by Juel Mahoney
When Australia is featured in the news in the UK it seems to be either a story about a natural disaster or a cute/deadly animal. This week we had both: the record high temperatures and terrible bushfires along with a story at the beginning of the week about Australia’s most famous wine critter, Yellow Tail.
For the first time in two decades, Casella’s Yellow Tail announced a profit loss. The strong Australian dollar is taking its toll on Australia’s biggest export to the United States, with the Australian Financial Review reporting a loss of $30 million dollars in 2011/12. Why is this important?
Yellow Tail is often seen as the wine that “crushed the Australian wine industry” and led the way for a flood of “critter wine” imitators.
Yet apart from a few big brands – and I use the word “brand” rather than “wine” as this is the word found on some cheaper wine labels – there is no such thing as Australian wine.
What I mean is that Australia is a collection of very different wine regions with distinct climates and grapes.
Take South Australia. Yes, it could be said this is the home to the big and bold, high alcohol Barossa Valley red so loved by Robert Parker. But it is also home to the Clare Valley, which has fifty percent more rain and is five degrees cooler. The Riesling from here is very different from the Riesling found in Eden Valley, which is at a higher altitude again.
Today I talked to Iain Muggoch about our new Australian producers we are launching at the Annual Tasting on 6th February. During his last trip to Australia, he found two very different wineries with different styles of Barossa Valley winemaking.
Chateau Tanunda is in the old German area of the Barossa Valley and grows 28 different varieties across three different valleys with three different soil types. They are reducing yields by using single cane in the vineyards and basket pressing the grapes in small batches. This cellar may have been built in the 1880s, but this winery is all about innovation. There is nothing of the baked and big characters normally associated with Barossa Valley: this is restrained and elegant rather than rich and ripe.
In contrast, The Colonial Estate is also in the Barossa Valley but a world apart in taste: classic Barossa with powerful, bold succulent ripe fruit . Based in the old Seppeltsfield winery, this is the heart of traditional Barossa winemaking. In this historic winery there are 120 open fermenters in an original gravity-fed cellar. It is a small-batch production of Barossa fruit without the bells and whistles winemaking.
The Barossa Valley may be the most well-known “taste” of Australia but these two wineries prove there is also a diversity of style happening at the ground level. The wines will be available to taste at our Annual Tasting on February 6th alongside some other exciting new wines from Australia including the incredible Josef Chromy (Tasmania), Kilikanoon (Clare Valley, James Halliday’s 2013 Winery of the Year), Penfolds (including Grange and Bins) and Little Eden’s exciting new italian varietals.
And not a critter in sight.