Oliver’s twist: A new way of looking at Aussie wine

– By Jim Boyce

Thanks to the persistence of Adam Steinberg at ASC Fine Wines, I attended the media tasting with Australian wine guru Jeremy Oliver at Hilton’s recent two-day Food & Wine Experience in Beijing. Sponsored by the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation, with wines supplied by ASC, the seminar outlined a new approach to how Australia explains its wine. This is a handy alternative for those who have neither the memory nor inclination to grasp the nuances of regional wines and varietals.

Oliver explained the four “personalities” of Australian wine:

Brand champions: labels that have “been extremely successful for Australia around the world”, whether in the United States, Europe or elsewhere, he says. They are simple and provide consistent flavor at an affordable price. We tried Wolf Blass President’s Selection Chardonnay 2004 and Penfolds Bin 8 Cabernet Shiraz 2004 as examples. Yellow Tail also fits into this category.

Generation next: this represents the “change, evolution and energy” of Australia’s wine industry, and includes unique grape blends. We tried Torbeck The Steading 2004 and Brown Brothers Cienna 2006. Glaetzer also fits into this category.

Regional heroes: labels such as Coonawara Cabernet, which are pricier and of higher quality than brand champions. “The trend has been to drink it ourselves,” says Oliver. “Now it’s time to share it with the rest of the world.” As examples, we tried Petaluma Riesling 2006 and Saltram Mamre Brooke Cabernet Sauvignon 2004.

Landmarks: these rank among the “elite and iconic” wines. “We understand that the best Australian wines sit very comfortably with the best wines in the world,” says Oliver. We tried Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2004 (beautiful stuff!)  and Penfolds Magil Estate Shiraz 2004.

This explanation of Australian wines seems particularly useful in China, where consumers typically associate wine in terms of countries (especially France) rather than regions (with few exceptions, such as Bordeaux). Even better, the seminar was just before lunch, a perfect time to test our tastebuds.

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