In the world of winemaking, finding a great ‘grape to land pairing’ is something of a holy grail. Varieties of grapes take differently to different pieces of land – or more broadly speaking, to different terroirs. Terroir is not a word that has been often associated with Australia in the mind of the average wine consumer. For most people, Australia is about large-scale winemaking and big brands. Australia is, however, also a very viticulturally diverse country – and it has its own uniqueness, winemaking history, stocks of old vines and of wine that expresses terroir.
What does this mean for the average Indian consumer of Australian wine? Mainly it helps answer the questions: what kind of wine should I drink from Australia? What is special about Australian wine? What kind of Australian wine can be compared to the best in the world?
Influential wine writer and Decanter columnist Andrew Jefford has recently spent a year in Australia researching Terroir. Having stoked his share of controversy, Decanter magazine now reports that Andrew Jefford has said that Chardonnay is Australia’s best variety. Quoting Jefford from the Decanter report, ‘After tasting a few thousand Australian wines over the past 18 months, I’ve no doubt that it’s Chardonnay, not Shiraz or Cabernet, which is Australia’s most consistently successful variety’. Coming from a wine writer of Andrew Jefford’s status, this is high praise indeed. This is especially so given that he has spent over a year in Australia specifically researching Terroir. Click here to read the full Decanter report. Andrew Jefford has made these observations in an article written by him the November issue of Decanter magazine. This issue has not reached me yet, but I will update this blog post with additional notes once I’ve had the chance to read Jefford’s article in detail.
In the meantime, there has been some Australian wine action closer to home. The Australian Embassy in New Delhi has been hosting wine events as a part of ‘Business Club Australia – India 2010’. This is a networking initiative to encourage business linkages between Australian and India during the commonwealth games. I attended one of these events – the launch of Wolf Blass wines in India, at the Australian Embassy last week on October 7th. These wines are being brought into India by Pearl Group – who I had not heard of in connection to the wine business in India before. Apparently this is a construction company that is entering the wine business. This is interesting for the fact that the wine business in India seems to be attracting all kinds of players. The market is growing, but competition between importers is intense and the excise/taxations structure is certainly not easy on new (or even existing players). Anyway, if you must enter the wine business – Wolf Blass is an excellent partner to choose. They’re a reputed player with an excellent range of Australian wines.
There were only three wines at the session, which was a disappointment because Wolf Blass has a large range. I liked the EagleHawk Cuvee Brut – an entry level sparkler, with a very yeasty nose. I don’t know what the release price in India will be, but I certainly feel that there is room for inexpensive sparkling wines as an alternative to very expensive Champagnes in India. I would love to see more traditional method sparkling wines in India – and Australia can be an excellent source (Jacob’s Creek and virtually every other large Australian wine company has inexpensive, well-made traditional method sparkling wines in their range). The other wine I tried and liked was the White Label unwooded Chardonnay. It’s great to see Australia making more unoaked Chardonnay’s. This was one fruity, very ripe, somewhat luscious, and full-bodied: it was great with the Chicken but could feel a little heavy on its own. I would love to see is the Yellow Label range in India – especially the Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon – which is an excellent value wine, with a very good varietal character.