Dan's Blog

International Wine Tasting 2019

Friday, October 04, 2019

There are literally hundreds of thousands of new wines released each vintage around the world. Here in Australia the best estimates that I have seen are around 10,000-12,000 new wines a year – it is probably much more these days with the same wine going off overseas with different names/labels on it.

Given that we are the sixth largest producer in the world and still a fairly small fish compared to the “biggies” (Italy, France and Spain), just try and imagine how many wines are released across the globe each year.

Well, it is impossible to stay in touch with everything that is happening in wine around the country, let alone around the world. Most drinkers end up sticking to their comfort zone of either varieties or regions that they feel comfortable with, which is why 85% of the world’s wine is made from 25 out of the 1,168 identified wine grape varieties. We all know somebody who says: “I only drink Shiraz – or Cabernet – or Sav Blanc”.

Here in Australia, many drinkers are willing to experiment with new “Emerging” varieties – even if they haven’t heard about them before. Right now we are producing wine from 154 different varieties and that number is rising by the year. It makes us the most “experimentacious” wine country in the world.

So what’s the point? The point is to “broaden the horizons” AND not to develop too much of a “cellar palate”, of only drinking the same wines all the time like much of the “Old World” does. For example in Burgundy you only drink Burgundy, etc.

Each year, I organise an “international wine tasting” for the crew of judges who help me to review wines for the articles I write. In past years we have tried wines from Brazil, Georgia, Turkey, Japan, Thailand, Bali, China, Greece, Lebanon, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Argentina and Uruguay, as well as from many of the major wine producing countries.

This year we had thirteen wines in the tasting, eight of which were white wines and the other five reds. They were:

Granmonte 2018 Verdelho – Asoke Valley Thailand: A most enjoyable, richer, fuller style than those of the Hunter. It is ready to go and absolutely delicious and would make Verdelho more popular with consumers here.

Stemberger 2016 Vitovska – Slovenia: Vitovska is a native Slovenian white variety that only grows in one region of the country. This wine was kindly brought to Australia for me by Professor Kym Anderson, author and wine guru at Adelaide University.

Most of the gang described it as, “a decent dry white”, as the flavours were quite different to what we are accustomed too – primary fruit driven wines. This wine was low in primary fruit but was elegant, complex and quite floral, i.e. different.

Stemberger 2018 Zelen – Slovenia:  Same story as the wine before, but this had a lovely lively lemon colour, aromas of cumquats with a hint of musk – a bit more like a Semillon than the one above. Slightly less strange to the palate.

Granmonte 2018 Chenin Blanc – Asoke Valley, Thailand: Chenin Blanc is synonymous with South Africa where it usually makes a fairly big, full bodied wine. This wine is a bit softer and more elegant with just a hint of sweetness, making it immensely drinkable and superbly enjoyable. A class act!

Charles Renoir 2016 Burgundy – France: (French Chardonnay by its regional name, White Burgundy.) This wine has very soft floral aromas, a lovely crisp well balanced palate, and quite complex but ever so easy to drink.

Cuatro Rayas 2015 “Amador Diez” Verdejo – Rueda Spain: I fell in love with Verdejo in 2016 when I visited Rueda in Spain. Verdejo is very versatile. They make five different styles of wine from this one variety. This wine is the Rolls Royce of Verdejo – old vines, huge TLC resulting in lovely aromas of spice and cheese biscuits with sophisticated flavours of apricots, nectarines and a hint of cherries, layers of complex flavours. A real star wine!

Sepp 2011 GrÜner Veltliner – Niederösterreich, Austria: I picked an older vintage to see/show how Grüner ages. At eight-years-old it is still tightly wound with a typical Grüner bouquet plus a hint of Fumé Blanc, a tight, tasty palate that is developing slowly – will keep for eons. A Classy Grüner!

Gentilini 2017 RObola of Kefalonia – Greece: Robola is not as well known a Greek white variety as Assyrtiko, but it makes great wines to enjoy on its own or with seafood, as it is a bit less sharp than big brother Assyrtiko. Paulmara Estates (Barossa Valley) import this wine and currently have Robola cuttings in quarantine with AQIS, so that one day we should be able to enjoy an Aussie Robola! Delicious and classy!

Alps Wine 2013 ‘MusÉe du Vin’ BlackQueen – Japan: This is a native Japanese grape variety created around 1900 for extremely cool climates. It produces high quality, slightly savoury, lighter style red wines, like a blend of Shiraz and Pinot Noir. Very drinkable!

Lupé-Cholet 2015 Beaujolais-Villages (Gamay) – France: The “Villages” tag signifies that it is higher quality and more concentration than the basic, “Beaujolais Nouveau”. This is mid-weight, elegant and beautifully balanced. A class act in the lighter style reds!

Vinuri de Comrat 2018 Saperavi – Moldova: What a cracking wine! Sort of half way between a Georgian Saperavi and an Aussie one in style. Medium bodied, beautifully balanced, complex with lashings of flavour. This is a sample of the bulk wine they were offering at WBWE Asia, in Yantai China, a few months ago. I was so impressed at the stand that they kindly gave me a bottle to take home. Thanks guys, it was well worth the effort!

Bodegas Argenceres 2010 ‘Lagrima’ Bonarda – Medoza Argentina:  Bonarda (the Italian variety Douce Noir) is Argentina’s next claim to fame after Malbec – it has a long way to go to achieve it but has the potential. Masses of colour, stacks of flavour (a bit like a mulberry infused Durif) and ages well. At nine-years-old this wine was drinking superbly.

Granmonte 2017 Durif – Asoke Valley, Thailand: Alas this wine was in what I think is a, “dumb phase”, when tasted and was not as succulent and opulent as previous vintages. It is still a great wine but a tad too tight and restrained. It will open up over time but not ready just now.

So this was a very small snapshot at some of the different wines from around the world. Trying them helps one to keep an open mind towards the different tastes/flavours of wine. After all there are 1,168+ varieties of grapes that wines are currently made from.

I am hoping to broaden my palate a smidge more in early December while in Amsterdam, for the annual WBWE (World Bulk Wine Exhibition) where one of my fellow judges is going to organise a tasting of Dutch wines, including her soon to be released sparkling wine. I have never tasted a Dutch wine, have you?

Cheers and keep being different!