Australia 2012 is the theme of this weekend’s Vintages release. Why a specific vintage is the focus is beyond me: I don’t generally consider vintage variation when I think of Australian wines.
Australia is a huge continent with a number of distinct and geographically dispersed winegrowing zones so it is odd to label a vintage as the best in over 20 years when the conditions for winegrowing across the different regions are so varied.
This said there is a subtext to the theme and that is the favourite Aussie region for LCBO buyers: South Australia. In fact, 14 of the 16 feature wines are from different zones within South Australia.
South Australia is a major force in production of still wines, accounting for approximately 45% of total Australian wine production by volume in 2012-13 (compared with New South Wales: 31%; and Victoria: 19%).
With this data it shouldn’t be too much a surprise that South Australia is popular: in some respects it is Australia with 48% of total Australian planted vineyard area located in the state.
The vintage in South Australia in 2012 was a good one. James Halliday – the leading wine critic in Australia and one of the most highly-regarded wine writers anywhere – reports that rainfall was well-timed and adequate, heat units were sufficient and the fall was characterized by cool nights and mild days, allowing slow ripening. The only downside to the vintage was lower than normal yields. Halliday has described the vintage as “one of the great years with outstanding flavour and natural acidity for all varieties, notably Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz”.
One feature wine – a Shiraz from Victoria – makes my list.
Canada, British Columbia – VQA Okanagan Valley Quail’s Gate Chardonnay 2013
This is a bright, crisp and fruit-forward Chardonnay which shows deft winemaking and a balanced use of wood. The fruit character is delightful with citrus, tree-fruit and some tropical notes – all assembled in a complex and fresh package. The texture is juicy with a modest flintiness. The balance of fruit, acid, oak and alcohol is very fine and the finish is long. Beautiful!
Extra dry, white wine – $21.95 per bottle
France, Southern Rhône – AOC Côtes du Rhône-Villages Cairanne Domaine les Grands Bois Cuvée Maximilien 2012
Made by a small producer in Cairanne this wine is made from organically-cultivated fruit. This is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre made in a most non-interventionist style. As a result, fruit dominates the nose and palate – red and blue berry – with a round, ripe texture and well-integrated soft tannins. John Livingstone-Learmonth- the redoubtable guru of the Rhône describes this wine as a “call for more” wine in the bistrot. This sounds like a most inviting description. Buy lots.
Dry red wine – $22.95 per bottle
Australia, Victoria – Fowles Strathbogie Ranges Stone Dwellers Shiraz 2012
Victoria is a generally cool zone. The Strathbogie Ranges area in Victoria is an isolated place with variable, high elevation which makes it as cool as Champagne, the Rhine Valley or the northern regions of Burgundy. The effect is to deliver fruit that makes wine Old World in character which means modestly-ripe fruit, crisp acid and a lean texture. This wine would pass for a northern Rhône Syrah with black pepper, assertive dark berry fruit and light tannins. This is a classy wine at a great price.
Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle (Australia 2012 feature wine)
Chile, Casablanca Valley– Viña Casablanca Nimbus Single Vineyard Syrah 2011
This Syrah is a more evolved than its cousin from Strathbogie, above. It shows intense ripe fruit, savoury notes, a fuller body and a more supple texture. Neither wine is better than the other, just different, yet reflecting cool climate growing conditions and well-tended fruit. This wine will be a good match for hearty stews and roasted meats.
Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle
Portugal, Dão – DOC Dão Fontes da Cunha Quinta do Mondego 2009
This wine is a bend of Touriga Nacional with other indigenous grapes from the Dão region. It is a tidy assemblage of brilliant fruit, crisp acid finely-grained tannins and a long finish. The elements that stand out in this wine are the intensity of the red fruit and the texture which is supple and refined. This is a stunning example of what the Portuguese do best: make still red wines that call out for food – charcuterie or grilled red meats would be perfect accompaniments.
Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle
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