From the Wine Shop
The Explore 4 Gift Pack “Australia Now” (750mL)
Whether it’s for yourself or someone else, give the gift of SommSelect’s “Explore 4” without the commitment!
“Explore 4” surveys the vast landscape of wine and breaks it into small, digestible bites. Each month, we select four bottles that fit a theme, allowing members to experience a diversity of styles while developing their own palate preferences. It’s an ongoing exploration of wine through a sommelier’s eyes and there’s no more effective, and enjoyable, way to learn about wine.
In this edition of the Explore 4, offered as a one-time purchase, we assess the state of play in Australia. If your exposure has been limited to big-brand “critter wines,” we hope these selections will be a revelation!
Here are the wines in the 4-pack, which are accompanied by a full-color booklet discussing the theme and the wines in vivid detail:
Hewitson, “Gun Metal” Eden Valley Riesling 2021
Located in the Mount Lofty Ranges, the Eden Valley is considered a “subzone” of the famed Barossa Valley. Located northeast of the city of Adelaide, its best vineyards climb to altitudes of 400-500 meters, in mineral-rich soils of ferrous loam over shale. Hewitson’s source vineyard for “Gun Metal” faces east, which shields it from hot afternoon sun and lengthens the maturation cycle.
Pale straw in the glass with greenish tints, this has all the classic “markers” of Eden Valley Riesling: assertive notes of Kaffir lime, white flowers, aromatic herbs, and wet stone. The wine’s name references the weathered grey stone found in the vineyard, as well as the wine’s “power-dry” finish. A great wine for Thai green curry or fish tacos drizzled with lime.
Howard Park, “Miamup” Margaret River Chardonnay 2020
Hugging the west coast of Australia about three hours south of Perth, Margaret River is known for its strong maritime influence and ancient, gravelly loam soils—both of which prompt comparisons to Bordeaux. But the region is also famous for the Burgundy grape, Chardonnay, which Howard Park sources from the southern (cooler) reaches of Margaret River as well as the nearby Great Southern region.
Explosive aromas of grapefruit, nectarine, lemon curd, honeysuckle, and warm baking spice carry over to the palate, which is luscious and nearly full-bodied but blessed with refreshing, palate-cleansing acidity. The oak influence is subtle, and there’s a chalky, powdery quality to the minerality that lends lip-smacking “cut.” Pair with crab or lobster dressed with buttery, creamy sauce.
Penley Estate, “Tolmer” Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
Coonawarra, about 40 miles from the cold Southern Ocean, is a relatively cool growing zone for Cabernet Sauvignon, resulting in wines of power and grace. It is also well-known for its terra rossa soils: a shallow topsoil of iron-rich reddish clay layered over limestone. The moderating ocean influence provides an ideal environment for the slow, even ripening of Cabernet grapes.
Deep ruby-black, the wine leads with aromas of blackcurrant, cassis, licorice, violet, chocolate, and a hint of eucalyptus. It is medium-plus in body and incredibly silky without being at all “flabby” or sweet. While the tannins are soft, the acidity is fresh and balanced, which should bode well for aging. Pair this with braised short ribs or grilled ribeye with lots of char.
Langmeil, “Hangin’ Snakes” Barossa Shiraz 2019
The flat, hot, arid Barossa Valley, carpeted with gnarled, old, bush-trained vines, is characterized by clay/loam soils that range in color from grey to black to red, with many pockets of sand. The climate is generally Mediterranean, with desert-like diurnal swings in temperature. This setting produces intensely concentrated wines, although the best examples manage to maintain lively freshness.
The triumph here is how this wine oozes Syrah/Shiraz character without being over-extracted or sweet. There’s nice balance and lots of roasted meat/black pepper savor to complement the saturated black plum and mulberry notes. Adding to the rich tapestry are notes of baking spice, mocha, and brandied cherries. This is a voluptuous red to try alongside BBQ ribs or brisket slathered in sauce (trust us!).
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Through the grapevine
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