Thursday, June 27, 2013

How to choose an Aussie red wine

The key to choosing and Aussie wine, and indeed many wines, is identifying location, location, location.

In Australia, there are eight main regions for red wines, two cool, two warm and four hot. You need to remember that each region will focus on the grape variety that grows best in the climate/ soil/ water conditions, but they may bottle other grape varieties too. The trick is to choose the region that is best for the grape:

Yarra Valley - Pinot Noir
Mornington Peninsular - Pinot Noir

Margaret River - Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot
Coonawarra - Cabernet Sauvignon
Heathcote - Shiraz

Hunter Valley - Shiraz
McLaren Vale - Shiraz
Barossa - Shiraz

So if you're looking for a more delicate wine, or a wine with low tannin, the red fruit in Pinot Noir from Yarra or Mornington might be to your taste. These wines can also be served slightly chilled if you're looking for a refreshing drink for warm summer evenings. You may even enjoy the Shiraz from Heathcote which should be more refined than a "normal" Shiraz due to the lower temperature.

However, Aussies are known for their BIG reds...

If you like something with complexity (a variety of flavours) and higher tannins, I'd say try one of the Cab Savs from Margaret River or Coonawarrra. One thing I love about Cab Sav from Australia that you don't get in the rest of the world is the flavour of eucalyptus, which gets picked up from the soil and air as the eucalyptus trees expel their oils. It makes these wines fantastic for anything that has red meat and mint/ rosemary/ thyme. The wine has high tannin which is good for steak and roast or grilled meat, and the eucalyptus matches the herbs. Top match for a roast lamb, lamb chops, or even Lebanese/ Greek kebabs.

My favourite Aussie red is a Shiraz. Yum. Big fat blackberries. Alcoholic Ribena. Telly wine. Easy drinking, no food required, warms you up and goes down a treat. Most should have a lovely spicy finish, peppery. I would always recommend a Shiraz from Barossa as a starting point, you can't go much wrong. If you're not a connoisseur then price will mostly make the difference of how long the flavour, and bottle, will last. It's a good idea to drink a Barossa Shiraz slowly as the warm climate tends to encourage a greater alcohol content. Boozy!

TIP: The longer-lasting the flavour of the wine, the longer it takes for the flavour to disappear, and the longer between sips. You/ I/ we tend to take sips more frequently with short-lasting wines.

If you are a connoisseur, then I recommend you move on from Barossa Shiraz and try Barossa Mourvedre, an element in GSM (something everyone should try), and very delicious in its own right. These wines go great with mushroom, veal, beef, pasta, BBQ, duck with cherry jus... or on its own.

You can really get carried away with Barossa wines, I certainly do, as I bought a case + 3 bottles of a wine that isn't available yet + a magnum that cost £100 at the Hewitson & Elderton wine dinner at DVine cellars a few weeks ago. so the best tip I can give you is that so long as the label says "Barossa" on it, it will be a good quality wine. If it says "South Eastern Australia" it won't be a bad quality wine per se, but it means the producer has taken grapes from all over Australia to make the blend. This ensures their wines have consistency, and therefore more reliable (once you find a wine like this you love, you can buy it over and over again, and that's what the big guns are aiming for), but it means they don't have to pay attention to the wine when they make it, and that's what's special. "Barossa" on the label might make the starting price higher, but you can stay low without risking quality.

TIP: If you like big Aussie reds, look out for "Barossa Shiraz" on the label.

My favourite Aussie red is Rockford Rod & Spur Cab Sav & Shiraz. Tip top wine.

If you want to look for an easily identifiable brand, you can't go wrong with Wolf Blass Yellow Label. It doesn't say "Barossa" on the label but it does say "South Australia" and all the Shiraz vineyards I listed above are in South Australia, so its good enough.


  1. Thanks for the clear and easy to follow explanation!

  2. I forgot to mention that Barossa and McLaren Vale are also known for growing Grenache, hence why GSM is so prevalent. GSM is a blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre. Delicious.

    TIP: The grape listed first in a blend is the one with highest volume in the wine. I will cover this in more detail when I do a blog on Bordeaux.