The definitive guide to Australian Wines
There is a major change in the way these lists are presented in this year’s Wine Companion. The categories are the same as in prior years, as is the link of each wine with its region. But the number of wines within each category is far less than in previous years so that only the very best are listed. That said, the cut-off point does reflect the strength of the particular category.
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The game of musical chairs continues with riesling: the Clare and Eden Valleys tiedwith the Great Southern subregions, but only because there were two vintages from two Great Southern wineries. Canberra District, Henty and Tasmania rounded off aglorious celebration of this great variety.
The usual battle royal between Margaret River (10) and Yarra Valley (9) winescontinued, Leeuwin Estate’s two 98-point wines the coup de grâce. It was an equallyclose contest for third place on the podium, albeit with wines of different styles, the supple/fleshy Mornington Peninsula wines (5) edging out the steely intensityof Tasmania (4).
There’s a single, although very potent, message here. Semillon bursts into siren songwith five-plus years bottle age.
The net was cast far and wide with this select group; the common feature of the two top wines was the successful integration of texture and structure without compromising varietal character.
Why does anyone outside of Margaret River bother? Not only does it monopolisethe field on points, the wines typically have mouthwatering prices.
Only seven wines, but with the usual spread of regions.
All of these wines have been available at some point (and tasted by Tyson Stelzeror myself) over the past 12 months. I am aware that some practitioners, and somecritics, are less convinced than I am about the quality of the Arras wines, but Iam unrepentant.
Suffice it to say caveat emptor, and read the tasting notes of the rieslings (off dry toluscious and intense) that monopolise the category this year.
Roses are the ultimate all-purpose wines, to be enjoyed when people meet for a drink, or with any Asian cuisine, with seafood, with entrees of almost every kind, and yet more. These wines are of world class, all full of vibrant fruits (mainly red), but dry.
Put these wines alongside Burgundies of similar age, and they won’t yield any ground.The same can be said of Central Otago; as each year goes by, the number of first-classpinots increases. Yet there is still a long way to go on this journey, with new clonesslotting in alongside MV6, an old clone unique to Australia. The average age of vinesis also rising – the oldest are now more than 40 years old.
These wines are truly the crème de la crème of Australian shiraz, coming from allpoints of the compass. It may be decades before the Hunter Valley has the most winesin future lists, but 2014 is the best vintage since 1965, itself a celebrated exception.
Cool regions provide the best shiraz viogniers, in which fragrance, spice and red fruitsare the flavour cornerstones.
The affinity of cabernet sauvignon with a maritime climate is put beyond doubt byits home in Bordeaux’s Medoc region. So it comes as no surprise to find that most(but not all) of Australia’s top quality cabernets come from regions with climatessimilar to Bordeaux’s. The dominance of Margaret River is likely to continue; notonly is the climate ideally suited, but is far more consistent than that of any other Australian region.
A thoroughly diverse range of Bordeaux blends and varieties on the one hand, andthe classic Australian blend of cabernet and shiraz on the other.
A South Australian stronghold, indeed stranglehold, mostly with some or all of shiraz,grenache and mourvedre.
With each year the quality (and quantity) of sangiovese and nebbiolo increases, withgreater vine age and winemaking experience the drivers. Paradoxically, plantings ofthese two are becalmed.
The points speak for themselves. These wines are unique to Australia in terms oftheir age, their complexity, their intensity, and their varietal make up. They arguablyrepresent the best value of all Australian wines given the cost of production, notablyin the amount of working capital tied up for decades.
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