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Australian Wine Bureau tasting 11/99

The Australian Wine Bureau is the generic marketing organisation for Australian wine in the UK. They brought a "roadshow" to Scotland in October 1999 with around 30 different importers, wholesalers and retailers showing over 200 wines. I had planned to taste all the whites that interested me before moving on to reds and dessert wines. However, this turned into a real social ocassion as I bumped into so many people I know. I ended up doing as much chatting as tasting! The notes therefore are biaised towards whites, and are fairly brief. As a general observation, although there were still plenty of big, "fruit-bomb and oak" style wines on show, there were even more that were bucking this Australian stereotype: plenty of unwooded whites, low-key savoury reds and less "common" varieties like Verdelho, Riesling - even Pinot Gris. Though I still found a tendency towards obtrusive acidity in a few wines (a sign of clumsy "acid adjustment" in the winery), by and large the wines were tasty, balanced and represented good value. Not all stands supplied pricing information, but where prices are given these are in pounds sterling (£5=$8). The tasting was not blind.

Sparkling

Hardy's "Stamp of Australia" Sparkling Pinot Noir/Chardonnay NV
Very fresh and lemony nose, nice light mousse and clean and refreshing palate. Simple, good, ideal for the garden or parties.

Hardy's Nottage Hill Sparkling Chardonnay 1998
Much creamier nose, more yeasty character too and a toasty, nutty quality. Good citrus and peach fruit and rich mousse. Nice stuff.

Grant Burge (Barossa) Méthode Traditionelle NV
Very toasty, buttery nose Lovely richness and fine, dense, mouthfilling mousse. Loads of peach and strawberry fruit and good balance. A cracking wine.

Whites

Plunkett (Victoria) Blackwood Ridge Sauvignon/Semillon 1998
Quite restrained with slightly green apple and pear fruit on the nose and palate and a streak of lemony acidity. Firm and chewy. Quite good. £7+VAT

Plunkett (Victoria) Blackwood Ridge unwooded Chardonnay 1997
Restrained tropically-fruited nose with banana, pineapple and a lemony sharpness. Good structured palate, plenty of fruit and acidity if a little short. Better with food. Good. £7.30+VAT

Plunkett (Victoria) Blackwood Ridge Gewürtztraminer 1998
Very aromatic, though not a huge nose. Flowers and bubble-gum. Palate is cool and spicy, with good fruit and a tart, rather acidic finish. Quite Good. £7+VAT

Blewitt Springs Langhorne Creek Chardonnay/Verdelho 1998
Quite a pungently aromatic nose. Lots of sweet tropical fruit: pineapple, melon. On the palate it is clean, soft and peachy with plenty of acidity to keep it sharp. Good. £5+VAT

Ninth Island (Tasmania) Chardonnay 1998
Really sharp, clean, citrus nose with plenty of zesty fruit on the palate, but also more buttery, peachy, leesy elements. Good.

Ninth Island (Tasmania) Sauvignon Blanc 1999
This has a finely tuned nose with some herbaceous, green-bean character, but plenty restrained tropical and lime fruit. It is elegant and balanced with good ripeness to the fruit. Lovely.

Pipers Brook (Tasmania) Riesling 1998
Delicately perfumed nose of spring flowers, lime and wax. Subtle herbaceousness and hints of exotic fruits and spices. Palate is clean, fruity and beautifully balanced with excellent length. Very good indeed.

Pipers Brook (Tasmania) Chardonnay 1998
Surprising green-bean note on this too, with savoury oak and then fresh apple and pear fruit. Palate is buttery and toasty, but quite restrained with lots of citrus flavours and acidity and a long, spicy finish. Very good.

Capel Vale (Western Australia) Riesling 1998
Good developed, wax and petrol components to lime cordial fruit. Lovely quality of fruit on the palate too, a nice minerally firmness and good length. Very good. £8.65

Capel Vale (Western Australia) Verdelho 1998
Very nice nose of oranges and lemons, with little nuances of cinammon and musk. Fruity and full-bodied, good acidity.

