There’s a certain admiration I have for the Australians. They stick to their guns. Premium is the message and premium is the product. They ploughed on through a massive down turn in exports, not helped by the strong Aussie dollar and a global recession; coming out the other side with a stronger domestic market and a quality driven, pioneering wine industry ready to re-explore exports. Looking at the latest export report from Wine Australia; value is outstripping volume: it increased 15% to $2.56 billion versus an 8% rise in volume to 811 million litres. The average value of exports is also rising, sitting at $3.16 per litre; the highest level since 2009.
Margaret River has just seen the 50th Anniversary of the first planting of vines. The masterclass to commemorate this accolade blew any previous Old World, New World quality divide out of the water. The young upstart ‘Margaret River’ has truly come of age. With top examples of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from this remote Western point lending a sense of place, depth and distinct quality that rivals and perhaps surpasses those hallowed examples from French territories; tasters were enraptured.
Sarah Ahmed MW led the tasting. Chardonnay was first: It’s all about the Gin Gin clone apparently! Introduced in 1957 as an experiment to detect viruses it showed that talents ran deeper. Hen and chicken (millerandage) is common and the resultant smaller green berries make for a massive acid line and feisty fruit character. The chardonnays in the line up showed varying levels of reductive character, minerality and fruit expression. What came home was the ‘Gin Gin’ acid line that held its own in all of the wines. Refreshing, fizzing acid, taut, stoney and zingy filled the acid slots in my notes.
Cabernet from Margaret River somehow holds a definition that other New World regions struggle to achieve. The Bordelais need to watch their backs! The perfumed Houghton clone dominates here; herbal nuance and less vegetative character than most, it featured in all of the reds. The tension and savoury complexities on these Cabernet wines was fantastic. If I had to pick one the Cullen Diana Madeline (2015) was exceptional: Expressive nose, hollow lifting acid with tense structured high tannins sitting kindly behind delicate fruit and an enthralling spice on the back palate. Yes please!
So, they have the quality nailed, but there’s still one obstacle on mature export markets; preconception. Your average wine collector finds it hard to pay anything over €25 a bottle for Australian wine. Sure, there are the famous few, that achieve top dollar on the investment market…But what about the less well know producers; making wines to a top top level, wines that will age for 20 years plus, wines that are technically perfect, wines that have a sense of place, a sense of a wilderness with warmth and moderating sea breezes; wines that make you sit up and take notice.
Our intrepid traveller Anthony Tindal hits the southern hemisphere each year, to keep a handle on progress, trends, visit suppliers and find exciting new wines for our list. 6 or 7 years ago Anthony ‘the maverick?!’ shipped a container of delicious wines from Western Oz. These hit Ireland at about the lowest time; the last thing people had money to spend on was wine. In testament to these great wines from names like McHenry Hohnen and Larry Cherubino they aged beautifully and improved thanks to the exceptionally long period it took to actually shift the stock! He’s off again in a couple of weeks, I’ve given him a list of addresses to visit; exciting places doing exciting things and making very interesting wines. In the meantime we have some new additions from McLaren Vale and Clare Valley to whet your appetites. Chalk Hill (McLaren Vale) will be there for you to taste at our Portfolio Tasting on Monday 12th February, Mitchells (Clare Valley) quite literally missed the boat, so you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to discover that Clare Valley make exceptional Cabernet as well as Riesling!
Let’s hope that this isn’t going to be a tragic love affair. Such a young region, filled with promise, but staring down the barrel of increasing global temperatures, drought, forest fires and other unpredictable products of man’s careless nature. New World, long term, exceptional ambition.Google+