Recently we had a look at the new varieties that are appearing on the market place but let’s not forget Australia has for a long time been producing outstanding wines from traditional French German and Spanish grape varieties such as Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon, Riesling and Verdelho plus lesser known varieties such as Grenache and many outstanding fortified styles originally labelled Port, Sherry and Madeira although these terms have changed to accommodate European Rules and regulations.
This time let’s have a look at some of the above and see if we can’t get you to try something you may have not tried for some time or maybe never before. We all know about Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon but you may not be familiar with Grenache which until the early 1990s was mainly used in the production of fortified wine but this was all about to change thanks to the success of a wine called Jacobs Creek in The U.K.
In the 1980’s we had created a wine lake so big that wineries were being paid a dollar amount to pull the vines out of the ground, which included many old vines, so when all of a sudden the demand went through the roof and we were caught short and couldn’t fill the orders. In fact, a lot of our premium red wine had been put into the 4-litre casks just to use it up but once the U.K. had taken everything we could produce some wine companies started to import red wine from Chile just to fill the casks!
It was around this period that several vineyards rediscovered Grenache and although more difficult to pick as the grapes tend to grow on bush-like vines rather than normal vines. The grape produces medium to full-bodied red wines that tend to be higher in alcohol and one, in particular, comes to mind and that is The Richard Hamilton “Burton’s Vineyards” Old Bush Vine Grenache which if you can find is an excellent wine.
It is also a good variety to blend and if you see the words GSM on a label it translates to Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro (Mourvedre) a popular blend from The McLaren Vale area of South Australia. Both Semillon and Riesling produce outstanding wines in Australia but the general wine drinking public tend to steer towards Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay and miss out on not only some superb wines but also outstanding value for money.
“It’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip if wine… it’s summertime!”
Both of these grape varieties produce wines that if cellared correctly will mature over many years and can match food superbly and both wines are normally made without the use of barrels. Semillon was first planted in The Hunter Valley in N.S.W. in 1830 and was labelled under a variety of labels until DNA of the vines proved it was Semillon. It was initially thought to be a clone of Riesling and was named Hunter Valley Riesling, also Shepherds Riesling, Hock, Rhine Gold, White Burgundy and Chablis.
In the early 1980’s it was finally established to be Semillon but in many ways, it is probably closer to Chardonnay than Riesling especially as it ages. Drank young it has a lemon, grassy aroma and well suits most fish and chicken dishes especially served with wedges of lime, but as it ages over five years towards ten years it will develop toasty honeyed aromas and most wines are un-oaked but as they age they give an impression of spending years in barrels. Two of the standout producers of Semillon in The Hunter Valley are McWilliams and Tyrell’s who have championed this grape variety for years.
It is possible to find McWilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon under $20 from time to time with a regular price of $25 and when it ages expect to pay upwards of $60 or more. Tyrell’s Museum Vat 1 2005 at Dan Murphy’s will set you back $150, McWilliams Mt. Pleasant Blue Label $30 and Brokenwood Semillon $20. It also makes a great dessert wine, look for a Botrytis Semillon from De Bortoli that will complete a perfect dinner with a great match to fruit but magnificent with blue cheese.
Australian Riesling suffered a downturn in sales in the mid to late 1980s when 4-litre casks carried the name Riesling but were actually produced from sultanas and were a very poor semi-sweet concoction that bore no similarity to the crisp fresh wines in the bottle. The main growing areas for growing Riesling are The Clare and Eden Valleys of South Australia and The Great Southern Region of Western Australia but as with Chardonnay Riesling can be and is grown in almost any wine growing region in the country.
Written by… Charles Buadelaire, please take this in the right context!
“One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters…..But with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose. But get drunk”
Wynn’s in The Coonawarra make a very good wine and at around $12 is always good value. I notice Dan Murphy’s claim to stock around 400 plus Rieslings and at one time every vineyard in Australia had plantings. It is very difficult with this number of labels to recommend individual wineries but I sold Claymore from The Clare and their Joshua Tree was a good example of that region but Rieslings from Leasingham, Leo Buring, Henschke, Yalumba, Pikes, Jim Barry, Pewsey Vale can all be found for around $20 and from Western Australia Leeuwin Estate Art Series, and Ferngrove are very well made wines.
When the new vintage of a wine called Rieslingfreak is released, made by John Hughes a friend of mine who attended The Roseworthy Wine College with me, it is worth trying a bottle, his last vintage was declared the best in Australia, I found a bottle in Fortitude Valley and it was excellent If you enjoy a feed of oysters or prawns with a wedge of lemon you couldn’t do any better than an Australian Riesling, Spinnakers Fish and Chip shop has a Yalumba in the fridge and it is great. I think I am pushing my space this time but for something different try a Tullochs Verdelho from The Hunter Valley, crisp and dry and a lovely drop.
Cheers, Philip Arlidge [email protected]