Australia is on a mission to lose the perception of wines from Australia being either Yellow Tail or big, jammy, Shiraz based fruit bombs. Australia is willing to experiment and work with their natural gifts and is producing wines of distinction and variation. The messaging is starting to resonate and given Austraila would cover almost three quarters of the US, it is a large country with wines that reflect the various climates produced by dedicated regional ambassadors.
We started our day at Australia Up-Close with a seminar of 10 Grenache based wines from various regions in Australia. What stood out to me most was the impact older vines had on the wine. They were distinctly leaner, graceful in style and subtle and with less pronounced fruit, tannins and alcohol. There was talk from the panel that old vine Grenache can often express itself with characteristics of Pinot Noir and even the Master Sommelier in the room attested to the cloak and dagger elements of Grenache in blind tastings against the Pinots from Burgundy or Sonoma. From the seminar, I found the Ochota Barrels “Fugazi” McLaren Vale 2016 to be fascinatingly complex and expressive. It brought Amaro to mind with its medicinal undertones and diverse flavors. At the high end of the spectrum, the 2014 Yangarra “High Sands” McLaren Value Grenache was also a joy to drink though. Anyone thinking Australia Grenache, “no thanks” should take the time to look into their regional composition and the vines that produced the wine. We drank from hot Barossa to the cool Clare Valley and each wine was uniquely it’s own in style.
For the walk around tasting it was as big of an Australian tasting as I can remember in my 10 years of professional wine tasting. Wines Australia pulled out all the stops and Boston was one of five major cities they had traveled to, each with a unique seminar. There were 31 tables to tap into at the trade tasting. Australia may have a history of wine branding mastery, and while Penfolds, d”Arenberg, Jacobs Creek and Peter Lehman may be common names at the local wine store, the list of producers was impressive as were the wines. We spent most of our time focused on smaller producers, unique varietals or the top wines on offer and found something for everyone. From the first and only Assyrtiko from Jim Barry to a Monduse, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc Blend from Brown Brothers we were pleasantly surprised by the range and quality.
Some of our favorites included: