Australia Day: Australia’s national holiday (sort of like the Aussie 4th of July). Since Australia is celebrating its being a country, I thought I would celebrate the country’s wines… For the past decade or so, Australian wines have gained popularity around the world. However, in recent years the economic downturn, Australian currency strength and keen competition have somewhat softened the popularity expansion of Aussie wines. Another factor that many critics point to is the massive expansion of inexpensive, mass marketed “critter labled” wines produced in Australia but meant only for export. These wines meet popular price points and ‘lowest common denominator’ flavor profiles, which in some ways created an impression that Australian wine is cheap, while quality is but a secondary consideration. I think this is too bad, because there are many high quality, large production Australian wines on the market that still meet competitive price points without sacrificing quality for the sake of marketing gimmickry.
Now that Australia Day (January 26th) is nearly upon us, I thought it appropriate to present a few Australian white wine suggestions to consider for your Australia Day celebrations (no matter where you are!).
Dry Riesling – this variety seems little known in the US, but I hope it is gaining in popularity. The brightly acidic, lime and citrus flavors dance on the palate, and sometimes these wines will exhibit slight ‘petrol’ notes (in a good way) before the crisp mineral finish. Counter to how most people think about white wines, dry Rieslings can age especially well, in time developing interesting honey elements that counter the fresh acidity of the wines when younger. Many of the best Australian Dry Rieslings come from South Australia’s Claire and Eden Valleys, West Australia and recently Tasmania. Price points for these wines is very inviting, great examples can be found for well under $20. Some of my favorite, widely available Dry Rieslings are:
Leasingham Magnus Riesling (www.leasingham-wines.com.au) – Claire Valley, South Australia
Yalumba Y Series Riesling (www.yalumba.com) – highly rated yet inexpensive, from Australia’s oldest family owned winery in Eden Valley, South Australia.
Unoaked Chardonnay – right now I am very excited about Australia’s un-oaked chardonnays. This is not to say that traditional style chardonnays cannot be excellent (anyone who has sipped a Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay will attest to that), but the un-oaked style is inviting due to the clean and fruity crispness of wine as well as the price – no expensive oak barrels means less expensive production, which means lower price point for the consumer! Some Unoaked Chardonnays worth trying:
Elderton Unoaked Chardonnay (www.eldertonwines.com.au) – A well-regarded South Australia wine maker – this medium bodied chardonnay has tropical fruit, green apple and mineral notes.
Wishing Tree Unoaked Chardonnay – from Margaret River (south of Perth) West Australia, this chardonnay is positively zesty – Bright flavors of apple, peach, pear and citrus show through nicely with crisp finish that reminds me of the Burgundy Whites from the Macon region – clean, fruity and crisp.
Semillon – Another grape varietal that gets less attention in the US than it does in other parts of the world. An anchor grape of the famous Bordeaux Blanc wines, Semillon is known to be a lean and fresh wine that subtly wraps complexity inside its lemon/apricot flavors. Australian Semillon is said to have two lives; young wines are crisp, fresh citrusy wines, then after five years aging there will be complex toast and nutty characteristics – fascinating! I like Semillons from Hunter Valley New South Wales:
Hope Estate (www.hopeestate.com.au) Hunter Valley Semillon
De Bortoli Wines (www.debortoli.com.au) Hunter Valley Semillon