The land down under is experiencing a wine renaissance. From the explosion of thrilling small-batch producers bucking tradition and pushing boundaries, to the rise in quality and restraint from so many of the big names, it’s high time Australian wine jumps back on the radar.
The sheer diversity of grape varieties and wine styles coming out of Australia’s multitude of winemaking regions is astounding. Dive into the red-fruited and floral Grenache from McLaren Vale, or try a peppery, savory, light-on-its-feet Shiraz from one of Australia’s cooler climes, like the Grampians or Heathcote in Victoria.
So called “alternative varieties” are huge down under, particularly in the country’s many warm-climate regions, where heat and drought-resistant vines are proving important. Look for Tempranillo, Montepulciano and Sangiovese bottlings, which are becoming more prevalent, albeit still mostly made in quite small production.
Aussie wines are getting fresher and more vibrant, more immediately gluggable and more expressive of their terroir.
Chardonnay may be one of the world’s most popular grape varieties, but there’s something special and unique about modern Australian Chardonnay. Gone are the days of ultrarich, buttery Aussie Chard. Today you’ll find more restrained, elegant examples of the grape, with some excellent bottlings coming out of cool climates like Margaret River and the Adelaide Hills.
All of these represent a global trend that is especially prevalent in Australia: less is more. This philosophy manifests itself in the form of less new oak, less extraction, less fining and filtering, and less winemaking manipulation like added acid and tannin. In other words, more focus on expressing what’s happening outside the winery than inside it. As a result, Aussie wines are getting fresher and more vibrant, more immediately gluggable and more expressive of their terroir.
From racy whites to rich reds, Australia has a wine for everyone, so drink up. Or as the Aussies say, Cheers, mate!
Recommended Australian Wine to Explore
Angove 2015 Warboy’s Vineyard Grenache (McLaren Vale); $75, 93 points. From 53-year-old organic and biodynamically farmed Grenache vines, this elegant wine could easily age for 10 years but is drinkable now. Bursting with red cherries, strawberries, herbs, vanilla and violets, the palate’s ultrafine tannins are backed by juicy fruit and a long, herbal, cranberry finish. Editors’ Choice. —Christina Pickard
Penny’s Hill 2015 The Experiment Estate Single Vineyard Grenache (McLaren Vale); $36, 90 points. A red cherry aroma is interwoven with violets and dried herbs. The supple palate of juicy fruit is balanced by silky tannins and a medium mouthfeel, followed by a herbal finish. —C.P.
Syrahmi 2015 Demi by Syrahmi Shiraz (Heathcote); $32, 92 points. This is a simultaneously fruity and savory wine of complexity and power from one of Victoria’s underrated regions, Heathcote. From a mix of granite and the region’s famed Cambrian red soils, this wine offers ripe blue and red fruit, florals and a peppery, olivey punch. The juicy fruit continues on the palate but here the savory elements play more of a starring role: Dried herbs and graphite are woven into fine-grained tannins and a long, almost tangy finish. Drink now–2027. Editors’ Choice. —C.P.
Occam’s Razor 2014 Shiraz (Heathcote); $62, 90 points. This is a herbaceous expression of Shiraz from the under appreciated Heathcote region of Victoria, and made by Emily Laughton, daughter of the well-regarded Jasper Hill family. Mint and green herbs mingle with potpourri, juicy fruit, and charred oak characters. Tannins are tightly wound at the moment, but the wine is well balanced and here for the long haul. Drink 2020–2032. —C.P.
Alternative Red Varieties
Ess & See 2014 Tempranillo (South Australia); $28, 92 points. Despite the broad South Australia appellation listed on the label, this small-batch wine is from a single vineyard located between Barossa and the Adelaide Hills. It’s meaty and stalky, with raisiny dark fruit, cocoa powder and Dr. Pepper notes. The palate changes directions but is equally delicious in juicy cranberry, earth and herbs, with tightly grained tannins and lively acidity. Editors’ Choice. —C.P.
5OS Project 2014 Montepulciano (South Australia); $25, 91 points. This wine shows a grape jelly note that might be a little on the ripe side, but the cedary, cigar box characters balance things out beautifully. The palate is medium bodied, with a long line of focused acidity, herbs, an earthy core and a long cigar-box finish. —C.P.
Fairbank Sutton Grange 2015 Sangiovese (Bendigo); $22, 90 points. Made from organically farmed vineyards, with native yeast and old barrels, this wine is a melting pot of bright cranberry and raspberry, smoke, toast, florals and sweet herbs. Medium bodied, with silky tannins, and plenty of terroir expression, it’s well priced to boot. A win all around. Editors’ Choice. —C.P.
Stella Bella 2016 Chardonnay (Margaret River); $30, 91 points. A great example of Margaret River flexing its Chardonnay muscles, and from a label producing wines of consistent quality and drinkability. Notes of smoke, lemon, melon, vanilla oak and a slight vegetal character lead into a nicely textured palate and a long, smokey finish. The acidity is rather searing at the moment, and the oak a bit apparent, but give this a little time and all will settle into place. Drink now–2025. Cellar Selection. —C.P.
Bird in Hand 2015 Chardonnay (Adelaide Hills); $25, 90 points. Give this wine a few minutes to open up, and once it does it’s a lovely example of cool climate Chardonnay. Subtle notes of ripe lemon, stone fruit, butter, and smoke lead into a slippery textured, medium-weighted palate. More lemon and stone fruit mark the flavors, and toast and smoke show on the finish. —C.P.