Welcome back to our wine tour where we continue to explore the fantastic variety of wine regions Australia has to offer from Western Australia to Victoria and on to New South Wales.
While Western Australia geographically is cut off from the rest of the main wine regions and its production output is not to the same level as the rest, the dynamic area offers some fantastic wines from real up and coming regions. Most notably is the Margaret River region which sits just south of Perth on a stump of land that juts out into the Indian Ocean, utilising the cool Antarctic currents effect on their weather. Cabernet Sauvignon is king here, often blended with Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec while the main White grape is Chardonnay. A great example is Xanadu Chardonnay where only 25% of the wine is matured in French Oak which gives it a subtle oak richness in balance with its green apple and citrus fruit that will pair perfectly with most fish or prawn dishes. Like other regions, greater varieties are being planted such as Sangiovese, Barbera and Tempranillo increasing the diversification of the region.
Hopping across to Melbourne, we look at the region of Victoria and its more boutique and small-scale production. Grampians, Macedon Ranges, Heathcote and Glenrowan are areas that take advantage of the cooling effect from being inland high altitudes zones. Due to Australia’s drought problems caused by El Nino, weather associated with droughts and wildfires, the area of Murray Darling, known for its irrigated bulk wine growing, is looking increasingly untenable.
Next is Yarra Valley which is almost as much about wine tourism as production, boasts some of Australia’s best restaurants. Here, no single vineyard shares the same characteristics such as altitude or soil, but the moisture-retentive clay-loam predominates. Initially an area for very good Bordeaux blends, Pinot Noirs is now its main product. Our example is the Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir that shows the raspberry and morello cherry fruit typical of the grape with a clove spice finish. Great for any Roast Duck or rich fish dishes such as Salmon en croute.
South of Melbourne is the Mornington Peninsula, home of the International Pinot Noir Celebration. With some of the worlds best Pinot Noirs coming from this area, price tags match those of Yarra Valleys as well as sharing similar tourism approaches. It is thought that most of the plantings of Pinot Noir were brought over in the 19th century by viticulturalist James Busby from Clos Vougeout in Burgundy. Notable Producers are Ten Minutes by Tractor and Stonier.
Taking a quick detour to eastern New South Wales, areas like Tumbarumba, Canberra District and Mudgee all produce great quality wines. However, Hunter Valley is best known, maybe because of its close proximity to Sydney but also because of its suitability for wine production. Being this far north allows for an almost tropical climate. Hunter Valley Semillon is an unusual product for the region and is most famously produced by Tyrrells. Due to the humid condition, to avoid rot grapes are picked at a relatively low sugar content which creates a high level of acidity notably described as Battery Acid in the tasting notes. However, being left in the bottle for a few years, a honeyed richness starts to come through and will age beautifully for decades. Some lovely cool climate Shiraz’s are also produced here but take on more of a Burgundian Pinot Noir than a typical Shiraz.
Popping back down south, the large island of Tasmania is gaining more recognition. Due to its cool climate from being an island, it is a natural home for Pinot Noir’s, Chardonnay’s, and Riesling’s. Having the same average temperature as southern England, it is a great producer of Traditional Method sparkling wine, the best coming from Tamar Valley, Pipers River and Derwent Valley.
Back over to Victoria, we have a Rutherglen Durif to taste next. Durif is a French grape that was cross-pollinated from the plants of Syrah and the obscure Peloursin. Not seen much in France anymore, but it has thrived in Rutherglen as it produces a lovely inky black, rich wine. Commonly mistaken for Petite Sirah because of similarities, the lashings of fruits on the nose and palate such as blackberry jam, plums, velvety tannins, and a long finish, this has Australia written all over it. Perfect Barbecue wine.
Another speciality of Rutherglen and Glenrowan are its Liqueur Muscats. A survivor of times when fortified wines were the mainstay of Australian production and are unique to the region. Raisined Muscat and Muscadelle grapes take years to ferment and fortify in wooden casks through a hybrid of sherry and Madeira production. This is done in a way with some modernisation from the heat and fractional blending where a proportion of the younger wines are blended into older vats to give a consistent style. Complex and unique, they are with seeking out.
It is worth a mention that due to the increase of varieties being introduced into the Australian wine regions, strict plant quarantine laws are in place, with good reason, and is the reason for long wait times for the emergences of the more diverse grapes. There are still large areas of phylloxera free with vines on their own roots and more importantly, very old vines in some regions that produce grapes with great concentration of flavour.
We hope this covered much of Australia you hoped to learn about and join us next time when we head across the water to explore the regions of New Zealand.