From Dry Rosé to Orange Wines and Young Reds, Your Hunter Valley Blackboard magazine rounds up the wine styles that will define this year.
Much like fashion, food and music, wine styles can define an era. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, we were drinking big, buttery and oaky Chardonnay and lighter Cabernets. In the 2000’s tastes turned towards lighter wines such as Pinot Grigio and the crisp cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc.
We wanted Chardonnay to be lighter, more subtle and of course with a little less oak. We wanted reds that were big and bold, and we (reluctantly) started to accept the move away from cork closures to screw-caps.
So, what are we drinking now that is so different from 10 years ago?
IT’S ALL SPARK, FIZZLE AND POP!
Who doesn’t love a bit of fizzle – especially high-quality Champagne and sparkling wines? It seems we love different styles of fizz and especially that from other parts of the world with Champagne sales achieving double-digit growth since 2016. Australian sparkling wines are also extremely popular, and the Hunter Valley has some top drops to compare with the best.
ORGANIC, NATURAL AND SUSTAINABLE?
The interest surrounding wines produced biodynamically or organically is heading toward unprecedented heights as consumers increasingly turn to wines that reflect their raising consciousnesses, drinking more sustainable, organic, and biodynamic wines from winemakers who have embraced these values in their winemaking philosophies.
Expect to see retailers having separate shelves reserved for these wines, restaurant and bar wine lists devoting a section to organic and biodynamic wines and others balancing their offerings with traditional wines.
Here in the Hunter, leading producers include Tamburlaine Organic Wines, Krinklewood Biodynamic Wines, Ascella Organic Wines and Macquariedale Organic Wines.
The wine industry is known for its reds and its whites – but what about its oranges? Obviously, we’re not referring to the citrus fruit or even the fertile wine region in the central west of NSW. We’re talking about orange wine - an increasingly popular style that is making its way into cellar doors and onto wine lists around the world.
Of course, there is no such thing as an orange grape. Instead the name refers to the distinctive hue of the product, which can vary greatly from a soft pinkish apricot to a golden honey colour.
The wine itself is made using white wine grapes, however, instead of following the standard process where the grapes skins are discarded once the juice has been extracted, winemakers leave the two together for an extended period.
As is the case when making red wine, the extended contact – also known as maceration - allows the juice to take on some of the colour pigments and tannins contained in the skins, seeds and stems of the fruit.
While orange wines have been popping up across Australia for the past few years, the practice itself is an ancient one, dating back hundreds of years in European regions such as Slovenia, and possibly even thousands of years in the Eurasian region of Georgia.
In the Hunter Valley, orange wines have been on the radar of certain winemakers for quite some time.
Tamburlaine Organic Wines Senior Winemaker Aaron Mercer told the Hunter Blackboard that a skin-contact Pinot Gris was on the horizon at the Pokolbin winery, while he said Brokenwood Wines had also been working on an orange varietal using Semillon grapes.
While it’s unlikely orange wine will ever replace white or red as a mainstay of any wine producer, it’s clear the amber-coloured drop will be on the menu for a few more years to come.
The world has fallen hopelessly in love with Rosé, with imports from France booming as well as local sales of this quintessential summer wine Today, there is a new surge in the popularity, and the number of Rosés on the market continues to grow, seemingly unabated. In fact, the demand for traditional dry Rosé is so widespread that across France, Rosé outsells white wine and outside of France, rosé is experiencing a rebirth.
YOUNG LIGHTER REDS
Long gone are the days when you needed to cellar red wine for years before it was ready to be drunk. Now we want our reds medium-bodied, full of freshness and fruit - wines made from grapes such as Gamay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and lighter interpretations of the traditionally fuller bodied varieties like Shiraz. Pinot Noir is one of the fastest growing varieties in the red wine category in Australia.
One of the most exciting wine trends in 2018 is the growing number of producers making Vermouth - an aromatised, fortified wine flavoured with various herbs, roots, bark, flowers and other botanicals and now also one of the hippest - and most sought-after mixers behind the bar. Vermouth gives winemakers enormous creative freedom, and us the consumer, a whole new range of flavours, to experiment with and enjoy.
The landscape of Australian wines has changed significantly over the past decade with wine lovers eagerly searching for something new, and increasingly drinking wines made from alternative grape varietals, in particular the Italian and Spanish varieties that tend to suit Australia’s warmer climate regions.
While the varieties of Negroamaro, Barbera, Montepulciano, Fiano, Nero d’Avola, Nebbiolo and even Grenache are hardly unknown varieties in Australia, the term “alternative variety” encapsulates those varieties that stand outside the mainstream and are not widely planted.
This rise of ‘alternative’ varieties in Australia is becoming an increasingly important topic for the country’s winemakers which has been largely driven by an increased awareness that the ‘traditional’ varieties planted in Australia – Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Chardonnay, don’t always suit the sites or regions they currently occupy.
A growing number of Hunter Valley Wineries have adopted some alternative varieties that include Grenache, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Durif, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Tannat, Petit Verdot and Chambourcin amongst the reds and Vermentino, Savignin, Fiano, Pinot Gris/ Grigio and Viognier amongst the whites – and with fantastic results. Over the next few years, you can expect many of these wines to become increasingly known and popular with wine drinkers and close the gap on some of the mainstream varieties.
These newbies add another dimension to our wine drinking enjoyment, giving the consumer a touch of the exotic, new tastes and also provoking debate. Enjoy wine, enjoy friends and most importantly enjoy yourself (and drink responsibly!)