Thursday, January 25, 2018

Affordable Australian Wines

Australia is one of the biggest wine producers in the world (5th in 2017) and there are a lot of affordable Aussie wines on the shelves, so which ones to choose? These are the wines I served at Charvil Wine Club for Australia Day. Some of these wines feature at my pop up wine bar in Marlow Buckinghamshire. To find out mroe about my pop up wine bars in Bucks and Berks click here.

Image from Italian Wine Central

It's good to start by looking at which wines are typically produced in which region to get a taste for the different styles, then once you find a style you like to explore the same grapes from different regions, or other wines from the same producer.

Image from Wine Folly

Chardonnay and Semillon are Australia's most widely produced white wines. Semillon is the iconic wine of Hunter Valley, which is two hours drive north of Sydney in NSW. Semillon in the Hunter  Valley is harvested early with low sugar levels (resulting in low alcohol) and low acidity. The wines are almost neutral in flavour when first bottled, but then develop honey and toast with bottle age. This Lindemans shows gooseberry and lemon zest aromas, with a subtle honeyed finish. Lindemans Bin 1355, Semillon, Hunter Valley, Australia, 2013, 10.5% Waitrose £9.99.

Over-oaked Aussie Chardonnay is what led to the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) trend. Those days are mostly gone and wineries are now producing elegant Chardonnays like this one. It has light oak in it, detected by the vanilla note, and the lemon and pear aromas balance the wine nicely, with a hazelnut finish. Daydream, De Bortoli, Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Australia, 2014, 12.5% Waitrose £9.99

Australia is known for its diveristy, so be brave to try something atypical. A full-bodied, aromatic unoaked white wine, with lovely peach, tangerine and honeysuckle flavours. You may notice an oily sensation on your tongue, which is common with this grape. It has quite a high alcohol content because the grapes are left on the vine longer to ensure they achieve their heady aromas. A vegan wine. Yalumba, Organic Viognier, South Australia, 2016, 13.5% Wine Rack £11.99

Eden Valley is known for minerally and dry Rieslings; Clare Valley is known for rich Rieslings, and this certainly is rich. Zingy citrus fruit, lime and a hint of petrol on the finish. Many Rieslings are off-dry like this one. However, its acidity is so high that without doing a sweetness test (dipping the tip of your tongue into the wine) you may not have detected the residual sugar. Baily & Baily, Folio, Riesling, Clare Valley, Australia, 2015, 11.5% Waitrose £8.49
Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are the most planted red grape varieties in Australia. It's a great idea to try wines from different regions and at different price points. For example, if oak is used in the wine-making the wine will be more epxensive, so if you don't like the flavours imparted by oak (vanilla, caramel) then you'll be satsified by a cheaper wine. If you want full-bodied and juicy go for Shiraz from McLaren Vale or Barossa, but if you want something fresher and more like a French Syrah (same grape as Shiraz) then go for one from Victoria.

Dark purple colour. Blueberry, black cherry, and black pepper, with hints of cocoa. The cool climate of the Grampians in Victoria allows this wine to develop more savoury characteristics. Shiraz from the Grampians is known for being peppery, and is often sourced for sparkling red wine production. A great value wine. Mount Langi Ghiran, Hollows Shiraz, Victoria, 2013, 14% Wine Rack £6.99

Black and silky, aged in new American oak with a long velvety finish. Blackcurrant jam, sweet spices, vanilla and coconut. A long finish, which means you are likely to drink it less quickly, and a bottle should last longer. Vegetarian and organic, made with minimal interference. IWC Gold and Decanter Silver medal winner. The Hedonist, Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia, 2014, 14% Wine Rack £15.49 THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVOURITE WINES

Cabernet Sauvignon wines from South Australia are fruit-forward, whereas Margaret River in Western Australia has a maritime climate similar to Bordeaux, so produces wines with more earthiness. 

Blackcurrant, cherry, liquorice, a hint of black olive and a savoury earthiness. An easy-drinking wine. The generous addition of Merlot (and a tiny drop of Malbec and of Petit Verdot) has softened the tannic structure of the Cabernet Sauvignon, making it a smoother, more approachable wine than Cab Savs from South Eastern Australia. Vasse Felix, Filius, Cabernet Merlot, Margaret River, Australia, 2015, 13.5% Waitrose £12.99

Coonawarra in South Australia is just about the best region for New World Cab Sav, known for growing grapes on its strip of ‘terra rossa’ soil. The 2014 vintage was rated as the best New World Cab Sav in Decanter magazine April 2017. Cherries and fresh blackberries with firm tannins and a lovely long length. Berton Vineyard, Reserve, Cab Sav, Coonawarra, Australia, 2013, 14.5% £14.75

Once you've tried the typical wines of Australia, try something different, like these wines from RedHeads. RedHeads is a kind of movement in winemaking. This team of dedicated winemakers scour Aussie vineyards to find spectacular parcels of grapes and blend them into outstanding wines.  They work in a small shed in McLaren Vale to make limited releases of wines that are great value for money. They are not tied to their own vineyards so they can make wine from the best grapes each year. If you find a RedHeads wine you like buy it quickly as they may not make it again next year. The Coco Rotie is a take on Cote Rotie, the Vinatus is copying the Rioja blend, and Nobs and Snobs is a Cab Sav / Malbec blend. You can buy RedHeads wines from Laithwaites.


And if you want to try something truly remarkable, go for this Aussie version of a Port (it can't be called a Port because its not from Portugal) by Penfolds, also available from Laithwaites.

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