Keep warm with these hearty Aus­tralian reds.

There’s no bet­ter cold weather com­pan­ion than a glass of your favourite rich red.

Virgin Australia Voyeur - - CONTENT - Words MIKE BEN­NIE

Bearskin rugs, roar­ing fire­places, slow braises, thick quilts, a loved one on your lap (hu­man or an­i­mal), and the ubiq­ui­tous glass of full-flavoured red wine — win­ter in its essence.

While som­me­liers, wine pur­vey­ors and drink jour­nal­ists might be in­creas­ingly telling a tale of lighter, fresher styles emerg­ing from Aus­tralia, the in­ter­na­tional im­age of Aussie wines is near unswerv­ingly set to bolder, big­ger reds.

The 1990s and 2000s so­lid­i­fied Aus­tralia’s in­ter­na­tional im­age with hefty reds born from Aussie warm cli­mate wine re­gions. The Barossa Val­ley, one of the coun­try’s oldest and hottest wine re­gions, is famed for its abil­ity to give life to ripe, rich red drops which, when best ser­viced by ju­di­cious wine­mak­ers, find a sub­lime bal­ance of flavour and al­co­hol. Shi­raz is the halo va­ri­ety, with its am­pli­tude and lush­ness well-versed, but blends that in­clude shi­raz, grenache and mourvè­dre (mataro), have like­wise found a cur­rency.

The Barossa, how­ever, doesn’t have a mo­nop­oly on Aus­tralia’s mus­cu­lar reds. Just un­der a two-hour drive away, the pic­turesque, coastal wine re­gion of McLaren Vale is equally po­si­tioned for gen­er­ous reds, again with a fo­cus on shi­raz. The wines are typ­i­cally a lit­tle shyer than Barossa reds, but do find power and pres­ence in the glass. Good pro­duc­ers, work­ing with great vine­yards, hit a point be­tween medium and full bod­ied to find the best ex­pres­sions from this pres­ti­gious wine re­gion.

Not to be out­done, Vic­to­rian wine re­gions also chime in with some of Aus­tralia’s warmer-hearted wines. Heath­cote, an easy 90 min­utes or so from the Mel­bourne CBD, is one of the more noteworthy re­gions for com­mand­ing reds. Once again, hefty shi­raz is a theme. Wines from the re­gion are typ­i­cally inky, con­cen­trated and bom­bas­tic, with mouth­stain­ing fruit char­ac­ter and chewy tan­nins. Of course, the North East Vic­to­rian wine re­gion of Ruther­glen, and the chunky reds made from du­rif, are also synony­mous with win­try wine styles. Du­rif pro­duces heav­ily per­fumed, palate-sat­u­rat­ing reds of a com­mand­ing na­ture.

The key with all big­ger, richer and denser red wines is to en­sure that all the com­po­nents syn­co­pate. Too much boozy al­co­hol and the wines feel hot. Too much ripeness and wines teeter into sweet, oily, fat ter­ri­tory, where drink­a­bil­ity is lost. New oak bar­rels are of­ten lib­er­ally used with big­ger reds, and when op­ti­mally utilised, sea­son a wine-like spice in cook­ing. Overt oak, how­ever, can clash with in­her­ent grape flavours, ren­der­ing wines un­bal­anced, and less pleas­ing.

There’s great plea­sure in the more gen­er­ous, ful­some reds from Aus­tralia, and we’re en­ter­ing an era where the best ex­am­ples from sig­nif­i­cant vine­yards and gifted wine­mak­ers are ex­celling. They are stoic re­minders of Aus­tralia’s ex­tra­or­di­nary vi­nous as­sets.

The in­ter­na­tional im­age of Aussie wines is set to bolder, big­ger reds.

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