Hearty winter reds

Huon Hooke’s last tasting before leaving home included a number of durifs and malbecs, full-bodied Aussie reds that go well with hearty winter foods. (Photo: Runaway Grape website)

I write this in the Greece islands where it’s summer, and heavy reds are not on the menu, but at home it’s winter and hearty reds are definitely the go.

My last tasting before leaving home included a number of durifs and malbecs, full-bodied Aussie reds that go well with hearty winter foods.

It’s almost heresy, but the malbec that impressed me most was an Argentinian wine.

Rutherglen is the heartland of durif in Australia, and the 2017 Warrabilla Reserve Durif (AUD $27) is modestly priced and extraordinary value (93 points). It’s 15% alcohol but you wouldn’t know, it’s so well-balanced.

Hot on its heels were John Gehrig 2016 RG Durif, and in a more oaky style, Scion 2014 Durif. From the Barossa, Atze’s Corner The Giant Durif 2016 was right up with the best.

The malbecs were equally impressive. The Risky Business 2016 from Margaret River was loaded with clean, fresh, ripe malbec fruit. Good value at AUD $25. Heartland The First Release Malbec 2016 was a big, solid mouthful of flavour, while the perennial great malbec maker Bleasdale fielded three 2016 malbecs, the two from Langhorne Creek, The Riparian Vineyard and the Mullianna Vineyard, impressing most. Both are big, solid reds with masses of flavour and long-term cellaring prospects.

It’s almost heresy, but the malbec that impressed me most was an Argentinian wine, the Cateña High Mountain Vines 2015, a wine of elegance and beauty, not just brawn. And just AUD $30. It’s imported by Negociants Australia.

Other wines? I’ve long admired Mayford winemaker/proprietor Eleana Anderson’s tempranillos from the Ovens Valley. The 2016 is excellent, but the wine that wowed me most was Mayford’s 2015 Ovens Crossing, a blend of tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon: a wonderfully deep, rewarding wine of concentration as well as great balance and charm. At AUD $55, it’s the top-billed wine from Mayford.

Finally, Thistledown has just released a stunning 2017 McLaren Vale grenache: Sands of Time Old Vine Blewitt Springs Grenache (AUD $70, 93 points). This has all the charm and fragrance that high-country grenache can deliver, beautifully balanced and remarkably drinkable already. In this style grenache is truly the pinot of the warmer regions. Thistledown is the Australian winemaking project of entrepreneurial English Master of Wine Giles Cooke, who spends a lot of time in Australia and produces some fascinating wines, leaning mainly on the Barossa and McLaren Vale.

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