Highlight of the month: a BBC4 broadcast called Chateau Chunder: When Australian Wine Ruled the World. It told the story of how the Aussies conquered the UK market. If you missed it, I urge you to find it on catch-up.
One story from Chunder might have made many viewers do just that. Bruce Tyrrell, of the Hunter Valley outfit that still bears the family name, was in the winery with his uncle, who was shooting rats climbing along the rafters. One of the victims fell into an open (and full) fermentation vat. Tyrrell Sr told Jr to leave it there. “It’ll add a bit of body.”
But the more important point about Australia was not what it added to the vat. It was what it took away from the whole wine business. If I had to sum up that subtraction in a single word, the word would be “mystique”.
While European producers have long spoken of wine poetically, matters were much more straightforwardly commercial in Australia. And that’s not a criticism.
Not entirely. Commercial acuity has sometimes enabled producers to make a fortune from overpriced, indifferent wine. If I had to stop drinking wines from one major producing nation, I would choose Australia.
But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t miss some of it, especially certain whites. Riesling from the Clare and Eden Valleys is a great wine style, as I have said here before, and Majestic has an offer on a fine example: Parcel Series Riesling 2006. Lovely citrus with mellowing notes of age for £6.99.
One of the Eden Valley’s leading riesling exponents also makes another slightly outlying white: Tim Adam Pinot Gris 2012 (£66, Tesco Wine by the case), an exuberant fruit cocktail of exotic flavours with fine acidity and mouth-filling texture. Will keep well.
And finally, I would miss Hunter Valley semillon, also a unique Aussie style — usually unoaked, also capable of great ageing.
Already getting mature is Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Hunter Valley Semillon 2006 — a wonderful wine which is fairly priced at £9.99.