Last week the wine trade gathered in London for the annual Australia Day tasting. Since the 1980s, with its ‘sunshine in a bottle’ wines, Australia has become our favourite wine destination. The UK is Australia’s largest export market in terms of volume of wine, although to be honest this is mainly because 80 per centof exports are shipped in bulk intended for entry level supermarket brands.
Australia’s average price point in the UK might still struggle to get much above £5 a bottle, but that does not tell the story of the dynamic and diverse range of wines that are available.
There is real growth in Australia’s premium wine market share, along with alternative varieties. Trade up in price, even just a little, and there are fabulous wines to be found.
If I had to choose just one white grape variety from Australia it would be riesling. It’s wonderful, food-friendly and at last it’s becoming fashionable.
Peter Lehmann Portrait Riesling 2015 Eden Valley (Majestic £9.99 but £8.99 if part of a mixed six) is a great introduction to this style of wine. Firstly it’s dry. It smells of fresh cut limes and lemon, followed by crunchy green apple acidity, more citrus flavours and a lively, taut mouth feel. It would improve in the bottle if you left it a bit, but frankly this is so beautiful now, why bother? If there’s a better wine style to match Thai dishes I’ve yet to find it.
Shiraz is still Australia’s calling card when it comes to red, but there has been a toning down of strength and oak in recent years which has to be a good thing, making them much more food-friendly.
Jim Barry is one of my favourite Aussie producers. Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2014, Clare Valley (Majestic £14.99 but £12.99 if part of a mixed six, also available at Tesco) is absolute benchmark stuff. There is an awful lot going on here at this price: dark fruits, liquorice, and a touch of chocolate on the nose followed by smooth tannins and a long finish. Try with grilled lamb chops.
Waitrose St Hallett Shiraz 2015, Barossa (Waitrose £8.99 down from £11.99 until February 21) is a bargain and should be snapped up. There are black and red fruits, spice and notes of coffee followed by a lovely mouthful of rich red fruit. Serve with a rib-eye steak and French fries.
Lastly, something different and topical in Oscar season. La La Land Tempranillo 2015, Murray Darling Valley (Majestic £19.99 but £7.99 if part of a mixed six) is an Aussie take on Spain’s favourite grape. Some cherry, raspberry and blueberry fruit with a touch of vanilla and a nice smooth finish. Chorizo on the barbie maybe?