Queues of wine professionals vied for a space inside the Australia Day tasting in London like it was the final farewell of some muscial great, fuelling speculation that Australian wine is coming back into vogue in the UK in 2016.
Throngs of wine trade professionals and critics descended on the Australia Day tasting (ADT) in Central London this week, and many found more than a few surprises.
Several merchants have suggested to Decanter’s editorial team that 2016 could be a big year for Australian wine.
They note both healthier reviews in wine columns – Australia dominated Decanter’s top 10 star buys of 2015, for example – and also a more favourable swing from the currency pendulum.
Figures showing Australia’s wine exports rose by 14% in value in 2015, albeit only by 0.2% in the UK, have done no harm.
Australia’s fine wine image
On the flip-side, others in the Australian wine industry have warned the country must do more to escape the pit of wine discounting, refereed by major supermarkets.
Wine Australia is more diplomatic in its assessment, but certainly feels there is a reputation issue to address. ‘We need to improve Australia’s fine wine image,’ said the trade body’s chairman, Brian Walsh, in an interview with Decanter.com.
Too many fine dining restaurants still play safe with the Old World classics, he feels.
‘We need to chip away at that conservatism,’ said Wine Australia’s chief executive, Andreas Clark. ‘So then more people will think about Australian wine as an option [on a fine wine list].’
It’s not as if Australia lacks top wines; Penfold’s being the obvious example. Mornington Peninsula, to pick one area, has rapidly won plaudits for its Pinot Noir and it was good to see a full range of Ten Minutes by Tractor wines adorning the Bancroft tables at this week’s tasting – vineyards are overseen there by up-and-coming winemaker Jeremy Maygar.
Breadth of styles
What strikes many journalists and critics about visiting Australia these days is also the breadth of styles now emerging.
Classic Barossa Shiraz has evolved via heritage projects and soil analysis within the valley, as well as via new cool climate Shiraz.
There’s also more work with Italian varieties such as Nero d’Avola and Sangiovese. Plus, areas like Clare Valley and Eden Valley are gripping writers with their Rieslings. Jim Barry brought the nation’s first Assyrtiko to this week’s tasting.
Availability is a problem. Small volumes and sheer cost mean some Australian wines are only sold domestically, or even at cellar doors.
At ADT, Chateau Tanunda brought its ‘The Chateau’ Shiraz 2014, made from 100 year-old Barossa vines, but there’s only 4,500 bottles and it’s touch-and-go whether any of this will reach UK shop shelves. Most is pre-ordered.
Some small-volume wines are getting through. Examples include Gentle Folk’s white ‘field blend’ from Adelaide Hills that was recently imported by Caves de Pyrene and found its way into East London hipster wine bar Sager & Wilde.
‘A lot of these things start off in wine bars, where instead of going for classic varietals they might serve something like a Nero d’Avola,’ said Walsh. ‘We don’t expect these wines to become big sellers, but it helps to generate interest in Australian wine.’
Do you live in the UK or US and have started drinking more Australian wine recently? Let us know in the comment section below.
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