Think you know Australian wines? Think again… Off the Vine is a new event that showcases the groundbreaking winemakers who are shaking up the country’s wine scene
There used to be a time when your customers saw ‘Australia’ on a wine list and knew they were going to get Shiraz or Chardonnay. Those days are over.
Today a new generation of winemakers is pushing boundaries and experimenting with new grapes, new styles and innovations. The result? A whole raft of exciting new wines to add to your list.
Not weighed down by tradition or restricted by appellation rules, Australia’s wine industry has always had a rebel edge. But perhaps now, more than ever, that sense of freedom is being felt. Attuned to their vines and their land, winemakers are seeing what grows well in different climates and soils, and are responding to global trends in a uniquely Aussie way.
Cool & alternative
Meet the winemakers
Delinquente Wine Co, Riverland
‘I’m working with Southern and Central Italian varieties, which are late ripening and need less water, so are more sustainable in the warm, dry Riverland.
I make rustic wines with fruit approachability, savoury acid and texture – something these varieties have in spades.’
TRY: ‘My Vermentino – it shows beautiful, lush pure fruit and aromatics, juxtaposed with a fantastic savoury, textural, saline character.
A wine suited to food from Italy to Thailand to Japan!’
Distributor: Indigo Wines
‘I produce living wines that are organically farmed and bottled, without any additions or preservatives, making them quenching and honest. The biggest challenge with natural winemaking is the same as every day life: letting go of control and celebrating things
for exactly what they are.’
TRY: ‘My Grenaches – 2017 was a ripper Grenache year in McLaren Vale. Danby Carbonic Grenache 2017 is big kids’ fruit juice, while Like Raindrops 2017 sings a more classic song and is bright, spicy and lip-smacking.’
Distributor: Les Caves de Pyrene
‘Part of my ethos is to make wines that are 100% varietal, sourcing fruit from the regions that I feel are the best for those varietals.
These are honest wines, true to provenance and highlight the diverse range of exceptional quality in Western Australia.’
TRY: ‘My 2018 wines – we’ve had an exceptional vintage in Western Australia, particularly for reds. My Sangiovese from the Geographe region is bursting with splendid ripe red fruits and displays stoic natural tannin.’
Distributor: The Knotted Vine.
Take the move towards cool climate viticulture and more elegant wine styles. Australian producers are finding new coastal sites and high-altitude vineyards, and learning more about their unique terroir in the process.
One example is Yarra Valley’s Mac Forbes, whose outstanding single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs showcase individual sub-regions. Another is Brendon Keys of BK Wines, a former chef who’s now making wines in the cool Adelaide Hills.
Keys is also experimenting with alternative grape varieties, like many other producers who are challenging convention and discovering how different varieties express themselves in Australia’s distinct terroir.
This creative trend combines tradition with innovation, as Christian Dal Zotto of King Valley’s Dal Zotto explains.
‘My father Otto grew up in Valdobbiadene and we’re proud to see our Italian heritage in our wines,’ he says.
He grows Barbera, Sangiovese and Garganega, as well as Australia’s first Glera vines. Try the Dal Zotto Col Fondo, a tart sparkler that’s fermented in the bottle, offering customers a quirky trade-up from Prosecco.
Natural & regional
Concern for the environment is also reflected in the increasing popularity of organic and biodynamic viticulture. Check out the work being done by wineries like Brash Higgins in McLaren Vale and Castagna in Victoria. Natural winemaking with minimal intervention is often the next step.
‘We don’t add anything except a bit of sulphur. We try to be holistic and make sure the vineyard is alive,’ says Taras Ochota. His Adelaide Hills winery is a name to know, if you want to source natural wines. Others to look out for include Jauma and Konpira Maru, whose winemakers Sam Cook and Alastair Reed source grapes from across Australia.
These ‘terroir hunters’ with their focus on regionality make the kind of characterful wines that appeal to the on-trade. Other examples include Timo Mayer, who is producing (or ‘farming’ as he’d put it) Pinot Noir and Syrah in the Yarra Valley, and Ben Chipman of Tomfoolery, who is working with small parcels of Grenache and Mataro in the Barossa Valley.
While regionality has become a focus, there’s still plenty going on in the winery too, as innovative young guns experiment with wild ferments, whole bunch fermentation, extended lees contact, oak use, ageing in amphora… The list goes on!
Want to find out more and taste some of these new wave wines for yourself?
The good news is that you don’t have to save up for a flight Down Under. The ground-breaking producers mentioned above, and many more, will be at Wine Australia’s innovative Off the Vine tasting. It’s your chance to see the dynamic and exciting new face of Australian wine for yourself.
Off the Vine
When: 20 September 2018 Where: The Steel Yard, 13-16 Allhallows Lane, London, EC4R 3UE
What: Meet 36 producers, try a selection of 200 wines and discover the new faces of Australian wine.
Register at: wineaustralia.com
Photography: Ewen Bell/Wine Australia