Australia Day might just be our favourite holiday. None of the pressure and expectation of Chrissie and New Year’s Eve, sunny summer days are still here and we are already delighted by the prospect of another long weekend.
And there are so many great Aussie wines to celebrate with! So we thought we’d pull out all the stops, and see how many ‘Strayan phrases we could fit into one article about some of our best bonza-beauty-bottler Aussie Icons.
The first European settlers to Australia weren’t reknown for being world famous vignerons. The Hunter Valley is the birthplace of Aussie Wine because it is close to Sydney. That’s it. Neither the soil nor the climate is especially conducive to the growing of grapes.
Despite this the Hunter has endured and created some of our most celebrated wines, including what is arguably Australia’s fair dinkum ‘own’ wine, the Hunter Valley Semillon.
The rest of the world’s Semillon is made sweet or is blended with Sauvignon Blanc. But not here. Instead it is as bone dry as the Nullarbor, full bodied (probably from eating too many party pies) with the bright yellow hue of a blazing Aussie Sun. Semillon ages fantastically but we’ll happily drink it young too for a completely different, fresher and livelier flavour experience. It’s waxy, lemony delicousness is sometime described as lanolin – straight off the sheep’s back. It’s also low in alcohol so you won’t turn into a two pot screamer.
Try this: Gartellman 2013 Benjamin Semillon ($25.00)
This is young, clean, crisp and full of finesse. It’s refreshing in the clammy heat of summer and can be served with all styles of seafood or with a backyard cricket game and a wide brimmed hat. A big glass of this and she’ll be apples, mate.
Crikey, what were we thinking in the 80s and 90s? Chardonnay can be a touch neutral on its own, and is called ‘the winemaker’s grape’ because winemakers like to tinker with it to create varying flavour and aromas. And did they ever tinker! Australian chardonnay had more oak than the wood chopping competition at the Ekka. The ABC crowd (Anything But Chardonnay) are still scared to go near the stuff.
Fortunately, today’s chardonnays are usually more balanced and elegant. Unwooded Chardy is more than welcome in the esky to cope with the summer heat, but sometimes we like just a touch of oak too – it gives the wine structure and spice. Even the French are starting to move towards this style (bloody bludgers copying us).
Try this: Ad Hoc ‘Hen and Chicken’ Chardonnay 2013 ($19)
Hot days and cool nights in Pemberton, Western Australia create tropical fruit flavours, like banana and mango. Still employs the old Chardonnay tricks like oak ageing plus a few new ones such as whole bunch pressing – but lightly, and with some credible acid to balance it all out. This is a Chardy with minerality AND spice! What to serve it with? Chicken of course, ya drongo!
Strewth! No one really knows why Australia alone calls the Syrah grape “Shiraz”. It’s been suggested that it was an Australianisation of the original French word. A nickname if you will. We reckon it’s lucky it didn’t end up being called Shazza.
And haven’t we made it our own. Our most famous wine, Penfolds Grange, is made almost entirely from Shiraz. It goes with lamb. Lamb on the barbie. You can’t get more Australian than that.
Or can you? You betcha we can. Australia also makes the world’s only Sparkling Shiraz which, if you aren’t already aware, is a bit of a Fab Ladies favourite. Made in the same style as Champagne, but with all the rich red fruit and black pepper spice regular Aussie Shiraz is famous for. With the added bonus of frothy purple bubbles, you’ll be flat out like a lizard drinking.
Try this: Teusner ‘The Riebke’ Shiraz 2012 ($20)
This has got everything to get Barossa Shiraz lovers excited, at a very nice price. Richer than Rose Porteous and more full bodied than Clive Palmer, with intense blackcurrant flavours and oaky warmth to boot.
Try this: Bleasdale Sparkling Shiraz NV ($22)
This is like tucking into a piece of your favourite Nanna’s fruit cake. Spicy and rich, with some lovely sweetness but countered with a fresh finish. You won’t believe it’s a South Australian Shiraz. Syrah. Whatever…
Bit of a bitzer this one, but aren’t we all? It was called Tokay. But Tokay comes from Hungary. And this is actually Muscadelle. Which is from France. And now we can’t call it Tokay, so we call it Topaque. Confused? Yeah, so were we. So we will keep it simple: if you are going to do fortified wine at this time of year, this is the one you want.
Fair suck of the sauce bottle though, who wants dessert wine when you’ve forgotten your cork hat and need to keep the flies away? We do because it’s lighter than its blokey brother Muscat, and has refreshing notes of citrus and tea cooling in the billy. The wine is gently oxidised – as will you probably be after a day in the sun listening to the Hottest 100 on the wireless.
Try this: Buller Fine Old Topaque NV ($19 and it is still sometimes labelled Tokay)
This true blue Aussie wine is much fresher tasting then an overly sticky sticky. Lightly swirl it around and taste the burnt orange skin, golden syrup, delicate baking spices, and yes – tea leaves. No, we don’t have a few ‘roos loose in the top paddock – trust us, it’s sublime! Keep your cool by serving it over a bowl of vanilla ice cream.