Aussie wine went from hot, to not. There was a time when we couldn’t guzzle enough of Australia’s fun, affordable varietal wines. That was until Chile and Argentina started successfully competing for this niche. And eventually wine lovers grew tired of the monotony of Australian selections that were virtually restricted to full-throttled, jammy high-alcohol reds and weighty tropical whites.
It can takes years to recover from old stereotypes but Australia is fully committed to altering perceptions. In an effort to freshen up its identity, Australia is going cool. To beat the heat, producers are seeking out the most southerly latitudes, looking for regions moderated by brisk ocean breezes and venturing higher in altitude. The new face of Australia includes wines marked by crisp acidities, fresh restrained fruit and lower alcohol. This Australia may surprise you but ultimately it should win you back without any risk of palate fatigue.
Tasmania is as far south as you can go in Australia and among the coolest of the cool. In certain areas, the climate has been compared to Champagne. Indeed high quality, traditional method sparkling is what the island has become known for, but Tasmania is also garnering accolades for still Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
On the mainland, the state of Victoria possesses plenty of cooler pockets. Around the city of Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula juts out into the Bass Strait benefiting from the cool sea air. Just inland, Yarra Valley enjoys reprieve from heat at altitudes up to 400m while both the Macedon and Strathbogie Ranges attain even loftier heights. Besides a focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, all of these regions offer elegant, medium-bodied Shiraz that favour savoury nuances over sweet fruit.
Altitude is equally defining in the South Australia. The region of Adelaide Hills produces Australia’s finest Sauvignon Blanc and is yet another source of delicious reined-in Chardonnay. In both Clare and Eden Valley, the highest elevations are responsible for zesty and vivacious Riesling, guaranteed to change your opinion of Aussie wine.
You can chill out with Australia at Dish ‘n’ Dazzle on May 18 from 6:30-9:30pm at the Vancouver Convention Centre East. Tickets are $85 with proceeds benefiting the BC Hospitality Foundation. (May I suggest a thoughtful Mother’s Day gift?) Expect enormous diversity amidst the 100-plus Aussie wines with plenty of cool cats on display. Following are just a few highlights.
2014 Pewsey Vale, Riesling • Eden Valley, South Australia • $19.99, BC Liquor Stores
The upper reaches (up to 500m) of Eden Valley provide a treasure trove of intensely lime, crisp, lively and juicy Riesling made in a dry, thirst-quenching style.
2012 Fowles, Are You Game? Shiraz • Victoria • $19.99, BC Liquor Stores
The chilly Strathbogie Ranges of Victoria gives a fragrant and leaner expression of Australia’s signature grape. Fruit and alcohol is kept in check allowing black pepper, currants, violets and nutmeg flavours to shine.
2013 Soumah, Single Vineyard Chardonnay • Yarra Valley, Victoria • $31.99, BC Liquor Stores
Emblematic of Australia’s updated approach to Chardonnay where complexity and balance reign. Crushed hazelnut and toasted kernel aromas are offset by flavours of ripe pear and Meyer lemon in this beautifully layered and textured white.
2011 Heemskerk, Abel’s Tempest, Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir • Tasmania • $34.99, private wine stores
Lemon curd and citrus pith along with rosehip and red currant lead to a macadamia note on finish. As bracing as the sea air.
2013 BK Wines Skin n’ Bones Pinot Noir • Adelaide Hills, South Australia • $39.49, private wine stores
Limpid and light, with nuances of cranberry, cinnamon, cherry blossom and autumn leaves, this clocks in at a mere and refreshing 12.5 per cent alcohol.
• Prices exclusive of taxes.