Today is Australia Day — the “National Day” of Australia — which marks the arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships in New South Wales in 1788.
It was known as New Holland back then, and the Brits sent ships to establish British sovereignty over the continent’s eastern seaboard.
Australia Day has had various incarnations and has been marked in various ways through the years. In the world of wine, I think of it as the day to honor the country’s fiercely independent winemakers.
In establishing the country’s vineyards and wine estates, the Aussies were not bound by convention, tradition or any other word that ends in “tion.” They have paved their own path, and the result has been cutting-edge wines that are unlike any others in the world.
True, the Aussies use the same varieties found in many other countries. But they’ve pioneered crushing and fermentation techniques and, even more significantly, embraced the concept of blending — even between and among varieties that rarely, if ever, had been blended before.
A perfect example is the marriage of Semillon and Chardonnay — typically abbreviated to “Sem-Chard” — which results in wines that meld tropical fruit flavors (from the Chardonnay) with nut and straw notes (from the Semillon) and are ready to enjoy (especially with food) upon release… no aging necessary.
Then there are wines like the 2015 Bilgola “Estate” Merlot, which is made in the Aussie style that emphasizes fruit flavors over “earth” or oak notes. Aussie vintners are all about showcasing the fruit flavors in their grapes.
Aussies don’t even call Syrah by its historic name. They refer to it as Shiraz (rhymes with pizzazz), and often blend it with Cabernet Sauvignon, as demonstrated by the delicious 2015 Lawson’s Ridge cuvee found in the Aussie Shiraz & More Collection.
Australia Day may not be that country’s “Independence Day” as we think of the 4th of July, but there’s no doubt that the land Down Under is home to lots of independent-thinking winemakers.