We all know Australia produces ripe, rich wines like Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. But what if I told you Australia produces cool-climate style wines as well? Would you believe me? On a recent trip, I participated on an international panel of wine writers to uncover the true character of Australian wine. What I found was restraint and beauty. I spent about two weeks touring, traveling and tasting roughly 100 Australian wines and found many examples of elegant Chardonnay, restrained Pinot noir and some great examples of Nebbiolo, Montepulciano and Mourvèdre.
In Australia, wines with elegance are slowly replacing the reputation of overblown “hot” wines often associated with a heavy-handed use of oak. But what maddens me is the availability of finding these new styles in America. There are rows upon rows of amazing wines found on the shelves of Australia that we will never see in the States. I have read that the U.S. market enjoys unprecedented access to the very best wines Australia has to offer, but I have yet to find a copious selection on the west coast.
K & L, the online retailer offers roughly 130 selections, but if you were to compare this to the 2,500 offerings of French wines at your disposal, it pales by comparison. And because of this, I suppose the only way an American can truly experience what Australia has to offer is to visit and drink through its vast assortment—many of which are intriguing, from cool-climate Riesling and Chardonnay to traditional grapes like Shiraz and Pinot noir, veering to unique GSM blends and Italian varieties. The country has no native grapes, which in my eyes, makes them prime candidates for experimentation. And who doesn’t like experimentation? It might take a lot of trial and error to get it right (and heck, we might have to suffer through a lot of bad wine) but once vineyard managers are satisfied with the results its smooth sailing.
This is where the small producers in Australia are right now—experimenting and figuring out what grows best in what region. Speaking of regions, the funny thing is that most have no idea Australia has more than 60 distinct wine regions and they are not all suburbs of the Barossa Valley. Today, many producers focus on site selection and choice of winemaking techniques to increase quality and enhance flavor profiles. The wines I recommend are a few outstanding examples I think you will enjoy—excellent examples that really highlight what Australia is producing today and hopefully into the future.
2010 Yabby Lake Block 6 Chardonnay Mornington Peninsula Australia ($80)
Strap in and get ready for an exhilarating experience along this twisting, cliff-hugging route of grapefruit, lemon and zest. Exhilarating as its hugs the corners with perseverance.
2010 Eldridge Estate Pinot Noir Mornington Peninsula Australia ($55)
Restrained and intricate red fruits mingle with spices and tea; sleek and delicate core leads to an expressive smooth finish.
2007 S.C. Pannell Nebbiolo Adelaide Hills South Australia ($47)
Soft yet spicy, deliciously appealing with perfect balance—violets, cherries and truffles wrapped in a sensuous little package that bursts with enthusiasm and anticipation.
2008 Teusner “The Dog Strangler” Mataró Barossa Valley Australia ($24)
Mysterious and soulful, this Flamenco dancer flaunts her emotions until she uncovers each layer of earth, mineral and inky black fruit goodness with astute precision.
2009 Clarendon Hills Blewitt Springs Grenache South Australia ($78)
Run through this violet and lavender pasture to find a freshly baked raspberry pie awaiting your arrival.
2010 Kooyong Single Vineyard Meres Pinot Noir Mornington Peninsula Australia ($65)
Superbly rich style revealing lavish cherries and liquorice erupting on a brooding layer of smoke and earth.
2008 Giaconda Nebbiolo Victoria Australia ($110)
A beautiful expression of Nebbiolo outside of its native Italian roots—linear and refined, layers of classic roses and tar mingle effortlessly with a melody of truffles, mineral and tea.
It’s on to Adelaide tomorrow!