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Southern Stars

MattPymXmas2010Home to numerous world-famous regions and producers, South Australia is the heartland of the country’s wine trade. It’s also the birthplace of many exceptional, regionally expressive wines championed by Australia’s First Families of Wine (AFFW), the collective of prominent Australian wine families featured in our summer ‘10 issue. Here Majestic Wine Buyer, Matt Pym gives us his top picks from 3 of South Australia’s best regions…

Clare Valley

VineyardsMountainsSAusWith a warm climate tempered by cooling breezes, Clare Valley’s picturesque rolling hills have been producing balanced, fruit-focused wines since 1852. Indeed, the climate is a clear reason for the success of Clare Rieslings, which often start off slightly austere, then mature into delicate, toasty wines with telltale kerosene aromas. The Knappstein Hand-Picked Riesling is a perfect example, zingy and fresh now, but ready to be tucked away for enjoyment over the next few years.

Shiraz does very well here too, as my next two choices (both from AFFW members) show. Jim Barry’s Armagh Shiraz is one of Australia’s prestige wines, but you can get a more affordable taste of the maker’s skills with the 2008 Lodge Hill. Deep in colour with rich fruit, chocolate and a weighty palate, this retains a refreshing acidity thanks to those cooling breezes. Quite rightly awarded a Gold Medal at the IWC this year.

Next up is the Wakefield Estate Shiraz from Taylor’s Wines, which gives you characteristic regional richness at a bargain price. It’s crammed with violets, plums and dark cherries, with a silky texture that shows its class, belies its price tag and demonstrates why it was awarded Silver Medal at this year’s IWC.

Knappstein Hand Picked Riesling 2009/10, Clare Valley
£8.99 £8.74 or £6.99* when you buy 2 bottles

The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2008, Jim Barry, Clare Valley
£9.99 or £7.99* when you buy 2 bottles

Wakefield Estate Shiraz 2008, Clare Valley
£9.99 or £7.99* when you buy 2 bottles

Barossa Valley

AustraliaImageThis iconic region has had a rich winemaking tradition since its colonisation largely by German immigrants in the 19th century – giving the Barossa some of the oldest vines found anywhere in the world. Indeed, with 100+ year old Shiraz vines found throughout the Barossa, it’s no surprise that this is the region’s hero varietal.

Two Hands is a Shiraz specialist whose 2009 Gnarly Dudes (named after the old, gnarled vines it comes from) is classic Barossa. Roasted chestnuts, fresh crushed currants, burnt toffee, spices, dark chocolate and lavender are all packed into a powerful structure.

But the Barossa isn’t all about Shiraz. Another Rhône variety, Grenache, excels here too. Yalumba, Australia’s oldest family-owned winery and founding AFFW member, makes a cracking example from 30-70 year old vines. It’s full of sweet raspberry fruit, but with a meaty savouriness that adds real interest and complexity.

Up in the cooler-temperature high country of Barossa’s Eden Valley, Heggies is a superb, single-vineyard Chardonnay from hand-picked fruit, fermented by indigenous wild yeasts and aged for over a year in the best French oak. This leads to a very Burgundian style – restrained but with a lovely creamy palate and mineral finish.

Gnarly Dudes Shiraz 2009, Two Hands, Barossa Valley
£15.99 or £12.79* when you buy 2 bottles

Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 2008, Barossa Valley
£9.99 or £7.99* when you buy 2 bottles

Heggies Chardonnay 2008, Eden Valley
£14.99 or £11.99* when you buy 2 bottles

McLaren Vale

Near the coast just south of Adelaide, McLaren Vale produces intensely flavoured reds and whites, and is home to another AFFW member, d’Arenburg. The winery was established in 1912 by the teetotal Joseph Osborn to produce grapes for other wineries, until his grandson, Francis, launched the eponymous brand in 1959. With Francis’ flamboyant son Chester now at the reins, d’Arenberg is a legendary modern-day producer.

The Galvo Garage is a nod to Bordeaux’s garagiste producers and Chester’s take on that style. It’s a full-bodied, structured blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot that unites the New and Old Worlds and ages very well.

The Laughing Magpie, a Shiraz with a dash of Viognier, is more lush, flashy and ‘sexy’. The plush palate has rich dark fruits, plus an exotic lift from the Viognier. This will also age extremely well (if you can keep your hands off it).

My final recommendation is Stump Hill Shiraz – an experimental wine exclusive to Majestic that’s made by a group of top local winemakers to see how different clones of Shiraz produce different flavours. We’re more than happy to taste the fruits of their research, and I’m sure you will be too.

The Galvo Garage 2006/07, d’Arenberg, McLaren Vale
£15.99 or £12.79* when you buy 2 bottles

The Laughing Magpie Shiraz Viognier 2007/08, d’Arenberg, McLaren Vale
£15.99 or £12.79* when you buy 2 bottles

Stump Hill Shiraz 2008, McLaren Vale
£12.49 or £9.99* when you buy 2 bottles

*Prices are valid from 02 November 2010 to 31 January 2011.