Three estates hardly represents a comprehensive tasting of the bounty of the Yarra Valley, but these are an impressive bunch nonetheless. Named after John Coltrane’s first solo album – and reflected in winemaker Phil Sexton’s big move from winemaking in Western Australia [Devil’s Lair] to the Yarra Yalley – Giant Steps is an impressive Yarra producer of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Chardonnays have race and verve, you feel they’ll be hitting their stride when others will be kicking the bucket.
Despite the perception that the country has in recent years lost out to South Africa and the combined forces of Chile and Argentina as the world’s cutting edge wine making powerhouse, Australia remains one of the most exciting places to make wine. Partly it’s because it is a unique place – the country is huge with some of the most diverse terrior in the world – but also importantly because of the open-mindedness and energy of the Aussie wine makers themselves – especially when you get amongst the privately owned wineries.
An isolated strip of red soil on the South Australian and Victorian border has for the past fifty years provided Australia with its finest Cabernet Sauvignon. Great Cabs do come of course from Western Australia’s Margaret River and also from Victoria but no region in Australia has consistently produced such fine Cabernet as Coonawarra. In that sense it is the ‘Medoc’ of Australia, if not necessarily in style, certainly in importance.
This year the London International Wine Fair celebrates its 30th birthday. For a number of years the event has been held at the ExCel centre in London’s docklands – a vast aircraft hanger of a place en route to Beckton deep in London’s once industrial East End. It’s a well organised event, and impressive in scale – the UK wine trade’s version of the Birmingham Motor show – but it’s also an alarmingly tricky place to taste wine. It must be something to do with the multitude distractions, the thousands of people or the weird lighting that makes it a tough job for even the finest wine to sing in this setting. That said there were a number that looked good on the first day here.