Mount Langi Ghiran (Victoria) Riesling 1998
Really terrific nose of waxy limes and lime leaves, butter and all-spice. Palate is pure and focussed with ripe, intense fruit and lovely balance. Very natural acidity leads to a long finish. Excellent. £8.99

Mount Langi Ghiran (Victoria) Pinot Gris 1997
I can recall having seen very few Pinot Gris from Australia, but on this evidence I can't think why there aren't more. Lovely sweetness on the nose of ripe melon and pear, but also crisp lemon fruit and an intriguing herbal quality. Palate is quite full and packed with those cool white fruit flavours and there is lovely polish and length to this wine. Excellent. £9.99

Up a Gum Tree (NSW) Verdelho 1998
Quirky labelling for a cheap, mass-market wine, but actually rather nice. Lovely freshness on the nose, lemon-scented and with some juicy pear fruit. Good body, fruit and texture. Good. £3.49

Hardy's Ebenezer Chardonnay 1997
Massive, Burgundian charred new French oak nose with plenty of ripe melon and peachy fruit to back it up. Good balance, with enough fruit to counter the oak and fine acidity. Very good. £9.99

Leasingham (Clare Valley) Semillon 1996
Full, rich, oily and packed with buttery lemon-meringue pie fruit. Nice and concentrated on the palate, chewy, savoury and good. £6.99

Cape Mentelle (Margaret River) Semillon/Sauvignon 1998
Very pungent nose, full of tropical fruit and then lovely orange, marmalade and lemon nuances. Palate is full, smooth and richly-fruited, then a lean acidity freshens the finish. Excellent. £8.99

Cape Mentelle (Margaret River) Chardonnay 1998
Soft, buttery, toasty-oak nose. Lots of butter, spice and peach. The palate is juicy and mouthwatering with good apricot and pear fruit, some sweeter tropical notes, and excellent length. Very good indeed. £12.49

Grant Burge (Barossa) Old Vine Semillon 1998
Very attractive hot-buttered toast nose, but also a load of ripe tropical fruit and darker, figgy notes. On the palate more of that darkly-hued fig and quince fruit, smoky and full but finishing elegantly with balanced acidity. Excellent. £7.99

Grant Burge (Barossa) Chardonnay 1998
Cool and creamy nose, with lemon fruit, spice and some vanillin oak beneath. On the palate it is round and buttery with a solid core of fruit and good length. Very good and quite a refined style. £8.99

Henschke "Tilly's Vineyard" Chardonnay/Semillon/Sauvignon 1998
Savoury with masses of spice, pear and peach fruit that is round and ripe. Palate has good body and good length.

Reds

Ninth Island (Tasmania) Pinot Noir 1998
Smoke, strawberries and minerals on the nose, charcoally quality. Quite firm on the palate with highish acidity. Easy to drink with jammy fruit. Some interest, but rather lean and simple.

Ninth Island (Tasmania) Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc 1998
Herbal nose, lots of leafy blackcurrant and nettles. Attractive. Palate has plenty of sweet blackcurrant fruit. Cool, elegant and minty. Quite long. Good.

Pipers Brook (Tasmania) Pinot Noir "Pellion" 1998
Pure, almost minty fruit on the nose. Very intense with blackberry and raspberry aromas. The palate is dominated by ripe fruit too, and though it's fairly one-dimensional at this stage, I liked this.

Coldstream Hills (Victoria) Pinot Noir 1997
Nicely oaked, with a creamy vanillin base to ripe black fruit and a little earthy, vegetal edge. The palate has a lovely quality of fruit too and moderate tannins and acidity hold it up into a longish finish. Very nice.

Coldstream Hills (Victoria) Merlot 1997
Slightly green and herbaceous, with light, jammy fruit on the nose. Better on palate, where firm tannins kick-in and support the fruit. Quite good.

Simon Hackett (McLaren Vale) Foggo Road Cabernet Sauvignon 1996
Full, soft, red-fruit nose is vanilla-scented and creamy. Rich, sweet cassis fruit floods the palate with fine tannins and good balance. Very good and good length too. £12.50

Hardy's Ebenezer Shiraz 1996
Massive, chocolaty nose of sweet mulberry fruit with high, eucalyptus notes. The palate is creamy and full-flavoured with ripe black fruit, pepper and spice. Concentrated and chewy, tannins and acidity are well integrated and sweet oak leaves the finish long and creamy. Very good. £12.99

St. Hallett (Barossa) Blackwell Shiraz 1996
Gorgeous, creamy plum and blackcurrant fruit. Lots of pepper and rich, spicy oak. Palate is filled with creamy fruit which is soft and lush, though underpinned by solid tannins. Very good.

Sweet

Trentham (NSW) Noble Taminga 1996
Very sweet and luscious orange fruit on the nose, quite buttery and rich. lacks a little concentration on the palate, but well balanced and pure. Good, if not terribly profound.

Cranswick (NSW) Botrytis Semillon
Lovely botrytis on the nose, plenty of honey and sweet fig, quince and juicy tropical fruit. Palate is viscous and mouth-coating, plenty of marmalade fruit but fine balance too with a minerally quality and steely acidity into the finish. Good length. Very impressive wine. £9.99.