March is an interesting month for wine. There are lots of specials available at cellar doors (which we like a lot…) and the balance of warmer and cooler days mean the consumption of reds starts to pick up a bit as the relative consumption of whites likewise subsides. From a tasting perspective, March and September are probably our busiest times for these very reasons. Looking back over our notes from the last 12 to 15 months, a few themes continue to emerge. In no particular order, here are some musings for the month of March…
The Italians keep coming. The Australian wine scene has traditionally been dominated by wines that are French in origin. This could be for any number of reasons, tradition, history, suitability of soil and climate, but the Spanish, German and Italian wine styles – and recently very much the Mediterranean Italian styles are really making their presence felt. The rise of Pinot Grigio (Italian style) compared to Pinot Gris (French style) is a major clue, but the Prosecco offerings of many wineries giving the traditional Champagne blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is not to be ignored. As a group we have also seen a rise in Sangiovese (spicy red wine variety, Italian in origin) and wonder (over several bottles of course) whether or not these Italian wines represent the next big thing in Australian wine.
Don’t write off the Kiwis. Perhaps Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has had its time to shine and perhaps the number of super cheap offerings of this style of wine have had an impact, we really don’t know. What we do know however is that some other NZ giants are starting to cross the ditch and find themselves in Australian bottle shops in large number. Central Otago Pinot Noir is a big player, but we are really interested to see how Waipara Riesling fares in the years to come. Very much under-rated as a region compared to Marlborough, Otago, Hawkes Bay, Waipara is a small(ish) region that grows Riesling grapes in particular that we think are quite under-rated. Some Australian labels have begun to produce NZ wines as part of their range (Innocent Bystander, Giant Steps) which is certainly an interesting development to watch. If anyone can give the Tasmanians a run for their money as far as Pinot Noir is concerned, it is surely the South Island of New Zealand.
Victoria is showing off its versatility. As a state, Victoria is not difficult to navigate (once you leave Melbourne) and manages to produce a really wide variety of wine styles really, really well. From the fortified wines of Rutherglen to the cool climate wines of the Yarra Valley and the Mornington Peninsula to the Shiraz and Cabernet offerings of Heathcote, Bendigo and all over the central districts to the unmatched offerings of Tahbilk in the Nagambie Lakes, almost all wine styles can be found in the one state if you are prepared to travel. Yes, South Australia has the best Riesling and Shiraz and Yes, Margaret River in WA has some seriously good Cabernet Sauvignon and Yes Tasmania has sparkling wine that is just heavenly, but for those on a time budget, Victoria offers a lot in a (relatively) small space.
Our wines of the month: This was a difficult one, and involved some re-tasting of the short-listed favourites, but in the end we awarded red wine of the month to Hare’s Chase (Barossa Valley, South Australia) 2016 Ironscraper Shiraz ($35 per bottle RRP) and white wine of the month to Coombe Farm (Yarra Valley, Victoria) 2016 Farm Chardonnay ($37 per bottle RRP).