Australia’s new philosophy of freshness

Andrew Hardy of Petaluma believes so passionately in the potential of Adelaide Hills Chardonnay, that he thinks the best wines from the region now offer a viable alternative to Burgundy.

Mac Forbes of Mac Forbes Wines

“It’s all about fruit here – more malic and less malo. Styles have become more restrained in the Adelaide Hills and we’re getting more of that gunflint character, but we have to keep our luscious style – creamy and complex with bodyweight and texture from the oak, which complements it. We used to be making 100% malo Chardonnays with a lot of new oak but we’ve been reining it in and our oak formats are getting bigger,” he says.

Chardonnay is the most important and exciting variety we have and it will make or break us.” Dan Coward of Shaw and Smith believes climate change has played its part in changing the style of Chardonnay made in the region. “Adelaide Hills Chardonnay has changed so much since climate change. You wouldn’t have dreamt of picking in February and now most people have finished picking by then,” he says.

Chester Osborn of d’Arenberg

“We’re trying to get back to the fruit and build up texture. Generosity of fruit is very important for Chardonnay from the Hills. Oak use has dropped off dramatically – winemakers are playing a lot more to the fruit character now.” Site selection for grape sourcing is becoming increasingly important in Australia for all varieties.

Big guns Penfolds and Hardys are looking to the cool-climate regions of Tasmania, Tumbarumba, the Adelaide Hills, Yarra Valley and Victoria for their top Chardonnays – Yattarna and Eileen Hardy respectively.

“Different regions bring things to the blend – from Yarra Valley you get sweet lemon curd and creaminess, while Tasmania brings persistent acid and juiciness.

For me, the defining character of Eileen Hardy Chardonnay is the sweet fruit, peaches and cream, and lemon curd flavours that make it incredibly drinkable,” reveals Tom Newton, longtime chief white winemaker for Hardys and custodian of Eileen Hardy, who describes Chardonnay as his “blank canvas”.

On the red front, producers across the country are taking a growing interest in light and medium-bodied red varieties from France, Italy and Spain like Gamay, Grenache, Nebbiolo, Nero d’Avola, Barbera, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Mencía.

This newfound interest has sprung up both out of a desire to experiment, their suitability to certain pockets of the country, and a desire on the part of sommeliers and consumers for easy-drinking reds to enjoy with food.

The influence and importance of Melbourne and its thriving restaurant scene can’t be underestimated. It’s so powerful, that it’s actively driving winemaking decisions and wine styles in nearby regions like the Yarra Valley.

“We’re hugely influenced and pushed by the trends in the Melbourne restaurant scene because we’re only an hour away from the city. We work closely with sommeliers and chefs on what new dishes they’re developing and the wines that might go with them. There’s a constant conversation about food and wine pairings,” reveals talented trailblazer Mac Forbes.

He adds: “We harvest a month earlier than we used to in the Yarra Valley. We’re finding out which varieties suit our soils best at the moment. It’s hard to sum up the wines from the region as there’s such variety.

There’s a lot of experimenting going on and a willingness to try new things I think Nebbiolo, Barbera, Grenache, Sangiovese and Mencía all have a bright future here.” In the McLaren Vale, producers are united in their belief that they are collectively making the best Grenaches in the country.

“McLaren Vale Grenache is so fragrant and is halfway between Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côte-Rôtie in style,” enthuses d’Arenberg’s ebullient chief winemaker Chester Osborn.

“Most of it comes from old vines, some of which are over a century old and dry grown. For me it’s like Pinot Noir – the Everest challenge I’m trying to climb. Grenache shows off the year and terroir more than any other variety that we work with, which is great – I love how sensitive it is.”

One Response to “Australia’s new philosophy of freshness”

  1. Emmanuel says:

    Superb article!
    Thank you so much for this great snapshot of the new generation of Australian wines.
    People like me (Oz Terroirs) who are trying to change the misconception about Australian wines, we need people like you to support us and share the information. Clearly, Australian wine is not anymore about big Shiraz & heavy/oaky Chardonnay, what’s hapenning in the Aussie cool climate wine regions is super exciting! Again, a BIG thank you.

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