Tag Archives: australia

The future of Australia… it’s bright indeed!

Yesterday, Australia’s First Families of Wine (AFFW) gathered at the Press Club  in San Francisco, showcasing wines from twelve different firmly-established wine-making families of Australia.

AFFW logoAs a history major, I love First Families.They get things started, they blaze trails and begin an era. They create “tradition.”

And Australia has tradition. In an effort to highlight this tradition and history as it relates to Australian wine, and put to rest any idea that Australian wine might be a “fad,” Australia’s First Families of Wine are going global!

What can we say about Australian wine & tradition? Quite a bit. First, Australians are funny. They are off-the-cuff, good sense of humor funny. Of the 12 representatives from the AFFW, not one was dry and boring. Second, they are all a bunch of dudes. Seriously, 12 men standing there talking about their wines. BUT, the majority of offspring from these 12 men are females.  In fact, three of them have three daughters. As they talked about the next generation, they explained that many of their children left the “nest” to explore, but then returned to the family business with a deeper passion for it. So we expect these first families to stay family-oriented as it moves to those fourth, fifth and sixth generations. The most exiting thing I discovered at the tasting with this group on Monday, was the diversity of these wines and how well they can age! Sure, I knew Australia was diverse – I already drink a lot of Australian wine. But the ageing potential… from a 15 year old Marsanne to a 18 year old Cabernet to the most luscious “sticky” I’ve ever had, the wines here were tremendous. Both for sipping and storing in your cellar.

Despite these families being the “first” and the “traditional” Australian wines, they are not opposed to change and innovation. In fact, they embrace marrying the old and new. Over the last century, wineries, like those part of the first families, have been experimenting with varietals and pruning and sorting and winemaking. They have worked hard to find out what works best.

The future of Australian wine is certainly bright. I had a chance to sit down with Alistair Purbrick of Tahbilk Winery, Robert Hill Smith of Yalumba Winery, and Chester Osborn of d’Arenberg Winery.  AFFM2   All three believe this is a perfect time for Australian wine. The cheap Australian wine craze has died down, and it is time to re-introduce the world to Australian wine from those who do it best.

Whether you love  jammy Shiraz, bone-dry Riesling, cool-climate Pinot Noir, aged Semillon or some creamy Chardonnay, Australia’s diverse climate and wine selection can satisfy nearly any palate.

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Aussie Wines Rocking My World

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What do we really know about Australia and the wines made there? Maybe less than we should! Not only is Australia a huge country (sixth largest in the world) but it’s also the source of some of the world’s most spectacular wines. If you still equate the country with large-production value Shiraz and not much else, it’s time to take a closer look.

I got a full immersion into the wide variety of Australian wines when I judged in the Sydney International Wine Competition in 2012. As one of three Americans, I was treated to an Australian wine education by the Aussies, Kiwis and Brits. I was just a bit surprised by the complex methods used at this judging. The organizers brought in a top level chef to create dishes to match the categories. We were asked to write complete thoughts as well as recordings of our findings on tape.  In addition to participating in an incredible  judging event, we enjoyed wines from the cellars of many of the participating judges.

In the last month I’ve had two exciting Australian wine encounters that rocked my world. First, Michael Twelftree – Proprietor & Managing Director of Two Hands Wines – visited the Wine.com offices. Listening to him as we tasted his wines was simply amazing. The intensity and passion he conveyed made the tasting an experience of a lifetime. I learned that Twelftree was very adamant about producing wines of integrity and elegance in order  to shed the preconception that Aussie wines are mostly big and brawny. Three weeks later, I attended a presentation by Sue Hodder – Senior Winemaker of Wynns Coonwarra Estates – and found the wines equally remarkable; they were wonderfully rich and well-balanced. Both winemakers had succeeded in convincing me that their country produces truly world class wines.

While Shiraz remains high on my charts of Australian wines, I am taking a new path and seriously looking at Cabernet Sauvignons. Two of my current favorites are the super-rich 2012 Two Hands Sexy Beast and the elegant yet persistent 2012 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon. Try either of these wines with a juicy steak and prepare to have your world rocked by Australia too!

