WINE O’CLOCK: Australia’s wine trade is feeling the heat
Wine production is hardly the most pressing issue for Australians at the moment, but the fires that have been ravaging the country are threatening its vineyards and, ultimately, its important wine industry.
Wine regions in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria have all been hit. Their names are familiar from the labels in our shops: Hunter Valley, Canberra, Rutherglen, Gippsland, Adelaide Hills.
They all face an uncertain 2020 vintage, and not just because of the destruction of crops.
Smoke can permeate the skin of the grapes as they ripen, causing wine to have an unpleasant smoky characteristic. It is worst in red wine, when the skins are used to create colour.
Extreme heat can cause leaves to droop or, in severe cases, drop off, leaving grapes exposed to sunburn. That causes discolouration and affects the flavour of the wine.
This doesn’t mean you will find inferior products on the shelves next year – if it’s not up to standard, producers won’t let it out. But there could be less Australian wine available and you may have to pay more for the good stuff.
Australia is one of the world’most active wine exporters but it has become a victim of its success, mass producing too many reds with high alcohol content that taste more of blackcurrant than grape.
But that is not the full story. There are steely Rieslings from the Clare and Eden valleys, fine Pinots from the Mornington Peninsula, Yarra valley and Tasmaina and some excellent Cabernets and Sauvignon-Semillion blends.
La La Land Tempranillo (€16.95 O’Briens). The grape is far from its Spanish homeland but this juicy, spicy blend from Victoria is as good as any comparably-priced offering from Spain.
Innocent Bystander Yarra Valley Pinot Noir (€19.99 Worldwide Wines, Waterford). The silky, smooth texture and rich flavour we associate with good Pinot Noir.
Yalumba Patchwork Shiraz (€26, La Touche Wines, Greystones). Mass-produced Shiraz has harmed the image of Australian wine but this is very different. It’s a full bodied red but smooth with complex fruity flavours.
Like Raindrops (€35.20 Le Caveau, Kilkenny) Nice name. And it’s a very pleasant little wine, blended from Grenache grown in several regions. Tastes of autumn fruits: blackberry, raspberry, plum.