Wine Australia hosted a tasting of the latest Langton’s Classification – the definitive guide to the greatest Australian wines. The stellar line-up included wines from across Australia, including Torbreck’s RunRig Shiraz, Moss Wood’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Giaconda’s Chardonnay and of course Penfold’s Grange.
The 2016 Langton’s Tasting: taste the change
To say that the standard of wines on show was world-class would be a tautology: that these wines have been included in the Classification means they are fit to rank with the finest the world has to offer. Every sample was a show-stopper, and across styles and colours each one was mesmerically impressive. No it wasn't the quality that was surprising but the style of wines on offer. In days gone by the Langton’s tastings were populated by wines whose quality was matched by their size: huge, brooding wines that oozed extraction and delivered excellence in an almost overwhelming fashion. Not so today. The wines on show were just as thrilling, but the subtlety, precision and nuance of the wines on show was a revelation. The opinion in the room was one of maturity, that the winemaking talent that was behind these absorbing creations had matured, had gained an even deeper understanding of what their terroir could offer and were creating wines that excited in a wholly new, more consumer-friendly fashion. Andrew Caillard M.W. gave us his impressions If one wants a deeper insight into the wines of the Langton’s Classification, then who better to ask than Andrew Caillard M.W, co-founder of Langton’s wine auctions and creator of the classification. Andrew attended the tasting and we asked him for his opinions on the wines and the state of Australian wine as a whole.
How important has the Langton’s Classification become?
I don’t think you can underestimate the currency of the Langton’s Classification. Although it’s fair to say it’s the most famous wine classification outside Europe, I would also say it’s also a kind of classification that really only resonates with people are interested in fine wine. The Classification was never meant to be a brand. It was always meant to be a tool and it’s become something of a brand, but there’s no dollar value than can be put to it, it’s a form guide. I think some of the agents that bring in the wine will know about it. When you frame a classification in its history, I call it generations of effort. We’ve never attempted to make the Langton’s Classification famous; it’s not something we ever felt was necessary to do.
Do you think Australian fine wine has an image problem when it comes to UK consumers?
The first issue for Australian wine, particularly for fine wine, is consumers are not sufficiently well informed about the history of Australian wine and many of them do not realise that our history is their history. We have a shared history, a shared journey, we’ve fought alongside British troops in two World Wars, we’ve traded with the UK for more than 200 years, we’ve enjoyed the entrepreneurship and skills of British pioneers like James Busby and William MacArthur and their stories are intertwined with what Australia is about today. I think in many respects we haven’t really leveraged that type of meaningful narrative. Normally when promoting wine we’re talking about individual wineries and individual personalities and, as interesting as that might be, I think we need to talk about what makes Australian wine different.
‘British wine-lovers don’t understand the Australian fine wine story’
I think as a en-masse British wine-lovers don’t understand the Australian fine wine story particularly well. That said there are a lot of people that do and they recognise it and they enjoy the fact that they can pick up these wines at great prices because the momentum hasn’t gathered pace… yet!
From a quality perspective you can forget the stories and all of that kind of stuff and just look at the quality of the wines. You only have to look at the wines we saw in the masterclass tastings, they were outstanding. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter if they come from Australia from France or Spain or Timbuktu, if they stump up the goods in terms of quality, that’s what counts.
Do you think the stories behind wines matter, then?
One of the things that makes fine wine compelling, interesting and exciting is what the wines actually represent. That feeling you feel when you open up a bottle of Grange or Wendouree or Bass Philip Pinot Noir and you think, ‘Wow, isn’t it amazing that I’m sitting down drinking this wine.’ Some of the people at the Langton’s Classification tasting said, ‘You know I’ve never tasted Hill of Grace, what a beautiful wine that is.'
To me the idea that these wines originated in places where people struggled to survive, prevailed and created a legacy from a small vineyard that several generations later has stood the test of time and is producing such beautiful wines is amazing. It’s definitely part of the fine wine experience.
'I think Australian fine wine is all about change'
I think Australian fine wine is all about change. It’s about tradition and change at the same time. It’s a kind of dynamic that comprises what’s happened before us and what we believe that we can be. The future is our only reference point and I think you could use that for fine wine, yet the history that is behind that effort is deeply moving and is really reflective of the enlightenment loyalty love for life really.
What would be your takeaway from the Langton’s Classification tastings?
That Australia is making some of the most beautiful wines of the world. Simple as that. As to the future of Australian fine wine: the future of Australian wine is what the next generation wants it to be. If we can see the extraordinary discussions going on between winemakers about quality, technology and winemaking philosophy - in particular, things like the natural wine movement – bear further fruit then the future’s incredibly bright.
But it’s not not only that, look at what’s been happening with the development of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the regional ascendancy of Margaret River, traditional regions like the Barossa Valley new found ability to show the nuances of sub-regional differences, all that kind of stuff. You’ve got to say that the new generation that are coming through are enlightened, they’re ambitious and they’re proud of their Australianness and they’ve been freed from the previous strong, close links with Europe and instead have now become equal partners. I think Australian wine is in good pace. Thank you, Andrew.
What is the Langton’s Classification of Australian wine?
The Langton’s Classification was first published history 1989 to help wine collectors discover Australia’s finest wines. Over the past 25 years it has become an indispensable guide to the best wines that Australia has to offer. And as Australian wines have developed and improved so has the number of wines that have been included, from 34 in the inaugural 1990 edition to 139 in the latest 2014, Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine VI.
What are the Langton’s inclusion requirements?
The Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine has a number of very specific requirements for listing wines and these include:
- The wine has to have been made for at least 10 years
- The wine has to have performed well in the secondary market - particularly in the auction market
Watch the Langton's Classification Official Video
In 2014 Andrew Caillard M.W. and Johan Palsson created this short video which gives a winemaker's view on the Langton's Classification.
Wine Australia would like to thank Andrew, Johan and Daniel J Taylor and all at Sydney Media Productions for allowing us to share this video.
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