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
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’