Hit for six
The Aussies might not be able to play cricket any more, but restaurants are ever more in love with their wines. To redress the pain of being thrashed by the Poms, Chris Losh asked Imbibe’s own Salami Army (well, a selection of top sommeliers and restaurateurs) to name their favourite people and places Down Under
David Vareille, Bar Boulud, Mandarin Oriental
Favourite wine: Penfolds Grange.
Why? Current winemaker Peter Gago and the previous one, John Duval, are both incredible, running the heritage left by Max Schubert since 1951. I like the fact that unlike most expensive cult wines from the Old World, which are from single vineyards or even small plots, Grange is made from grapes harvested over a wide area. This means that the precise composition of the wine will change from year to year and it is down to the branding and expertise of the winemaker.
Favourite vintage: We sell both the 1998 and 1995 and they are two different wines. 1995 is much more elegant and I would say delicate, despite the fact we are talking about a big Shiraz/Cab blend, whereas the 1998 is very typical.
Importer: Treasury Wine Estates, 020 8843 8400
Olivier Marie, Le Coq d’Argent
Favourite wine producer: John Duval, Barossa Valley.
Why? Despite being former winemaker at Grange, the guy is simple, down to earth, and very approachable – like his wines. They display that extra finesse and elegance very often lacking in most wines from this region. Concentrated they may be, but they never lack breeding and precision. They are chiselled with such precision that one might think the person in charge of the winemaking is more like a Swiss watchmaker or a jeweller. If I ever get to Australia, he will be on my ‘must visit’ list.
Favourite wine: Entity, because this is the epitome of a wine that demonstrates finesse and elegance, despite being from such a hot part of the world. It’s a Shiraz unlike many others; one of a kind. And it offers wonderful value for money.
Importer: Treasury Liberty, 020 7720 5350
Roger Jones, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn
Favourite wine producer: Glaetzer wines, Barossa Valley
Why? I’ve visited them many times, which normally involves a 20-minute visit to the vineyard and a five-hour lunch afterwards at a local restaurant.
Favourite wine: Anaperenna Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 in magnum – a seamless fusion of the two grape varieties. An intriguing nose of chocolate, crushed herbs, cedar, blackberries and smoke leads into a tightly focused palate with fine-grained tannin and incredible density. I served 12 magnums of it to 40 mates at my 50th birthday party last week.
Importer: Great Western Wines, 01225 322820
Eric Zwiebel, Summer Lodge Hotel
Favourite winery: Henschke, Eden Valley/Barossa
Why? I love the diversity of the wines; they show many grapes and different levels of quality, from reasonably priced wines to very expensive. I’d love to visit them one day. Maybe one day a group of UK sommeliers will be sent there!
Favourite wine: Semillon 1994. It is a spectacular wine: dry, rich, oily, intense, well structured, refreshing and lively.
Importer: Lay & Wheeler, 01473 313300
Martin Lam, Ransome’s Dock
Favourite wine producer: Tim Adams, Clare Valley.
Why? Tim is a consummate winemaker, modest to a fault, who makes a range of expressive wines, from rapier-like Clare Riesling, through Pinot Gris, Semillon [dry and late harvest], Tempranillo, Grenache, to his iconic Aberfeldy Shiraz. I have enjoyed Tim’s friendship and support as a producer over the last 18 years. We list most of his wines all the time. When I visited him, he gave me a tour of his own operation and vineyards, and then, with true Aussie spirit, drove me around the rest of the valley pointing out other great producers and vineyards.
Favourite wine: Aberfeldy for the red – it expresses the heart of Clare Shiraz – power and elegance; dry Semillon for the white – it’s a great food match; world class white wine.
Importer: Australian Wine Agencies, 01753 544546
Matt Wilkin MS, H2Vin
Favourite winery: Henschke, Barossa
Why? It’s one of the longest established names in the Barossa Valley, a brilliant husband and wife team with Stephen’s (fifth Generation Henschke) strict working ethos in the cellars, and Prue’s meticulous work in the vineyards delivering consistently great iconic Australian wines. I’ve visited them many times and worked with them on winemaker dinners in Adelaide. They are both incredibly humble and extremely well natured human beings who don’t get caught up in the unnecessary shite of the wine business. The original 1868 winery is literally covered in ivy, alongside a small and quaint rustic cellar door in pretty much its own isolated pocket of the valley.
Favourite wine: Henschke Hill of Grace, because it’s as original and as good as it gets to the historical and contemporary roots of the Barossa! Produced from original pre-phylloxera Shiraz material introduced from Europe by the early German settlers in the mid-1800s.
Importer: Enotria, 020 8961 4411
Stacey-Lee Edwards, River Café
Favourite wine producer: Giaconda, Beechworth, Victoria
Why? It is so unassuming from the road; you would never guess that a world-class winery existed down that dirt track. Rick Kinzbrunner is dressed like a farmer and welcomes you inside his house for a cup of coffee. His barrel sheds are just that, sheds. They do what they have to do without any stainless steel Swiss-designer-came-in-to-consult bullshit. He’s curious, passionate and focused. You can see it’s his life’s work and there’s nowhere he’d rather be.
