reduced, sulphury nose but a very attractive pineappley, rich albeit crisp palate.  I wondered what oaked Burgundy one could find any where near this bargain price.

The Riesling Annie's Lane 2006, Clare Valley (£9.99) was bone dry and had an intense lime scent and flavour and cried out for a seabass baked with a few herbs.

The Semillon Mount Horrocks, Clare Valley 2008 (£14.95) was a little subdued still (an equivalent Bordeaux would need years and years to be truly approachable) but classy with zesty fruit and well integrated oak.

Next wine was an unscheduled Mac Forbes Pinot Noir, Coldstream Hills 2008 (£22) which Ray had been given by Lance Foyster MW (whose Austrian as opposed to Australian wines shown that day at the annual event were very good). This was perhaps trying just too hard to be "French" and had, in spite of a tinned strawberries' nose, quite a tight palate with plenty of fine tannin but a green edge.  I thought Chile, for example, with the same grape would offer more quality and value.  I felt that at £22 this wine was encroaching on Burgundy prices too.  And Ray didn't think this wine would age either.

Another unscheduled wine was Voyager Estate Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Malbec/Petit Verdot, Margaret River 2005 (£18) which was more successfully "French" with a Médoc-like nose, quite ripe but herbal too, a rich texture on the palate but plenty of acidity as well.  I would pay the price but if you prefer something slightly less alcoholic (this was 14%) and leaner then a carefully picked petit château or cru bourgeois from Bordeaux would cost about the same if not less.

The Old Vine Shiraz "The Antiquus", Peter Lehmann, Barossa Valley 2001 at £12.50 for me was the bargain of the evening and  provided a black hue, a tarry, plummy, liquorice, rubbery, complex nose and palate.  Truly outstanding and still with years of life ahead of it.  I imagined partnering this with well hung game.  You could probably throw a really strong, mature, tangy Cheddar or Manchego at it and it would take them in its stride.  A Rhône wine with this much power and flavour would cost a lot more.  There are plenty of powerful Shiraz from Australia but this one had the bonus of not being 'sweet' and jammy.

The Shiraz Mount Edelstone, Henschke, Eden Valley 2005 (£50) in comparison was more refined, more French in a way with a nose very reminiscent of Northern Rhône Syrah.  Again, too young but already very classy.  It would have benefitted from being served before the Antiquus.  

To end we had the fabled Grange, 2004 (£250+).  This was completely undrinkable, black, dumb and in its shell even though it had been decanted 2 hours before.  Obviously destined for a very long life, extremely concentrated, almost salty, chewy, alcoholic, impressive, though with a hint of shoe mender's glue on the nose (volatile acidity perhaps).

I shall keep trying Ozzie wines and also match them with food: all the above would have benefitted from being served à table rather than with just a few water biscuits!

1 comment:

  1. What an excellent summary of our little evening out.

    Anybody who's interested in a similar night is very welcome to our Sake and Sherry tasting on 16th March: http://richmond-sherry-sake-tasting.eventbrite.com/

    Keep up the good work Patrick, a writing job is out there somewhere!

    Cheers, David.