When a leading wine critic tastes a flight of 103 Australian wines and deems 34% of the whites to be worthy of at least 17 out of 20 and scores ‘a massive’ 43% of the reds the same, it’s worth taking note. When that leading wine critic is Jancis Robinson, the world pays close attention.
Bordeaux-besting Australian wines
On Purple Pages Jancis Robinson recently reported she had completed one of her ‘Assemblage Tastings’ on Australian wines. These encompass a range of wines in a variety of styles, colours and prices and give a fascinating and hugely authoritative snapshot of Purple Pages’ impressions of a region’s or a country’s wines. To say that the Australian Assemblage showing was impressive is something of an understatement. To put the wines’ scores into context, Jancis looked back at her recent ‘Bordeaux Assemblage’ scores and found that only 14% of the whites were worthy of at least 17 out of 20. Given Bordeaux’s whites are, with the notable exception of Graves and Sauternes, largely sound but less than thrilling, Australia’s significantly higher score is impressive if understandable. What, to some at least, is rather less predictable is how only 34% of Bordeaux’s red wines scored 17 or more. Given that mature First Growths at several hundred pounds a bottle were included in this line-up, Australia really does something to celebrate. As Jancis herself put it: ‘…overall, this assemblage is testament to the fabulous quality of Australia's best wines, of both colours, today.’
Australian wine – strength in depth
Given who was tasting these wines and given the penumbra of huge scores, one might have expected the list to read like a Langtons’ Classification list. And while there were some great names on the list – Hill of Grace and Grange – they are not all superstar names. You may not have tasted Mac Forbes Blind Spot Riesling, but a 16 point wine for £7.95 that Purple Pages describe as ‘positively bargainous’ is one you may want to seek out... And it wasn’t just Australian Classics that scored well. Yes, the Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay is on the list and scored a (fittingly) brilliant 17 out of 20, but so was Wendouree Shiraz/Mataro 2012, a blend that achieved 18 out of 20, reflecting how ‘emerging’ varietals such as Mataro are showing real quality. Australia’s classic regions were also joined by their newer, emerging contemporaries. The tasting had high praise for the Mornington Peninsula borne Ten Minutes by Tractor, Wallis Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, 17.5 points, and was effusive about the Tasmania-sourced Penfolds, Yattarna Bin 144 Chardonnay 2008. Scoring 17 points this wine’s ‘modern’ styling was noted by Jancis as being, ‘Refined and utterly unlike the Australian Chardonnays of yore.’
The best just get better…
It would be remiss not to give a mention to some of the wines that put Australian fine wines on the map. The 2010 Hill of Grace scored 19 out of 20 and was described as having, ‘... the rare quality of the finest wines, where the flavour transcends description and you just have pure pleasure instead. Extraordinary.’ Such purple prose is rare on Purple Pages, but then Hill of Grace is a jewel in Australia’s wine crown, one that seems to be going from strength-to-strength under the winemaker mastery of Stephen Henschke. To single out a white star of this list is more problematical. So many impressed – Tasmania’s Tolpuddle Chardonnay, Moss Wood’s Moss Wood Vineyard Semillon 2014 and the Domaine A, Lady A Sauvignon to name but a few. For us though a Riesling needs a special mention. Rieslings scored heavily throughout the tasting and the Crawford River, Riesling Reserve 2003 Henty (18 points) won comparisons with Alsace’s £150 a bottle Clos St Hune with notes of, ‘Lime fruit, racy acidity and amazing persistence and balance.’ The Assemblage gives an impression of wines that are world-beating, diverse, value-filled and exciting. Now that sounds like Australian wine to me. Click here to view the full Purple Pages report on the recent Australian Assemblages. Please note that full access to this article requires a Purple Pages subscription.
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