Increasingly, Australian wineries are reining in those luscious wines we’re known for worldwide and crafting more elegant examples. This can be achieved via the varietal chosen (pinot noir and gamay create naturally lighter wines), the region or site, with cooler climates producing leaner, brighter styles (think Tasmania and Yarra Valley), the time the grapes are picked, or techniques in the winery (i.e. reduced use of new oak). Look for words like ‘savoury’, ‘spicy’ and ‘light’ or ‘medium-bodied’. Ahead, we’ve selected five diverse types to try.
2016 Murdoch Hill The Surrey Pinot Meunier
Wild-fermented with 40% whole bunches, matured in used French oak. The highly fragrant and spicy bouquet foreshadows a complex spicy wild berry palate. The tannin management of all the Murdoch Hill wines is exemplary, here adding a savoury farewell.
RRP $40 | 2024 | Murdoch Hill
2016 All Saints Estate Sangiovese Cabernet
A 70/30% blend. Bright colour; the blend works well, with fragrant red berry fruits and, best of all, the tannins of the two varieties don't ally or fight with each other, simply gracefully taking a backwards step allowing easy access to the palate, which in turn works in tune with the bouquet.
RRP $26 | 2030 | All Saints Estate
2016 Heemskerk Southern Tasmanian Pinot Noir
Matured in new and used French oak of various sizes. An impressive example of Tasmanian pinot noir, with star-bright crimson colour, and cherry/berry fruits populating most of the bouquet and palate. Happily, there is space for fine, ripe tannins and well-integrated oak.
RRP $60 | 2033 | Heemskerk
2016 Ravensworth Barbera
From Hilltops [NSW], whole berries, 2-3 weeks skin contact, matured for 5 months in used barriques. One of the best barberas I have come across in Aus. It often looks one-dimensional, but certainly doesn't do so here. There is a profusion of fresh red and black juicy fruits making you want to quaff this, not just sip it. And it has texture in its light to medium-bodied mode.
RRP $30 | 2022 | Ravensworth
2017 Ochota Barrels The Fugazi Vineyard Grenache
Unadulterated. There's a concentration of flavour, not extraction, of red tangy-tart fruit, Mediterranean herbs and a savoury overlay of cured meats. It pulsates with energy. A seamless line of fine tannins and acidity flow right through the medium-bodied and oh-so-lithe palate. (Now on the ’17.) JF.
RRP $40 | 2026 | Ochota Barrels
Next article: Why lighter red wines should be on your radar.