Australia’s new philosophy of freshness

8th February, 2017 by Lucy Shaw

Yangarra’s chief winemaker, Peter Fraser, is equally excited about the quality of McLaren Vale Grenache.

Timo Mayer is a fan of whole bunch fermentation

“It’s one of the jewels in our crown. Grenache can be a bit of a hard sell but is forging its own path at trendy restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne where medium-bodied wines are being celebrated. It’s very Pinotesque – fragrant and not too tannic but complex with good palate weight. We make our greatest Grenaches in our coolest years,” he reveals.

Nick Hazelgrove of Hazelgrove Wines is keen to educate consumers about the fact that Grenache’s light ruby colour doesn’t make it a light- bodied wine. “Grenache gives a lot more in terms of body and power than its light colour implies. This misconception has been a bit of a problem in the past. We used to be apologetic about Grenache, now we’re proud of it,” he says.

One of the big trends to have developed recently in Australia’s cooler-climate regions is a desire to experiment with whole-bunch fermentation, with some winemakers going the whole hog, unafraid of the stalky character it can imbue in the wines, and others using a percentage of whole bunches in their blends.

Steve Flamsteed of Giant Steps

Timo Mayer, a wild-eyed German who has made the Yarra Valley his home for the past 20 years, is bold enough to make a 100% whole-bunch Cabernet, which he’s pretty pleased with.

“You get less reduction with whole-bunch fermentation. It used to take five years for the tannins to come around on my Cabernet, so I decided to do a whole-bunch version, which you can drink the next day,” he says.

David Bicknell of Oakridge Wines in the Yarra Valley is also a fan of whole-bunch. “We want to make fruit-forward wines not tree-flavoured wines. You can add fantastic light and shade to the wines when you use the stems. Whole-bunch actually works better with Shiraz here than with Pinot,” he says.

Another advocate of the style is Steve Flamsteed of Giant Steps – Gourmet Traveller Wine’s winemaker of the year for 2016. “Whole- bunch has become part of the Giant Steps house style for Pinot – I love the aromas you get from it and the glycerol mouthfeel,” he reveals.

For Forbes, the trend for whole-bunch ferments links back to the current conversation in Australia about the importance of freshness and brightness of fruit – and a renewed focus on drinkability.

“Australia still carries the scar tissue of piss-poor critter wines and people telling us that we can’t make site-specific wines, but the industry has turned a corner – it’s great to see growers fighting people off and getting good prices for their grapes.

As winemakers, we’re thinking about the starting point more, and about sourcing the right vineyard fruit rather than trying to make certain wines to suit consumer palates. Consumers are more than happy to accept lighter wines with beautiful fruit flavour that are easy to drink.

Youth and freshness of fruit are the two trends driving the Australian wine market, but there are clearly some consumers that still want big oaky reds from Australia,” he admits. On the competition circuit, judges are scoring light and medium-bodied reds more favourably than the bigger, higher- alcohol styles traditionally made in Australia.

“Judges are going for the light, fresh, easy-drinking young wines, and the trophies are going to reds that are less than six months old, with hardly any of the top accolades being awarded to anything older – you’re almost penalised if you put a bigger wine into a show,” laments Osborn of d’Arenberg, who believes the trend stems from the influence of the Melbourne restaurant scene.

He adds: “People are really going for that Beaujolais style of red and there’s a place for it in the market – the somms in Melbourne are going mad for food- friendly, lighter reds so winemakers are chasing that style now but it’s a fad and I’m sick of drinking lollies!”

Fraser of Yangarra also airs concerns about the kind of wines that are picking up the top gongs in Australia at the moment: “The trophies are going to producers’ light-and-bright entry-level wines, which is dangerous, as a lot of consumers still love big, bold Shiraz styles like Torbreck.

“I believe there’s still an important place for full-bodied Shiraz crafted around an architecture of skin tannin and French oak tannin – reds that are classic and beautiful but still fresh.”

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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