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Australia – Time to Think Again

With only a few days left of our in store Australian Tasting week, Steve, Trainee Manager at Majestic Amersham, shares his favourites from across the country…

Beware-kangaroosDo you cringe at the thought of over oaked Chardonnay from down under? Do you wince at wine brand adverts bookending US sitcoms on Satellite TV? Maybe it’s fair to say many of us might have fallen out with Australian wine as a consequence of a one size fits all approach. But there’s no one working harder than Australian wine producers to win back your loyalty.

Beyond the mass market fodder lie some treasures just waiting for you to fall in love with, and at Majestic it’s pretty easy to find them. Although for a huge part, Australia is an arid outback desert, the wine producing regions tend to be in the more marginal weather zones. Despite water shortages, cooler climate regions such as Margaret River produce some drastically different wines to those in the sun soaked Barossa Valley.

My first look beyond Shiraz is always to Cabernet Sauvignon, a thick-skinned variety that produces very dark, sometimes tannic wines with blackcurrant and black cherry fruits. Some great Australian Cabernet can be found in Coonawarra and the McGuigan Shortlist Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is no exception. Majestic have secured the entire UK allocation of this range – give this a go and you will instantly see why. Soft tannins give way to intense violets and juicy blackcurrants with a classic Aussie undertone of mint and eucalyptus. Vibrantly purple in colour this is great with burgers and steaks on the BBQ.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uj6myjGAkqY&feature=player_embedded=0&w=580]

Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 2008/2009 Barossa Valley  Not a huge amount of Grenache is planted in Australia, but one of my favourites is found at Yalumba, the oldest family-owned winery in Australia. Yalumba’s Bush Vine Grenache from the Barossa Valley is produced from some of the oldest bush vines on the continent. This wine is ripe with juicy dark berry fruits, is well structured with light, smooth tannins and will pair really well with those sticky spare ribs.

No more than 5% of Australia’s total wine production comes from the western territories – the renowned Margaret River area lies a good 200km south of Perth and benefits from cooler ocean breezes and a maritime climate. Cape Mentelle is a producer that hand picks its grapes before maturing them in a mixture of American and French oak and the outstanding Cape Mentelle Chardonnay will surely be your reason (if you need one) to fall back in love with Chardonnay. Bone dry but with creamy lime, grapefruit, banana fruits and good acidity, this is the wine to match with all of your favourite chicken dishes, especially those with a good creamy sauce.

Knappstein Ackland Vineyard Riesling 2009 Clare Valley  Having made its way from the vineyards of Alsace and the Mosel to the Clare and Eden Valleys, Riesling has found a second home. Clare Valley Rieslings tend to be more elegant and austere than those from the Eden Valley, a great example of which is the Knappstein Ackland Vineyard Riesling. With a ripe and juicy citrus intensity and racy acidity this is a great example of Australian Riesling that will work really well with Chinese dishes and other spicy foods.

So forget the big brands – forget the supermarket aisles. Australian wine is competing on the world stage and with summer coming, these wines really come into their own (isn’t being able to BBQ a condition of Australian citizenship?). Let’s just hope their cricketers don’t get as good as some of these wines!

If you’d like to hear more about what Steve and the rest of the Majestic Amersham team are up to you can follow them on twitter @majesticame or visit their store webpage www.majestic.co.uk/amersham