By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 3 March 2018
Whilst European wine regions are reeling from the effects of a wretched 2017 vintage battered by frost, hail and drought, one New World wine country is hoping to fill the gap on our wine shelves.
Australia is one of the few countries worldwide to have recorded its largest harvest for many years in 2017. Chile and Argentina have had a series of small harvests, South Africa is currently in drought and California’s wine crop was affected by rampant fires.
Now with global wine production at a 56-year-low, Australia is set to cash in.
My prediction is that we will start to see an influx of interesting new Australian wines made by boutique wineries, which have not been available recently in the UK, previously squeezed out by other New World or European competitors.
One of the best value categories, which Australia currently does well, is £12 - £20 per bottle. The Aussies can offer us the chance to try fine wines made by small producers, with an interesting array of new grapes like Fiano, Grenache and Tempranillo, at approachable prices. Here is a selection of my favourites to date:
Margaret River, Western Australia: LENTON BRAE SOUTHSIDE MARGARET RIVER CHARDONNAY 2015 (£14.95 www.thewinesociety.com)
A new find from a little known Wilyabrup winery run by the Tomlinsons, who used the Scottish word ‘brae’ to describe their small hill. Like many Margaret River Chardonnays, this has a winning combination of sleek juicy citric fruits and fleshy ripe zesty palate – good value too: 13.5%
Adelaide Hills, South Australia: SHAW & SMITH SAUVIGNON BLANC 2017 (£16.99 Henderson Wines; Luvians)
Adelaide Hills is one of Australia’s coolest regions, one of the few places to make sleek Sauvignon Blanc. Softer and richer than Loire or Bordeaux, with less pungency than New Zealand - but with a floral bouquet, limey fruit palate, soft leesy finish and very moderate alcohol for down-under: 12%
Clare Valley, South Australia: MOUNT HORROCKS WATERVALE RIESLING 2017 (£21.99 Fine Wine Musselburgh)
From a remote isolated single vineyard in north east of Clare with red soil over limestone; certified organic and meticulously tended by winemaker Stephanie O’Toole. Beautifully sleek Riesling, balanced with citric limey core, honed with razor-sharp acidity; gentle honeyed notes will increase with bottle age. Very good: 12.5%
Frankland River, Western Australia: LARRY CHERUBINO LAISSEZ FAIRE FIANO 2016 (£17.95 Berry Bros & Rudd www.bbr.com; St Andrews Wine Co; www.strictlywine.co.uk)
You usually find Fiano from Campania in Italy, but this small batch Australian-style Fiano from dynamo Larry Cherubino is a supercharged rich ripe version of the grape with exuberant quince and mango flavours, fresh limey flavours on the palate with fine zesty acidity – a very good effort: 13.5%
Adelaide Hills, S Australia: BK WINES SWABY CHARDONNAY 2013 (£35 www.swig.co.uk)
Kiwis Brendon and Kirstyn Keys trained in New Zealand, Argentina and California, but chose Australia to make single vineyard wines from a tiny winery in Piccadilly Valley bushlands east of Adelaide. Made with full gambit of Burgundian techniques from oak to lees stirring, in miniscule quantities, this racy minerally Chardonnay would suit Burgundy lovers: 12.5%
SE Australia: DOWN THE LANE SHIRAZ TEMPRANILLO 2016 de Bortoli (£6.99 Aldi)
If you are a fan of easy-going Aussie Shiraz or Rioja you will love this blend. Tempranillo, Rioja’s grape, adds a cherry fruited sweetness. Soft smooth – a limited edition wine for Aldi: 14%
Yarra Valley, Victoria: GIANT STEPS PINOT NOIR 2016 (£19.99 Henderson Wines)
Yarra Pinot Noirs are some of Australia’s finest. A blend of five Yarra vineyards, this open vat fermented Pinot Noir was aged for 11 months French oak (25% new) – creating rich cherry, forest fruit, luscious rounded fruits and cocoa undertones: 13.5%
Grampians, Victoria: FALLEN GIANTS SHIRAZ 2014 (£18.95 www.bbr.com)
With its scented bouquet, racy acidity, peppery, herby, smoky palate, this is much more Rhone-like than Australian. No surprise that the Grampians are one of the coolest areas in Victoria. Suit anyone who drinks Crozes Hermitage: 14%
McLaren Vale, South Australia: JAUMA LITTLE RAINDROPS GRENACHE 2016 (£23.50 www.lescaves.co.uk; www.thegoodwineshop.co.uk)
Our tasters adored this new wave crown-capped organic Grenache, a grape which works well down-under. Its fine herby bouquet, smooth texture, delicious juicy mouth-watering savoury character is so enticing – made with no additives by cook/sommelier/soil chemist James Erskine: 14%
Clare Valley, South Australia: KILIKANOON GSM GRENACHE SHIRAZ MOURVEDRE 2016 (£10.99 Waitrose)
A big hit with tasters who loved this smooth approachable southern Rhone-style blend made by Kevin Mitchell. Herby, smoky undertones, a Aussie match for Cotes du Rhone – ideal for barbeques: 14.5%
Riverland, SE Australia: BILL DOWNIE BIODYNAMIC PETIT VERDOT 2015 (£17.50 Cornelius Wines; Valhalla’s Goat; Beets, Leith)
In the same way that Malbec performs better in Argentina than in France, so Aussie Petit Verdot outdoes French efforts. It needs to be very ripe; here oozing ripeness, spice and style: 13.5%
McLaren Vale, South Australia: SC PANNELL ‘DEAD END’ TEMPRANILLO 2015 (£19.99 Beets; Fine Wine Co; Noel Young Wines)
An example of Australia’s diversity. Made from Rioja’s famous grape by up-and-coming winemaker Pannell who cut his teeth at Hardys, before branching out on his own. One of the best Aussie Tempranillo examples with cherried fruit, vanilla and spice: 14%
Taste 13 Australian wines at Rose’s Hidden Gems of Australia Wine Tasting on 11 April in Edinburgh £42 www.rosemurraybrown.com