The largest and most significant tasting of Australian wine in the UK is just behind the corner (tomorrow 17 September at London's OXO2). To help you prepare for this unmissable event we sat down with Australian wine specialist Andrew Caillard MW from Langton’s Auction House (and creator of the Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine) to talk wines to buy and wineries to watch.
Three star winemakers
Timo Mayer, Timo Mayer Wines, Yarra Valley
Importer Indigo Wines
I love what he's doing with Pinot Noir. There's a group of winemakers called Pinot Massif and they are some of the most exceptional winemakers in Australia, all based in Victoria. I'm picking out Mayer because he's a farmer and that's the whole point about what's happening with Australian wine. The scale of winemaking is much smaller with a lot of these people, and they're also really concerned with sustainable farming.
Steve Pannell, SC Pannell Wines, McLaren Vale
Available through Liberty
Pannell is in McLaren Vale where he bought the 19th-century Koomilya vineyard. His DC Block Shiraz is based on 80 year old vines, but it's not just the age of the vines that makes this special, it's the narrative about making new out of the old… re-imagining 19th-century wine. Nobody was using new oak in the 1900s, and there's very little oak [here]. He's also investing in those kind of alternative varieties like Nebbiolo, so he's on-trend as much as he's honouring the past.
Kalleske Wines, Barossa
Available through New Generation Wines
Kalleske is in the western edge of the Barossa, settled by the family in the 1840s. They were long-term grape growers rather than winemakers – supplying fruit to other companies to make their top wines for many years – but they have re-engineered their family business to become wine producers. It's biodynamic and the health of the vines is astonishing. In many ways they mirror what Steve Pannell is doing in McLaren Vale. Really lovely stuff. I'm so impressed with them.
Three underrated wine stalwarts
John Riddick Wynns, Coonawarra
Available through Treasury Wine Estates
It's classified as Exceptional in Langton’s and well regarded by collectors, but it's not so well-known in the UK. But to me this wine encapsulates the whole idea that Coonawarra could be one of the great wine regions of the world. I see it as being perhaps the most underrated wine in Langton’s classification. It's a minuscule collection based on the finest parcels from the vintage… and this wine retails at $150 (£83) a bottle in Australia. That's what you're paying for Chateau Batailley…
Yangarra High Sands Grenache, McLaren Vale
Available through Boutinot
It's not in Langton’s classification at all but it pretty much articulates where people feel Grenache is going at the moment in Australia, a lighter style of wine to drink. This is a slightly different interpretation to Alex Head’s wine. It's based on 1946 plantings at the highest point of the estate. The colour is lighter – more Pinot-like - but it has all the richness and complexity; it's a really good style for restaurants.
Standish Single Vineyard Shiraz, Barossa
Available through Vinorium
It's a new entrant into Langton's – it only came in last year. It's all based on old vines, a 1912-planted vineyard on the western edge of the Barossa which is my favourite area. The soils there are sand over clay which seems to make aromatically beautiful wines and this is a really good example. It's Old Vine Shiraz and they use different formats for ageing the wine. There's a real move towards larger oak; people are being a lot more thoughtful about maturation these days.
Two producers you have to list
Available through Treasury Wine Estates
If you're really serious about having an Australian wine list, Penfold should be on it. They are at the cutting edge of winemaking. They’re making Chardonnay and Riesling – things like Penfolds Bin 51 Riesling from the Eden Valley that's an astonishingly beautiful wine. The Marananga Bin 150 Shiraz is fabulous, Bin 389 is regarded as a real stalwart in the world of fine wine – if people are unsure what to buy they’ll go for 389 because it’s great; St Henri is the ultimate food wine anyway.
I love Yalumba. Things like Pewsey Vale. I mean, why wouldn't you? They’re so crisp and they have that lovely purity of fruit, but yet that richness – it's one of the great Australian wines. They certainly make the best Viognier in the country, and the Signature Cabernet Shiraz is a fantastic tradition – in many ways it epitomises Australian wine for all its generosity of spirit. Whenever I drink a Yalumba wine I think what wonderful people they are.
Three wineries to look out for
Cloudburst, Margaret River
Currently seeking importer email@example.com
This is from the Wilyabrup region. It's only been around for a little while, but its Cabernet Sauvignon's first vintage won all the trophies at the Margaret River wine show and it's created a cult following, particularly in New York. The winery is owned by Will Berliner, an American and a mysterious character. He was going to plant avocado trees to block car headlights, but ended up with a small patch of vines, closely planted and stumpy. He follows a biodynamic philosophy, making both Chardonnay and Cabernet and is a really interesting producer.
Head Wines, Barossa
Currently seeking importer firstname.lastname@example.org
Alex Head has been through all sorts of trials and tribulations with his health, but he's a really positive kind of person and he's done an incredible job with his wines right across the board. He probably makes the finest Grenache in the country. His Ancestor Vine Grenache is mind-bogglingly brilliant, and his record in wine shows is incredible.
Currently seeking importer email@example.com
Very close to Clonakilla the winemaker, Bryan Martin, is a very unusual fellow – artistic, incredibly thoughtful, and a brilliant chef. His winemaking philosophy is one of ‘just leave it alone, things will work out’, which connects him with Cloudburst in terms of attitudes. I’m showing The Grainery on Tuesday, which is a Viognier, Marsanne Roussanne, Chardonnay blend. It's in very small volumes but fascinating. I love what it stands for – he's taking the best out of all the different competing ideas and making something of his own.
During the Australia Redefined tasting in London, Andrew Caillard MW and drinks writer Mike Bennie will be presenting the ‘Future Icons of Australian Wine’ masterclass. You can find more details on the event and register to attend here.