Perceptions of Australian wine were challenged last week at a seminar on cool climate high altitude wines, which featured, for the first time at a UK trade tasting, a rare Australian Saperavi.
Cool climate regions are contributing to the evolution of Australian wine, producing elegant and complex wines with a distinct taste of place. To tap into the interest in cool climates and acquaint the trade with Australia’s high altitude regions, Wine Australia ran a seminar on 5 May in London.
Led by Sarah Ahmed, the seminar focused on twelve wines made from different grape varieties and regions with vineyards between 600m - 900m above sea level. As well as introducing the trade to lesser-known regions like Tumbarumba and New England, the tasting showcased the quality, diversity and terroir of Australian wine.
For the first time at a UK trade tasting, an Australian Saperavi made the line-up. Seldom found outside its native home of Georgia, this black grape variety is also rare in Australia, made by less than 20 of the country’s 2800 producers.
Capable of surviving very cold winters, Saperavi thrives in cool high altitude sites where it produces deep-coloured wines with high acidity and plum and berry flavours. Sarah Ahmed summed up the Ballandean Estate ‘Messing About’ Saperavi 2015: “Winemaker Dylan Rhymer has nailed this Georgian variety: a great balance of fruit, acid and tannin”.
Over thirty of the UK’s sommeliers, educators and wine media attended the seminar, held at Australia House in London.
Sherry Weng, Managing Director of AOW, said:
“It was like a journey through Australia, with many surprises, and the quality of wines from cooler climates in Australia stood out. I was impressed by the Cobaw Ridge Syrah and that Saperavi can perform so well in Australia.”
Beth Pearce, Buyer at Majestic Wine, said:
“Discussions about cool climate Australia often focus on coastal influences and regions like Tasmania and Mornington, so to take a fresh look at cool climates from a high altitude perspective was really interesting. Sarah Ahmed did a great job of showing the topographical history and the stories of the individual growers, and the wines were fantastic. I don't think anyone would have picked the snowy vineyard scene as being three hours north of Brisbane!”
Andrew Catchpole, Editor of Harpers, said:
“The wines had crisp focus, precision and were less focused on fruit, more on restrained, cool climate expression. Having visited cooler Orange and the Southern Highlands in summer, and near frozen wearing shorts in the winter in the higher vineyards of Victoria, the tasting was a good reminder of quite how much altitude delivers such different climate in Australia.”
Lucy Shaw, Editor of The Drinks Business, said:
“The common thread running through these wines was their freshness, which is what both the trade and consumers are increasingly seeking from their wines. It was a hugely positive sign of things to come from Australia."
Wines featured at the Cool Climate High Altitude Seminar
- Topper's Mountain Gewürztraminer 2015, New England
- Lark Hill Grüner Veltliner 2016, Canberra
- Lark Hill Grüner Veltliner 2012, Canberra
- Eden Road ‘Courabyra’ Chardonnay 2015, Tumbarumba
- Penfolds ‘Bin 311’ Chardonnay 2015, Tumbarumba
- Philip Shaw ‘No.11’ Chardonnay 2015, Orange
- Eden Road ‘The Long Road’ Pinot Gris Skin Contact Rosé 2015, Canberra
- Tertini Wines Pinot Noir 2015, Southern Highlands
- Topper's Mountain Wild Ferment Shiraz Viognier 2014, New England
- Cobaw Ridge Syrah 2012, Macedon Ranges
- Logan Wines Shiraz 2012, Orange
- Ballandean Estate ‘Messing About' Saperavi 2015, Granite Belt