Wine Australia Inspired – highlights, the whites, the woman


It’s an apt day to post a blog about Wine Australia’s Inspired Tasting for it was one of many brilliant initiatives introduced by the late great Yvonne May, Wine Australia’s UK/Europe Regional Director, whose funeral is today.


As passionate as she was business-like about wine, Yvonne loved Australia and it shone through in her work.  Most of all, I remember her infectious enthusiasm and inclusiveness  – qualities that define Inspired.  The tasting invites trade and press to nominate wines from their travels Down Under and share what excited them about it (see their comments under “backstory” below).

Just over one hundred wines were shown, some so popular or limited in supply that the bottles were empty by the time I got there!  Here’s part one of my Inspired Tasting highlights – the white wines.

Pfeiffer Seriously Nutty NV (Rutherglen)

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Backstory: “Gumboot” clones are one thing but what about swiping sherry flor from the side of a vat with your handkerchief?  Apparently this is how Victoria’s 19th century viticultural expert Francois de Castella kick-started Rutherglen’s ‘sherry’ culture.  While the region’s fortified reputation is rightly tied up with its munificent Muscats and Topaques, this irresistible dry ‘Amontillado’ style Apera should not be overlooked.

This, the very first wine of the tasting, was nominated by me because it’s a great wine but also because the category – Rutherglen Apera (sherry styles) has such a wonderful back story and yet is little known outside Australia.  I came across it when I visited Rutherglen last September and, having judged at The Fortified Wine Show there, I reckon it’s a terrific example.  Pale tawny with, as it says on the tin,  a seriously nutty profile – the patina of age.  It’s medium dry and savoury with walnuty, woody depth and resonance – a lovely timbre (oldest wines in the blend are up to 30 years old).  A little saltiness to its long finish brings lift.  Very good.  Moreish. N/A UK

Jansz Vintage 2007 (Tasmania)

Backstory: nominated by Roger Jones of The Harrow, Little Bedwyn – Jansz continue to excel in what they have done for over a decade, the current vintage excels and delivers one of the finest sparkling wines on the market especially at the price.

I’m ad idem with Roger.  Jansz is a great value Tassie fizz.  For me, it’s one of the region’s richer styles, especially with its signature nougat note.  Which is not to say it lacks precision or freshness.  Far from it.  Deliciously drinkable. £22

Innocent Bystander Moscato 2014 (Victoria)

Backstory: nominated by Alex Harper, Bancroft Wines – a hugely underrated style of wine – Inocent Bystander have produced the perfect dessert wine to lift you at the end of a meal; bright, fresh and the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity.  It is always a surprise just how good this wine is.

This pink and not so fluffy wine always brings a smile to my face.  Lifted rose petals to nose and palate together with fresh acidity bring lift and delicacy to its gentle red fruits and, together with a subtle Campari-like bitterness, balance its sweetness perfectly. £9.99

Snake & Herring High & Dry Riesling 2013 (Great Southern, Western Australia)

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Backstory: nominated by Hamish Anderson, The Tate – I love Snake & Herring’s bonkers, Monty Pythonesque packaging.  The wine ably does the label justice.  It is Riesling on the edge; full of life, vivid, stony and the essence of refreshment.

This year there were as many Rieslings as Chardonnays – interesting!  Good to see relatively new names like Snake & Herring alongside the established players – more impetus for the category, differentiation too.  Coming from the Porongurup sub-region this wine has no shortage of impetus.  It’s brisk, firm, dry, mineral, salty and austere.  A terrific precise, persistent, piquant style from one of my finds of last year’s Savour conference in Adelaide whom I visited last month.  £16

Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling 2012 (Great Southern, Western Australia)

Backstory: nominated by Sara Bachiorri, Chez Bruce – Dry with excellent citrus notes and green apple, very refershing and showing much better at about 10-12C.

A hot (or cool) service tip there!  Frankland Estate are among Great Southern’s most accomplished Riesling aficionados and this is a cracking, very crystalline example – very bright and mineral for Frankland River with a fabulous crackle of energy – great push and persistence to it tight knit, striated, very juicy lime fruit.  £22.50

Willoughby Park Kalgan Iron Rock Riesling 2013 (Great Southern)

Backstory: nominated by Sara Bachiorri, Chez Bruce -off dry with mineral notes on the nose and a broad generous palate with notes of green apple, peaches, citrus and passionate fruit.

I visited Willoughby Park last month and their single vineyard wines from Iron Rock in Albany (irrespective of variety) have a very particular minerality – a slatey, ironstone tang.  This rounder style of Riesling puts me in mind of a Trocken (dry) German Riesling with its slate character, rounder applely body and palate weight.  16% of the wine was fermented in new French oak puncheon and it was aged on lies for 5 months.  There was also an element of skin contact.  Weighty with very balanced acidity. N/A UK

Jacob’s Creek Steingarten Riesling 2011 (Barossa, South Australia)

Backstory: nominated by Jouko Mykannen, Press, Finland -If a wine can’t be Riesling, it should be Pinot. This is a Riesling so all is fine.  Grapes from an amazing stony and wind-beaten hill make this truly original Riesling taste like nowhere else.

