I returned from holiday the week before last jet-lagged but satisfied having visited a number of Australia’s most prestigious wine regions.
The Barossa Valley stood out because of the number of great estates that I was able to fit into a single day. These included, among others, Penfolds, Henschke, Two Hands and Torbreck.
Penfolds and Henschke are, of course, famous for the iconic 100% Shiraz wines Grange (2006 - £220) and Hill of Grace (2006 - £370).
Sadly, however, neither wine was offered for tasting which was a pity considering that I had travelled almost 10,000 miles to visit their respective producers.
Two Hands’ highlights included an interesting Moscato called Don’t Tell Richard (2011 - £13.00) and their flagship wine Ares, a Barossa Valley/McClaren Vale Shiraz (2008 - £95.00).
The tasting area was by far the most hospitable of the trip comprising a teak deck overlooking the vineyards with an outdoor wood-fired pizza oven in situ to provide a welcome companion to Two Hands’ wines.
Torbreck’s founder David Powell named the estate after a forest in Inverness where he worked as a lumberjack and followed a similar train of thought with the wines, the majority of which also have Scottish-influenced names.
The notable exception is an unoaked Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre blend Cuvee Juveniles, which is named after Englishman Tim Johnston’s wine bar in Paris.
The standout wine Runrig (2007 - £110.00) was superb: rich dark purple colour; black fruit and sweet spice on the nose; hints of dark chocolate on the palate; silky tannins; and a long finish. This could undoubtedly be enjoyed 20 years hence but could equally be drunk today if you prefer your wines younger. More affordable offerings include The Steading (2006 - £35.00) and The Struie (2007 - £45.00) and interestingly Fortnum and Mason’s Barossa Valley Shiraz (2009 - £14.90) which is made for them by Torbreck.
Coonawarra will be remembered more for a £200 speeding ticket that I received on the John Riddoch Highway than for wine though I enjoyed visiting Yalumba.
The Yarra Valley will be remembered for Yarra Yering. Yarra Yarra Dry Red Wine No.1 (2004 - £51.00) has to be one of the most undervalued Bordeaux blends available comprising Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and importantly the highly tannic Petit Verdot. Dry Red No.1 is deceptive as if tasted blind a taster could be forgiven for identifying it as a classified growth from Bordeaux rather than as a New World blend. Yarra Yering Dry No.2 (2006 - £50.00) a classic Shiraz/Viognier blend also stood out though it was hard not to be influenced by the view from the glass fronted tasting room over the Yarra Valley as I evaluated the contents of my Riedel glass.
I would recommend anyone visiting Australia to take the time to visit several of its wine regions as in addition to wine there is a lot to see and do though you should of course remember the speed limit as your money is better spent at the cellar door than with South Australia’s police.