Wines of Victoria, defining identity

What do I know about wines from Victoria state of Australia? This was the first question that crossed my mind when I received the invite to a media lunch organised by the Australian Trade Commission. After spending five minutes and not recalling an impression of the wines produced in this little state, perhaps I haven’t drank any before? Or is that so.

I am absolutely certain we had come across wines grown and made in Victoria without realising, or had mistakenly associated it with other parts of Australia. But even with my penned experience, my attempts to recall wineries from this state churned out a short list not more than the number of fingers on my left hand. Unlike the South Australia state, with all its fame primarily for Riesling, big bold Shiraz, Victoria  cannot be marketed in the same fashion.

The distinctive point about Victoria is there appears to be no distinct variety. Sounds contradictory, but a quick look at the wine regions will prove this. In the coastal regions of Henty, it is crisp Chardonnay, perfumed Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. In Geelong, savoury Shiraz, fine Pinot Noir, pungent Sauvignon Blanc and mineral Chardonnay. Bendigo for Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Heathcote for its Shiraz, Malbec, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. Go deeper inland into Rutherglen and we can see  Liqueur Muscat.

To know how a wine fare, one must taste. Despite the high pollution index in Singapore during the tasting, the air circulation of Hotel Intercontinental was impeccable and my tasting notes, fortunately, did not conclude with one word. Smoky. The following is a list of wines that got my attention, and mind you, don’t brush them off as just-another-Australian-wine.

Blue Pyrenees Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Blue Pyrenees named after the blue-hue Pyrenees ranges was founded by Remy Martin in 1963. Having a French history, and eccentricity, Sauvignon Blanc was equally French (Sancerre) than the new world typicity. Chalky, stony mineral notes and subtleness of fruits. Acid tingle on the palate but was noticeably creamy with a body sufficiently full, not over. A distinct expression of its own.

Rob Dolan, True Colour Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2012

True Colour SBSRob Dolan is a big man by my measurement, that is considering that I stand six-foot tall and weigh more than two-hundred pounds. Rob has been crushing berries and fermenting juices for over twenty years and is one of the most experienced and respected figure. The irony about his True Colour Sauvignon Blanc Semillon was there wasn’t much colour to describe. Almost pale as water, the initial impression of mineral notes was quickly replaced by lime-like aromas. A sip and waves of rich salivating acid and citrus fruits crashed onto the taste buds.

Rob Dolan, Pinot Noir 2010

Rob makes not one, but two, Pinot Noir and this comes with a plain white label. Delighting fresh, vibrant, red fruits layered over sweet earthiness presented in a considerable restraint style from the new world. Velvety texture and long finish, I can drink this all day.

Outlook Hill Vineyard, Gold Leaf Pinot Noir 2010 

Outlook Hill Vineyard presented a different expression by keeping the wines for twelve months in French oak barrels. The wine’s elegance was expressed with generous amount of light spices packaged under fine woody aromas. The texture was grainy and you can almost feel every single bit of tannins rolling on the palate, but nonetheless an enjoyable bottle.

Goona Warra Vineyard Cygnus 2008 

Named after the biological name of a black swan, Cygnus Atratus, the bottle shared the same grace with black and gold label. Goona Warra vineyard is in Sunbury, one of the five regions that make up the Port Philip Zone, and a short distance from Melbourne. At the southern part of Victoria and close to Mornington Peninsula, one would always expect cool climate wines. Instead, Cygnus is made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Ripe dark plums sweetness packaged with a brilliant presentation of spices and chocolate. This blend was well-balanced with acidity and body. Tannins were chewy and juicy.

Harcourt Valley Vineyard, Old Vine Shiraz 2010

Harcourt Valley Vineyard is in Bendigo, a region inland after Macedon Ranges. With a Mediterranean climate like Southern Rhone, this is one of the places for Victoria Shiraz. The vines are close to forty years old, and the wine delivered a great deal of complexity with sweet herbal spicy notes along the classic black fruits. Smooth fine tannins with acidity left a juicy impression of deep finesse.

Pyren Vineyard, Broken Quartz Shiraz 2011Broken Quartz Shiraz 2011

2011 was one of the wettest year in Pyrenees and the wines were generally not well-considered. A vintage that started promising, ended with insufficient ripeness for some. But to come across a well made wine from an undesired vintage is a bonus. Pyren Vineyard Broken Quartz Shiraz 2011 gave a different form. Pronounced floral scent over peppery spices, and while the acid was a little sharp, tannins was properly ripe, well textured and not harsh. A case of good winemaking despite bad conditions.

Some of these wines are currently not available in Singapore but since Melbourne (in Victoria too!) is a common holiday spot, pay this good people a visit, taste their wines and bring some back. Apart from wines, Harcourt Valley makes very good ginger beer, and Rebello Wines for their cider and strawberry based alcohol.

Yes ladies. Strawberry.

About the author

Chan Wai Xin

Chan Wai Xin

Singapore based. Certified Wine Educator, French Wine Scholar, Italian Wine Expert, Valpolicella Wine Specialist, and wine writer. Systematic, analytic, and at times pedantic. Mostly irreverent.

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