Last week saw yet another wine trade gathering in London, this time for the annual Australia Day tasting, and this year there was a definite buzz in the air along with a huge turn-out of buyers and the press.
The reason seems to be that after a few years in the doldrums Australian wine is on the way back.
Exports rose last year and maybe drinkers are beginning to make the distinction between the big brand Aussie wines that line the supermarket shelves and the quality, not to mention excitement, that exists if you trade up a little.
So with that in mind, try to forget the golden chardonnay of a decade ago and revisit Australian wine. There are so many interesting, more elegant and food-friendly wines available.
Australian riesling from the Clare or Eden valleys is one of the world’s great wine styles and one to which I constantly return.
Rolf Binder Highness Riesling 2014, Eden Valley (Waitrose £10.99) is a lovely example of just what makes this style of wine so unique. Think of freshly-squeezed lime with a touch of grapefruit and minerals, before a long silky finish. Forget any memories you still have of sweet Germanic-style wines. This is a gorgeous, zingy mouthful of dry white to go with Asian-influenced seafood dishes.
Modern style Australian chardonnay is all about cooler vineyard spots like the Adelaide Hills or the Margaret River.
Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2014 (Marks & Spencer £12) is made by McWilliams and comes from the foothills of New South Wales’s Snowy Mountains, a relatively new vineyard region first planted in 1982.
Only 20 per cent of the wine was aged in new oak barrels and it’s beautifully balanced with fresh white stone fruits, green apple and citrus notes before a crisp, lingering finish. This would work with roast chicken, or I served it with red mullet.
How about something a little different? Running with Bulls Tempranillo 2013, Barossa (hennings.co.uk £12.99) is an Aussie take on Spanish red wine and it’s seriously good at this price.
The nose is inviting with sweet dark fruits and a touch of spice, followed by more dark fruits and some chocolate on the palate. It’s difficult not to reach for a second glass and is great with spicy sausage pasta.
Lastly, something a little more classic – Sussex Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Margaret River (Marks & Spencer £11, down from £14 until March 7).
Western Australia’s Margaret River produces elegant, Bordeaux-style wines and this is a lovely, affordable example with a touch of mint along with cassis, red berry fruit and cedar wood on the nose. The palate shows some ripe tannins and a long, concentrated finish – very grown-up indeed. Decant this an hour or so before serving and pair with a Sunday roast leg of lamb.