Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Australian Wines Are Full of Surprises; ON THE BOTTLE HELEN SAVAGE

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Australian Wines Are Full of Surprises; ON THE BOTTLE HELEN SAVAGE

Article excerpt

Barossa Valley - the home of the world's oldest and perhaps greatest Shiraz vines Barossa Valley - the home of the world's oldest and perhaps greatest Shiraz vines Australian Chardonnay isn't what it used to be. It's leaner, more elegant and subtle. At least that's the conclusion I came to after tasting a selection of the best examples recently. They are beautifully crafted with as much complexity and sheer class as many a classic white Burgundy, and they cost almost as much.

Sophistication rarely comes cheap.

They're very different from the wines that grace the supermarket shelves at bargain prices. You'll need to head to one of the region's better independent merchants to find them such as Carruthers & Kent, The Wine Chambers and Richard Granger.

Try Kooyong's superb 'Clonale' Chardonnay 2013, for example, from the relatively cool climate vineyards of Victoria's Mornington Peninsula. It's certainly riper than any white Burgundy, but just as elegant, creamy and multi-faceted, with fine-textured, citrus and white peachscented fruit and well integrated oak (PS20.99 Carruthers & Kent).

What surprised me even more is that Aussie Shiraz has also discovered its more sensitive side, with less of the lashings of soft brambly fruit and more fresh berry fruit flavours, crisper acidity and tighter, firmer tannins. I don't want to overstate this, none of these wines is exactly a shrinking violet, but I love the way in which the greater stress on structure rather than raw power makes them far more food friendly.

An outstanding example is from Canberra: Clonakilla, 'Hilltops' Shiraz, 2014 (PS22.99 Carruthers & Kent). Although it has the smell of sweetly ripe berry fruits, with a slightly herby overlay, it's beautifully balanced by juicy acidity and firm tannins. It may have 14% alcohol, par for the course for most Aussie Shiraz, but it's neither jammy nor overblown.

Innocent Bystander is a label that I've sometimes found disappointing, but their 2103 Syrah (not 'Shiraz', perhaps to make a point that it's not your usual beefy brew), from Victoria's superb Yarra Valley is a great success. …

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