On our recent trip to Australia and New Zealand I made sure we had a few days set aside to explore some of the many wine regions and taste a
few lot of local wines. We visited some beautiful vineyards, met many passionate winemakers and immensely enjoyed the fruits of their labours! We were fortunate to be there in the middle of harvest time thus we were able to see firsthand the winemaking process.
The day we spent in the Hunter Valley region of Australia was by far the most educational. Four of us were guided by Richard Everett, the only Oenologist (winemaker) in Australia hosting wine tours & personally conducting the tasting. We got to taste in-depth a range of wines, with particular focus on what the Hunter Valley specializes in; white wines such as Semillon, Chardonnay & Verdelho, with reds such as Shiraz & Pinot Noir. Half of this private tasting was at Tyrrells ‘the best winery in Australia’ in 2010 according to James Halliday, the Australian equivalent of Robert Parker. The remainder of the testing was at Hungerford Hill Cellars. They are the only winery in the Hunter Valley making ‘cool climate’ style wines, so there was a great contrast in styles between the two wineries.
To properly appreciate wine, Richard walked us through five steps. Firstly, you prepare the glass by rinsing it with a bit of the wine you will be drinking (and yes, you then discard the wine used for the rinsing). Secondly, after pouring a fresh glass, you look at the colour. Does it look like it should for the variety of grape? Thirdly, you smell the wine. When reviewers sample wines, many wines don’t even make it past this step to the mouth. That’s how important smell is to appreciating wine. Next, you sip the wine, rinsing your mouth with it for 10 seconds before swallowing. This allows all the taste buds to be exposed and allows all the flavours to be discovered. Finally, you want to come up with descriptors for the wine such as tropical, lively,earthy or persistent. Better yet, try to come up with one with special meaning like “turn off the phone” for a really special wine that you don’t want to be interrupted while enjoying!
We were also able to appreciate the difference the age of the vine makes to the depth of the wine. We sampled the same vintage, same variety of wine (Chardonnay) made from grapes grown on 30 year old vines vs. 115 year old vines. The younger vines produced a wine that was vibrant and tangy while the Chardonnay from the older vines had a longer finish and the flavours went in waves because of the complexity. The difference was incredible! I will now pay greater attention to old vines vs. new whenever I can get that information.
Here we are enjoying just picked Semillon grapes before they go to the big stainless vat to get squeezed. I would love to taste the wine these grapes made. Guess that will give me a reason to return, as if I needed one! Cheers!
Donna says: “Fantastic info Mary Anne! What you had to go through in the name of research – what a trooper!”