FOR several reasons, I was pleased to see Majestic listing the complex and intensely bramble-charged 2010 McGuigan The Shortlist Barossa Valley Shiraz (£14.99).
Similarly welcome is the delightfully balanced, rich, peachy and textured 2009 Eileen Hardy Chardonnay (from £25). Both are great wines, but more importantly, their inclusion suggests that UK wine drinkers really have rekindled their enthusiasm for Australia.
Disaffection with big, formulaic, entry-point wines has cast a long shadow over the entire Oz wine industry. One man who saw that shadow lifting before most of us did is Lee Barrie, who began importing wines last year from several boutique Australian producers.
Barrie’s business, Aussie Rules, is based in Glasgow and has successfully placed some of that wine with big players such as Laithwaites, The Wine Society and Majestic itself. However, much of it goes to independent wine merchants and, best of all for us, 45 per cent of the company’s current sales are in Scotland.
Having worked in wine buying roles for big players, such as Constellation, Barrie was well placed to become the exclusive importer for a cluster of award-winning guys when he set up on his own. His portfolio covers 11 Australian regions including prime areas such as Coonawarra, Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley. All of the range, though, clearly demonstrates how far Australia has moved away from big, bold over-extracted wines in favour of elegance and finesse – especially in wines from cooler regions.
Elite wines, though, will seldom be cheap. Compare them, for example, with similar quality wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy or the Rhone, not with heavily discounted, basic, entry point products.
Tim Knappstein’s 2013 Riposte The Stiletto Pinot Gris (£15.99 at Abbey Fine Wine, Melrose) from the Adelaide Hills is a great introduction to these premium wines. It’s crisp and fresh, with citrus acidity and slowly developing zestiness. This is a sophisticated, food-friendly white, with lovely pear and savoury herb flavours.
Among the reds, Rob Dolan’s 2012 True Colours Pinot Noir (£16 at St Andrews Wine Co) from the Yarra Valley really stands out thanks to its smoothness and depth. The flavours are fresh, bright and vivid, with red cherry, damson and oriental spice combining with redcurrant acidity and embellished with a mineral edge.
Moving up a little in weight, we encounter 2012 Route du Van Dolcetto Shiraz (£12.49 at Aitken Wines, Dundee) from Victoria. This is an interesting blend with fresh acidity and balanced tannins. The texture is soft and silky to underpin the wine’s juicy blackcurrant and red plum fruit and its nutty, all-spice backdrop.
The 2012 Raconteur Cabernet Sauvignon (£14.99 at the six Ellies Cellar stores in Central Scotland) is a more concentrated affair, with cassis aromas on the nose and rich flavours of ripe blackcurrant, mulberry, almond and vanilla in the mouth – all set against a minty backdrop, with lively acidity and mellow tannins too.
So, with three of Barrie’s wines in Matthew Jukes’ Best 100 Australian Wines and 26 of them scoring 90 points or more in James Halliday’s 2015 Wine Companion, there are many reasons to anticipate a day when, once again, “Aussie Rules”.
2011 Dourthe No 1 Bordeaux Rouge, France, 13 per cent
Anyone seeking an inexpensive introduction to claret should start here. On display are all the genre’s typical autumnal nose, richness, gentle spices and soft but mildly chewy tannins. Nevertheless, those elements are reinforced by merlot-derived cherry flavours and restrained acidity with cabernet’s blackcurrant and chocolate touches.
• £8.50 at The Wine Society
2013 Giesen Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 13 per cent
Scotland loves sauvignon blanc and, for quality and value, Giesen gives New Zealand’s biggest names a run for their money. Behind the characteristic gooseberry flavours there is depth and substance without anything being “shouty”.
• £6.99 – instead of £10.49 until 29 September – at Majestic