Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Report from: Uncover Australia - Sept. 27, 2006

On Wednesday September 27, I attended the Uncover Australia Event at The MaRS Centre in Toronto, to find out what I could uncover about Australian wines. And man are the Australians doing it right – but I bet you already knew that because Canada has recently become Australia’s third largest export market; which means we Canadians are drinking a lot of Australian wine.

Over 70 wineries were on hand, pouring over 400 different wines, everything from Shiraz (as you’d expect) to Tempranillo (?) and Zinfandel (??) in reds and Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and, of course, Chardonnay in whites. The show was spread out over 2 levels and colour coded to help designate the different regions of Australia: New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia.

Highlights of the show were as follows.

Best Value White: Redbank “The Long Paddock” 2005 Sauvignon Blanc ($12.80) available now at the LCBO in the general list section. Great grapefruit and gooseberry nose, low in acidity but with great tart and sweet fruit in the mouth. Like a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade (you know the ones they make at those summertime festivals in the big lemon stands), only better.

Best Value Red: Nepenthe 2004 “Tryst” Cabernet Tempranillo Zinfandel … at $13.95 it’s a steal for those who like their wines with some spicy nuances in both the nose and the taste. I’m told it will be available in Vintages come the new year, so keep your eyes open for it. Nepenthe is slowly becoming one of my favourite Australian producers. Their ‘Rogue’ was in the Vintages section a few months back and is a delicious blend of Cabernet-Merlot-and-Shiraz … we should see it again next year.

Other wines of note are:
The Banrock Station 2002 Reserve Petit Verdot ($18.95) – this one should be available in Vintages spring of 2007; not just a curiousity, but a very good wine for everyday occasions.
Speaking of being curious, for those curious about Australian Zinfandel there’s a wonderful Nepenthe version that was in Vintages these past few months, a little pricey at $24.95 but quite tasty. Keep checking back as the LCBO should be ordering more.
Pangkerra 2005 Grenache, which should see Vintages’ shelves come February 2007 and is priced reasonably at $18.95. It’s smooth and easy drinking and ready for consumption now.

Finally, there were two sweet wines that were absolutely stunning. Now I have to admit when I think of Australia I do not think about sweet wine. Where we here in Ontario make our most famous sweet wine based on the cold temperature (icewine) the Australians use Noble Rot (Botrytis affected berries) … those in the know, know that this makes a very intense flavourful wine when done right; if you do not know, I would suggest finding yourself some of these wines and really enjoy something special. First there’s the Wolf Blass 2004 Gold Label Botrytis Affected Semillon ($19.95) – sweet apricot and apple with a honeyed fruit finish … it’s available right now in Vintages. The second, and my favourite wine of the afternoon event, will be in Vintages February of 2007 for the same price as the Blass, but with more complex candied fruit and honey flavours. Lillypilly 2002 Noble Blend ($19.95) is 80% Sauvignon Blanc; 10% Semillon; 5% Muscat of Alexandria and 5% Riesling – all having been affected by Botrytis and the complexity of both the nose and taste is amazing. Unfortunately, totally indescribable unless you’ve tasted it, especially, in the confines of this small, but growing, article. The best things I can say are that it lingers long and luscious in the mouth … a wine remembered long after the last sip has been taken and the bottle totally consumed. Come February 7th you’ll be seeing me lined up outside the door of my local LCBO location first thing in the morning – it’s that darn good. I may not even share it with anyone.

Australia is doing some amazing stuff beyond the usual Shiraz and have been for years. You’ll notice in this report I did not mention any Shiraz’s; that’s because we all know the Australians are doing that right – it’s what they made their name from – I was interested to see what else they were doing right … and as this show showed, Australia is a lot more than just the one trick pony of Shiraz, a lot more.
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