Sarah Ahmed led a thoughtful tasting of a dozen wines cherry-picked from the Margaret River at the London Wine Fair. There was great homogeneity in the wines shown, something of a characteristic of this region that sits below Perth in Western Australia. There is an obvious maritime influence with the Margaret River vineyard strip being between 3 and 7 kilometres from coast, and the entire area being an effective peninsula surrounded by the Indian Ocean. The season starts early and ends late, and the soils are generally gravelly and lean.
Wine Australia’s Barossa Valley ‘Winemaking of the Decades’ masterclass was one of the highlights of this year’s London Wine Fair. Hosted by James March, of the Barossa Grape and Wine Association the panel featured winemakers Ben Glaetzer [Glaezter/Heartland Wines], Matt Gant [First Drop] and Toby Barlow from St Hallett. The wines demonstrated the ability of Barossa Shiraz blends to age gracefully into silky, cashmere old age. Two fascinating tawny ports were shown, the Saltram Rare Vintage Tawny 1959 being an absolute stunner.
David Powell established Torbreck Vintners in 1994 after working at Rockford. The wines are a testament to his efforts in searching out old, dry-grown semi abandoned vine plots in the Barossa at a time when it seemed pretty unfashionable. Powell picks on phenolics not on grape chemistry and makes very individualistic, exotic, funky reds, high in flavour and in alcohol. Imagine a ménage a trois between Barossa Shiraz, Southern Rhone Grenache and Grand Cru Burgundy. Decadent and original wines which inspire near cult following. Torbreck itself is named after a forest in Scotland where Powell once worked as a lumberjack.
January is certainly antipodean month on the London tasting calendar. Just ahead of Australia Day, Wine Australia put on their annual trade tasting, christened A+ Australian Wine at the Saatchi Gallery in London’s Chelsea [above]. Much has been made of how Oz wine has lost its way in recent years, at least in marketing terms and certainly in the battle of the brands, but as the big conglomerates have lost ground, or at least looked uncertain, the real excitement in Australia is the bevy of superb wines being made both by established names and relative newcomers at the smaller and medium sized end of the business.