I’m a big Steingarten fan and the 2011 – a cool year – is wonderfully tensile, slatey and mineral yet has a lovely intensity of sweet lemon and lime fruit. £16.59.

Peter Lehmann Wigan Riesling 2008 (Eden Valley, South Australia)

Backstory: nominated by Carl Holme, VH Wines – One of my particular favourite whites.  It’s not hard to understand why it consistently wins so many awards.  Even though it is only released after 5 years in bottle it has great youthful qualities.  Beautifully made and a great fitting for it to be named after the winemaker, Andrew Wigan.

With some age under its belt this Riesling has a generous nose and palate with a honeyed edge.  Yet to age as well as it does it requires plentiful acidity and behind its skirt of lemon and lime fruit you’ll find no shortage – a whalebone corset of grapefruity acidity which gives it pace and grace in the mouth.  Talc and lavender notes bring lift and complexity.  Lovely.  £14.99

Pewsey Vale Contours Riesling 2008 (Eden Valley, South Australia)

Backstory: nominated by Diana Rollan, Hakkasan – I recognise myself as a huge Rielsing fan and this wine is one of my favourite ones.  This wine comes from a plot of old vines and has been aged for at least 5 years, showing a beautiful mineral petrol character and complexity.

Though from the Eden Valley and released after around 5 years in bottle Pewsey Vale Contours tends to have a finer frame than the Wigan.  In this vintage it shows great zest and juice to its lemon and lime fruit with mineral and kerosene complexity.  Long and persistent.  £18

Clos Clare Riesling 2012 (Clare Valley, South Australia)

Backstory: nominated by David Cross, Estbeck House – Both Tom and Sam continue the Barry family deft touch with Riesling, a simply stunning wine; linear, poised, in youth showing a crispness and style so indicative of the greatest Australian Rieslings, which only intensifies impeccably with age.

I’ve always found this Riesling to be unusually round and characterful – less linear and austere – than most which are made in the classic protective, dry style.  It reveals pretty lavender perfume to its mineral sluiced citrus fruit.  £24

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2013 (Clare Valley, South Australia)

Backstory: nominated by Rose Murray-Brown MW, press – An increible iconic dry Riesling with beautiful limey purity, sleekness and mouthwatering freshness.  Tight, fine and complete – with cellaring potential.  Made by one of Australia’s greatest winemakers and thinkers, Jeffrey Grosset.

Grosset has been on the top of his game since the first release of his Polish Hill and Watervale Riesings in 1981.  They have been released each and every year.  Classic Polish Hill – firm, bone dry, mineral, taut and precise.  Its palate presence – a sense of dry extract – gives it a stately gravitas.  £29.99

Brokenwood Semillon 2012 (Hunter Valley, New South Wales)

Backstory: nominated by Ruth Yates, Corks Out – This is a fabulous example of young Hunter Valley Semillon, fresh, vibrant and zesty with hints of honey on the back palate a charcter that will develop with age. I tasted this wine in the Hunter Valley at 9.30am on top of a mountain with fresh oysters, there is no better way to drink this wine and I dream of that moment whenever I taste it now.

Enticing crushed coriander seed lift to nose and mineral-sluiced palate.  Very pure, very fresh and persistent with great line.  £17

Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2007 (Hunter Valley, New South Wales)

Backstory: nominated by Pierpaolo Petrassi MW, Waitrose – To really understand the challenges faced by Australian winemaking in the early part of last century you need to read one of the best books written about Aussie wine: Wine Hunter by Campbell Mattinson.  It speaks about the founder of Mount Pleasant, Maurice O’Shea, and how he created an Australian icon, more through adversity than success.  The Hunter Semillon style is uniquely Australian, sublime in great years and has great longevity (especially with the move to screw cap closure).  This wine is consistently one of the finest examples, and therefore one of Australia’s best whites.

A smoky lemon oil nose and palate with developing oilskin/lanolin in the mouth.  Textural, weighty, yet lively and long.  Very persistent.   £29.99

Tahbilk Museum Release Marsanne 2007 (Nagambie Lakes, Victoria)

Backstory: nominated by Clement Robert, Medlar – impressively structured going through with expressive quince and peach fruit and an incipient oiliness just starting to show in the mouthfeel.  £16.99

Terre á Terre Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Wrattonbully, South Australia)

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Backstory: nominated by Patrick Schmitt, The Drinks Business – A good example of oaked Sauvignon from the New World, although the wine has yet to find a UK distributor.

