New World Wine: Top Australian Drops To Try This Summer
If you're after a new vino to try, The Resident's wine connoisseur Wayne de Nicolo picks out a selection of top Australian drops...
Lead Image: Henschke Keyneton Euphonium
It is exactly 200 years since wines were first exported from Australia. By 1820 settlers were making wine for local consumption, and in 1822 winemaker Gregory Blaxland became the first person to export it.
Over those 200 years the evolution of Australian wines has produced a distinctive style which owes a lot to its climate; they have tended to have full fruit flavours and often high alcohol levels, both of which reflect the sun-induced ripeness of the grapes.
This is typified in especially warm areas like the Barossa Valley, where many shiraz wines are not for the faint hearted - 15 per cent ABV is not uncommon.
Yet recent years have seen notable changes in the style of some wines, especially those made in Margaret River, Western Australia.
Restraint and elegance can be found in many of the region's wines nowadays, partly due to keeping alcohol levels in check.
However, the most profound changes in those years have come from a series of natural disasters and from a major trade setback.
I wrote here in March and June 2020 about the devastation caused by wildfires in the wine producing areas of the country from late 2019 to spring 2020, and the huge impact Coronavirus had on wine production and wine tourism in many countries including Australia.
Those setbacks were followed by the so called 'anti dumping' tariffs imposed on Australian wines by China in March 2021, which ranged from 116 per cent to 218 per cent.
Exports to China, one of it’s major markets until then, plummeted by 97 per cent by the end of 2021, and to the world as a whole by 30 per cent.
Yet, Australia remains the fourth biggest wine exporter in the world. And that is probably because the quality of its wines remain undiminished, as I was unsurprised to find at the tasting.
Here are some of the wines that impressed me:
Top Australian Red Wines to Try
Peter Lehmann 8 Songs Barossa Valley Shiraz 2017
Peter Lehmann 8 Songs Barossa Valley Shiraz 2017 (14.5%) Full bodied with ripe plum and dark berries on the palate. The tannins are still quite pronounced, so it will benefit from another few years of bottle age after which it will be the proverbial Aussie throat charmer! £27.89 from thedrinkshop.com and £21.99 from North and South Wines SW11 when you buy 6.
Balnaves Coonawarra Cabernet Merlot 2016
Already quite mature with characteristic smoothness from the merlot and cassis from the cabernet, this is a rich wine which is ready for drinking, (14.5%). £21.20 from vinvm.co.uk
Torbreck The Struie Barossa Shiraz 2019
Made in a style which is characteristic of this producer, it offers a big mouthful of ripe, concentrated dark fruit. Quite forward for its young age, this will be really impressive in five years, (15%). £38.66 from vinello.co.uk and £44.40 from thedrinkshop.com
Henschke Keyneton Estate Euphonium Eden Valley Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Made by a leading shiraz producer, this is medium bodied and shows a complex mix of red and black berries on a smooth, refined palate. Sophisticated wine making, (14.5%). £38.50 from vinifiedwine.com and £40 from robersonwine.com SW6.
Top Australian White Wines to Try
Robert Oatley Finisterre Margaret River Chardonnay 2019
Pewsey Vale The Contours Eden Valley Riesling 2015
Strong aromas of lemon pie greet you, leading to a gentle palate of lemon and lime which is typical of Australian Rieslings. This one benefits from five years bottle age before release, giving it an attractive soft and developed mouthfeel, (12.5%). £21.60 from specialistcellars.co.uk of Pop Brixton.
Vasse Felix Heytesbury Margaret River Chardonnay 2019
This wine has long been amongst the highest rated Australian chardonnays. Beautiful ripe melon aromatics and flavours. Outstanding, (13%). £28.99 from frazierswine.co.uk £29.50 from fortnumandmason.com (Bargain prices-the RRP is £55).
Lethbridge Allegra Geelong Chardonnay 2016
The owner of this winery told me years ago that he achieves the concentrated flavours his wines have by close planting the rows of vines. It certainly paid off here with a super ripe, rich stone fruit palate, and balance. Really delicious, (14.5%). £43.85 from vinvm.co.uk The 2015 is available for £30 from thedrinkshop.com when you buy 12 bottles.