Matt Monk of the Whalley Wine Shop raises a glass to offerings from a land down under

It wasn’t so long ago that Australia exported more wine to the UK than France, thanks to the ‘Imperial Preference’ system.

Wednesday, 25th August 2021, 12:30 pm

For a country which didn’t have any indigenous wine making vines, they seem to have gained their experience quickly. The first Vitis Vinifera vines came from South Africa, at the Cape of Good Hope in 1788 on the ‘First Fleets’ and planted in the gardens of the Governor in Sydney, according to accounts, the wine produced wasn’t up to much.

By the 1820s the first Australian wines were being exported, but the majority were fortified, the rest were still quite alcoholic styles. But as more European migrants entered Australia, they brought more varied grape varieties and lighter and more refined styles of wine.

Originally, the more ‘international’ varieties were the leading choices for grape growing, becoming entrenched in certain areas: Riesling in Eden and Clare Valley, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Mornington Peninsula and Cabernet Sauvignon in Coonawarra.

Australian wine as grown in variety and quality over the years

These areas became the benchmarks for an Aussie style representing the grape in question. It was in the 1960s that Australia experimented with creating their own varieties such as Tarrango and Cienna.

Around the same time the European influence was again making a few changes to the Australian wine world, introducing grape varieties such as Assyrtiko, Sangiovese, Malbec and Fiano. All this led to Australia becoming a world leader in wine production, not only in quantity but also quality. The market for Australian fine wines was rapidly growing allowing smaller producers to develop much in demand brands.

One of the more famous of these was Penfolds Grange, its 1955 vintage was entered into competitions from 1962, winning a total of 50 Gold medals. The 1971 vintage won first prize at the ‘Wine Olympics’ in Paris and the 1990 was awarded ‘Red Wine Of The Year’ in 1995. Other producers followed such as Henschke ‘Hill Of Grace’ and D’Arenberg ‘Dead Arm’.

It wasn’t just the luscious liquids of Australia to be exported out to Europe and beyond, budding young winemakers were keen to gain first hand knowledge of ‘Old World’ winemaking.They launched themselves into the multi wine regions around the globe.

People such as Andrew Nielsen at Le Grappin in Burgundy, left comfortable jobs to travel the world gaining experience at the ‘Coal Face’ of wine. He visited winemakers in California, Australia and France gaining knowledge about the production of great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Andrew and Emma went on to create the ‘Bagnum’ a handy, double lined, pouch which holds a magnum’s worth of wine with a convenient spout to pour.

Once opened the Bagnum stays fresh for a couple of weeks, and with an 80 per cent smaller carbon footprint than a standard bottle.

Du Grappin Blanc, Macon Villages Bagnum (1.5l) £28.99.

From the outskirts of Azé, in the northern reaches of the Mâcon-Villages appellation. Planted on a steep westerly-facing slope, the fruit keeps its acidity, from a cool microclimate and a soil rich in limestone, resulting in bright, fresh wines. With bright fruit flavours of apple, and peach. “It’s a classy white burgundy that I’d be more than happy to serve at a dinner party.” Fiona Beckett, The Guardian.

Jim Barry Assyrtiko £19.99 The Jim Barry Vineyards were originally planted in 1959 and are still family owned. Jim Barry originally imported these vines from the famous Gaia Vineyards on Santorini in 2012, and has proved extremely popular.

They were first planted in 2012 in the Lodge Hill vineyard, on the eastern ranges of Clare where the soils are brown loam overlaying a layer of clay and slate bedrock.

All hand harvested and meticulously sorted when they arrive in the cuverie. Lifted citrus blossom and lemon aromatics are accompanied by notes of honeydew melon and spice. This Assyrtiko shows great flavour concentration and a full texture, with a flinty streak of minerality. Lively and crisp with an endless finish.

Heartland Sposa e Sposa Another big name in the Australian wine making fraternity, Ben Glaetzer makes some of the top Shiraz wines from Langhorne creek including Bishop and Amon Ra. He uses classic Italian grapes to bring an Aussie twist. The Lagrein was matured in new French oak barrels after fermentation to create a rounder, softer texture.

The Dolcetto was cool fermented on skins for seven days before being crushed and matured in stainless steel to preserve the fresh, floral notes of the variety.

An opaque core of intense fruit fades to a purple rim in the glass. Aromas of violets and persimmon complete the foundation of plums and raspberries. The pleasantly savoury palate is made up of plums, raspberries and black cherries. The mouthfeel is gentle and food friendly, with a long finish.