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Australian wines that won't turn to Ashes in your mouth and bowl you over like Scott Boland

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Hello! Well, thanks to Covid, my plans for attending the Australia Day Tastings went about as well as the Ashes.

Unlike our overplayed/under-prepared cricketers, however, I had a plan B in place, and I’ll recommend some fine Australian wines that will hopefully bowl you over like Scott Boland was delivering them.

First up, two corkers from the Wine Society, The Blind Spot Garganega (£11.50) and The Blind Spot Pinot Meunier (£12.95). I’d buy these out of curiosity alone. Garganega is an Italian grape that shows up in wines like Soave. Here, in Australia’s cool King Valley, it gives a crisp, zesty white that’s all melons, pears, and citrus with green herbs adding complexity. Pinot Meunier, on the other hand is a black grape that’s associated with Champagne, where it adds fruitiness.

Blind Spot.
Blind Spot.

Light in colour, yet packing a raspberry and cherry punch, this is a gently intense wine that would be wonderful with spring lamb. The other reason I’d buy them is that they’re made by Mac Forbes, a brilliant Yarra Valley winemaker (and a lovely chap) who has a record of creating outstanding experimental wines.

Next up, another wine that reflects Australia’s shift toward Mediterranean grape varieties, the Kangarilla Road Primitivo (Majestic £10.99). Primitivo is best known for its intense, high-alcohol reds from the south of Italy.

This comes from the McLaren Vale and offers a fantastic blend of big, black cherry, prune, and strawberry fruits, with leaf tea, chocolate, and spices. The perfect winter warming wine.

Penfolds Max Chardonnay 2018.
Penfolds Max Chardonnay 2018.

Diving back into the whites, I tried the McGuigan Sauvignon Blanc (Sainsbury’s £5.10) just before Christmas and was mightily surprised. Except for some top-end Western Australian Sauvignons (which are usually buttressed with Semillon), Sauvignon isn’t a grape I find that well-suited to Australia.

The McGuigan doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard and offers plenty of peaches, gooseberry, and melon fruit, which is refreshing and delicious. Simple pleasures are sometimes the best.

And let’s finish with a mighty flourish! The Max’s Chardonnay by Penfolds (£19.99 Waitrose) is just glorious.

A fitting tribute to Max Chubert, the man who gave us Grange Hermitage and who set Australian wine on the road to fine wine greatness, this is about as good as Aussie Chardonnay gets for me.

Given extended ageing on its yeast lees and generous, if well-judged, time in oak, it does what all outstanding Chardonnays do in that it lets the grape’s natural apple, peach, and vanilla characteristics shine through while the oak supports and elevates these tones. Elegant and refined, my only caution is not to buy just one bottle; it won’t be enough!

Giles Luckett

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