While we have chosen to run these wines without their scores, each of my 25 wines are equivalent to a trophy at a well-recognised, well-judged Australian wine show. If you find this all a bit much to believe, try to find wines in the line-up that don’t deserve it (and before we go further, I should point out that a number of these wineries do not enter shows, so you will simply have to take it from me they are of this standard).
While it may not be obvious at first blush, the selection is along the lines of something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. At one extreme you have the stars aligned with variety, place and vintage; the winemaker’s job reduced to that of quality-control manager, making sure the grapes have been well-handled through the winemaking and maturation process. At the other extreme, you have instances of free-wheeling with levels of up to 50 per cent whole-bunch fermentation, vines more than 100 years old, the use of a quite amazing berry-sorting device called Oscyllis, new oak anywhere between nil and 100 per cent… The list goes on.
While it may not be obvious at first blush, the selection is along the lines of something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, says James.
That shiraz should dominate the selection should surprise no one. It is by some distance the most widely grown variety in Australia, planted everywhere, and capable of producing fruit of the highest quality in a range of climates all the way from uncompromisingly cool to uncompromisingly hot.
A different tune is played by cabernet sauvignon, with one being a blend from the Yarra Valley and Pyrenees, one from the Great Southern, two from Coonawarra and four from Margaret River. In almost any selection of cabernets you could put together these days, Margaret River would come in at the head of the queue.
The best (or the worst if you are a winery from the Australian mainland) is the pinot noir group. It’s really too small to draw too much from, but Tasmania with three wines and the Yarra Valley with one speaks for itself, as much for the future as it does for today.