As the global focus of this year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival, Australia and its wines and winemakers made it clear that they were not just another set of pretty faces. And if you simply couldn’t make it to town, take comfort in the fact that many of these Australian wines are available throughout British Columbia.
At the ‘affordable’ end of the price scale it is hard to beat the value that Australian whites and reds offer us. And these wines are not all Shiraz and Chardonnays, either.
J.J.McWilliam Shiraz Cabernet (300251) $9.99 overflows with tasty pepper-spiced blackberry and blackcurrant aromas and flavours. This is a bit of a rambunctious red that shows Cabernet-dominated blackberry fruit, with leather, liquorice and chocolate and a sprinkling of peppery spiciness.
Curiously more lushly Gewurztraminer than “racy” Riesling BRL Hardy calls their aromatic blended white Hardy’s “Stamp Series” Riesling Gewurztraminer (448548) $10.99. Much too rich and fruity to be “dry”, this hugely popular blend of Riesling and Gewurztraminer has lots of floral aromas and ripe peach and apple flavours and straddles the “sweet/dry” fence with a lean to the sweeter side.
It would be foolish to overlook the The Stump Jump Red (607085) $13.99 simply because it is far from expensive. This easy-drinking red is a blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre grapes. Hardly shy in the jammy fruit department, there are also marvellously interesting earthy and floral complexities in this reasonably complex wine.
Between $10 and $20 Australian wines are often vigorously fruity and unabashedly attractive. Australian wines in this price range play well with others and make friends with every sip.
But there are blended white wines in the just-bottled category, every bit as worthy of attention. St Hallett Poacher's Blend (535963) $15.99 brings together Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc in the classic tradition of any white Bordeaux from France, then adds a splash of Riesling to boost the fruit past Bordeaux’s dry and crisp lemon and green apple flavours into the tropical mango and pineapple zone.
Yalumba Y Series Viognier (624502) $17.99 overflows with apricot and honeysuckle aromatics lifting off the glass. Tropical fruit flavours tumble over candied lime and mandarin orange in this Australian white. And of course there’s that full-bodied, almost “oily” texture that Viognier can deliver so well.
Even after12 months in seasoned French oak barriques Brothers in Arms Killibinbin 'Sneaky' Shiraz Langhorne Creek (589929) $18.99 just seethes with fruit characters – all brooding plums and dark blue and black berry compote over a twist of liquorice and vanilla. This is a take-no-prisoners kind of red!
Somewhere around $20 and up, Australian wines can become overwhelmingly interesting, cunningly complex and resoundingly rich. Over the last decade many winemakers downunder have veered decisively and deliberately away from the ‘jammy fruit bomb’ style of wine that originally put Oz on all our wine maps 25 to 30 years ago.
As well as being more satisfying, today’s premium Australian wines are more food friendly, perfect partners for a variety of different cuisines. Often the food will tame the exuberant fruit characters of the wines.
Despite the name Princess Butterfly Pinot Noir (785436) $19.99 is not a feminine styled red in any sense at all. Dark strawberries and stewed plum flavours swirl into a pretty deep, surprisingly rich mouthfeel. Classic black cherry and liquorice and an earthy, almost ‘biscuity’ kind of coffee twist linger in the finish.
Very dark and 'lean' Barossa Estates Cabernet Sauvignon (888974) $21.99 slides through an initial volley of ripe plum aromas and flavours. This is a technically perfect example of what varietally correct Cabernet Sauvignon can present to us. Lots of blackcurrant fruit flavours up front, a touch of underlying mint, a smoky sliver of fresh cut cedar.
A very Bordeaux like blend of 45 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 32 per cent Merlot and 23 per cent Cabernet Franc Cape Barren Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Cabernet Franc (890715) $22.99 comes out of the bottle displaying the rich bumbleberry fruit expected of McLaren Vale wines. Within half an hour it somehow is transmogrified into a stunningly complex ‘dry’ French-styled red wine. A nice silky mouthfeel frames spicy oak, fresh ground coffee and a sprinkling of peppery sage fading into the finish.
Take some of the stars of the Vancouver International Wine Festival home with you today!
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