Ex­pert’s choice: Aus­tralian whites

Aus­tralian wine­mak­ers have an un­canny abil­ity to get the best from myr­iad white grape va­ri­eties. Matthew Jukes high­lights the wines that are set­ting bench­marks

Decanter - - CONTENTS -

Australia fields an im­pres­sive and var­ied range of white grape va­ri­eties, says Matthew Jukes

You wILL AL­REAdY be fa­mil­iar with Australia’s two great­est white wine styles – Chardon­nay and dry Ries­ling. Keen wine lovers have known this for years, but less ad­ven­tur­ous oenophiles have only re­cently cot­toned on to the fact that Bur­gun­dian Chardon­nay and se­ri­ous Ger­man or Aus­trian dry Ries­ling can­not com­pete with the Aus­tralian icon brands in terms of value for money and, in many cases, longevity.

I would also add dry Semil­lon to this list. while I love Bordeaux blanc, the Hunter Val­ley style of Semil­lon, made with­out the oak bar­rel com­po­nent (so beloved of the Borde­lais), and which of­ten ages like clock­work for two decades or more, is spine-tin­glingly at­trac­tive.

But what of Australia’s other white and sparkling wines? For the past 15 years, I’ve been com­pil­ing a re­port of my favourites: 100 Best Aus­tralian Wines. And for the first time, I’m shar­ing with De­canter my en­tries from the ‘other whites’ sec­tions of this re­port in the hope that read­ers might feel com­pelled to whet their palates with some of the more di­verse wines made down un­der.

Aus­tralian wine­mak­ers have an un­canny knack of know­ing what a wine will taste like long be­fore a

vine­yard has been planted with an un­tested va­ri­ety. I find this in­tu­itive vi­nous guess­work ut­terly com­pelling. They are unswerv­ingly ac­cu­rate with their palate pre­dic­tions and hit the in­tended tar­get more of­ten than not. It is this ex­pe­ri­ence of their own unique ter­roir and also their un­der­stand­ing of the myr­iad of global wine styles which gives them con­fi­dence to trial new wines.

I am of­ten amazed that tricky white va­ri­eties such as Arneis, Fiano, Marsanne, Ver­mentino and Viog­nier have al­ready been made with world-class re­sults in Australia. Sparklers too are start­ing to go head-to-head with other world stan­dards. This is be­cause they are in­vari­ably made from no­ble va­ri­eties and with economies of scale which make their prices in­creas­ingly at­trac­tive.

All of these wine styles are built from a base of bal­anc­ing acid­ity. You can­not make a lush, al­lur­ing white wine with­out the equiv­a­lent ra­tio of mouth­wa­ter­ing acid. Australia seems to un­der­stand this more than most other wine­mak­ing coun­tries, which makes its elite Chardon­nays so down­right de­li­cious and age­wor­thy.

This rule also holds for other va­ri­eties. Gewurz­traminer rarely rides solo in Australia, as wine­mak­ers un­der­stand that it needs tem­per­ing and en­liven­ing ei­ther with early pick­ing or other, tautly acidic grapes to bring it to life.

What fol­lows is a med­ley of wine styles, which I be­lieve sums up Australia’s mod­ern white wine scene. The run­ning themes are in­ter­na­tion­ally in­formed wine­mak­ing, un­ri­valled value for money and uniquely de­li­cious and bright flavours. In short, they are some of the stan­dard-bear­ers for to­day’s global wine in­dus­try.

Matthew Jukes is an awarded wine writer and au­thor who has had a wine col­umn in the Daily Mail’s Week­end Mag­a­zine since 1999

These wines are a se­lec­tion from his an­nual 100 Best Aus­tralian Wines re­port, now in its 15th year. Visit www.matthewjukes.com ‘Run­ning themes are un­ri­valled value for money and uniquely de­li­cious and bright f lavours’

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