Through a lot of tasting and one memorable visit (how I survived driving on the “wrong” side of the street, I’ll never know), it became obvious to me that Aussie vintners were almost ferociously independent, and proud of it.
These were some of the impressions I brought back from that trip, and that have been underscored in the years since…
- Aussie winemakers are not restricted by tradition. Many Old World countries only now are coming around to the idea that rules and regulations developed more than a hundred years ago — regarding where certain varieties may be planted, for instance — may not be applicable today. More than 90% of Australia’s wineries have been developed since 1970, so their vintners are not hamstrung by old rules and old ideas.
- Aussie winemakers are creative. When American wineries were focused on single-varietal wines during the 1980s, causing many consumers to assume that blends were somehow inferior, Aussie vintners were experimenting with multi-variety cuvees — often with varieties that had rarely been combined before. Example: Semillon and Chardonnay, which came to be referred to simply as “Sem-Chard.”
- Aussie winemakers love to showcase fruit flavors. In France, wines traditionally have been all about “terroir” — expressions of the land where the grapes to make them were grown. Down Under, the vineyards are farmed and the crushed grapes are treated in ways that the fruit flavors of the various varieties are emphasized. That makes them more engaging to more people, and also more food-friendly.
- Aussie winemakers believe in balance. I once interviewed Daryl Groom and Mick Schroeter, Aussie ex-pats who then were overseeing wine operations at Sonoma County’s Geyser Peak Winery. Here’s what Groom had to say on the subject: “Balance is part of our vocabulary every time we make wine. It comes from starting out in Australia, where, before Australian wines became popular in the States, most wines were consumed at the point of purchase — in restaurants, or at home a few hours after they were bought at a store. The wines had to be good as soon as they were released, and you attain that kind of quality only one way — with balance.” You can read that vintage story, and view a fun photo of Groom and Schroeter related to balance, here.
- Aussie winemakers are obsessed with quality. When I visited Australia and toured a number of wineries in various regions, I was struck by the modernity of the equipment and cleanliness of the cellars. Those are details that only people who are focused on quality care about. The Down Under vintners take great pride in their wines, and it shows in the vineyard and in the cellars.
Our tasting panel has curated a group of wines that showcase the Aussie obsession with quality, creativity, balance and fruitfulness. You can learn more about that collection here.