Down Under wines on the rise | Wine
Thistledown Summer Road Old Vine Grenache, Riverland, South Australia 2020 (Â£ 8.49, Waitrose) These are interesting times for Australian wine. And by “interesting” I mean the so-called (indeed apocryphal) Chinese curse, since Australian wine producers are currently reeling from a near-complete collapse in sales to China, a country that was, until to this year, their most valuable export. Marlet. The cause is a trade dispute that has led the Chinese government to apply a set of tariffs on Australian wine. According to figures released last month by the industry association Wine Australia, these tariffs have resulted in a 77% drop in the value of Australian wine exports to China. Meanwhile, problems in the high seas shipping industry are causing significant delays in shipments of Australian wines to its other major markets, of which the UK is once again the largest in value and volume. . Still, there is no easing demand for Australian wine on the ground on these shores: sales rose 7% in value last year, our appetite for sunny, fruity reds such as Thistledown’s, apparently. intact.
Distant Noises Cabernet Sauvignon, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia 2019 (Â£ 16.49, swig.co.uk) Thistledown is an example of a wine made from an increasingly popular grape variety in Australia, Grenache. It is high time for this sun-loving grape variety to be in the spotlight: the country’s vineyards, particularly in its wine-growing heartland in South Australia, have fabulous stocks of very old Grenache vines (100 years or more in some cases). ). And while old vines may not be a guarantee of quality, they are the source of a high proportion of the most interesting bottles in the world, providing (albeit in low yield) concentrated but naturally balanced fruit. . In the case of the century-old and 83-year-old McLaren Vale vineyards that provide the 2019 Ministry of Clouds Grenache fruit (Â£ 29.50, thegoodwineshop.co.uk), the resulting wine is gloriously silky and fragrant, like pinot noir in the texture, but with a juicy berry all its own. It is an example of a particular modern idiom of Australian wine in which elegance takes precedence over power and of which the very pretty Distant Noises Cabernet, very pretty, sappy and refreshing, is another excellent example to drink compulsively.
St John’s Road LSD, Barossa Valley, South Australia 2016 (Â£ 12.50, thewinesociety.com) One of the effects of the difficulties with Australian wine elsewhere in the world seems to be an improvement in the variety of Australian bottles that we can try in the UK. After years of reading up on all kinds of fascinating Down Under developments and making a blank scouting for them in UK merchants, it’s been good to see the New Wave in Australia – and producers like Whistler, Scorpo, Aphelion, Deliquente, Charlotte Dalton and Place of Changing Winds – best represented in the wines I’ve tasted over the past two months. While classic Australian varieties – shiraz / syrah, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir – remain popular with producers of all kinds, there are also many interesting wines made from what Australians call ‘alternative varieties’. In the case of St John’s Road LSD, you have to wonder if the mix was made to fit some dirty acronym idea. But this blend of Italian variety lagrein with shiraz and durif from southern France is such a deliciously crisp burst of black berries and currants that it’s hard to care too much.
Follow David Williams on Twitter @Daveydaibach