From Chunder to Wonder

Hardys_ReserveAs someone who is well aware that Australia produces some of the best wine in the world but never actually buys Australian wine, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the excellent ‘Chateau Chunder: When Australian Wine Changed the World’ on BBC4 last week. Having been bitten by drinking nasty Chardonnay in vast quantities in my early 20’s, it’s about time someone reminded me what I’ve been missing.

For those of you not inclined to catch up on iPlayer, the highlights of the programme for me were;

– Oz Clarke drinking and praising a ’78 ‘Kanga Rouge’ Coonawarra Shiraz

– Oz Clarke again, this time blaming Bridget Jones for the demise of Chardonnay

– The ‘Goon of Fortune’; hilarious Aussie drinking game involving a spinning rotary washing line and a bag of wine

– Proof of the vastness of South Eastern Australian producers in Yellow Tail’s 230 million litre storage winery

– Learning how Robert Parker’s 100 point score escalated Penfold Grange’s 1976 to be one of the world’s most expensive wines showing that Australia has been producing top-class wine for years.

Since the death of my love affair with Hardy’s Stamp Semillon Chardonnay (the one with the Koala on it for those of you in the know) back in the early noughties, despite a successful day’s wine tasting in Margaret River back in 2006, I have barely drunk any still white wine, in particular, Chardonnay. In more recent years, since learning that ‘South Eastern Australia’ is a wine producing region spanning NSW, Victoria and South Australia, an area the size of Europe, those 3 magic words ignite my wine snobbery in a flash and have slowly turned me to skip the Australian wine shelves of the wine merchant altogether.

This is wine that flooded the global wine market back in the 1990’s, around the same time that I started to drink alcoholic drinks other than snakebite, and damaged the reputation that the Australian wine industry had worked hard to shift. From ‘Chateau Chunder’ to becoming one of the greatest wine producing countries in the world, Australia developed a new style of wine through adapting traditional winemaking methods. By applying their ‘say it how you mean it’ attitude to wine by putting the grape variety on the bottle instead of the cryptic French Claret, Chablis, Hermitage etc., assisted by some successful marketing campaigns (think slogans such as ‘Sunshine in a bottle’) the Aussies successfully managed to break down some of the pretensions surrounding wine drinking. In return for their efforts, Australia has been rewarded by becoming one of the largest wine exporters in the world and the biggest wine importer to the UK.

So let’s forget South Eastern Australia and celebrate the greatness of the regions that produce proper wine; South Australia (not to be confused with S.E.A), Barossa Valley, Hunter Valley, Margaret River to name but a few, by sitting back and enjoying a glass of classic Chardonnay or Shiraz over the Chateau Chunder replay. Although my budget couldn’t stretch to a Penfold’s Grange or even a Tyrell’s, the following finds from Majestic each for a tenner seem like an appropriate place to start off my new love affair with wine from down under. I’m sure that Mr Clarke would highly approve.

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Oz appreciating Chardonnay before Bridget ruined it all

Jim Barry, The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2010 14.5% Clare Valley

With hints of Oregano and Lavender on the nose; Blackcurrant and rhubarb on the palate with soft tannins and an acidic finish. Rather too overpowering for my dinner of ravioli, but can imagine it would be well paired with spicy food or rich red meat dishes. A bit over the top for me but if you like big, bold, fruity wine, a good choice. It perhaps would benefit from a few more months in the bottle.

Kangarilla Road Chardonnay 2010, Mclaren Vale

Initially I found the oak was heavy on both the nose and palate, the latter finishing with a slight bitter aftertaste. After 15 minutes or so however, the flavours mellowed to a smooth and creamy tipple with a pleasant acidity and soft peach hints. A day later, the nose had developed a hint of red pepper, which I’m not sure I liked but all in all, a well balanced Chardonnay that I would try again.

As an end note, if any of you have a recommendation for a perfect Aussie tipple, even if it’s only to prove to me that I’ve misjudged South Eastern Australian wine, please feel free to share!

Updated link 03-Jan-13: Chateau Chunder: When Australian Wine Changed the World

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Filed under Australia, Eating/ Drinking In, Grape Varieties, Wine Tasting

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