I have to say, I do love this wine. It’s brave and confident and doesn’t try to mimic pink wines from elsewhere. Instead this is a rose-scented pink wine with a heart of ripe strawberry fruit. It has the mouth-filling perfume of a great fizz, but doesn’t expect you to go looking for aromas and flavours. It delivers them to you. Delicious.
Pinot Noir isn’t known as the ‘heartbreak grape’ for nothing. It breaks even the best winemakers as they try to find a site with the soil, climate and consistency to make it work. But it’s found a home in Tasmania where wines like this emerge, suffused with cherry and raspberry and spice. This is best with duck or lamb, and don’t be afraid of giving it plenty of flavour to match its fruit either.
Many years ago I discussed climate change with Robert Hill-Smith at Yalumba in the Barossa and he talked about the importance of Tasmania in finding a cool site. And this is it. Making elegant, cool, linear chardonnay with citrus aromas, refined acidity and a lingering minerality on the palate. Match with food like a Chablis or Macon.
‘Lucky Vasse’ is the translation of this wine, named in honour of a drowned seaman with a legendary tale. Vasse Felix has its own tale, a pioneer in Western Australia, and now famed for some of the finest wines. This shows the estate’s noted bay leaf character over tight-knit currant, eucalypt and oak. But don’t drink it today. Enjoy it in 5, 10, 15 years with venison or a piece of top-quality fillet steak.
Some years ago I was allowed into a small cellar at Yalumba to try tiny stocks of century old wine, so concentrated it was served like Marmite on a spoon. And each year they release small amounts of ancient blends like this. Tawny, raisined, rich and spicy, this has a freshness too, a lift that makes it wonderful with cheese and some desserts. Experiment a bit, and you’ll get the feel for it. Really lovely wine.
Curate, kjʊ(ə)ˈreɪt/, verb; select, organize, and look after’.
That’s what the ‘producers’ of Rutherglen’s muscats do. They don’t produce these so much as inherit stocks of old, sticky wines scented with toffee and walnut, raisin and prune, cakes from Dundee to Eccles, and blend into small releases like this. Buy now to have something to warm you through winter. Serve it instead of a pudding or with a Christmas pudding. One of the world’s great wines.
Sparkling Shiraz is exactly that. A deep red, lightly spicy sparkler. It’s also an Australian institution. Peter Lehmann is a Barossa institution too and he makes one of the best. It’s a bit confusing at first – yes it’s chilled and red, and a bit sweet, and fruity but not tannic… but just go with it. Australians love to serve this at barbecues and it does work well with burgers and spicy wings. But I love it most with a really good curry.
It’s hard to know where to begin. ‘Profoundly powerful’ say the Henschke family. And it is. Like many great wines, it’s not just the astonishing depth, complexity and quality. This wine oozes history. A single vineyard, named after a region in Silesia and shared with a Luthern Church. Making fruit so exceptional it defies description, but is packed with cherry, currant, black pepper, plum, cedar, liquorice, sage… This vintage is among the most highly rated wines in the world by experts today. If you get the chance to try it, you should.
I once asked two winemakers the difference between the adjacent Barossa and Eden Valleys. ‘I sleep under a sheet said the winemaker from the Barossa Valley. ‘She sleeps under a blanket.’ That cooler climate is perfect for Chardonnay, making for pristine white peach fruit, embraced by a stylish oak spice. Today it’s a seafood wine, but in a few years expect the richness to work with roast chicken.
For just under a tenner it’s hard to imagine much better value than this. Each of the four grapes here plays a part. Forget any monolithic stereotype of Aussie wine. Shiraz for substance, Grenache for flesh, Tempranillo for savoury fruit and Mourvedre for spice. Casseroles, lighter grills and even roasts. But I like it best with pizza.
I have a very good book on the Australian wine trade called ‘Why the French hate us’. And blends like this are part of the reason. Chardonnay (Burgundy) mixed with Sauvignon and Semillon (Bordeaux). Sacre Bleu! Yet in Australia it works, and has done for generations. Peach and nectarine Chardonnay, zippy grassiness from Sauvignon. I’d go pan-Asian with this, perhaps a Thai Green curry.
A ‘textbook’ wine. Anyone who wants to understand what makes Australian Shiraz special find it here. The confidence, the elegance and sheer quality. It mixes the things you’d expect like ripe currant fruit and chocolate aromas with things you don’t. Earthiness, gaminess and savoury spice. Yes, it’s an eminently steak-able wine, but be confident. That elegance makes this a versatile food matcher.
Try this once and you’ll be hooked. It’s a vivid take on the North Rhone blend of peppery Shiraz (Syrah) and exotic Viognier. The 2010 was a great Shiraz vintage in McLaren Vale and it shows in this exuberant, ripsnorting wine perfect with tasty barbecued meats.
Some rosés cry out to be served with food and this is one. It has the fruit and structure to work with light meats like veal or vegetarian dishes. Think of it like light, frothy Pinot Noir (which is fundamentally what it is). And if you’re in Mornington, pop in and bottle some of your own sparkling rosé like Amelia did.
Here is winemaking that matches bold ambition with results, a poised glass mixing stone fruit and tangy lemon with the softer spiced notes of very expensive barrels and careful work in the winery. The wine’s texture coats your palate and leaves a lingering perfume long after you swallow.
Boy is this good. It brings together a trinity of citrus and peach fruit, subtle nutty oak and a minerally tang. It’s an homage to the great white Burgundies, but with an unmistakable Australian vigour. I still cannot find a better match for this than a roast chicken with salad and rice.
If you like Mornington’s precise style of Pinot Noir, be sure to try the slightly lusher, richer style of the Yarra Valley to the north. Still fresh but with more dark cherry and earthiness. Beautifully smooth and goes down gorgeously with duck or even a richly-flavoured rabbit dish.
If you don’t like this, I spurn you with my toe. It evolves through plums and cherries and the fruit has a clarity and precision from the excellent quality of the vintage. It’s one of Australia’s best and merits savoury beef or duck to match the earthy fruit and dense complexity.
I’ll declare an interest; Robert Hill-Smith was an early mentor of mine. But boy his winemakers produce angelic wines like this. Nectarine and white peach married to delicate nougat from time in barrels. Seriously classy Chardonnay needing great chicken or monkfish dishes.
I’ve been in love with this estate ever since I dropped in for impromptu lunch 10 years ago. This Pinot Noir heaves with lush red fruit and a walk-in-the-woods earthiness. Grouse pie, roasted quail, rabbit stew – this is the wine to make these dishes sing. One of my favourite wines of the show.