Winemaker Kathleen Quealy is a respected voice in the local industry. Here, her message is that an intimate knowledge of site is integral to achieving great wine.
I enjoy wines where there’s some vine and winemaking maturity, integrity and intuition, and a depth and breadth of knowledge. New things are great and they’re fun, but I still think that wines that exhibit pedigree and knowledge are always a better proposition. I’m not worried about consistency, because consistency is vintage; it’s more about understanding how to respond to each vintage. Fundamental to that is that you must have ownership over your vineyards. That’s my basis. Those winemakers that don’t have great involvement with the viticulture won’t make my list.
Kathleen Quealy's ultimate Aussie six-pack
1. 2015 Philippa Farr Pinot Noir
I’d suggest that around 30 to 40 per cent of those coming out of winemaking college now are women. Due to their low-key approach, there are some great wineries out there with women at the helm. I believe it’s that low-key approach that contributes to the quality, because sometimes if you spend too much time in the market, you might not be in your winery. Going off that, to me, I don’t think you can have a conversation about pinot noir in Australia without talking about the Farr family. They have been consistently great pinot noir makers for more than 40 years. My pick for this reason is Philippa Farr, who has trained as a winemaker and is now in Gippsland. Gippsland has a great future and I think they’re very fortunate to have a Farr there to help them.
RRP $25 | Gippsland | Philippa Farr
2. 2015 Howard Park Allingham Chardonnay
Margaret River chardonnay is so fantastic and with the 2015 Allingham Chardonnay, you can tell that it’s a product of smart viticulture.
RRP $89 | Margaret River | Burch Family Wines
3. 2016 KT Churinga Vineyard Watervale Riesling
KT is one of those great, tiny little vineyards. The Churinga Vineyard riesling is from lovely old vines, dry grown, which adds to the quality and the difficulty. This method of winemaking makes the end result more complex, more intense and less profitable, because you can’t just add water! All of those flavours that the vines drag out of the earth are in the glass. I think it makes wines a little bit more dramatic and I think people can feel that it in their bones. Dry land farming is not something we can all do, but it produces great results.
RRP $33 | Clare Valley | Wines by KT
4. 2015 Crawford River Riesling
Belinda Thomson has taken over the winemaking at this family run winery. I tried this riesling this morning and it was wonderful, just a beautiful wine. I’m not sure how it’s made, but to me it’s a very modern style steeped in old-fashioned viticultural excellence. As a winemaker, complexity is in your vineyard. It’s a bit like chefs who pound and cut and serrate and bake and slice it and poach it and smash it and mince it and put it in a pastry shell. That’s not complex. The complexity lies in the contrast of flavours. With wine, the complexity is in the depth of flavour contrasted with natural acidity. It's in the tugging and the pushing and pulling of different elements, which really are born in the vineyard. The job of the winemaker is to recognise good vineyards and to nurture them.
RRP $45 | Henty | Crawford River Wines
5. 2014 Bowen Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
It’s a little bit out of fashion at the moment, but it can’t be long before it comes back into favour: Coonawarra cabernet. Doug and Joy established Bowen Estate more than 40 years ago and it’s now their daughter Emma who is the winemaker. I’ve always loved Bowen Estate wines. For me, what sets them apart from many of the bigger players down there is their commitment to hand pruning. They’ve always cane pruned and I know that because I’ve been there. I looked at their website this morning and I laughed because now they’re doing an arch cane, which means they prune in an arch, which is even more difficult. They obviously like to challenge themselves and to me that’s fairly evident in the quality of their cabernet.
RRP $30 | Coonawarra | Bowen Estate
6. Mornington Peninsula Pinot Gris
My final choice is Mornington Peninsula pinot gris, because it’s where the pinot gris story began in Australia. I think with its topography, with the red soil and volcanic hill in the middle, the Mornington Peninsula has the capacity to make great pinot gris and pinot grigio. Generally speaking, Mornington Peninsula pinot gris doesn’t require any irrigation and also, because we have a lot of cloud cover, it tends to produce smaller bunches with more intense flavour. If you were to talk top producers, I would say Paradigm Hill and Panton Vineyard. They are both beautiful sites. Another favourite is the 2016 Willow Creek Pinot Gris [Willow Creek Vineyard, RRP $35].
The Defining Australian Wine series is produced with thanks to our brand partner Winery Lane, an online marketplace designed to unite wine lovers with independent Australian winemakers. Click here to watch Winery Lane’s Stephen Mobbs tackle the topic of what makes an archetypally Aussie wine.
Halliday Wine Companion reviews are 100 per cent independent and recommendations published here reflect the opinions of the original authors. Unless content is labelled 'Sponsored', you can be assured that advertisers have no influence over what is included.