Being a wine judge for the second year running at the recent Challenge International du Vin in Bordeaux was an invaluable experience. Most of the wines (2996) were red; whites accounted for 811, sparkling wines 237 and rosé 237, with the rest made up of cognacs and armagnacs. The top six participating countries in descending order were Spain, Portugal, Italy, Hungry, Chile and Greece.
Australia sent only 19 wines, one less than in 2015. Amazing, considering Australia sends hundreds, if not thousands of wines to other shows around the world and to this, the mother of all wine shows, it sends a paltry 19 wines.
Wines came from such diverse counties as Libya, Vietnam, Liberia, Egypt, Iran, India, Kazakhstan, Tanzania and Madagascar. This year’s guest country and wine region was Croatia which, although being a small country, has 33,000 hectares under vine — and exports 35 per cent of its wines.
And now to the reviewed wines. The 2014 Mount Monster Shiraz comes from the Padthaway region of South Australia. The nose oozes ripe dark fruit flavours with a whiff of vanilla spice and the palate is nicely textured with lots of plum, blackcurrant and redcurrant fruits. The oak appears to be minimal. A full-bodied wine and one with depth of flavour; perhaps that’s why they use the term “Mount Monster” (rrp $17).
A Cowra-based winery produces some nifty little wines with a memorable brand name, Pig in the House. The 2015 Pig in the House Sauvignon Blanc, pale lemon with a green tinge, has green apple, apricot, lime and passionfruit on the palate. The finish is crisp and refreshing (rrp $25).
From the same stable comes the 2014 Pig in the House Shiraz, violet/ruby in colour with a purple rim, the nose dominated by plum and spice — nutmeg and clove come to mind. The palate is a follow-on from the nose but obviously more intense. The oak is nicely handled (rrp $25). Both Pig in the House wines are organic.
The 2015 Calabria Tumbarumba 3 Bridges Chardonnay comes from the highest-quality range in the Calabria portfolio. Pale lemon in colour, it has an apricot, melon and mandarin nose with nutty vanilla overtones. There are melon, citrus and apricot flavours and a buttery mouth-feel. A lovely chardonnay, made well and presented well. Oh, if only they were all like this (rrp $25).
The 2015 Calabria Pinot Bianco is something completely different from the same old, same old. This grape variety is a mutant member of the pinot family, which includes pinot gris, pinot noir and pinot meunier. This wine smells and tastes of citrus, green apple and apricot in abundance. A ripe wine as far as fruit goes , with a crisp finish (rrp $15).
Also try the Calabria 2013 Vintage Fortified Durif – just the go for the winter months. A rich and inviting nose, a palate showing lots of dark fruit together with spicy, chocolatey flavours and oaky vanilla notes. The wine has depth of flavour and is simply dripping fruit. At 18.5 per cent alcohol and $40 price tag you’re getting what you pay for and more.
The 2015 Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz Cabernet is deep purple with a lovely bright pink rim, with a nose offering plum and mulberry with hints of cinnamon spice. This wine is rich and intense with firm oak/acid/tannin structure and lingers on the palate long after the wine has gone down the hatch (rrp $21).
Mudgee-based Lowe Wines always over-delivers in quality. The 2015 Lowe Verdelho has a cocktail mix of fruit salad flavours spread across the palate. The finish is dry. I don’t drink verdelho too often but this is a good one and well worth sourcing (rrp $22).
Jim McMahon teaches hospitality at Sutherland TAFE