When Wine Spectator columnist Matt Kramer introduced his seminar, he explained to the audience that the title “Subtle Australia” was not meant to be ironic—despite the commonly held perception that Australian wines are big and sometimes overpowering. Kramer said that’s an image the country’s winemakers need to work to overcome, because there is another side to Australia’s wines that most wine drinkers never taste.
One of the keys to changing the existing perception is focusing on regionality, argued Kramer. When Kramer visited Australia for the first time, the concept of terroir was still foreign to the country’s producers. “In 1983, you would never have heard that word,” he said. That changed with the arrival of cheaper air travel and access to the Internet, which allowed winemakers to explore other countries and, consequently, influenced the wines.
To support his point, Kramer presented three diverse wines that, to him, represented the subtler side of Australia. Hunter Valley in New South Wales is an unlikely spot to grow wine because of its hot and humid climate, but it was home to Kramer’s first pick: the Tyrrell’s Sémillon Hunter Valley Vat 1 2005 (not yet rated). He spotlighted the wine because of its refreshing, “vivid” character and noted its extreme ageability. “Hunter Valley Sémillon only begins to come into its own after about 10 years from the vintage date, in a good vintage,” he said.
Continuing with another long-lived white, Kramer chose a wine from South Australia, the Grosset Riesling Clare Valley Polish Hill 2012 (NYR), which showed signature aromas of lime, a common feature in Clare Valley wines. The grapes were grown in the Polish Hill zone on soils with a slate base, which produced a wine of “pristine precision.” Kramer said, “This is not what most people think about with Australia wines.”
For his final selection, he turned to the cooler reaches of Western Australia, choosing the biodynamically farmed and produced Cullen Diana Madeline Margaret River 2010 (93 points, $109). The wine is a blend of predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with other Bordeaux varieties. Kramer highlighted its pristine color and the way the wine “just goes down like water,” comparing it favorably in weight and texture to the wines of Bordeaux.
In the end, Kramer said, the wines could all be called subtle without a hint of irony. While some in the audience might have preferred bigger wines, everyone could at least agree that the country offers a diverse selection of styles. “Australia has got the goods,” Kramer said. “Their job is to get them to us.”
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