Top Underrated Wine Regions

There are a plethora of underrated wine regions and grapes in the world. That is to say that the wine geeks know and love them, but the general wine public do not. Could be because they are hard to pronounce, or the labels are confusing, or they are not as hyped up or available in stores. Whatever the reason, the wine geeks will continually try to push these underrated wines onto the everyday wine drinkers until they become popular, and then we will move onto something else. So, in the effort to educate, here are my top picks for underrated regions in the wine world:

Alsace: Hands down, one of the best regions for white wine ever. Pinot Blanc is refreshing trimbachin its simplicity, Pinot Gris is rich and round, blends are unique and complex, and the Cremants (sparkling) from Alsace are devine. Not to mention affordable. In all, a region producing an array of whites – from sparkling to dry to sweet – that are ideal for food and easy on the wallet.

Loire: Wait, did I say Alsace was hands down best for whites. Hmmm… I take it back. Because there is also the Loire. Another French region so often overlooked, the Loire produces food-friendly whites, reds, rose, sparkling and sweet wines, with a huge range of flavors, from refreshing Muscadet to steely Sancerre to off-dry Vouvray to light and fresh Chinon (a red wine).  And it’s all so damn good, with one underlying aspect: acidity! These wines are all crisp and perfect with food. So if you love acid, buy a bottle (of anything!) from the Loire. Your palate will thank you.

Western Australia: Australia gets lots of love, but Baroassa Shiraz, Clare Valley Rieslings and Yarra Valley Pinot are diverse and all, but you have to try Margaret River wines to leeuwin vineyardstruly understand the depth of Australian wine. All the way across the country, Margaret River is a region with a climate similar to Bordeaux, which results in incredible Cabernet and Cabernet blends. For whites, they make some of the best Chardonnay I’ve had, definitely the best in Australia. Just give Leeuwin Artist Series or Cullen a try. You’ll be in heaven.

Austria: I’m hesitant to even put this on here because Austria is gaining some ground in hype and availability of its wines. Gruner Veltliner is obviously the top white to try (one of the best to pair with those vegetables that never pair well with foods), and then you have a whole line up of hard-to-pronounce reds like Zweigelt and Blaufrankish. They won’t be your typical Cab/Merlot/Pinot flavor profile, but they are interesting and.. you guessed it. Food friendly (do you see my theme here?).

So give some of these wines a try – for the ones you can find – and broaden that palate. You’ll be well on your way to wine geekdom.

Drinking Deliciously with Peter Lehmann Wines

The problem with productive wine lunches is that they lead to slightly less productive afternoons. So I write of that lunch and the delicious wines tried an entire week after the fact.

I’ve had a few lovely dinners and lunches with the charming Ian Hongell, senior winemaker at Peter Lehmann wines. I first met Ian at the Barossa winery in 2007, when my husband and I travelled down under and toured a number of wineries. Our tour of Peter Lehmann winery stood out due to our immediate connection with Ian. His affability and passion for his wines sunk in and we became big fans of both Ian and the winery. Hard not to – with a line up that ranges from killer deal to cellar-worthy collectible, Peter Lehmann has a focus on quality and affordability.

Let’s just say that all the wines I tried from Peter Lehmann are good. Some are more drink-it-now everyday style wine, like the dry Riesling, the Chardonnay and the newest line, Layers. Layers produces both a red and white blend under the label. The white is a definite Australia blend, with Semillon, Australian Muscat,  Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. It’s not sweet, per-se, but it has that ripe, Muscat/Gewurz aroma and flavor. In fact, there are layers of fruit in here! I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys Conundrum or Evolution – it’s fantastic with spicy or salty food. We enjoyed it with some fried green tomatos at One Market – can you say yum? The red is a Rhone blend, with Shiraz, Mourvedre and Grenache as the lead grapes. It’s smooth and easy-drinking, great fruit and spice blend and a fantastic everyday red.

One of the terribly affordable but tastes-like-a-$30-bottle that impressed me was the new vintage and label of Clancys, a uniquely Australian blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. So well-balanced between fruit and structure, and a great wine with food. Hope to have this new vintage – and label – on the site soon!

Finally, what we like most about wine- the STORY behind it. The next wine I tried definitely has that. The Eight Songs, a decadent Shiraz full of dark berries and dark chocolate, is named for an operatic piece called The Eight Songs of a Mad King. King George III of Britain, as it is well-known, suffered from demential towards the end of his life. During this time, he apparently wrote songs and played them on his organ. Eight Songs pays tribute to these songs by printing differing sets of the lyrics on each label. 

The wine is divine, in a word. It’s silky smooth – almost too much so. We tried both the ’05 and ’06 vintages, and while I loved them both, the ’06 stood out with its complexity and layers. Felt like there were 9 songs going on in the glass.

So sing a song for King George III with a bottle of Eight Songs. 2006 should be here soon so stay tuned. Cheers!