Page 4-5: Our unique treasures
I immigrated to Australia 10 years ago and became a citizen of this wonderful country as soon as I was able but it wasn’t until I was back in the UK a few years ago that I really started to feel Australian. And that was thanks to a bottle of wine.
I was with friends, drinking and talking about wine. I found myself extolling the virtues of the many Aussie drops I’d been enjoying but couldn’t help noticing an air of scepticism. It seemed the prevailing view was that, while Australia produced decent wines, Europe was still the place to go for something different, interesting or special. I felt my hackles rise. I was becoming defensive about Australian wine. About my wine!
Fortunately I had the perfect bottle to make my case: a Hunter Valley Semillon with, if memory serves, seven or eight years behind it. It was bright and crisp, with zesty lemon and lemon squash flavours. Just so refreshing. But age was starting to add complexity too. Golden in colour, it revealed toasty notes and the merest hints of honey on a beautifully textured palate: a promise of things yet to come.
It is fair to say the wine had quite an impact. Once the satisfied murmurings died down, I asked the all-important question: “Where outside Australia can you find a wine like this?” The answer of course was nowhere. And with that, a newly-minted Aussie sat back and watched as the bottle disappeared in a flash.
Australian wine can compete with the best from around the world but what really makes it exciting for me are the unique treasures this country brings to the table. Unbound by the traditions and regulations of the Old World, and with our own unique terroirs, Aussie winemakers have always been able to play by their own rules, making the Australian wine landscape one of the most interesting and innovative in the world. We can all be proud of that.
Hunter Valley Semillon
Hunter Valley Semillon is a style you’ll find nowhere else in the world. Jancis Robinson MW famously described it as “Australia’s great gift to the wine world” and I’m not about to disagree. Crisp, bright and fresh in its youth, it really comes into its own after five or more years in the bottle, deepening in colour, flavour and texture. Mix a case of the 2006 and 2014 vintages from Montvalley and see the transformation for yourself!
Montvalley Semillon 2014
Hunter Valley, NSW
The 2014 vintage yielded stunning fruit, which was carefully hand-picked to preserve its integrity. Aromas of lime leaves, lemon flowers and hints of classic herbaceous notes lead on to a silky citrus acidity on the palate.
Montvalley Semillon 2006
Hunter Valley, NSW
The tight structure this wine was born with continues to support it during its maturation. Soft and elegant in the mouth, it displays flavours of lemon oil and jasmine on a pleasing acid backbone. A classic maturing Hunter Semillon.
Cabernet and Shiraz blends
Shiraz (or Syrah) comes from the Rhône Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux and never the twain shall meet! Or so the French would have it. We’re not so restricted here in Australia and thank goodness, because combining these two mighty grapes opens up a whole new world of delicious possibilities. While you can find the odd example from other parts of the New World, these wonderful blends have Australia’s name all over them.
Deep Woods Estate Ebony Cabernet Shiraz 2013
Margaret River, WA
Aromas of ripe black fruit and violets with hints of chocolate and spice mirror the fruity intensity. On the palate, rich Cherry Ripe and dark berry flavours flow into soft, fleshy tannins.
Watershed Shades Shiraz Cabernet Merlot 2014
Margaret River, WA
Intense aromas of blackberries, liquorice and plums are supported by hints of herbs and vanilla notes. On the palate, the sweet berry and chocolate flavours are complemented by a soft round texture finishing with fine velvety tannins.
Sure, the Italians have their own sparkling reds (I’m looking at you, Lambrusco) but a good sparkling Shiraz is a thing of singularly Australian beauty. Secondary fermentation in the bottle gives the rich, intense fruit of Aussie Shiraz a vivacious lift. For many, this is a ‘Christmas’ special but there’s no reason to limit yourself to once a year. Top class examples like the Peter Lehmann Black Queen Sparkling Shiraz 2010 make sensational food wines any time of year and are a great bet for the cellar too.
Peter Lehmann Black Queen Sparkling Shiraz 2010
Barossa Valley, SA
“The grapes come from the Light Pass district; after conventional fermentation, the wine spent 2 years in used French oak before bottle fermentation and 2 years on lees. It has very good Shiraz varietal character, dark brooding fruits layered with spice and licorice, the tannins admirably fine and supple; excellent balance/dosage.” James Halliday