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Sowerby’s wine tips 26/04/2011

The wine editor, goes Down Under and gets terroir-ised

Published on April 26th 2011.

Sowerby’s wine tips 26/04/2011

BRAND wines don’t come much bigger than Jacobs Creek, once upon a day front runners in the Aussie crusade to simplify wine buying – by promoting the grape variety on the label. The Old World looked askance, the consumer never looked back.

The grape variety to benefit most is the under-rated Riesling (if you are still pronouncing it riceling, look away now). In Germany and Alsace, in sweet and dry versions, it can create wondrous whites. The same in Australia, though with subtly different tastes.

But times change. Oz overproduced, rivals like Chile undercut them in price and, as with food sourcing , the increasingly sophisticated customer now likes to get the feel of where their wine was coming from. What the French call appellations. Or, if you feel the minerality of the earth the vines are grown upon affects the taste of the finished product: terroir.

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from that part of New Zealand is instantly recognisable, say. We are not talking the minutiae of individual plots even, a la Bourgogne

What happens in the state of the art winery is obviously vital too on the vast scale of New World production, but as stated, time change. Hence Jacobs Creek’s decision to increase the focus on regionality among their Reserve range, all priced at the £9.99 mark. The logic? Trade up from entry level and you want something more distinctive for that kind of sum.

Do you get it from the six wines on offer?

All from South Australia – Barossa (Shiraz and Riesling); Coonawarra (Cabernet Sauvignon); and the Adelaide Hills (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir). Definitely. None of them are going to trounce Australia’s great reds and whites, but then they are going to cost you five times as much at least.

What they do is, with careful grape selection, introduce the distinct personalities of individual regions, which get blurred in national blends.

The grape variety to benefit most is the under-rated Riesling (if you are still pronouncing it riceling, look away now). In Germany and Alsace, in sweet and dry versions, it can create wondrous whites. The same in Australia, though with subtly different tastes. In the Eden Valley, the lemon-lime freshness is accentuated, the climate guarantees a more tropical edge to the dryness, but there is also complexity that will come with a couple of years’ bottle age. The Jacobs Creek typifies the style.

The nearby Barossa Valley has long been famed for its benchmark Aussie Shiraz, a different (occasionally hulking) beast from its European cousin Syrah (though the grape is believed to originate from Persia). The vineyards’ altitude, with cooler nights, helps temper the warmth and provides complexity again. The Jacobs Creek is a stew of plums, chocolate and herbs. Let it breathe a bit before hitting the barbie.

The Cabernet’s from Coonawarra and its terra rossa soils. This Reserve version unleashes a mass of blackcurrant fruit. Obvious, but I prefer it to the dense, jammy Pinot Noir from the cooler Adelaide Hills region.

The Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc come from there and benefit from grapes grown at 400 metres and more above sea level. The delicately peachy Chardonnay was my preference.

These wines are widely available from supermarkets.

ON A DIFFERENT NOTE: one of the jolliest wine events of the year is only a few weeks away – with a new venue. Tickets are on sale now for the Reserve Wines Eighth Summer Fair, which has swapped its traditional venue at Northern Tennis Club, Didsbury for The Point at Lancashire Cricket Club.

The reason?

Reserve owner Kate Goodman’s brother Mark Chilton, the Lancashire cricketer, is having his benefit year and the enterprising Burton Road merchant is showing its support. The event, always a sell-out, is on Thursday, June 16, 7-10pm and costs £20 a head , for which you’ll get to sample from more than 200 wines and spirits.

There’s a subsidised coach from West Didsbury to and from the venue for only £2. To book tickets and coach call 0161 438 0101 or email sales@reservewines.co.uk.

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weby72April 27th 2011.

Just watch out for that new trick deployed by drinks multinationals, where they ship cheap glugging wine over to Blighty in huge vats, sloshing about on the high seas for several weeks, before bottling it over here, normally branding it with such bollocks terms as "Special Reserve" or "Winemaker's Selection".
The supermarkets play their part by selling it in an obscure store at a tenner for a few weeks, before presenting it as a half-price £5 *bargain*.
There's more than enough arsewits out there to fall for this.
And there's more than enough much better wine available in the £5 bracket. Just read the label on the back - the vintners are obliged to say where it's bottled, if this is somewhere other than where it's produced.

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