Grape growing in Australia began some time in the late 1700s, but proved very difficult because of the difficult climate. In 1824 the “father” of Australian wine James Busby found great success with vines he imported from Spain and France. Australia was first known for their cheap, sweet, fortified wines. Following World War II, new winemaking techniques elevated Australia’s white and red wines to internationally recognized levels. Today, over 1000 wineries exist in Australia, but the “Big Four” wineries, Southcorp, Beringer Blass, BRL Hardy and Orlando Wyndham account for 80% of the country’s wine production. Australian wine is known for its commitment to exhibit varietal characteristics and its great value.
Australia is most famous for producing Shiraz, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Riesling. The country down under is also known for pioneering a number of grape blends, most famously, Chardonnay-Semillon and Cabernet-Shiraz blends. Australia’s notoriety as a winemaking powerhouse began in the 1960s when winemakers began using steel tanks and cold fermentation techniques to produce clean Chardonnays that exhibited varietal characteristics. The two decades that followed increased the amount of dry red wine produced in the country, while fortified wines declined in popularity. Cabernet was highly praised in Australia because winemakers embraced technologies that preserved its intense flavors and were soft and enjoyable to drink young.
Shiraz is to Australia like jam is to peanut butter, a perfect combination. Shiraz in made from the Syrah grape that is typically blended with other varieties in French wines from the Rhône Valley. Shiraz (or Syrah) normally exhibits dark fruit, black pepper, and smokey aromas and flavors. The interesting aspect of Australian Shiraz is that it is available in a large variety of styles, from light, easy drinking wines with fresh raspberry fruit to more serious, complex reds that need to be aged.
The terroir (The French word that covers place, soil, sun, and climate) of Australian wines is very influential in determining the wine’s style. The majority of wines come from the southern parts of Australia because of the climatic cooling effects of water from the Antarctic.
South Australia (the state) is home to 50% of the country’s wines and some of the finest wineries in the world. This state includes the prestigious wine regions, Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills, and the Clare Valley that produce the best hot climate Shiraz Australia has to offer. When looking for wines from New South Wales, the Hunter Valley provides a hot climate that produces bold Semillon and Chardonnays.
When looking for something from Western Australia, the Margaret River (greater Perth) offers some of the nations finest Cabernet Sauvignon.
The wine label may be the most influential factor for someone buying a new wine. In Australia the Label Integrity Programme (LIP) regulates laws controlling what and what can’t go on a label. Understanding some of these laws can go a long way in helping you choose the perfect bottle for any occasion. If a grape variety is specified on the label, 85% of the wine must be made up of that variety; and if there are two varieties listed then they must be listed in order by volume (Cab/Shiraz will contain more Cabernet than Shiraz). If a region is specified, 85% of the wine must come from that region; if more then one region is identified on the label, then they must by listed in order of the volume of each region.
Try These Wines
Lindemans “Bin 65” Chardonnay (South Eastern Australia) $10.95
Jacob’s Creek Reserve Riesling (Barossa Valley) $14.95
Penfolds “Koonunga Hill” Chardonnay (South Eastern Australia) $14.95
Peter Lehmann “Clancy’s Legendary Red” (Barossa) $17.95tr
Fifth Leg Shiraz/ Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot (Western Australia) $16.00
R.L. Buller & Son Pty Ltd Victoria Tawny (Victoria) $15.95
Decanting a wine allows any sediment to settle and also lets it breathe, smoothing out any rough edges and bringing forth the wine’s deeper characteristics. A beautiful decanter is always a lovely addition to a well-dressed table! Use Decanters for older wines that are too delicate for Aerators (anything over 5 years old)
An aerator’s purpose is to expand the surface area of wine, which allows the air to mingle with it. Aerators force air to be circulated throughout it, the end result is a wine with an expanded aromatic profile and/or softer tannins.
A handy aerator will easily do the trick in minutes. A Vinturi Wine Aerator for example, is held above your glass while you pour wine through the top of the aerator. As the wine flows through the aerator, it breathes as bubbles are sent through it. An aerator is appropriate for casual meals, where time is of the essence.
