Despite Australia covering almost three million square miles, world-class versions of at least three grapes are produced within 100 or so miles of state capital Adelaide. Indeed, of the 12 members of Australia’s First Families of Wine, five are in South Australia. Stellar wines made there include the intense, textured 2009 Henschke Julius Riesling (£23.50, www.greatwesternwine.co.uk) from Eden Valley, with its citrus blossom aromas, lime-centred fruit and underlying minerality.
For a representative among the reds, seek out 2010 Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon (£14.99, Henderson Wines) from Jim Barry Wines. This blends cabernet grapes from both the Clare Valley and Coonawarra, further south. Down there, superb cabernet sauvignon emanates from the special terroir that embodies the world-famous terra rossa soil atop porous limestone. The net result is a terrific wine with plum and vibrant blackcurrant fruit, soft tannins and a mellow finish built around herbal and chocolate-influenced complexities.
Among South Australia’s superstars, I have a real soft spot for Rob Hill Smith and his Yalumba team because of what they have done with viognier. So when Yalumba’s Jane Ferrari came to Edinburgh recently, I made a point of seeking her out. Together we tried the terrific 2010 Viognier Eden Valley Yalumba (£14.99, Waitrose). This is a classic version with delightful perfumed aromas and textured peach fruit but with a backdrop of savoury herbs and a burst of fresh acidity.
Sticking with whites, we switched to a linked winery to sample 2011 Pewsey Vale Riesling (£14.99, Henderson Wines) – a delightful, fresh, floral white with lime fruit and a slight prickle to give a lively mouth-feel. In the reds, I love Yalumba’s 2009 The Scribbler (£13.25, Oddbins), which typifies what Barossa does well. It is a blend of shiraz and cabernet sauvignon that delivers full-bodied bramble and redcurrant fruit and appealing nuttiness and cedarwood, wrapped in an overcoat of vanilla and sweet spices.
Another nice, well-priced blend is Yalumba’s 2010 The Strapper (£14.99, Cork & Cask). This is a classic Rhône mix of grenache, shiraz and mataro. The result is a perfumed and slightly peppery red with damson fruit, shrewd use of oak and a robust finish.
More serious wine emerges when you trade up to Yalumba’s 2008 The Menzies (£27.40, House of Menzies) – a single-vineyard cabernet sauvignon from Coonawarra. The wine is named after former Australian prime minister Bob Menzies, and provides a cocktail of fruits (including blackcurrant, plum and mulberry) embodied in a smooth but chewy texture with a mint, chocolate and vanilla finish.
Sampling these wines, you can see why Australia’s First Families of Wine were anxious to separate themselves from the mass market – and how successful they have been in doing so.
2012 Les Pierres Borders Marsanne Viognier Languedoc, France, 12.5 per cent
This is a great example of what the area does well. It has attractive textured melon fruit enlivened by clean, pear drop acidity that is supplemented by perfumed white raspberry touches – courtesy of the viognier in the blend.
£5.75, The Wine Society
2010 Rodolfo Bastida Semurah Castilla La Mancha, Spain, 13.5 per cent
A very nice marriage between tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon that delivers juicy cherry and cranberry flavours with a warm, smooth texture, vanilla and cinnamon undertones and just the right tannic grip on the finish. £8.99 (£6.49 for Angel members), Naked Wines