Wine from heaven, vintage from hell

This article first appeared in Style Magazine, November 2007

Tyson Stelzer

It’s party season and there’s a brand new vintage of wine on the shelves. Tyson Stelzer gives the low-down on the best bottles to kick off your festive drinking.

Summer’s arrived early again this year, so it’s the perfect time to get the party season started with some zesty whites and fresh rosés.

The 2007 vintage is hitting the shelves just in time, but if you look carefully you’ll see a few big changes this year.

After years of oversupply, the 2007 vintage gave Australian winemakers quite a shake up. The vintage report reads like the plagues of Egypt: hail, frost, bushfires, drought, locusts (no joke!) and frogs (OK, that one is a joke!).

What this mean for your Christmas drinking is that quality is strong but quantity is low. Cleanskins are in short supply, and some of your favourite labels may not appear at all this vintage.

What to drink instead?

There were a few areas that had a cracker season this year. The Hunter Valley was one of them. If you haven’t discovered Hunter Semillon, now is the perfect time to get on board. The 2007s are fresh and lively and more friendly than ever for summertime quaffing.

Western Australia also enjoyed a good vintage, and there are loads of spicy blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon worthy of your party list.

On the topic of Sauvignon, this vintage is the first year in history that Australia has overtaken New Zealand in the savvy stakes. The Yarra Valley and the Adelaide Hills are leading the charge, with Margaret River not far behind.

The trend this year in the best Aussie Sauvignons is toward more refined, zesty, minerally citrus-flavoured wines, with less of the sweaty, pungent, gooseberry and passionfruit characters made famous by our friends across the ditch. Bring it on!

Your party season would be incomplete without a decent dose of fresh young Riesling and you’ll find no shortage of bargains again this year. The Clare and Eden Valleys (SA) are in fine form, as are Henty (Vic) and Frankland River (WA).

If you’re on the Pinot Gris wagon (as it seems most people are right now) you’ll have to shell out a little more, as there’s nothing worth bothering with under $19 this year.

When it’s time to step up to something pink, the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale have excelled themselves in producing a delightful range of rich, cherry-flavoured rosés this year. For something a little more spicy and intellectual, Victoria has your answer.

Give the 2007 cleanskins a wide berth in your celebrations. There are much more exciting things to be discovered.

Tyson’s Picks

Yalumba Oxford Landing Sauvignon Blanc 2007 ($9)
Always a star performer, and this year it’s taken its act to an all new level of citrus and herb nirvana. Classic Sauvignon, perfect party entertainer, crazy price. (Widely available)

Brokenwood Semillon 2007 ($17)
With zesty acidity and breakneck citrus fruits, this is an entire theme park in a bottle. Get yourself set for some real action this summer. (Widely available)

Charles Melton Rose of Virginia 2007 ($19)
With its deep red colour and gorgeous air of pomegranates and bruised plums, Charlie pushes the boundaries of rosé to new levels of richness. (Widely available)

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2007 ($40)
Impossibly calm and refined and overflowing with lemon and lime zest, this is a graceful and approachable model of Jeffrey Grosset’s mastery. (Dan Murphys, Vintage Cellars)