Posted on November 9th, 2009
While Australia and Chile battle it out for the hearts, minds and wallets at the “entry-level” in supermarkets, there’s a little bit of work to do to convince punters to reach for an Aussie for that special occasion, whether as an anniversary gift, father’s day etc. or when out for a nice meal.
The theme was Landmark Australia and Dermot talked through some of Australia’s finest wines and recounted his experience at the Landmark Australia Tutorial earlier in the year.
What is Landmark Australia?
We’re probably all familiar with Wolf Blass, Jacob’s Creek, Hardy’s, Wyndham Estate and more recently Yellow Tail and many of the other “critter” labels. Traditionally, they’ve been the cheaper wines (below €15 range) available in most supermarkets. Most of them are remarkably consistent, but that can lead to genericism or homogeneity.
But wine at this level is highly commoditised and only through considerable marketing and advertising spend, can a wine break through. But there is another path.
Enter Australian Fine Wine
There’s another side to Australian wine which we haven’t seen enough of over here, apart from some isolated pockets – the premium or fine wine segment. It’s about quality and regionality. It’s also an aspirational philosophy where Australian wines and wine makers can aspire to greatness – the greatness previously reserved for the Romanée Conti or the Mouton Rothschilds of the wine world.
The Landmark Australia Tutorial
The Landmark Australia Tutorial took place in June this year.
The tutorial is all about exposing the great wines of Australia to a panel of experts from around the world. To present Australia as being capable of producing wines of an outstanding quality and equal to anywhere else. Ireland’s very own Dermot Nolan (MW, Master of Wine) was one of only twelve influential wine people invited to attend.
The format of the tutorial is based on what was the “Len Evans tutorial”, where some of Australia’s best winemakers were brought together to taste some of the best wines from around the world. The purpose of this tutorial was to give the Australian winemakers a target or benchmark to aspire to and beyond.
This year, Paul Henry, Wine Australia’s General Manager for Market Development, took this format and opened it up to the outside world for the first time.
“The intention of the Landmark Australia Tutorial is to create a forum for people to discover and debate the voice of our top Australian wines. It should serve as a rallying point for informed wine opinion, and aspires to be the most influential residential wine course in the world. It certainly promises to be the most authoritative and extensive exploration of Australian fine wine yet undertaken.”
He went on to say,
“The world should be much more familiar with the contribution Australia can make as a producer of fine wine, and also as a leading exponent of exceptional cuisine, cutting edge hospitality and inspiring regional tourism.”
Bringing the experience to Dublin
John McDonnell from Wine Australia and Dermot Nolan got together to bring the Landmark Tutorial experience to Dublin and present some of the wines and the stories behind them. It was a cracking tasting.
Brown Brothers “Patricia” Sparkling Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, King Valley, Victoria, 2004.
Made in the Méthode Traditionelle (i.e. like Champagne) You can taste it too with an outstanding butter on toast on the nose (autolytic character).
Mount Horrocks “Watervale” Riesling, Clare Vally, South Australia 2005.
Beautiful full flavoured Riesling with a great balance. Hint of kerosene on the nose, which made for interesting discussion/debate around the table.
Pewsey Vale “The Contours” Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia 2002.
Vines planted in 1962, Subtle stonefruits and pineapple on the finish, a more muted Riesling than its younger Clare Valley neighbour.
Pewsey Vale Rhine Riesling, Eden Valley, 1980.
This wine didn’t make it to the tasting but there was an interesting story behind the screwcap – one of the first wineries to go screwcap in the late seventies, which nearly killed them commercially. Punters weren’t ready for it. Too ahead of their time. In contrast, it’s estimated that nearly 80% of Hunter Valley Semillon is ruined through various cork faults. Screwcap seems to be on the up and up. Jamie Goode has a whole book dedicated to wine bottle closures.
Peter Lehmann “Margaret” Barossa Semillon, Barossa Valley 2003
Not a grape I’ve had much of, a bit of a tough sell, to be honest. Deep yellow, nose of beeswax and honey, toast and eucalyptus, tastes of orange peel with great length.
Leeuwin Estate “Art Series” Chardonnay, Margaret River, Western Australia 2003.
Butter, hot milk and honey, nutmeg. The bigger Chardonnays are back but they’ve lost a little weight and looking fantastic.
Penfolds “Yattarna” Chardonnay 2006.
The best of grapes sources from Tasmania, Adelaide Hills and Henty in Victoria – over three states and quite a distance to produce this opulent, big and confident Chardonnay. I loved this. Fantastically made wine.
Yabby Lake Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria 2007.
This impressed a lot of the wine folk at the tasting and I was no exception. Rich concentrated cherries, aniseed, oak all perfectly aligned. More of this, please. Gorgeous.
TarraWarra “MDB” Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Victoria 2006.
Another shining example of what Victoria can do with Pinot. Beautifully soft strawberry yoghurt velvet texture.
Banockburn “Serré” Pinot Noir Geelong, Victoria 1997
A Pinot Noir with a bit of age, gamey, prune, raw steak on the nose, beautifully soft, mellow and secondary fruit in the mouth. Just absolutely amazing and my favourite of the day. Can stand tall alongside the Grand Crus of Burgundy.
Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, Western Australia 2004
Blackcurrant, menthol, nutmeg. A thick structured and smooth blackcurrant dominated wine. Very decent drop.
Henschke “Cyril Henschke” Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot Eden Valley South Australia 2002.
A more restrained, precise, almost sweeter than the Cape Mentelle. A really good example of what Australia can do with Cabernet/Merlot blends.
Wynns Coonawarra Estate “John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, South Australia 1990
A classic style which belies its 20 years, soft prunes and plums, smooth silky palate with hints of liquorice. Wow.
Mount Langi Ghiran “Langi” Shiraz, Grampians, Victoria 2006
Thick, concentrated, mocha, smooth elegant velvet with grippy tannins at the end. Very different Shiraz style to those from the Barossa and McLaren.
Brokenwood “Graveyard Vineyard” Shiraz, Hunter, New South Wales 1998
Pure elegance in a glass. No age in the glass, either and most like a northern Rhône if we allow ourselves to compare.
All fantastic wines, and as you can see from the video above, they impressed some of the cream of the Irish wine scene, no mean feat.
So, when looking for that Christmas present, Father’s Day or Anniversary Gift will I be going to Australia? No way, I’ll be keeping them for myself.