The follow on vintage is just as exciting as the 2012 which I tasted last year in the vineyard (pictured) – very precise, taut and mineral with subtle lemon oil to its very mineral palate.  Great persistence.  N/A

Penfolds Reserve Bin A 2012 Chardonnay (Adelaide Hills, South Australia)

Backstory: nominated by Frank Kammer MS – When Peter Gago introduced me to this new Chardonnay style 3 years ago, he realised the surprise in my eyes during my tasting: restrained alcohol, very sensitive use of wood, crisp minerality, cool freshness…wow!  And then he said something I’ll never forget.  “Well Frank, our learning curve has been dramatically steep.”

A stony, mineral, energetic nose and palate with a sulphide/cordite edge to its lemon and lime oil edged citrus palate.  Very precise, with taut oak.  Long, long.  Excellent.  £59.95

Ocean Eight Verve Chardonnay 2012 (Mornington Peninsula, Victoria)

Backstory: nominated by David Cross, Estbeck House – First and foremost, this is a wone with shellfish in mind, simply stunning, clean, crisp and full of style.  Mike through this wine shows a perfect sense of place.

A whiff of cordite to the nose gives way to creamier, pronounced oyster shell mineralitysalinity on the palate..  Very persistent with a sweet, leesy soft edge to an otherwise tightly drawn palate.  £32

Paringa Estate Chardonnay 2011 (Mornington Peninsula, Victoria)

Backstory: nominated by Nancy Gilchrist MW – This is an exciting balance of focussed fruit, zingy acidity and really well-judged background oak.

Same region but this couldn’t be more different from Ocean Eight.  This more traditional style of Chardonnay is rich and very involving; toasty, gently nutty, spicy oak and lemony acidity run through its veins.  Muscular.  Very good.  £40

Bindi Quartz Chardonnay 2011 (Macedon Ranges, Victoria)

Backstory: nominated by Ian Brosnan, ely wine club – It was incredible, easily one of the best Australian Chardonnays I’ve tasted this year, it’s my wine of the year so far!

I rarely get to taste Bindi but it’s always a pleasure!  Juicy white peach fruit shimmers with really pingy sulphide/cordite and crystalline minerals which bring light and energy to this animated, mouth-wateringly persistent wine.  Excellent.  £59.99

Oakridge 864 Chardonnay 2011 (Yarra Valley, Victoria)

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Backstory: nominated by Simon Woods, press – I tried this in the Millswyn restaurant in Melbourne with a group of Aussie sommeliers (and some terrific suckling pig).  It had what I call   the benevolent spent match edge you find in top white Burgundies, tamgy apple charlotte, pear and peach flavours, a slightly savoury note and a long high-cheekboned and seamless finish.  Normally when wine folk gather, you try as many different wines as possible.  Not this time     – the five of us just couldn’t get enough of this gem and got through three bottles of it over the evening.  Just brilliant, brilliant wine.

More pingy sulphides to tickle nose and palate, which take me back to when I first tasted this wine at the winery with Dave Bicknell.  It was lively then and it’s just as lively now.  If anything a little looser and livelier without any loss of precision, line or length.  In fact it just kept building.  Phenomenal.  £41.99

Tyrrell’s Original Plantings SFOV Chardonnay 2012 (Hunter Valley, NSW)

Backstory: nominated by Madeleine Stenwreth MW – Gorgeous wine with a seductive, flinty, smoky mineral note.  Cool climate restraint with austerity and a strong charisma cleverly intermingled.  It impressed me with its class and elegance and really challenges the common belief that the Hunter Valley is all about Semillon and Shiraz….A star shining bright!

A funky, sulphides nose.  A textured, very characterful, crystalline pure palate leverages in a heap of minerals.  Intriguing in a very good way. 12.3% abv

Leeuwin Estate Prelude Vineyards Chardonnay 2011 (Margaret River, Western Australia)

Backstory: nominated by Ruth Yates, Corks Out – Leeuwin Estate makes fantastic, expressive wines and the Prelude Chardonnay is one of my favourite Margaret River Chardonnays, full, round and exotic, yet delicate and elegant at the same time, wonderful mouthfeel and finish, enhanced with food.

Especially after its predecessors the Leeuwin shows off a good weight of muscular fruit (dried pear, white peach) with and toasty, creamy oak.  Plenty of push to its long, insinuating finish. £26.99

Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay 2012 (Margaret River, Western Australia)

Backstory: nominated by Stephen Brook, Press – A miraculous combination  of sophisticated toastiness  and power without heaviness.  Far more than the sum of its parts.

Tight, firm and funky with Margaret River fruit intensity though more citrus than stone fruited.  Great line and length.  A lively Chardonnay.  Very good – a great buy.  £25

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