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What Do You Serve a Quest Who Hasn’t Tasted Much Australian Wine?

By Alex Russell on January 11, 2018 in Food

Watcha lookin’ at? by Alex Russell

Last week, I was talking to a British academic at a conference dinner. He’s very used to French and Italian wines and hadn’t had much exposure to Australian wine until that trip.
At conference dinners the wines are generally okay, without being outstanding. I wanted to show him some decent drops, so we headed out to the bar. The markups were criminal, but the wines were still interesting.

2016 In Dreams Pinot Noir (Yarra Valley, about 12.5%)
For its normal $25ish price, this wine is great value. It’s always nice to see a wine punching well above its weight (as do I). With a small amount of whole bunches, a range of clones, and even some wild fermentation, this has a lot going on. Lovely floral and spice notes and an extremely long palate.
Some think that you need to spend $30 for a good Pinot. Compared to what we can get for $25 from Burgundy in Australia (because it costs a bit to ship it here), it stood up well, despite being $75 at the bar.

2016 Wirra Wirra Original Blend Grenache Shiraz (McLaren Vale, 14.5%)
This is a pretty full-on wine. The nose is all about cherry and raspberry, with some herbal aromas (in a nice way), and it looks almost impenetrably black. It’s one of those wines that isn’t sweet in terms of sugar content (the high alcohol level indicates that most of the sugar has been fermented into alcohol), but has ‘fruit sweetness’, in the form of a big whack of sweet, red fruit on the palate. It was chalk and cheese compared to much more savoury, lighter, lower alcohol Rhones.
Still, he quite enjoyed it, and for about $25 ($68 at the bar!), you can enjoy this label with loads of history behind it. It went well with steak and red wine jus.

2016 Innocent Bystander Syrah (Yarra Valley, 14%)
Some Australian producers use the word Syrah instead of Shiraz. This is partially because it is the French word for Shiraz, but also because some want an easy way to show that their wine is not like your typical Barossa or McLaren Shiraz; that their wine is more restrained, more old world.
Was this one? Yes, in a way. Some whole bunches in here, unfined and unfiltered, but a lighter palate. This is a great little drop for $25 (or $57… you get the picture by now). It is a fair bit more restrained, and suited our guest to a tee.

Many Australian wines are generally more flavourful, higher in alcohol, and designed to be drunk young compared to their French counterparts. Part of it is the climate, but part of it is due to decisions by winemakers.
So, if you had a guest in town, what would you serve them to show them Australian wine? Would you go with a Barossa Shiraz? A Margaret River Cabernet? A Hunter Semillon perhaps? Or something else completely?