Sustainable and diverse wine making in Australia by Stephen Barrett @BistroWineMan

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In my columns of the past 20 + years I hope to have informed many readers of indigenous or unusual grape varietals whilst on my wine travels. The usual suspects like Shiraz, Cabernet, Chardonnay etc when planted in historic vineyards in well known or ancient sites are historically the correct choice decided by trial and error over many, many years. National or local wine regulations would often not allow new varietals unless special permission is sought and approved. The “newer” wine making countries have none of this beauracratic problem as propagation after quarantine is often encouraged as winemakers seek new styles in favoured sites.

One pioneer of this system was Robert Hill Smith and his winemaking team from Yalumba in South Australia who planted the White Rhone grape Viognier on selected vineyards. 20 or more years later this so called experiment has produced some wonderful examples of this rather funky grape creating fine apricot and citrus scented wines. It was therefore a pleasure to reply Yes to Wines of Australia’s kind invitation to taste. 120 wines made with different grape varietals sourced from around the world.

Held at the wonderful Australia House in the Strand I eagerly signed in and met Laura Jewell, Master of Wine who as head of UK wine operations for Wines of Australia had curated this extraordinary tasting, assembling such an intriguing and frankly breathtaking selection of wines made with some grapes I had never tasted.

Where to start! With around 50 tasters all heading for the tasting table with the whites as their quarry I headed for the Roses and relative quiet! First wine was made with two northern Italian varietals namely Sangiovese and Nebbiolo better known for making Chianti and Barolo respectively. The Sangiovese made by Vinea Marson in Heathcote delivered ripe unctuous fruit that truly delighted the palate. Next grapes originating from southern Italy this time Nero d’Avola and Aglianico hailing from Sicily and Campania respectively. Deeper coloured Rose here with a distinctive funk of red fruit, herbs and a “Campari” bitterness! What was not to like?

On to the 43 white wines ready to taste. I tasted them all swirling and spitting at a pace. Star performing wines from 24 different grape varietals were shining amongst the elegance of Australia House and its traditional majesty not that these upstarts cared too much about that! First stella wines tasted were made again with a couple of Italian grapes this time Arneis (northern Italy) and Fiano from the south. My picks were Dal Zotto Arneis from King Valley in Victoria and Tertini Wines from the Southern Highlands (due south of Sydney) in NSW. Arneis is subtle and food friendly wine offering a stone fruit note with oft a meadow field bouquet. These did! The Fiano grape is a tad ballsier with a deeper scent of candied fruit and leafiness. My fav choices were from Chalmers Heathcote (VictorIa) and Larry Cherubino’s Lassez Fair from Western Australia’s Franklin River. Delicious, elegant wines from two much different zones indicate extensive professional work has gone into making these modern wines. Next a great white wine from Pike and Joyce who made a classically styled Gruner Veltliner in Adelaide Hills (coolish climate) the great white grape originating from Austria. White pepper and unripe stone fruit came into my palate and onto my notebook! And then a beauty from the unruly lot at d’Arenberg from McLaren Vale with a heat - busting Roussanne showing huge structure and weight over a herbal finish.

The Reds called starting with the elegant Mencia grape originating from Castille y Lyon in Northern Spain but this time elaborated by Olivers Taranga Vineyards in McLaren Vale. In South Australia Truly subtle and floral were its guise. Next were 10 Tempranillo stashed wines again another fabled grape from Spain. I had heard of great things of this grape in Australia and so it proved. All 10 were amazing my pick the eucalyptus scented Bellweather Wines from Wrattonbully. It showed blue fruit with brilliant acidity. One for keeping! I then breezed through the rest of the Reds with highlights from the grapes Nebbiolo, Sangrantino, Duriff and Nero d’Avola. Each one showed some part of their heritage and expected taste but I also discovered daring and funk. This was a very special tasting showing just what those darn Aussies can do, and do it well. As with many wine makers world wide Australia are endeavouring to produce wonderful wine using sustainable growing and elaborating principles. Most of these wonderful wines are available via the Internet with a simple search…

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Stephen Barrett is a Wine, Food & Travel Writer based in Plymouth.

Stephen welcomes correspondence vis his website www.stephenbarrett.com Google +, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter @BistroWineMan

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