ALISTAIR GIBSON: Australia's experimentation with grapes is paying off

Some years ago you would go to trade wine-tasting events and there would be a hushed plea going round the room, '˜Please, please ABC'.

Friday, 21st July 2017, 12:48 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 12:07 pm
Alistair's choice to drink with a sausage supper, Running with Bulls Tempranilo

Or, to give it its full title, ‘Anything but chardonnay.’

It was in the days when everyone was finally beginning to get bored with Australian chardonnay, or at least certainly the style of the day which was somewhat over-oaked, sunshine in a bottle .

Much has changed and indeed Australia now produces some of the world’s very best, elegant, complex chardonnays.

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But what has really changed is Australian wine producers’ willingness to begin to plant and experiment with grape varieties outside the big four –  shiraz, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot.

They account for nearly 70 per cent of Australia’s total under the vine.

But the past decade or so has seen a steady planting of less well-known varieties, particularly from Spain and Italy, but also from perhaps less obvious wine regions such as Greece.

A recent tasting in London showcased many of these wines, with more than 120 on show.

Tasters were asked to vote on what they thought had the most potential with nebbiolo, tempranillo and assyrtiko sharing the top spot equally.

If you are keen to taste something a little different from down under, have a search for these.

Yalumba has long been known as Australia’s leading exponent of viognier, but Talumba Roussanne 2015, Eden Valley ( £16.50) is another example of a Rhine white variety.

Aged and fermented in older oak barrels, this is lovely white wine.

The bouquet is just wonderful with notes of peach, wild flowers, melon and almost vanilla custard, followed by a silky, textured palate that has some richness but is balanced by apple-like acidity.

This wine really develops in the glass as it warms a little, and indeed it would be better not to over-chill it.

Serve on a summer’s evening with a Thai-style stir-fry.

Casa Freschi ‘Ragazzi’ Nebbiolo 2015, Langhorne Creek ( £23.95) is a delicious example of a grape best known for barolo and barbaresco.

It’s quite pale in colour with a really fragrant nose of cherry, red currants, spice and a touch of dried herb, followed by a smooth, succulent palate with more red fruits and some crunchy acidity.

This is a great effort and would work really well with a mushroom or maybe a butternut squash risotto.

Somewhat strangely, I’ve just returned from Pamplona where Running with Bulls Tempranillo 2016, Barossa (Oddbins £12, Hennings Wine £15.99) takes its name. And what a great take on tempranillo this is.

There are dark fruits, hints of mocha, spices and lavender on the nose, followed by silky tannins and ripe blueberries in the mouth.

This is just so very drinkable and outside of Spain this is as good as it gets, I think.

Try it with some barbecued lamb or a simple sausage supper.