Australian Wine: History, Evolution, Revolution

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The Masters of Wine Residential Seminar: Australia

Australian Wine

The Annual Masters of Wine Residential Seminar has been taking place this week in San Francisco. The residential seminar serves as the yearly in-person training and educational intensive for the first and second year MW students, as well as the opportunity to spend time with a whole bunch of MWs. People travel from all over the world to attend.

This weekend Mark Davidson led an in-depth seminar on Australian wine for the group. He serves as the Education Director for Wine Australia, the general marketing board for wine from across the Australian continent, as well as part of the MW program. Mark and the MW program were kind enough to invite me to attend the seminar and following walk-around tasting.

The initial seminar included ten wines selected to represent first the classics of Australian wine followed by still evolving newer styles. A walk-around tasting of at least fifty other excellent examples was then available.

Australian Wine: History, Evolution, Revolution

While I was familiar with most of the producers presented in the ten-wine seminar, having current vintages and the ten together was an exciting opportunity. The tasting showed how special wines from Australia can be carrying remarkable life in the glass.

Following are notes on the ten wines.

FLIGHT 1: History

Brokenwood Oakey Creek Semillon 2009, Hunter Valley, New South Wales 11% $32

A classic of Australian wine, Hunter Valley Semillon has no counterpart in the world. Even Semillon from elsewhere in Australia carries a distinctly different expression than the wines of Hunter Valley. It also offers a conundrum of expectation: though the region includes high temperatures, the wines consistently offer intense freshness, and tenacious acidity. 

Fresh, invigorating aromatics followed by a juicy and focused palate of mouthwatering acidity. Notes of Meyer lemon, honeysuckle and just a kiss of creme brûlée carry through an ultra long textural finish. Bone dry and delicious.

* Pewsey Vale The Contours Riesling 2010, Eden Valley, South Australia 12.5% $32.99

Australian Riesling is decidedly dry in style. It is the rare exception that includes enough residual sugar to bump into the off-dry category. Unlike the classics of Germany, producers of the Australian wine are emphatically against the idea that their wines include petrol notes and have done extensive viticultural and cellar research to try and insure against the characteristic. 

Fresh, succulent, and focused aromatics. A palate of mouthwatering acidity tumbled through with chalk, quartz, stones and subtle, textural flavor. Notes of honeysuckle, chalky-white peach and a hint of lime. Pretty, delicious, and will age a very long time.

One of the stand-out wines of the tasting for me – I love the freshness and texture of The Contours. 

* Cirillo 1850 Grenache 2010, Barossa Valley, South Australia 13.8% $84.99

Growing what have been documented as the oldest Grenache vines in the world, the red grape is one of the under-regarded classics of Australian wine. From the best producers, Australia’s old vine sites yield concentration, earthy spice, and loads of mouthwatering acidity. South Australia offers a sense of completeness from this grape without blending. 

Perfumed and elegant with melting tannin, mouthwatering acidity, and a silky mouthfeel. Vibrant and energizing. Notes of bramble, savory mixed fruit, and earthy underbrush, this wine continued to evolve giving ever more delicious flavors in the glass. Delicious with a long, mouth-quencing finish.

One of the stand-out wines of the tasting for me – I kept wanting to go back to drink this wine. 

Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Coonawarra, South Australia 14% $54.99

Known for its terra rossa soils, Coonawarra brings that red earth patina to the flavors of its reds alongside a tendency for supple tannins. The region is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon. Its maritime climate offers just enough warmth to soften its tannins and the seaside freshness to keep a wash of acidity on the palate. 

Perfumed and spiced aromatics with a zesty palate carrying an even density of fruit and just a whiff of what Mark describes as “eucalyptus honey” (a pleasant lift in the wine). Savory mixed fruit braid with firmness of tannin with a pleasing backbone of acidity.

Kaesler Old Bastard Shiraz 2010, Barossa Valley, South Australia 14.5% $190

Barossa Valley has been documented with the oldest Shiraz vines on the planet, as well as some of the oldest soils. Shiraz is a classic of the region, historically vinified with a distinctive spice of American oak, in recent decades producers have shifted to the sweetness of French. 

Sweet-spiced with light toast accents throughout, offering a long mouthwatering line and lightly drying tannin. Notes of vibrant mixed fruit and a perfume lift showcasing the smoothness of 35% new French oak.

FLIGHT 2: Evolution & Revolution

** BK Swaby Chardonnay 2013, Adelaide Hills, South Australia 12.5% $55

The Swaby Chardonnay was the stand-out wine of the tasting for me.

Impressive, nuanced, and delicious. BK strikes an impressive balance of freshness tempered by noble sulfide, of gunflint cut through giving fruit. It is somehow almost precious while also sinewed. This wine opens nicely with air carrying lots of life in the glass and a kiss of spice so well integrated you could almost miss it. Best of all, it is just truly nice to drink.

Moorooduc Estate McIntyre Pinot Noir 2012 Mornington Peninsula, Victoria 14% $60

Aromatic and fine-boned, delicate and zesty. Fresh, floral aromatics of rose petal and rose cream carry into the palate with notes of savory, zesty underbrush. Energizing and fresh with supple tannin and mouthfeel. Lots of length.

Jaume Like Raindrops Grenache 2014, McLaren Vale, South Australia 14.2% $50

Unexpected and fresh. Snappy red fruit cloak a beast of savory spice. Wildly aromatic, juicy, fresh, and quaffable. Charming and unconventional. Delicious.

Luke Lambert Syrah 2012, Yarra Valley, Victoria 13.5% $55

Fresh fruit and perfumed accents – juicy blackberries just cut from the bush and served alongside peppery bacon. Long mouthwatering finish and supple tannin.

Grosset Gaia 2013, Clare Valley, South Australia 13.9% $79

Aromatics of fresh-peeled white birch bark and crushed leaves tumble into a velvety mouthfeel and a long, lean palate. Elegant while edgy and energizing. Fresh with a lightly drying finish and just a hint of caramel.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I am so envious of your opportunity to taste some of the most exciting wines in Australia right now!

    The comment on Hunter Semillon standing alone as a totally unique wine is true. I am fascinated by your observation of the hot climate and fresh wine paradox. Thanks for another creative, thought-provoking story!

    Drew

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