Australia: An Eye-Opener

Since the turn of the century, wine lovers in the UK have bought more wine from Australia than from any other country. The combination of approachable, attractive, fruity flavours, well-known and reliable brand names and frequent special offers is clearly a winning formula.
So, why don’t I mention Australian wines more often in Bristol Wine Blog? It’s the same reason that my wife and I go against the trends and drink so little from there (apart from the occasional Clare or Eden Valley Riesling or Margaret River Cabernet). It’s certainly not any anti-Australia bias on our part – my aunt emigrated from the UK and lived there happily for many years and became a citizen. No, it’s simply that the wine world is so big and diverse these days; there’s just so much to taste and try.
But, having said that, I really should buy Australian wine more often. It’s a vast country; virtually the same distance east to west as from Lisbon to Istanbul or from coast to coast in the USA and with so many different soils and climates. That means opportunities for an incredible range of different wine styles. One of Australia’s major producers, De Bortoli, are focussing on this diversity with their ‘Regional Classics’ range and I was drawn to a bottle of Tumbarumba Chardonnay (Majestic, £13.99, when you buy a mixed case of 6 or more).
The Tumbarumba vineyards lie in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains west of Canberra at an altitude of around 550m above sea level (1700 ft). This makes it a relatively cool area – indeed, many of the grapes from here are turned into sparkling wines. Not this Chardonnay, though. Initially quite spicy and oaky on the nose, the palate is deliciously fruity with lime and peach and very delicate oak – not at all intrusive, just adding a subtle hint of cinnamon and some breadth to the taste.
So, for those who look at an Australian Chardonnay and think ‘big, woody and overpowering’, this bottle from De Bortoli will be a real eye-opener. And proof that I really should be blogging about Australian wines more often.