Much has been made of Italian and Mediterranean varietals making waves at the Australia Day Tasting. Chris Wilson argues that this is just one side of the coin and says that some examples of classic Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay at ADT showed why they were so popular in the first place.
The Pawn Wine Co and David Franz were just two of the wine producers who had fine examples of classic varietals done Aussie style at ADT.
Two days after the Australia Day Tasting (ADT) I was chatting to the former director of a specialist Australian wine importer.
She missed the tasting but was keen to know two things, what were the stand-out trends and what was the best wine I tasted all day?
Both answers came pretty easily:
1. Non-traditional Aussie varieties, with a heavy leaning on Italian classics
2. Georgie’s Walk Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 from David Franz
Then it struck me that for all the wines I tasted on the day from plantings of varieties not classically linked to Australia – such as Fiano, Sangiovese, Vermentino, Assyrtiko! – what stood out for me was a wine that demonstrated exactly why the world fell in love with Australia in the first place.
It was a stone-cold classic Aussie Cab.
That’s not to dismiss this new wave of wines which are important in the progression of Australian wine (not least from a marketing perspective, see Richard Siddle’s feature on this), but if we are to tell the true story of what Australia does well and – crucially – what it ‘sells well’ then mainstream varieties such as Cabernet, Shiraz and Chardonnay should be centre stage alongside these new kids on the block when it comes to reporting on trends and popularity of wines from Down Under.
To splash with the new and push the established out of the frame does the consumer a huge disservice, and it’s twofold: it undermines their tastes and buying habits and also paints a picture that suggests that, say, Italian varieties or unusual blends, and more ubiquitous than they actually are.
Just look at the stats, Italian varieties are responsible for less than 3% of total production. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a thrilling emerging sector for Australia, and many of the wines were outstanding (Vinteloper TN/15 Touriga Nacional 2015 and Jim Barry’s Assyrtiko 2016, to name two) but there were just as many exciting wines from the other side of the fence too; both classic and modern in style.
In his feature on Shiraz on this site Roger Jones makes as excellent point when he says “there is nothing quite like Australian Shiraz and I was delighted to find that this grape continues to excel.”
The same can be said of Australia’s other two most exported varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and this was demonstrated time and time again at ADT 2017.
Here are two examples that hit the nail square on the head:
Georgie’s Walk Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, David Franz (imported by The Knotted Vine)
So back to that Cab… this is a stunning wine made with fruit from Barossa (60%) and Eden Valley (40%). It has everything you desire from a South Australian Cabernet; an abundance of fruit (red and black), spice, liquorice and a delicious mouth-coating chocolate and mint finish.
Above all it’s the balance of all these elements that really tie it all together, and a heft of sweet oak which underscores all these flavours. Textbook stuff, and the kind of wine many, many Brits fell in love with 10-15 years ago when this style was all the rage.
Could it be a white Burgundy? Could it? Close your eyes and take in the orange peel and almond, the white peach and citrus, the subtle spice and oak… Well, it could be, but that’s to miss the point.
This is an Adelaide Hills Chardonnay and very proud of it too. It’s an excellent wine, brimming with character and with a finesse that leaves you wanting more, straight away. Preferably with some oysters and sunshine.