Aussie wines thrill at inaugural wine school

Wines from Down Under were described as “thrilling” and “exciting” at yesterday’s first Australian Wine School in London.

Speaking at the event, Tim Atkin MW said: “Australia is more exciting today than at any point in my life as a wine writer.”

Atkin was joined by commentators Andrew Jefford and Nick Stock to discuss Australia’s soils, geology, climate as well as viticultural and winemaking developments, before conducting a tasting of Australia’s signature wines.

The event was held by Wine Australia to “create a snapshot of Australia in one day,” according to Yvonne May, regional director for the UK, Ireland and Europe at the organisation.

The tasting was used to highlight initially the quality of Australia’s white wines, with flights of Semillons and Viogniers as well as Rieslings from Western and South Australia, particularly the Clare and Eden Valleys.

This was followed by a detailed look at Chardonnay from cool climate sites such as Mornington Peninsula and the Adelaide Hills from the last three vintages.

Atkin expressed his excitement at the quality and evolution of Australian Chardonnay, describing it as “particularly thrilling at the moment.”

Among the red flights, which included a look at Pinot Noir, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon, before a tasting of four Rutherglen Muscadelles and Muscats, it was the Pinot Noir that attracted the most comment.

“This is the most exciting flight of the day,” said Jefford, adding: “I think the world is waking up to what wonderful craftsmen the Australians are with Pinot Noir.”

Speaking of the Shirazes however, he said: “There is wonderful fruit but I wish there would be a bit more tannic structure on these wines,” and recommended “long macerations to draw out the personality from the skins and pips.”

Meanwhile Nick Stock remarked on Australia’s problematic 2011 vintage which had a total crush of 1.63 tonnes, larger than 2010 but down from Australia’s peak of 1.93m in 2005.

“There were some who harvested grapes for which the only cost was the cost of harvesting, and my worry is where the wine from those grapes will end up,” he said.

However, he also said that a difficult vintage such as 2011 highlighted the producers “who know what they are doing, have their head around the vineyard and what to do do in the winery when the challenge is there.”

Further, he commented: “And Australia made some of the most incredible Rieslings in 2011 because we had ‘hang time’, whereas we [producers] are usually worried about falling acidity and sunburn.

“Similarly, it was an outstanding vintage for Chardonnay and a fantastic year for sparkling wine.”

For the red wines he said it will be “more interesting”.

“There is a shift towards celebrating cooler, more vibrant, spicier flavours in reds and 2011 has given [Australia] the opportunity to investigate those types of styles… we may not have had a choice but it is a bit of watershed moment for areas which haven’t experienced those sorts of conditions.”

The panel also picked out a selection of Australian winemakers to watch, including William Downie, Tom Carson, Corrina Wright, Mike Aylward, Matt Gant and Mac Forbes.

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