• Alexander Smith

Australia, Pointsonwine are coming for ya!

In just over a week, the Pointsonwine team (of 2!) will be flying over 10,000 miles (17,000 km) from Montreal, Canada (-30*C) to Adelaide, Australia (+30*C).

Leaving this:

For this:

However, we are not flying half way across the world for Australia's amazing beaches, or to get away from the coldest winter on record, Nope! We are flying all that way for this:

Terra Rossa Soil of Coonawarra

Australia, produces some of the worlds best wines. However, which one will come up on top? Other wine growing regions of Chile, France, Italy and California are making better and better wines. Are Australia keeping up? How are they keeping ahead of the field?

But first, what do we even know about Australia and the wines it produces?

The wine industry in Australia

  • 5th largest wine producer in the world

  • Largest in the southern hemisphere

  • 65 Geographical Indications which are dotted around Australia from Margret River in Western Australia, to Hunter Valley, next to Sydney to even Tasmania!

  • Over 52% of wine produced is red

  • Over 1.2 billion litres is produced every year

  • The five most popular grape varieties are: Shiraz, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc

What are the most famous wines produced in Australia?

Some of the most well known wines in the world are made in Australia, these include:

  • Bin 95, Grange, Penfolds

  • The Laird, Torbreck

  • Hill of Grace, Henschke

  • John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon, Wynn's

  • Binidi Chardonnay's and Pinot's

  • and many, many more.........

However which wine will come out top? I plan on trying these top wines in Australia and more. After tasting some of the best wines in the world in New York in October, as well as a phenomenal Bordeaux En Primeur 2015 vintage, I hope Australia is ready for the challenge. There is a lot of competition out there, however knowing Australians like I do, they like a good challenge and I am pretty sure they will stand up to this one.

My thoughts going into Australia

So going into Australia, I have a lot of questions.

In terms of Identity, Australia is famous for Shiraz, as well as cool Chardonnay, bone-dry Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra. However Australian vineyards are also experimenting with Barbera, Grenache, Chenin Blanc and Traminer. Heck, the best Nebbiolo I have tried outside of Italy, has been produced in Australia. However with all of this experimenting, I hope the quality of their Shiraz, Riesling or Cabernets have not been affected. I encourage experimenting, especially in new world countries. However I have seen way too frequently, wine growing regions move away from their roots to new 'projects'. South Africa and recently England have shown this trend. Blending and experimenting, taking over their core varietals. I remember in South Africa a few years ago, I was presented with a wine, with a description of: France meets Spain meets Italy. A blend of 10-12 different grapes from the mentioned regions. As you can imagine, it did not work. However they charged over a $100/bottle and mentioned how sales had been slow. I also remember tasting an English Chardonnay at $60/bottle, which was beyond grassy, clearly the grapes had not achieved full ripeness, and surprisingly enough, sales were struggling. My point here, is that if grapes are not suitable to be grown in a region, then just don't grow them. Maybe there is a niche for these wines, however for the general market, I doubt that long term, these wines will be a success. Going into Australia, I hope that experimenting is kept to a minimum, and focus is made on what is suited and grows well. I believe, that Australia can produce as good Shiraz(or Syrah) as Northern Rhone, and have the potential to be at the top of the Cabernet pecking order. Their dry rieslings are just sublime, and their Chardonnays and Pinot's are also getting much needed attention in Tasmania and Victoria.

My second thought is regarding the buying of grapes. Vineyards in Australia, actively buy grapes from growers, not just for bulk wine, but also for some of their top bottling as well. We have started to see a shift though, in recent years, more vineyards are focusing on single vineyard estate wines. Why is this important? Simple, quality. If you buy your grapes from a farmer located 300 km, how do you know he/she is growing and treating his vineyard the same way you would? He is putting as much care and attention as you would? You don't. Now some winemakers would say they make wine and do not grow grapes. OK, but a wines journey is a smooth transition. From the vineyard to the bottle, if two separate entities are responsible for each part of the process; the finished product will be affected accordingly. However speaking to Australian producers, in preparation for this trip, I feel a transition to more estate growing wineries is currently underway. I believe this will significantly improve the quality of even standard Australian wine, if it continues.

My final thought, as always is on global warming. With the world increasing in temperature at a fast pace, how do Australian producers feel about this change. I believe for one, that regions such as Tasmania will see an increase in vineyard plantings in the coming years. We are already seeing some excellent wines being produced in Tasmania, however I feel this number will continue to grow. For the other regions, how do producers ensure they keep their wines under control in terms of alcohol level and sugar content. We have seen in California in the 2010's and in Mendoza in the last couple of years, wines coming out with just too ripe and 15,16 even 17% alcohol. That is just too high!

Final Thoughts

Australia is a fascinating wine country, and producing some of the top wines in world means, I walk into Australia with very high expectations. How is the wine industry moving? Global warming, single estate wines and experimenting with European grape varieties. I will be learning and tasting my way through Australia in the coming weeks, Can Australia stand up to other new world wine regions such as Chile and California? Which wines will stand up on top? Will I find a 100 point wine? So much to look forward to, and make sure to follow me on Instagram, where you can follow me on this wonderful journey.

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