“You’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.” –Dean Martin
“It’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine … it’s summertime!”
― Kenny Chesney
Victoria day has come and gone, and the summer is almost in full swing. That means dates are moving from the dining rooms to the porches, patios, and picnic tables of the city. Meals enjoyed outdoors during the summer months should compliment the good weather and therefore call for different wines than dishes more closely associated with winter. In the summer, a combination of grilled poultry or light fish with colder foods like salads, fruits, and vegetables works to provide a well-balanced al fresco dining experience.
After planning and preparing the perfect meal for your date in the sun, you wouldn’t want to spoil the enjoyment of your sweet and refreshing fruit salad, or the mouth watering fish dish you grilled up with the wrong wine selection. When we drink wine in the summer, we usually want to cleanse and refresh our palate rather than overwhelm it with heavy, overly tannic, and super dry wines. Sorry red wine lovers but my best advice is to stick to light and crisp white wines during the hot and sunny days of the summer.
Look for white wines with a yellow or straw color. A lighter appearance usually indicates that a wine is younger or fermented in steel tanks which will likely lead to a more refreshing experience than a golden or amber colored wine that has been aged longer and allowed time to mature. Acidity is the most important aspect of judging a white wine’s mouth feel and also plays the biggest role in how thirst quenching the wine will be. Whites with an appealing acidity level can be described as lively, crisp, fresh, zingy, and watering. Avoid wines that are too high or too low in acidity that can be described as tart (wines that bite the back of your jaw as you swallow) or flat (wines that lack sprightliness we seek in a summer wine). Both dry and sweeter white wines can work well during the summer months but again, aim for a wine that balances its sweetness levels with the rest of its character, avoid super sweet dessert wines or super dry whites unless your meal absolutely calls for it. The finish of the wine should also be taken into consideration. A well made young wine should leave a persistent flavor in the drinker’s mouth for at least three to five seconds after swallowing, any less and the wine can be described as short, preventing the wine drinker from experiencing the full extent of its fruity flavors.
If you are inclined to drink a red wine, gravitate towards wines that typically exhibit medium acidity levels, ripe tannins, and are not super dry. Summer can be a great time to enjoy young reds!
The LCBO now organizes its wines by style, with four red, four white, and three specialty categories that make finding the perfect wine a less intimidating experience.
When navigating through the aisles of the LCBO, light and crisp white wine styles pair well with a variety of summer dishes and social situations. White wines that match the descriptions above can be found in many grape varieties grown across almost every corner of the winemaking world. Unoaked Chardonnays from British Columbia or France, dry Rieslings from the Niagara region, or Pinot Grigio from Italy are some examples of this wine style.
Rosé wines also pair very well with social sipping in the summer; Eligible Magazine’s former wine review contributor, Jordan Shuler, discussed these pink wines in his article, The Color of Love.
If you are looking for a red wine to pair with light dishes aim to buy wines categorized in the light-body & fruity style. These wines can even be chilled for a half hour before serving to provide an even more refreshing experience. A young Pinot Noir from New Zealand, Beaujolais from France, or an Ontario Gamay Noir often pair perfectly with pizza or light finger foods. There is a paradox within pairing wines with summer dishes when it comes to meat prepared on the barbeque. Barbecued red meats like steaks and burgers often require a red wine that is bolder; in the LCBO, look for reds that are categorized as full-bodied & smooth. These wines often contain dark-fruit flavors and soft tannins. Look for a Shiraz from Australia for a spicy wine that compliments a well-marinated steak, or if you are looking for something juicier, rich, and jammy, look for a Zinfandel from California.
Here is a list of four value wines you can find in the LCBO and enjoy this summer:
1) CAVALLINA GRILLO PINOT GRIGIO (Italy)/ LCBO 123166 Price: $7.75
2) CAVE SPRING ESTATE RIESLING (V) (Ontario)/ VINTAGES 286377 Price: $17.95
3) BOUCHARD AINE & FILS BEAUJOLAIS SUPERIEUR (France)/ LCBO 9431 Price: $10.95
4) CLINE ZINFANDEL (USA)/ LCBO 489278 Price: $13.45