Tonight at work I hosted our first New World Wonders wine course. We tend to provide many courses focused on the old world countries of France, Italy and Spain, so it was about time we offered our punters a more in-depth look at what the new world has to offer. Proceedings kicked off with New Zealand and Australia and quite rightly so – with these two being so popular in the UK due to the quality and diversity of wines they produce.
New Zealand…diversity…why yes indeed! We didn’t even touch a drop of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc tonight, or anything from Marlborough for that matter. Instead we headed a hour or so drive from Marlborough, through the Rai Valley (where those wonderful river scenes were shot for the latest Hobbit film) and over to Nelson.
Nelson shares many of the same climatic features and grape varieties that we find in Marlborough. However production here is tiny in comparison. Tonight we tasted the 2012 Seifried Pinot Gris.
This wine proved to be the most popular still white with the group tonight. I was particularly enamored with its rich, luscious texture, complemented with crisp acidity. The palate delivered pear, crystallized ginger and banana and the finish was long and layered.
The rest of the Kiwi contingent consisted of the 2012 Felton Road Block 3 Central Otago Pinot Noir and the 2010 Cable Bay Five Hills Merlot – Malbec. Both were fab and I’ll go into more detail another day. But I want to get stuck into the Oz line up as the diversity we sampled was super!
We started with fizz – the best way to start of course. And it was the Blind Spot Sparkling Brut from Tasmania which went down a treat. Everyone voted this their best value wine of the night and for £13.95 from the Wine Society, it certainly is a steal.
Crisp, clean and complex. The Blind Spot delivered lemon, toast, yeast, sharp apple and slightly softer peach on the palate. With its creamy mousse and long length, I found this one hard to spit out (in fact I may have accidentally swallowed it). This is the fizz I want to be drinking throughout the London summer, on Tooting Common with a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel.
Next it was onto the Vasse Felix Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc – Semillon. The Sauvignon dominated the palate with all of its herbaceous goodness, the Semillon provided texture and softened out the acidity. Very refreshing and good value from Waitrose at £13.99.
The 2012 Grant Burge Miamba Barossa Shiraz displayed all of the character that an Australian Shiraz should. Preserved cherries, cassis, a grind of black pepper and smokey, sweet oak delivered powerfully. I’m always struck by the value that Australian Shiraz provides – you get a lot of wine for your pound in terms of quality and flavour. It was crying out for a side of meat but we soldiered on and nibbled away on some blue cheese and strong cheddar.
Until the 1960’s, fortified wine was the most popular style of wine in Australia. It wasn’t until migrants from Europe brought with them their wine culture and knowledge that ‘light wine’ production started to dominate. The Seppelt family, for example, have been making fortified wine in the Barossa since 1878.
The Stanton and Killeen Classic Rutherglen Muscat was my favourite drop of the night. Now, it is certainly sweet, but not cloyingly so. There’s lovely acidity in this wine, but it’s the flavour which is magic. Orange peel, raisin, toffee, caramel, coffee and just the beginnings of mushroom sneak through. It has a massive length and paired wonderfully with blue cheese and dark chocolate. A great alternative to old world sweet wines and available at the Wine Society for £16.95 (375ml).
I feel that tonight, we still just scratched the surface of Australia’s’ wide wine range. And over the coming months, I will certainly be delving further into what this huge and diverse country has to offer. I hope you do too.