Australian White Wines Speak!

Our first is a Marsanne from Tahbilk. Yes you see it occasionally as a single varietal in Australia but you also see it blended with Rousanne.

On the nose apricot, peach, mango with some very sweet white grapefruit. On the palate Portuguese custard tart, canned pineapple, jasmine tea and apricot nectar. Light on the acids but enough to give it a gentle force. Not a powerful wine yet not overly delicate. Short finish.

Good sipper and for me I sense a delight with clam linguine in a white wine sauce and lots of local garlic.

Tahbilk has the largest single holding of Marsanne in the world and it was planted on the estate in the 1860’s.

They suggest cellaring it for 8-10 years with marmalade and honeyed characteristics developing. Given their experience with Marsanne I am not going to argue with this. Call it instinct but this wine may achieve greatness in the next few years. If you have a place to cellar it great and buy 3 or 4 bottles to try over the coming years.

(Tahbilk Marsanne 2019, Nagambie Lakes Central Victoria, Tahbilk, Tablik, Victoria, Australia, $17.95, Liquor Control Board of Ontario # 117495, 12%, 750 mL, Robert K. Stephen Set The Bar Rating 90/100).

Our next white is from Xanadu and I know this label but it has been some time since I have had any of their wines. This is an Exmoor 2018 from the Margaret River in Western Australia an area which produces some of Australia’s elegant Cabernet Sauvignon. Vines have been planted in western Australia since 1829 but in the Margaret River vines were planted in the late 1960’s. It has a maritime location where the warm Indian Ocean and cold Southern Ocean merge. Karen MacNeil in her “Wine Bible” mentions the “almost magical affinity” Chardonnay has for the region.

On the nose baked pear tart, apple, mango, apricot and tangerine. Quite busy and intriguing. On the palate there is a gravelly texture to it and it is slightly grippy on the palate remining me of wines made from the Encruzado grape in the Dão region of Portugal grown often in granitic soils. On the palate pineapple upside down cake, Bulgarian pear nectar juice, applesauce all with a persistent mouthfeel and a moderately long finish. It has been fermented in the barrel but lacking an oaky nose I would have to say this would seem to be older French oak? Whatever oak it is it is discrete making the wine fall out of the ABC (Anything but Chardonnay) camp a term thrown around by Chardonnay drinkers turned off the overly oaked Chardonnays of years ago not only from Australia but from elsewhere around the world.

Now it is a good sipper but that slight gravelly and raspy side to it sort of has it begging for food and as Margaret River is by the ocean I am sure some local seafood, particularly shellfish, might be a great match but not having yet been invited on an Australian wine media tour to Western Australia I wish I could tell you what they might eat with this Chardonnay. I might endeavour to say rabbit might be a good match grilled after it has been marinated in yogurt and tarragon. But my goodness to be in Australia at the winery with glass in hand I am sure they would know exactly what local cuisine pairs with this Exmoor! In fact the winery restaurant ranks in the top 50 of Western Australia’s restaurants. Of course after this pandemic is over I will be whisked on their corporate jet for a meal or two there!

As an aside it is remarkably interesting that there are no media trips to Australia for wine whereas for Europe they abound. I wonder why this is. Sort of like Canada that produces some excellent wine but formally organized tours for Canadian and foreign wine media types seems non-existent. Oh well I suppose I will have to get my in-depth experience in Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain where the EU is not adverse to spilling out some cash to bring in wine media types for the skinny on their local wines. Too bad for Australia!

The technical sheet can be accessed here and I see I was right about the oak being old! How good it feels to be a savvy Canuck wine writer!!! And modest too!

(Xanadu, Exmoor 2018 Chardonnay, Margaret River, Xanadu Wines, Margaret River, Western Australia, $19.95 (currently $20 AUS$), Liquor Control Board of Ontario # 12696, 750 mL, 12.5%, Robert K. Stephen Set The Bar Rating 90/100).

We finish off with another Chardonnay from Australia. It is a Penfolds Koonunga Hill Chardonnay from South Australia. On the nose this light gold Chardonnay has notes of apple, pear with moderate oaking. On the palate some pineapple, butterscotch and baked pear.  A full-bodied Chard finishing with a little cut of apricot and tangerine.

No benefit to ageing. Serve cool and not cold.

I think this would pair well with crustaceans with lots of garlic butter for dipping.

(Penfolds Koonunga Hill Chardonnay 2018, Penfolds Wine, South Australia, $16.95, Liquor Control Board of Ontario # 321943, 750 mL, 12.5%, Robert K. Stephen Set The Bar Rating 87/100).

As for 2020 in Australia:

The top 5 markets by value were:

  • Mainland China, down 14 per cent to $1.01 billion
  • United Kingdom (UK), up 29 per cent to $456 million
  • United States of America (USA), up 4 per cent to $434 million
  • Canada, up 5 per cent to $192 million, and
  • Hong Kong, up 27 per cent to $132 million.

The top five destinations by volume were:

  • UK, up 19 per cent to 266 million litres
  • USA, down 1 per cent to 136 million litres
  • Mainland China, down 29 per cent to 96 million litres
  • Canada, up 0.3 per cent to 56 million litres, and
  • Germany, up 10 per cent to 35 million litres.

Published by Robert K Sephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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