Sprawled across the front window was a handwritten message.
“Australian Wine Tasting this Saturday!”
A diverse collection of wines showcased Australia’s versatility. There were crisp white wines, ones with oak influence and the occasional eccentric varietal. Bold, ripe reds were joined by terroir-driven spice and earth interpretations.
Then there was Tasmania and its cool climate varietals. Pinot Noir shined, both as a sparkling wine and as a still red so complex that had its provenance been from Burgundy it could be priceless. That was a common theme at the tasting, wines that over-deliver in quality, are incredibly unique and come at an amazing price that could be at least doubled if grown elsewhere in the wine world.
For years, Australian winemakers have fought an uphill battle for attention. Maligned for a segment of producers that embraced over-ripe, super-extracted wines that often featured small animals on their labels and came at inexpensive prices, the latest generation has changed that course. It’s a big continent and a wide diversity in climate, soil and varietals make Australia a new frontier that needs to be examined further.
These are the wines that made it into my case. There aren’t exactly 12 because two bottles of the same wine were purchased for a few of them.
The absolute star of the show was the Tolpuddle Pinot Noir 2016 ($74.99). From Tasmania’s Coal River Valley, it featured earthy aromas of turned leaves, cigar and cherry with medium-bodied cherry, cigar wrapper and anise flavors. It was an absolute stunner that sold out at a Christmas tasting. Fortunately, there was a six pack for purchase last weekend.
Also from Tasmania is the Jansz Rosé ($27) a sparkling wine with pretty yeasty and strawberry flavors.
Yalumba is an outstanding producer and three wines all come in less than $25. The Yalumba “Triangle Block,” Eden Valley, Shiraz-Viognier 2013 ($21.99) is a co-ferment done Cote Rotie style. The acidity from the Viognier helps round out the Shiraz and leaves a floral perfumed note.
From the Menzies Vineyard in Coonawarra, Yalumba “The Cigar” Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($21.99) spent 18 months in oak barrels and draws its name from the shape of the vineyard. It has lush tannins and currant flavors and is drinking very well.
In the cellar, the Yalumba Vermentino 2016 ($13.99) undergoes a wild fermentation and has a distinct green note – imagine the first crack of a slightly under-ripe banana. That is a prelude to a zesty, light white that would be a great aperitif or a partner with a rich dish of scallops.
In the Southwestern corner of Southern Australia, the Leeuwin Estate Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($29.99) is a very welcoming red with soft tannins and red fruit notes. It is reminiscent of a Sonoma Cabernet and comes at half the price.
On the other end of the ripeness spectrum is Hewitson “Ned and Henry’s” Barossa Valley Shiraz 2016 ($27.99). It’s unadulterated pleasure with lusty ripe blackberry flavors. It’s a juicy wine that tempers its exuberance with a fresh snap of acidity.
With Kilikanoon, “Mort’s Block,” Claire Valley Riesling 2015 ($17.99) there’s an acidity that pops the lemon-lime zest and keeps it a refreshing porch wine for spring and summer.
It’s the first time I’ve bought a case of all Australian wines. They’ve got a well-earned spot on my table and in my cellar.
• James Nokes writes a bi-weekly wine column for the Daily Chronicle. He’s been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.