The Irish have enjoyed a long love affair with Australian wines, which are currently the third best-selling wines in the country (after Chile and Spain). However, in a country larger than Western Europe, it should be no surprise that quality and style can vary significantly. So, today I'm taking a look at wines from some of the best regions the Aussies have to offer.
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It would be impossible to discuss Australian wine without mentioning the Barossa Valley. Located near the city of Adelaide in South Australia, the Barossa Valley firmly put Australian fine wines on the world stage and is home to some of the oldest grapevines in the world: some of which are over 150 years old and predate the arrival of the phylloxera louse that devastated the vineyards of Europe.
Summers in the Barossa Valley are hot and dry, ideal for producing powerful full-bodied, rich reds. The most popular grape variety is Shiraz (same grape as Syrah in France).
Our long-time partners, the Schrapel family have been growing grapes in the Barossa Valley for over 150 years. The Shiraz grapes for their Bethany First Village come from vines grown in the foothills of the Barossa Ranges, where they catch cooling sea breezes during the hot summers. This helps retain fresh aromas and acidity to balance the deep, ripe fruit flavours for which the Barossa Valley is famous. The fine-grained tannins are given a wonderfully soft and silky texture from ageing in high quality oak barrels.
Food Pairing: I know it's a bit of a cliché to match an Aussie wine with a barbecue, but chunky reds from the Barossa just scream out for some char-grilled meat and veg, so go ahead and throw another shrimp on the barbie!
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Although South Australia averages out as the hottest state in Australia, it covers a vast area and does have pockets of cool climate regions, ideal for producing elegant and refined wines, quite different in style to the wines found in the Barossa Valley. One such area is the Adelaide Hills, where the elevation helps moderate the heat of the high summer.
The family-owned Longview estate farms some of the finest vineyards, draped across the hills of Macclesfield in the south-eastern fringe of the Mount Lofty Ranges in the Adelaide Hills. Their award-winning flagship Yakka Shiraz is a model of cool-climate, restrained Shiraz fruit, offering exquisite balance and complexity, but still displaying plump ripe fruit. A stunning Shiraz with bright red berry fruit, white pepper, black olive tapenade and subtle toast from the oak ageing.
Food Pairing: This would pair wonderfully with a casual charcuterie board. Hard cheeses and chorizo with tapenade to accentuate the more savoury flavours in the wine.
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Australian Chardonnay used to be the darling of the wine world, with its rich and buttery, oaky style but dramatically fell out of favour as consumer tastes moved towards lighter and fresher wines. Luckily the Aussies learned from this fall from grace and changed their style: choosing better sites for growing Chardonnay and making a fresher style with a much more restrained oak influence. Now the Aussies can proudly rank their top Chardonnays with any in the world and the Stonier Chardonnay is a perfect example.
The grapes for this wine are grown near Melbourne, on the cool climate Mornington Peninsula on the southern coast of Victoria. The climate here is perfectly suited to growing the Burgundian grape varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This Chardonnay is made with minimum intervention and offers ripe apple fruit and citrus notes. The wine is aged in used oak barrels, which adds a wonderful toasty complexity and silky mouthfeel without overpowering the delicate fruit.
"Is this Mornington Peninsula wine the best value Chardonnay in Ireland right now? It has to be a contender. Note the purity of that cool climate fruit? It’s made with minimal intervention, so it's no coincidence. And it's a very modern Oz Chardonnay with not even a vestigial memory of syrupy, over-oaked stuff. It leans much more towards Burgundy (and whopping prices). Lovely, delicate use of toasty, vanilla-scented oak. A stunner."
- Tom Doorley, Irish Mail On Sunday
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As global wine tastes migrate towards lighter and fresher styles, the wines of Tasmania are becoming increasingly trendy. We were delighted to add the Eddystone Point Pinot Noir to the range earlier in the year.
The Eddystone Point winery is situated in the windswept north of the Tasmanian island, which lies off the southern coast of Australia. With its cool climate and prevailing winds, often from the Antarctic to the south, the conditions are ideal for growing fragrant fresh Pinot Noir grapes. This wine is a revelation and showcases the quality of the wines coming out of Tasmania at the moment, with its elegant, lifted fresh strawberry and Morello cherry fruit flavours, giving way to complex sweet spice and balanced by lightning fresh natural acidity.
"From a windswept north-eastern corner of cool-climate Tasmania, this pale cherry-red Pinot is charming at room temperature with notes of spiced morello cherry and punchy raspberry fruit and leaf. Chilling tightens the structure and highlights the herbal notes."
- Aoife Carrigy, The Irish Independent
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Although most Australian wines come from regions huddled in the southeast of the country, there is an increasing attention to the vineyards of Western Australia. We have been working with Domaine Naturaliste for a number of years and their wines have become a staple of our Australian range.
Made by award-winning agronomist and winemaker Bruce Dukes on his estate in Western Australia’s Margaret River, this is a delightfully complex & layered classic white Bordeaux blend: the Sauvignon Blanc grapes offer aromas of gooseberry and lychee, with the Semillon portion delivering stone-fruit and grapefruit notes. One third of the grapes were barrel fermented in French oak and aged on the lees for two months to give a rich textured body and mouthfeel.
"One of the great white blends. Originally from Bordeaux, the Australians now make stellar wines with these two grapes. The best come from the Margaret River region. Sauvignon Blanc brings fragrance to the table. Semillon adds texture. The nose exudes tropical fruit notes while the palate has depth and richness with an array of exotic flavours.
Enjoy with: Roast loin of pork"
- Matthew Nugent, The Irish Sun
Lorcan is O’Briens Wine Content Specialist, charged with spreading the wine word and keeping our customers and staff up to date with news of our wines and winemakers through his dedicated and passionate writing. Previously an O’Briens store Manager, Lorcan has written about wine in Ireland and Spain and is currently studying for the WSET Diploma. In his spare time Lorcan hosts wine tastings, blogs about wine and judges in wine competitions.
*Pricing correct at time of publishing. For the most up to date prices see our stores or website.