Ivy Ng
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Australian Boutique Winemakers’ in HK

Without the deep pockets, production volumes and international marketing panache of the big brands, it remains a challenging task for boutique wineries from Australia to reach out to export markets.

Robert Fiumara Nick Bulleid

Robert Fiumara from Lillypilly Estate (standing) and Nick Bulleid MW (seated).

This year, with sponsorship from Austrade, Judith Kennedy, CEO of the Association of Australian Boutique Winemakers (AABW) was able to embark on a sales mission into Hong Kong, joined by seven trophy winners and three gold medallists.

Through a series of trade tastings, master classes and a trophy dinner, trophy and medal winners were able to present their range of wines, including the winners, to local media and potential importers.

The Boutique Wine Awards is the only show in Australia where the top size limit is 250 tonnes, and they uniquely support the small and independent winemakers.

As Nick Bulleid MW, one of the speakers at the master classes, pointed out, Australia started making wine in 1874 but they had come through a long journey to more precisely map out where best to grow different varietals.

For instance, Riverina makes great botrytised wines in the style of Sauternes, but it would never be able to make great Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz, even if it tried.

Nick himself makes a Pinot Noir at an altitude of 910 metres in Laggan, in the chilly Southern Tablelands of New South Wales (winery name Hatherleigh), where, in some years, he has seen inches of snow in his one hectare vineyard.

It was not possible to attend all four of the master classes, so I attended two of them: 1) Classic Aussie Varietals, Boutique Style; and 2) Terroir makes all the difference: West v South Showcase.


From right to left: Talisman Riesling 2013 (Geographe, WA), Rhythm Stick Red Robin Riesling 2013 (Clare Valley, SA), Smallwater Estate Shiraz 2013 (Geographe, WA), Tagai Scar Tree Shiraz 2012 (Langhorne Creek, SA), Woody Nook Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2013 (Margaret River, WA), Anvers Brabo Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Adelaide Hills, SA)

I was very impressed by the elegance, delineation, detail, clear regional definition and varietal expression of the wines in both masterclasses.

Then there were the personal stories….Robert Fiumara, owner and winemaker of Lillypilly Estate in Riverina, told us that his father planted vines in 1972 when he was in 3rd form (about eight years old), and in effect chose Robert’s career for him.

His father made their first wine in 1982. Lillypilly’s Noble Blend Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2011 (Trophy winner in the Sweet Wines class) was a beautifully crafted Sauternes-style botrytised wine, without any use of oak (74% Sauvignon Blanc/26% Semillon). Intense aromas of apricot, marmalade, candied orange peel, barley sugar.

Luscious, balanced by refreshing acidity and a light tannin, which ensured a drying sensation on the palate. The estate makes about 1,000 cases in an average year.

Established in 1875, Stanton and Killeen has probably the longest history among the boutique wineries present at this trade mission in Hong Kong.  Now run by the seventh generation, 2015 will mark the 140th anniversary. Stanton and Killeen has built its reputation on full-bodied reds, luscious fortified wines including Portuguese style “Ports” and a range of Muscats and Topaques (previously known as Tokays), and also a dry red blend based on Douro varietals.

CEO Wendy Killeen successfully wooed the audience with sips of the nectar of her winery, the Rare Topaque (Trophy winner of the fortified class). Made with Muscadelle, and aged for over 30 years.

Rare by name and nature, this Rare Topaque represents less than 1% of the winery’s production. It was rich and opulent. Walnut, date, prune and toffee flavours coated the palate, and lingered for quite a few minutes.  The most memorable wine of the tasting.

The West versus South Australia tastings just reminded us that there was no one terroir for Australia, nor even within a state: Clare Valley, Langhorne Creek and Adelaide Hills from South Australia all have their unique climate, soil and stylistic characteristics, demonstrated by some very well-defined wines as Tagai Scar Tree Shiraz 2012 and Rhythm Stick’s Red Robin Riesling 2013.

Australia has recently seen its range of wines enhanced by a number of European and South American varieties. When asked which ones had shown the most promise, Bulleid thought that the best examples he had tasted were Tempranillo, Arneis, Sangiovese and Vermentino, when grown in ideal soil and climate conditions. He also had high hopes for Mencia.

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