By Matt Pym, Majestic Wine Buyer

Matt at the AshesDespite getting married in August last year, my wife and I decided that our dream honeymoon would be Australia in December, soaking up some winter sun, enjoying wonderful wines and food… oh, and watching the Adelaide Test Match…

Now, I know that sounds perilously like a husband’s choice, but nothing could be further from the truth. Being in the wine trade herself, my wife was keen to explore South Australia’s wine regions. And more to the point, she’s become more of a cricket nut than me in recent years. (I’m a lucky man indeed.)

The Test

The AshesSaying farewell to snowbound Heathrow, and having secured the honeymoon holy grail of a free upgrade to Club Class, we set off on the trip of a lifetime. The day after arriving, we headed for the Adelaide Oval with members’ tickets in hand. This wonderful old ground has been sympathetically modernised to rank alongside Lord’s and Newlands in Cape Town as the best places in the world to watch cricket.

The first day was a real social affair, with most members more focused on quenching their thirst with old friends than watching the cricket. England demolishing Australia’s top order within the first three overs probably didn’t help. We, of course, were loving every moment. Sitting next to Kangarilla Road’s Kevin O’Brien – a fantastic winemaker who we’re pleased to call a personal friend – it was hard not to indulge in just a little sledging.

Ashes ScoreboardDespite an Aussie fightback of sorts, England remained firmly in control of the first day, a theme repeated throughout the Test – and ultimately the series. But the Aussies took their pasting with fairly good grace, and amongst the atmosphere of friendly rivalry, we count ourselves very fortunate to have been there.

Kangarilla Road Chardonnay 2010, McLaren Vale
£11.99 or £9.59 when you buy 2 bottles

Kangarilla Road Shiraz 2008, McLaren Vale
£12.99 or £10.39 when you buy 2 bottles

The Tastes

Ashes TrumpetThe morning after the Test finished, with slightly sore heads and croaky voices from the Barmy Army’s celebratory party, we headed out for a couple of days in the wine regions.

Mcguigan wines on the beachIn the Barossa we met up with Neil McGuigan to try the latest releases of their ‘Shortlist’ wines, a limited release concept to showcase some of their best vineyards. Last year saw Majestic launch a Shiraz, a Chardonnay and a Cabernet, all of which were snapped up. At this tasting I approved a new GSM blend, plus a mature Eden Valley Riesling. They’re both exclusive to Majestic and they’re great wines, but with only 6,000 bottles of each in our stores, you’ll need to be quick.

The Shortlist GSM 2009, McGuigan, Barossa Valley
£14.99 or £11.99 when you buy 2 bottles

The Shortlist Riesling 2005, McGuigan, Eden Valley
£14.99 or £11.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Next we headed to St Hallett, where we were afforded a bird’s eye view of the Barossa and Eden Valleys from a helicopter – a very generous wedding present. It was fascinating to observe how the varying altitudes, slopes and soil types changed the complexion of the landscape.

Matt in helicopterAfterwards, winemaker Toby put on a tasting of single-vineyard Shirazes to demonstrate how their differences are manifested in the bottle. The results were impressive, and I secured two exclusive parcels immediately. The first, Dawkin’s Vineyard Shiraz, with masses of menthol and raspberry richness, is a very serious Shiraz – limited to 4,800 bottles. Later in the year, we’ll bring in my second selection, so watch this space. I was also very impressed with ‘The Reward’ Cabernet, which shows that the Barossa can also do this grape really well. This long-established Majestic favourite continues to improve and is frankly a bargain at £8.79.

Helicopter viewsAfter another couple of days travelling incognito to get to know some new wineries, we caught the ferry to Kangaroo Island to finish our trip exploring this beautiful wildlife sanctuary. Much of our time there was spent just relaxing, enjoying long lazy picnics on the beach. I couldn’t help grabbing a couple of my favourite Clare Valley wines for one of these.

The Lodge Hill Shiraz from Jim Barry has proven a massive hit in its 12 months with us. Its richness and depth of flavour is instantly attractive, but it also has a lovely freshness for real drinkability. Another old favourite, the Knappstein Riesling, continues to impress. Sipping a very chilled glass on a mile-long white sand beach, with just us to enjoy the view, is a memory that will stay with me forever.

Australian wine tastingDuring our honeymoon, we were lucky enough to eat in some of the region’s finest restaurants, drink outstanding wines and meet wonderful people from both the Australian wine trade and the Barmy Army. For this, we would like to thank you deeply – you know who you are. Looking forward to retaining the Urn again in 2013!

St Hallett Single Vineyard Series Shiraz 2009, Dawkins Vineyard, Barossa Valley
£17.49 or £13.99 when you buy 2 bottles

St Hallett ‘The Reward’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Barossa Valley
£10.99 or £8.79 when you buy 2 bottles

The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2009, Jim Barry, Clare Valley
£10.99 or £8.79 when you buy 2 bottles

Knappstein Hand Picked Riesling 2009/10, Clare Valley
£9.49 or £7.59 when you buy 2 bottles

*Prices valid until 29 August 2011

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