Australia and New Zealand have a history of winemaking that harks back to the late Nineteenth Century, but it was not until the 1970s that the region became known for making quality wines, which is when the advent and recognition of wines from Oceania gained traction and eventually secured them a prominent place on the world market.
Let me introduce you to some quality drops that don’t break the bank, brim with subtle flavours and are made by passionate winemakers that care about their product.
When Peter Yealands shared his vision to become a sustainable wine producer, he already knew that the only way to craft truly beautiful, award-winning wines was in tandem with nature, and that compromising his deeply-rooted sustainability values was simply not an option.
Eventually his plan came to fruition and in 2017, Yealands has developed seven of his own vineyard sites in Marlborough, plus several others under contract for other companies.
Whilst the majority of the vineyard developments were planted with New Zealand’s renowned Sauvignon Blanc vines, Peter was one of the first to plant alternative varietals like Grüner Veltliner and Viognier in Marlborough, which is usually renowned for its intense Sauvignon Blanc and bright, rich Pinot Noir.
Whilst geographically diverse, Marlborough's maritime climate, long cool growing season and young fertile soils promote intense varietal characters, fresh natural acidity and succulent ripe fruit flavours that wine aficionados around the world have quickly embraced.
The Marlborough region is defined by three sub-regions; Wairau Valley, Southern Valley and the Awatere Valley. They may be close in proximity to each other, but the differences in style and flavour are vast, allowing wine drinkers to explore a range of fruit flavours and styles.
Yealands Estate is located in Awatere Valley, the southernmost, coolest and driest of Marlborough’s growing regions. Its proximity to the coastline and strong offshore winds impart a distinctive mineral and fresh herb character, think zestier acid.
Wairau Valley winegrowers and winemakers in particular needed to manage their vineyards to retain freshness and blend parcels appropriately to have the wines show vibrancy.
Let’s shed some light on their liquid emissions, shall we?
Peter Yealands Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 is of a light yellow colour with green hues with a nose that is fresh and elegant aromas mixing nettles and cut grass with underlying capsicum notes. It shows ripe notes of passionfruit and guava, underpinned with aromas of fresh herbs and blackcurrant.
Dry in taste and medium bodied, the palate is brimming with zingy fruit that is balanced with a long, crisp mineral finish with underlying phenolic textures.
An ideal companion for pre-meal drinks and salads.
Yealands’ Pinot Gris is brimming with pear drop and nutty characters, leading to subtle flavours of stone fruit and honey.
The palate is full and shows wonderful balance between fruit sweetness and acidity, with a refreshing, crisp finish.
This Pinot Gris is one my go tos when it comes to pairings with Asian food, e.g. Vietnamese or Japanese, chicken dishes as well as light southern Italian pasta dishes.
Peter Yealands Pinot Noir is a personal favourite: A rich, silky wine with juicy ripe cherries and plumns, hints of spices and wood and a lingering rather savoury than sweet finish.
An ideal partner with lighter meat dishes like lamb fillet and fresh rosemary or tomato based pasta recipes.
One of my favourite Australian wineries is Moorilla Estate.
Moorilla Winery, which is part of the Museum of Old and New Art, whose festivals and exhibitions we have covered extensively, is worth a visit to Tasmania in itself: It offers an exciting range of boutique cool-climate wines.
What is exciting is that apart from producing quality drops, there is a fair bit of experimentation that goes into them channeling their Dionysian alchemy and praises to Bacchus. A DIY-approach pushing the envelope of conventions.
How quintessentially MONA is that?
Host and wine expert Daniel McMahon is an approachable, charming sommelier devoid of pomp and secure enough to not lord his knowledge like a golden scepter over the uninitiated.
No matter if you are an advanced connoisseur or if your knowledge of wine culminates in “red with meat, white with fish”, Daniel has the ability to pick you up where you are at and communicate on a level that you understand based on his hands-on experience and involvement in the wine making process.
The grapes from the 3.5 hectare Berriedale vineyard form the core of Moorilla’s wines and the foundation of the Muse range, which include Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir, additions are sourced from its St Matthias vineyard in the West Tamar region, which is contrasting in terrain and climate and mainly makes up the Praxis wine range.
For the 2017 incarnation of the Dark Mofo festival, Moorilla released limited edition themed wines specifically for the occasion:
Usually dedicated to crafting the fanciest , most interesting Tasmanian wines they can, the dangerously drinkable Carbonic Riesling along with a geschmäcklerische Nouveau Merlot specifically launched for the festival under the monker Alter Ego turn the tables upside down.
Just like a horde of pirates on a rampage across the island, they have stolen the best grapes from around Tassie and created two instantly enjoyable guilty pleasures of wine.
Despite sounding like something from a science fiction, “carbonic” is actually the technical lingo for fermenting grapes whole, resulting in fresh, fruity, juicy and bold wines that are best enjoyed while they are still young.
This particular tipple of the Riesling variety boasts the aromas of a harvest basket overflowing with elderflower, honeysuckle, red apples, lime, mandarins and slate.
Intense floral, fruit, spice and mineral falvours meld with a textural palate, chalky tannins and linger long after young punchy acid.
Gird your loins.
The Nouveau is traditionally the first wine of the latest vintage.
Moorilla’s Alter Ego is light bodied, low in tannin, vibrant and zesty – a calibration that is rarely accomplished with red wines.
Aromas are bold and bright, bursting with berries, cherries, blood oranges, violets, charcuterie spices, and brioche.
A well-balanced tension between sweet and sour flavours, a touch of dusty dry tannins and the characteristic freshness of the nouveau style.
Local artist Tom O’Hern was commissioned to bring the concept to life for the new Moorilla Alter Ego variety.
At first glance, the bottles of the Alter Ego range seem elegant and classy, but when the label is inverted it becomes "a rampaging pirate", acccording to O'Hern, who completed the design whilst 35,000ft over the Pacific Ocean on his way to Europe.
Moorilla’s carbonic Riesling and Noveau Merlot are two wines imbued with MONA’s and Moorilla’s spirit, while entering more affordable realms without sacrificing style, class and favours.
Photos from Yealands Estate and Moorilla Estate websites.
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