The New Australia
A couple months ago I went to the Australia Today Trade Show in San Francisco. The show consisted of 300 wines from 30 regions across Australia. There were about 20 importers there that covered over 65 brands. The trade show was packed with people and there were some familiar producers and some not so familiar producers. Every region imaginable was covered. I even tasted my first wine from Tasmania, a Pinot Noir from Dalrymple. One importer that I am familiar with, Vine Street Imports, was there with an array of wines that didn’t taste as “Australian” as some people might think.
Australian wines haven’t had the best rap around industry professionals ever since I’ve been into wine. The famous Shiraz grape which made the popular style of dense, inky, concentrated, high alcohol wines was all the rage for some time. This and the so called “critter labels” i.e. Yellow Tail is what most people accociate with Australian Wine. In the 1800s Australia was known for making fortified wine (port and sherry). It wasn’t until the 1970s that table wines became largely popular. Exports of wine have been on the rise ever since until 2008. Now exports are in decline. Drought and bush fires play a big role in this decline especially for the larger scale producers that rely on water to irrigate their land. There is also a focus on quality from a many producers around the country. This has reduced yields and aided in what you could call an Australian Renaissance. Before I headed to the trade show that day, I was at a tasting that covered mostly French and some Italian wine. My palate was wrecked from a flight of young Barolos and the last thing I wanted to taste was some heavy, ripe Australian wine. As I made it to the Vine Street Imports table I was greeted with a lovely, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc from Dandelion in the Adelaide Hills. Exactly what I needed. The reds came shortly after that: Pinot, Syrah, Pinot. What? What?! Syrah? Pinot? What about Shiraz? These wines were tasty, not heavily extracted, low alcohol, great acid, and above all extremely balanced. The producers were BK Wines, Bindi, and Ochota Barrels. These new wave of Australian producers label Shiraz, Syrah. The style reminds me of Norther Rhone, not Australia Shiraz. The Pinots were much lighter than a lot of heavy Russian River Pinots I’ve tasted. They were made in a more Burgundian style. Now this is some Australian Wine I can get in to!
Currently, I am doing a series of weekly tastings with my staff at Wine Dive. I pick a region and we go in depth about the history, climate, winemaking, etc. and we taste some of the wines we carry. Usually I stick to France, Italy, or California which comprises most of our wine list. Due to the inspirational tasting I recently had in San Francisco, the first area I covered was Australia along with a little bit of New Zealand. They were all big hits from the staff especially the Barossa Shiraz and the Cabernet Sauvignon from Dandelion which will end up on our wine list the next reprint. The 2012 First Drop Mother’s Milk Barossa Shiraz was smooth, well balanced, with notes of peppers and spice, game, and a smoky finish. The 2011 Dandelion Fleurieu Peninsula Cabernet Sauvignon is a cooler climate Cabernet with lots of acid, tiny bit of oak, red and dark fruits, hint of smoke, and light tannins. The door has been opened for Australian Wine for my staff and I. I hope I have encouraged you to taste some of these well balanced wines that Australia has to offer. My favorites that we carry at Mikes are: Dandelion Vineyards Riesling – Dry, dry, dry, this Riesling is so bone dry you will change you misconceptions if you think all Riesling is sweet. $9/glass $45/bottle Some Young Punks ‘Monsters, Monsters Attack!’ Riesling – A little bit of residual sugar with some good weight on the palate. $50/bottle Bindi ‘Composition’ Pinot Noir – Australia’s answer to red Burgundy. Seriously. $85/bottle Boxhead Shiraz – Medium bodied with a good level of acid. $7/glass $35/bottle There is definitely more to come on the next menu reprint. Cheers!