Last week saw the publication of Langton’s classification ‘V’ of the highest performing Australian wines as defined by their movements on the Australian auction market. Although essentially a market guide, the Langton’s classification is generally regarded as a list of the very finest and most collectable wines made in Oz. Revised every five years the classification was first introduced in 1991. Back then 34 wines were included, last week 123 wines made it to the list – 33 more since the last classification in 2005, reflecting the increased demand for fine Australian wine on the secondary markets in general as well as the sheer quality of the product at the top end.
Inspired by tasting some old Aussie Coonawarra Cabernets at the London Wine Fair I decided to have a look at a few older bottles of red from Penfolds that I’ve squirreled away over the years from the 1998 and 1996 vintages. Tasting the wines reminded me just how wonderfully these wines can age as well as what terrific vintages ‘96 and ‘98 were in South Australia.
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.