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Australian & NZ Tastings Jan 2011

Copy of newsletter sent to Newstalk’s Moncrieff show on Jan 28th 2011

This week we’ve had Australia day (26th Jan) and to mark it Wine Australia hosted a small but interesting tasting event in Dublin while the week previously they put on a major event in London featuring over 600 wines.

Not to be out done, their neighbours and rivals across the Tasman Sea,New Zealand, also hosted a major tasting in Dublin, even though their national day, Waitangi day, is not until February 6th.

It was a good opportunity to get a snap shot of both industries. The Australians, rightly, would like to challenge the public perception of what they are good at. In this market, and others too, they are best known for their big brand everyday red and whites for under a tenner, but actually there’s a wealth of really fine regional styles that we should be looking at made by smaller producers and yes of course they cost more than a tenner, but so too do classics from France or Italy.

They would like you to look at what they call ‘Regional Heroes’ like Semillon from the Hunter Valley, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc from the Adelaide Hills, Semillon & Sauvignon blends from Margaret River, Riesling from Clare or for reds Cabernet from Coonawarra, Shiraz from an array of areas like Barossa, McLaren Vale or Hunter Valley and Pinot Noir from cooler climates of Victoria like the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsular, Gippsland or Geelong or even cooler over in Tasmania.

There’s plenty to enjoy and I’d urge you to be adventurous and spend more than a tenner. For more info go to  

The New Zealanders too tried to challenge popular perceptions. We know them best for their pungent Sauvignon Blancs but they’d like us to think that they’re not just a one trick pony. In recent years their repertoire has expanded as they’ve gained a reputation for fine, if expensive, Pinot Noir, particularly from Central Otago and great strides have been made with aromatic whites like Riesling and Pinot Gris. Interestingly though, there was a feature table at the tasting that had all sorts of interesting things I had no idea that grew there such as Arneis, Montepulciano and Tempranillo.

The grape most likely to succeed though for me and what I expect will be their next big thing is Syrah, a.k.a. Shiraz in Australia. It works in hot climates but also in relatively cool-ish climates too. It won’t suit everywhere but Hawkes Bay on the North Island and Gimlett Gravels in particular has made great strides with it in recent years. Craggy Range has led the way with this grape and they are superb but Man O’War from Waiheke island off of the Auckland coast have produced a cracker with their ‘Dreadnought’ 2008.

 It showed well at the NZ tasting but curiously even better at the Australia tasting a couple of days later. The Australians featured a blind line up of 30 Syrah/Shiraz and included a few ringers. I don’t think they expected that one of them, the Man O’War would arguably be the best one there!

 Wines Tasted on the Show

McWilliams Mount Pleasant ‘Elizabeth’ Semillon 2005, Hunter Valley, Australia. Tesco €10 reduced from €19.99.
I’m very sceptical of supermarket half price offers but for once this is more genuine than most. This is a classic style and age brings extra depth of flavour. Look for lime and lemon flavours and with a toasty character. Hunter Semillon is a unique unoaked style that is fresh and fruity when young but ages well for 20 years.

Man O’War Dreadnought Syrah 2008, Waiheke Island, NZ, O’Briens €29.99.
Not cheap, but this is top class wine with perfumed dark fruits and a sprinkle of white pepper and a dash of oak and good length. Trust me, you should, treat yourself. What would you get at this price in a restaurant? Nothing very special so stay in cook a peppered steak and enjoy this instead.

Tasmanian Pinot Noir 2009, Marks & Spencer €14.99.
Pinot Noir only really works in a cool-ish climate and Tasmania is certainly offers that and the result is the grape’s classic cherry and raspberry fruit flavours with a refreshing acidity. Try it with grilled salmon, duck or chicken. 

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