Meet the Winemaker - Simon Black, Montalto
Simon Black has been honing his craft as …
It’s no secret that Australia is producing much of the world’s best white wine and receiving acclaim internationally and at home. As spring drifts towards what is forecast to be a long and very hot summer, we have cobbled together a timely cheat sheet so you can get your Australian white wine stocks in order. Enjoy.
Despite losing popularity over the last decade (thanks to the production of large quantities of some poorly oaked and inexpensively sold Chardonnay), this famous grape variety is now enjoying something of a comeback. Chardonnay is grown in most of Australia's wine regions, often with spectacular results. Depending on the terroir and the ripeness of the grape, it can range from citrus and herbaceous notes to a deep tropical bouquet. Chardonnay works well with many meats and cheeses and is a highly versatile style of wine.
The Riesling variety of grape, thought to originate in the Moselle and Riesling region of Germany, has been grown in Australia since the 1800s and is most famously produced in the Clare Valley region of South Australia. Traditionally Riesling is a dry white wine, although it has earned a reputation as a sweet wine. Riesling goes through a number of ripening stages, making it a very flexible grape for wine making. Unripe, it tends towards a dryer, more citrus flavour and as it ripens it produces an increasingly sweet, fruity flavour.
Sauvignon Blanc, for now, claims the title as Australia’s favourite white wine. While the Marlborough region of New Zealand used to be the ‘go to’ region for this variety it has enjoyed recent success in the Hunter Valley, Adelaide Hills, Margaret River and parts of Tasmania. As a wine, Sauvignon Blanc is often tart and dryer than a Chardonnay, but again, this depends on the stage of ripeness and the region in which it's grown. It is also often blended with Semillon for a milder, crisper flavour.
The Hunter Valley region of New South Wales is famous for its production of fine white wines and in particular Semillion. In more recent years, Semillon has made its way to the Margaret River and Barossa Valley. Semillon can either be consumed young for a vibrant, crisp, citrusy style of wine, or aged for a full buttery wine that is similar to an oaked Chardonnay. Although Semillon is a versatile wine and a delicious accompaniment to a variety of dishes, ask anyone in the Hunter Valley how best to enjoy it and they’ll guide you towards fresh seafood, it really is the perfect pairing.
Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris
Pinto Grigio and Pinot Gris are the exact same grape variety but that does not mean that their names are interchangeable. Pinot Grigio originated in Italy where it is generally a crisp wine with a more acidic finished produced for early consumption. Pinot Gris originated in France and is typically fuller bodied, sweeter and better for cellaring.
Both varieties have been particularly successful in the cooler climates of Tasmania, the Mornington Peninsula, the Adelaide Hills and the Yarra Valley and in recent years have enjoyed increased popularity.
One of the world's rarest grape varieties originating in the Northern Rhone & Hermitage regions of France, Marsanne is grown in only three other countries, Australia, America & Switzerland.
With age Marsanne wine develops a beautiful golden colour and the flavour rounds out to something resembling baked apples.
Tahbilk holds the largest and oldest single holding of the variety in the world.
Chenin Blanc, often underrated, originates from the Loire Valley where the grape is used to produce sweet, semi-sweet and dry white wines. In Australia it is grown mainly in the Margaret River region. Chenin Blanc in any style most often exhibits floral, honeyed aromas, tropical fruit flavours and a zesty acidity that mellows as the wine develops depth and complexity with age.
The Verdelho variety, which originated in Portugal, has found most success in Australia in Margaret River and the Hunter Valley. As an alternative to Chardonnay, it offers a fruity and crisp palette, pairing well with a number of foods, including spicy Asian and Spanish cuisines. Verdelhos are also used in combination with other varieties, including Chenin Blanc, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, to create crisp, dry white wines.