By Freya Ensbey.
As our national anthem veraciously states; ‘our land abounds
in nature’s gifts: of beauty rich and rare,’ and no more is this the case than
for our country's booming wine industry and the grape varieties our climate and
varying terroir provide for them to thrive.
Originally, Australia had no native grape varieties suitable
for wine making, the seedlings were instead imported from Europe upon the first
fleet of 1788. After several attempts of growing these vine cuttings, it was European
settler Gregory Blaxland who succeeded in 1822, travelling back to England with
his product samples and going on to be awarded a silver medal by the Royal
Society of Arts for his efforts.
Since then, our country’s wine industry has grown from a
select few clustered plantings, to an industry renowned for producing sought
after, high end products.
Australia is now the world’s fourth largest exporter of wine
in the world, with approximately 750 million litres a year being traded in the
international export market.
As our country’s wine industry has evolved over the years,
so has its varieties, techniques and products. As we celebrate the wine harvest
season for 2018, we are highlighting a bunch of the best Australian wine releases
to look out for.
Gemtree Wines | 2016
Gemtree Wines have unearthed (literally) a new gem with the
launch of their 2016 SubTerra, a premium quality McLaren Vale single-vineyard
Shiraz. The hand-picked grapes for SubTerra were selected from a small,
protected vineyard with alluvial soils and a geology dating back millions of
years giving the fruit a very distinct and unique flavour. What is believed to
be a world first, the wine is added to a wax-coated French oak barrel before it
is buried deep in the soil underneath the vines where the grapes were
originally picked. Gemtree’s wine makers, Mike Brown and Joshua Waechter
believe the earth provides the perfect natural temperature controlled cellar
for the wine to mature. The result yielding a deep purple wine with notes of
spice and dark berries, rounded off nicely by purity, vibrancy, energy and
balance according to Brown.
"We re-dug the hole, brought the barrel up out of the earth,
and tasted the wine. Importantly, we compared it to the barrels that had stayed
above the ground and were in temperature-controlled conditions at the winery,
and they were chalk and cheese. The wine was extraordinary,” Brown said.
As one can imagine, the 2016 SubTerra is in high demand, and
with the release of only 240 bottles you will have to get in fast before you
Miranda Wines | 2015 Sam Miranda
Sitting 400 metres above sea level, Sam Miranda Wines boasts
breathtaking views from around the encompassing mountains of Oxley, in
Victoria’s Milawa gourmet food and wine region. Sam Miranda is now run by a
third-generation winemaking family who originally moved from Italy to Australia
in the 1930s, expanding the business to what it is today in King Valley with
over 120 hectares on their property and 12 hectares under vine.
One of their recent releases which has gained much attention
is the 2015 Sangiovese. The fruit for this blend was hand selected from 8
select rows of Sangiovese, which were all treated with kid gloves, before being
fermented in new 700 litre French Oak rotating barrels for 8 weeks on skins
before being pressed and gravity fed back into the same barrels for 12 months
maturation in the cellar door. This has resulted in savoury and dark brew with
cherry characteristics and fine earthy tannins.
Jim Barry Wines | Assyrtiko
Jim Barry Wines is a name most prominent Australian oenophiles
will have heard of. Helping to put South Australia’s Clare Valley region onto
the map as producers of world class Riesling, Jim Barry helped to cement the
area as one of our country’s premier wine regions.
Always one step ahead of the game, third generation family
winemaker, Peter Barry, discovered a local vine variety known as Assyrtiko
whilst on holiday with his wife Sue on the Greek island of Santorini.
"The crisp, acidic qualities reminded me of our Clare Valley
Rieslings and yet it was a flavour I had not experienced before,” Barry
Intrigued with this newfound variety, he began the lengthy
process of importing cuttings into Australia through quarantine.
Six years later, in August 2012, Australia’s first crop of
Assyrtiko was planted at the Lodge Hill Vineyard, a special and unique site
treasured by the Barry family which was suited to this new variety.
"Our Assyrtiko journey has been fascinating and has enabled
us to produce a wine which, I believe, is a true expression of the variety. I
hope you find the flavours as interesting as I did in 2006,” says Barry.
The Jim Barry 2017 Assyrtiko is a vibrant pale straw colour
with floral aromatics, followed by notes of pear and lime, finishing with a
fine chalky texture.
Yes said the Seal | 2016 Pinot
Situated in the prominent wine region of the Bellarine
Peninsula, Yes said the Seal is a winery harnessing the best of what the region
offers with cooler climate wines. However, it is their 2016 Pinot Noir which
has received high acclaim, being awarded Best Pinot in Australia at the
inaugural Australian Pinot Noir Challenge in August of last year against 250
Pinot Noirs from all around Australia.
Crafted from handpicked Bellarine fruit sourced from sister
Park Estate, the result is a serious credit to winemaker Darren Burke who
spent many hours nurturing the vines including leaf plucking and shoot thinning
during the growth phase.
"It’s fantastic for
Yes said the Seal but also fantastic for The Bellarine and Geelong that a pinot
from the area won the event,” Burke said.
Mostly destemmed with a small amount of whole bunch, the
fruit is fermented in small batches utilising ambient (natural/wild) yeasts.
Once daily the cap is gently submerged to rehydrate the skins and gently
extract colour and tannins from the grapes. A small portion of the juice
ferments in new French oak barrels to bring more complexity and layers to the
wine. Post ferment the wine is pressed, settled and then transferred to new and
used French oak Hogsheads for maturation and malolactic fermentation. Following
10 months maturation in oak the wine is racked, blended, filtered and bottled
Wines | 2017
Tertini Wines resides in the lush Mittagong region of New
South Wales. The estate is renowned for producing premium cool climate wines
with an interest in alternative varieties.
Their latest award to add to their trophy shelf of
recognition was for their latest 2017 Pinot Blanc, receiving a Bronze at the
2017 New South Wales Wine Awards. The fruit used for this wine was from their
sister vineyard "Yaraandoo” located near Mittagong in the Southern Highlands,
situated in a high altitude of 715 metres.
This Pinot Blanc is pale straw in colour with hints of
green. Citrus and green apple dominate the aromas with subtle chalkiness, flowing
onto the palate with a fine texture from its 5 months of maturing. Crisp
acidity finishes up this wine which gives it length and liveliness.
For those left thirsty with all of this talk
about wine and can’t wait for your purchased wine to arrive at your door, take
a day trip to your nearest winery
this season’s wine harvest and experience what your region has to offer.