Wine: how to go Australian without breaking the bank
You can find just about any grape variety in Australia these days, so innovative and diverse is its winemaking scene. That’s good news, you’d think, but there is a catch: some pretty steep prices. I made it my mission at a recent Australia Day tasting to see what the country could deliver for under £10, a challenge that one of the big boys didn’t even bother rising to: Treasury Wine Estates, owner of Seppelts and Penfolds, had nothing under that figure on show.
I mentioned the mid-price shiraz revival a couple of months ago, but it’s worth revisiting Australian chardonnay, too, not least because it’s much fresher, cleaner and more citrussy than it was in the 1990s. Wines such as Hardy’s William Hardy Limestone Coast Chardonnay 2016 (£6.50 Tesco; 13.5% abv) and McGuigan’s Reserve Chardonnay 2015 (£6 Morrisons, £6.98 Asda, £7 Sainsbury’s; 12.5% abv) have none of those cloying tinned peach and clumsy oak flavours that turned so many people off the grape. (The lusciously creamy 13.5% abv McGuigan Founder’s Series Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2015 is even better, but at £11 at Sainsbury’s, it’s just over the £10 mark. Snap it up if you ever see it on promotion.)
For a well-priced Aussie cabernet, meanwhile, it’s hard to beat Yalumba’s Y Series South Australia Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (13.5% abv), with its appealing cassis fruit laced with a touch of smoke. That’s £9.89 on Majestic’s “mix-six” deal.
The most interesting range I came across, however, was from Boutinot, an importer that mainly supplies independents, including one of my favourites, D Byrne of Clitheroe, a family-run business that always seems to manage to undercut its competitors. If you want to rekindle your love affair with Australia, try two wines from Rolf Binder’s Magpie Estate: the mouthwateringly citrussy Rag & Bone Barossa Valley Riesling 2016 (12.5% abv), which at D Byrne squeaks in at £9.99; and The Mixed Thing Barossa Valley 2016 (£8.59 D Byrne; 13.5%), a gorgeously fruity blend of grenache, cinsault and cabernet franc that apparently contains 11% riesling. I don’t often drink red wines on their own, but this is one you happily could.
I’d also be tempted to buy a couple of bottles of The Rude Mechanicals Ephemera Viognier/Pinot Gris 2016 (13.5% abv), made by another top winemaker, Keith Tulloch in New South Wales. Byrne has this for £8.99, which at the time of writing is just pipped by Rannoch Scott’s £8.49. As you’d expect from those grapes, it’s wonderfully aromatic, all white flowers and citrus: perfect for drinking with south-east Asian food.