What seems like a lifetime ago I started in the wine industry as a sales representative with Kaiser Stuhl which was a co-operative of over 100 small grape growers in The Barossa Valley in South Australia and it operated more like a family business than a large behemoth of a company. Kaiser Stuhl which mainly satisfied the bulk end of the market concentrating mainly on 4-litre casks, 2-litre flagons, Summer Wine, Black Forest Moselle and Gold Medal Rose was a co-operative created out of the great depression of 1931 as small winegrowers struggled to survive and did so until the 1990’s when Fosters who had acquired a large number of wineries decided to retire (dump) a lot of the cheaper ranges such as all of the Kaiser Stuhl products.
Kaiser Stuhl was the company that brought a young winemaker called Wolf Blass out to Australia to make a sparkling wine that would compete with Orlando’s Barossa Pearl but he would create a very successful selling rose which became known as Kaiser Stuhl Gold Medal Rose after winning a gold medal in an obscure tournament in Ljubljana and then going on to win more gold medals in Montpellier, Perth and Adelaide.
It was a wine ahead of its time and in Australia, we had a wine that outsold Mateus Rose from Portugal which at that time was the largest selling wine in the world, K.S. Gold Medal Rose was made from Grenache grapes, a variety that lost favour for a while, but has now come back in a big way now that Rose has all of a sudden found favour around the world as wine drinkers once again turn to this lighter style of red wine that can be drank icy cold, and there is a style to suit every taste.
Mainly a summertime wine Rose continues to grow in popularity accounting for over 11% of the world’s wine-drinking consumption. Here in Australia it is possible to find Rose made from just about every red wine grape and at every price point, Jacob’s Creek Le Petit Rose $14, Chapel Hill Sangiovese Rose $17, Mr Mick $16, Blue Pyrenees $18, Deep Woods Estate ‘Harmony’ $11, Shingleback Red Knot $15 and Pizzini $19 are just a small selection out of the hundreds out there and if you are having a meal at Seasars Restaurant at Spinnakers Marina try a bottle of ‘Rhythm and Rhyme’ Rose which goes well with the fish and chips.
Another region producing very good Rose wines is Provence in France and Australia ranks sixth in the world for importing Rose from this area. Provence sits in the South East of France and with the heat and sun ensuring the grapes early ripening and a variety of soils which can consist of limestone and shale near the coast to clay and sandstone inland influencing the different styles there is something for everyone.
Even Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have got in on the act with their Chateau Miraval Cotes De Provence Rose which costs around $27. Which Australian grape is very popular with winemakers with its vigour, ease of propagation, high yields and resistance to disease, can produce outstanding dry white wines, unbelievable botrytised sweet wines, ages beautifully and when blended with another grape variety is one of the country’s largest-selling white wines? It has had several different classifications before its real variety was revealed yet escapes the attention of many wine drinkers who for some reason choose varieties that are far less interesting than this outstanding Australian icon. We are of course referring to the grape variety Semillon.
As with many European grapes, Semillon arrived in Australia in 1831 as part of James Busby’s collection and found its home in the warm, humid Hunter Valley. In the early days and even until the early 1980s Semillon was often labelled Hock, White Burgundy, Chablis and even Hunter River Riesling so no wonder this classic had a confused existence and found it hard to stand on its own as a standalone variety, however when it was blended with Sauvignon Blanc in the early 1990s and called a “classic dry white” the public went crazy for this excellent new age dry white, but on its own Semillon still struggles to find its rightful place amongst Australian classic white wines.
As with Chardonnay Semillon ages very gracefully and changes from a young zesty light coloured crisp white wine with aromas of citrus, grass, straw and subtle green herbs making it a natural to drink with almost any fish course or oysters to a deep golden, nutty, honey and strawscented old-timer. The grapes are picked at a low baume (sugar level converting to 10-11% alcohol) gently handled, crushed with minimal skin and seed extract, the juice is fermented at cold temperatures in stainless steel tanks and transferred to bottle as soon as fermentation stops. It can also be fermented in oak barrels giving the wine more complexity.
It’s these wines that make the Hunter Valley Semillon one of the great collectable wonders and although prices vary are in the reach of most wine lovers regardless of budget. My favourite wine from this region is the McWilliams Elizabeth Semillon which can be found at very attractive prices often less than $20 but other notable producers include Brokenwood, De Lulius, Keith Tulloch, Pepper Tree and Tyrell’s whose iconic Vat 1 Semillon sets a benchmark for the region. Other regions producing high-quality Semillon include The Barossa Valley and from winemakers Peter Lehman and Grant Burge. From The Clare valley Stephanie O’Toole at Mt. Horrocks makes an oak fermented style and other producers in the region include Kirrihill, Taylors Annies Lane, Tim Adams and Paullets.
In the Riverina region of New South Wales Semillon can be affected by the fungus botrytis cinerea which reduces the water in the grape to produce a sweeter more intense wine with lovely flavour and complexity. DeBortoli sell a wine called Noble One which would be a wonderful ending to any dinner party to accompany the dessert, however, for some reason, it is also magnificent with any blue cheese from around the globe such as Stilton, Gorgonzola or Roquefort.Cheers, Philip Arlidge, email@example.com