China is proving to be the great saviour of Australian wine. The Chinese are buying our wine lustily, and they’re buying up some of our wineries and vineyards. They’re taking the heat off the Australian wine sector in more ways than one.
Years ago, the late Len Evans used to get on his soapbox at every opportunity and exhort Australia’s winemakers to produce more great wines. We have plenty of workman-like, mid-market, value-for-money wines, he would say, but we badly need more great wines.
Australia has historically made a better fist of pure cabernet sauvignon than it has Bordeaux-styled cabernet blends. The reason for this is the same reason that Bordeaux traditionally makes its best wines by blending – but in reverse. They needed to do it in order to put together a good wine from year to year; Australians didn’t need to, because cabernet sauvignon (the perceived king of the Bordeaux court) ripened fully with year-to-year consistency.
The news that the Institute of Masters of Wine is to hold an Australian shiraz seminar in London is good tidings. The seminar will showcase wines from cooler climates such as Canberra, Beechworth, Heathcote and Eden Valley alongside better-known regions such as the Barossa Valley.
Andrew and Jane Mitchell recently attended a promotional tasting at Sydney’s Wine Ark, where their $27 Mitchell Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was rubbing shoulders with $100 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon and $100 Yarra Yering Dry Red No.1 (a cabernet blend). Jane shot a quizzical look at Andrew. She whispered: “So… err… where did WE go wrong!” The Mitchell cabernet is a consistently good wine. It’s been on the market since the mid-1970s, at least as long as Moss Wood. And it’s sold as a five-year-old, while Moss Wood is sold at three years. Extra age should be worth more.