AUSTRALIA has slipped a little in sales in Ireland, partly due to a strong Australian dollar, but we still buy around a quarter of our wines from a country that constitutes just 5% of the global market.
While I am less of a fan of inexpensive branded Australian wines as I find them a rather unsubtle, there is no denying their appeal and at least they are consistent.
What I am a huge fan of is Aussie wines that show regional character, many of which are made by dedicated and fascinating characters like Chester Osborn of D’Arenberg in McLaren Vale just 40 minutes south of Adelaide. The D’Arenberg family bought their first vineyards here in 1912 and Chester is the fourth generation to make wine here, his dad D’arry recently completed his 73rd vintage having started at age 16.
Chester is such a big personality it is easy to forget what a serious winemaker he is, producing over 60 different wines annually — many of which show off particular plots of land, often just a few hectares. He uses wild yeast ferments, obscure clones, old barrels (and a few new ones) and even foot treading on some of his wines.
At the top of his range is the intensely fragrant and savoury Dead Arm Shiraz (named after a vine disease that drastically reduces yields but increases quality) easily the most under-priced of all Australia’s iconic wines at just €50. Other names to look out for include Galvo Garage Bordeaux blend, Lucky Lizard Riesling and the Coppermine Road Cabernet. If you are interested in this part of Australia I recommend visiting www.darenberg.com which contains lots of videos of Chester introducing each of his wines and telling tall tales. A number of my recommendations this week are from D’Arenberg and if there was more room and higher price points I could have recommended 20.
nFor the diary: Krug Champagne tasting with Nicole Burke of Krug at bargain price of €15. July 24 at 7pm, email: firstname.lastname@example.org — booking essential.
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
The Stump Jump GSM — €13.99-14.99
Stockists: Cases Warehouse Galway, SuperValu – eg. Skibbereen, Ballincollig, The Corkscrew
The Stump Jump range is D’Arenberg’s entry level and always good value for money. Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre (GSM) is the classic McLaren Vale blend (also that of the Southern Rhone) and the full rich D’Arenberg style is in evidence here with the bonus of a fine floral red fruit character on the finish.
Aldi Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Cabernet 2011 — €9.99
The Clare Valley is about three hours north of Adelaide and has considerably cooler nights due to its elevation that makes it perfect for Riesling and tones down its Cabernet and Shiraz to a more European style. This Clare Valley version has some age and some nice dark fruit and mint chocolate aromas and a soft and reasonably juicy palate.
Nugan Estate McLaren Vale Shiraz — €13.99 (was €19.99)
The Nugan Estate wines are exclusive to SuperValu and are generally reliable. Although based in New South Wales the Nugan family also own vineyards in Coonawarra and McLaren Vale. This is classic warm climate Shiraz, deeply coloured with lots of dark plum, spice and chocolate aromas and a rich spicy finish.
BEST VALUE UNDER €25
D’Arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne — €16.49
Stockists: SuperValu– e.g. Skibbereen, Ballincollig, O’Briens, The Corkscrew
The name comes from the vineyard’s soil which is rich in the calcareous remains of marine life. These are classic white grapes of the Rhone Valley and while the wine is intensely fragrant as you would expect from Viognier it also has some lovely fresh tones mixed in with the peach and sweet pineapple flavours.
D’Arenberg The Footbolt Shiraz, McLaren Vale 2011 — €17.99-19.99
Stockists: SuperValu, O’Briens, Corkscrew, www.wineonline.ie
Named after a racehorse owned by Chester’s grandfather which was sold to finance the first vine purchases in 1912. Footbolt shiraz has some notable vanilla and spice character from oak but mostly it is fine grippy red and black fruits that make this such a pleasurable wine to drink.
D’Arrys Original Shiraz Grenache 2009 — €23.99
Stockists: Sweeneys, Corkscrew, Ardkeen Stores, Fresh
Named in honour of Chester’s dad D’Arry who created this blend in the 1950s. Very ripe fruit with bright fruit aromas (partly due to some carbonic maceration) and spicy lively dark fruit flavours with good concentration.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved