What To Drink Now: Happy Australia Day

The other day I was visiting with my dear friend Australian Chef, and D’s Best Caterer, Andrew Ormsby at his new breakfast and lunch spot in Cityplace, Kitchen D.  We were talking all things Aussie, mainly Australian Open tennis and today’s Australia Day, or Anniversary Day, celebrating the first settlement established in Australia in 1788. Celebrated annually on January 26 and marking the end of summer, Australia Day is filled with festivals, great food & wine, and sets the stage for the upcoming harvest of dozens of varietals that grow well throughout the country, with Shiraz at the forefront.  The great thing about many Aussie wines is that you can find tasty bottles in every price range, from a true value to high end greatness. Here are a few to consider while celebrating this Australia Day, or any day.  Some selections were sent for editorial consideration.

Though Pinot Grigio isn’t the most common white grape varietal I think of for Australia I had a light and refreshing one from Fisheye Winery, a part of the Underdog Wine and Spirits group.  With a fun, bright label this screw top wine is a great palate pleaser when you need something refreshing and light.  Crisp tropical fruit and citrus flavors with a nice, clean finish.  Not overly complex, just a good approachable, inexpensive white to sip on its own on a patio, or as a pairing with grilled shellfish and salads.

Yalumba Viognier is one of the most well known Australian whites from this family owned winery established in 1849 by Samuel Smith.  Today the 5th generation Smith, Robert Smith, runs the operation which recently has really focused their operational efforts on improving the wineries carbon footprint by reducing emissions, increasing biodiversity and exploring organic opportunities.  Though the winery makes many wines, the most well known and highly awarded wine is their Viognier.  Filled with ripe peach, orange blossom and wild flower notes leading to peach, apricot and tropical fruit flavors.

Recently I met with 6th generation winemaker Scott McWilliam of McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate Winery in New South Wales.  From one of the oldest wine-making families in Australia Scott celebrates tradition while bringing innovation to the winery established in 1877.  His well priced, easy drinking wines reaffirmed what I love about Australian wines, as noted at the top of this post, you can find a really good Australian wine for a really great price. His vibrant and dry Riesling opens with a pop of citrus and mineral notes leading to ripe pineapple and mango flavors with a clean finish.  His spicy Chardonnay layers white peach, white nectarine and golden apple notes with hints of baking spice and subtle caramel notes.  The Cabernet Sauvignon is meant to be drunk shortly after bottling to enjoy the fresh fruit flavors of this wine.  Blackberry and black cherry dominate this Cabernet with subtle touches of licorice, spice and just a touch of vanilla.

Penfold’s may be the best known brand out of Australia, establishing themselves as a leader in the industry early and making wines to fit every price point.  Started in 1844 by Doctor Christopher Rawson Penfold and his wife, who used their first produced bottles of wine as medicinal tonics for patients.  Named after Dr. Penfold’s son-in-law the Thomas Hyland line honors his pioneering spirit as Hyland led the company through much of its growth in the late 1800′s to 1914.  The Thomas Hyland Adelaide Shiraz opens with ripe, juicy blackberry and black plum notes followed by juicy blackberry jam flavors combined with hints of smoke, spice and chocolate with good body and a lush finish.  Not too overpowering, but nicely full and rich.

The Angrove Family Winemakers celebrated their 125th anniversary in 2011.  In 1886 Dr. William Thomas Angrove and family arrived in Southern Australia from Cornwall, England to establish a medical practice.  He started experimenting with growing vines in the rich soil of the Adelaide foothills and a new passion and business were born.  The 2011 inaugural release of Medhyk, or “doctor” in Cornish, celebrates this 125th year anniversary.  Named in honor of Angrove’s founder, this Mclaren Vales vineyards Shiraz is an excellent example of why this varietal is so nicely suited for Australia.  Ripe, well-rounded and robust with layers of juicy blackberry and blueberry, black licorice, dark chocolate and slight herbal notes of fresh thyme and sage.  A delicious wine that can be enjoyed now or easily held for several decades.