Favourite wine: The Chardonnays constantly blow me away, but honestly if I had any of his wines in my cellar I’d be happy.
Importer: Treasury Wine Estates, 020 8843 8400
Garry Clarke, Chester Grosvenor
Favourite wine producer: Charles Melton, Barossa Valley.
Why? I guess his wines were the first big serious Aussie reds that I was introduced to. His Shiraz is a big dense chewy beast that takes an age to open out but delivers big on the palate. I met Charlie many years ago in my first sommelier position. I had only just been introduced to his wines and the regional distributor brought him over to the restaurant for lunch one day. He was really down to earth and totally interested in what we were doing.
Favourite wine: The Nine Popes, his homage to a Châteauneuf-du-Pape: big and bold with New World spices and density, but with a sense of refinement to it. I love the back-story to its name, I love what he is aiming to achieve with the wine, and I love that particular style of wine.
Importer: Liberty (020 7720 5350), though we source it through Villeneuve Wines up in Peebles (0131 558 8441).
George Bergier, Sam’s Chop House
Favourite winery: Rogue Wines, McLaren Vale
Why? Mr Smith has been created by Ant Moore (aka Mr Smith!), who after 10 years making wine in New Zealand came back to his native Australia where he now makes this outstanding Shiraz entirely from old vines. I’m going to Australia in March, and plan to visit them then.
Importer: Boutinot, 0161 908 1300
Ronan Sayburn, Hotel du Vin
Favourite winery: That’s a tough one to answer as there are so many good ones. But I was there for a big tour a few years ago and the best and most impressive operation I visited was Best’s Great Western in Victoria, run by the Thomson family.
Why? They have an amazing viticultural library with lots of unusual varieties that were planted in the 1880s. Strange to think of Oz as a New World country when they have this history? We tried 1969 Pinot Meunier there, which was incredible and very off the wall. There are very old cellars, quite Rhône-like and not what you would expect for Oz.
Favourite wine: The Best’s GW Shiraz 1998 was a phenomenal wine, cool climate Grampians fruit making a very elegant style.
Importer: Stevens Garnier, 01865 263308
Chee Hui, HK House
Favourite winery: Mount Horrocks, Clare Valley
Why? They have a complete portfolio, inasmuch as there is not a single bad wine amongst them and I would happily drink any of the wines they make, from their reds to the whites – and all have a capacity to age. I have bought them in the past and they are very good value, even though the production is fairly small. Also Stephanie Toole’s personality seems to shine through the wines.
Favourite wine: Cordon Cut Riesling, a jewel of a sweet wine. Luscious with a beautiful blend of crystalline acidity, and consistent vintage upon vintage.
Importer: Liberty, 020 7720 5350
Laura Rhys, MS, TerraVina
Favourite winery: Jasper Hill, Heathcote, Victoria
Why? I like them because their wines are great quality. They have amazing concentration, yet elegance at the same time.
Favourite wine: The Georgia’s Paddock Shiraz. It always impresses me with its richness and finesse and I love it more when it has had a few more years bottle age.
Importer: Yapp Brothers, 01747 860423
Hamish Anderson, Tate Group
Favourite winery: Domaine A, Tasmania
Why? My favourite wines tend to be from cooler climates so I enjoy their restraint and fragrance. I also like their story – ex-Swiss banker championing a grape (Cabernet), that no one thought he would get ripe.
Favourite wine: 2004 Stoney Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Frankly I can get very excited about all of their wines (except perhaps the Pinot). The 04 Cabernet is wonderful: fragrant, elegant with that lovely dusty complexity you get from great Cabernet – so much more interest than Bordeaux can deliver at this price.
Importer: Alliance Wine, 01505 506060
Christine Parkinson, Hakkasan
Favourite winery: Cullen, Margaret River.
Why? They are winemaking royalty, with wines considered amongst the Australian greats, but even without such a reputation they would be my favourites: the wines are elegant, soulful and memorable, and Vanya Cullen is both an inspiring winemaker and a really nice person. I once visited them when Vanya Cullen was hosting about 25 people for a dinner, which we joined in. The wines were terrific, and so was Vanya, who sang for us all in a wonderful, sonorous voice. As far as wine production is concerned, the grapes are grown biodynamically, and the winery is carbon-neutral.
Favourite wine: ‘Kevin John’ Margaret River Chardonnay.
Alessandro Marchesan, Zuma, Roka & Shochu
Favourite winery: Rockford, Tanunda in the heart of the Barossa Valley.
Why? Places like this (and Charles Melton over the road for that matter) represent the true soul of the Australian wine industry. I visited both Melton and Rockford in 2003 and it was the best visit of the Barossa Valley you could possibly imagine. Simple and meticulous winemakers, who co-operate with each other, and share knowledge.
Favourite wine: Rockford Basket Press Shiraz. A blockbuster, yet with great elegance and incredible depth of flavour. A wine that can last forever, developing beautifully though the years.
Importer: Australian Wine Agencies, 01753 544546
Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – March/April 2011