Australia’s first grapevines were planted in 1788 in Farm Cove, today’s Sydney Botanical Gardens. This was pre-phylloxera (late 19th century), and because Australia vineyards weren’t affected by the deadly louse that wiped out vineyards around the world’s premier wine regions (Chile, the country of Georgia, and the Mosel region of Germany weren’t affected, either), the wines are considered Old World.
In a virtual tasting hosted by San Francisco Wine School, with special guests from Australia that included famed Aussie winemaker, Corrina Wright, and winemaker Dean Hewitson, thanks to AustralianWineDiscovered.com, 11 wines were tasted by over 100 virtual guests, including myself. Over 1,500 mini bottles were shipped to approximately a dozen states. I happily share my top 5 favorites:
#1 – During my last visit to McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley, I fell in love with the grenache wines of these regions. True to form, my absolute favorite sip during this virtual evening was the 2016 Edgar Schild “Reserve” Grenache, Barossa Valley ($26). The family behind the winery is a story you’ll want to follow online. This old vine was planted in 1916 and reflects a warmer vintage that works for me! The wine aged for over a year in new and old French barrels and presents as dark ruby with opulent dark and red fruit notes leading to slight tannin structure of the same berries on the palate.
#2 – One of my favorite white varietals is semillon, and the 2019 Tyrrell’s Semillon, Hunter Valley ($27) was truly exceptional. Grown in sandy loam soils and a short time on lees before bottling, this minerally-forward wine is a delicious and perfect representation of semillon. Aromas of cut grass and lemon lead the way to a palate with… wait, was that dried ginger on the finish? Amazing.
#3 – OK, so I’m partial to semillon Down Under, apparently. And this one was even better than the last. The 2018 David Franz “Long Gully” Semillon, Barossa Valley ($29), is a showstopper. The grapes hail from ancient vines (134 year’s old!) dry grown in sandy loam. This bright straw-colored wine exhibited a weighty, rich mouthfeel and was so wonderfully greeted on my palate – as refreshing as a perfectly made lemon meringue pie.
#4 – It would be blasphemous to leave out a Shiraz recommendation. Thankfully, there was one crimson selection I enjoyed, right down to the finish with notes of sage and allspice. This was a 2017 Langmeil “Orphan Bank” Shiraz, Barossa Valley ($65). The name “orphan” is due to the vine’s history, as explained on the Langmeil website: “Ten rows of Shiraz planted pre-1860 were saved from the developer’s bulldozer and replanted alongside the original Langmeil vineyard on the banks of the North Para River. We called these ten rows the “Orphans”, but after 150 years they have a new home.” Drink this wine and you’re tasting history.
#5 – Blended wines can be tricky, but this 2015 John Duval “Plexus” Shiraz-Grenache-Mourvedre, Barossa Valley ($80) was poured from a magnum and delighted my senses as the final pour of the tasting. It was a textbook red blend of the old days, exhibiting the full spectrum of bright red licorice to dark berries and plum on the palate, finishing with baking spices.
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Charlene Peters, a.k.a. Sip Tripper, enjoys sharing wine reviews and her discovery of wine destinations. Sign up for her e-newsletter on www.spavalous.com and receive travel inspiration, wine recommendations, and more tips related to travel, food, wine, and wellness. Be sure to order a copy of her book, “Travel Makes Me Hungry: Tales of tastes & indigenous recipes to share” available on Amazon.