Session 1: Australia's regional classics
Landmark Australia Tutorial 


Michael Hill Smith described the tutorial as ‘like an immersion language course,’ as he kicked off the first session, which was an introduction to Australia’s regionality. Of late, the Australian wine industry has put a lot of effort into helping people appreciate the extent of the regional differences that exist in this country, and which are important in shaping the diverse wines it produces.

‘Australia is regional,’ Hill-Smith stated. ‘It’s not a question of someone making it up: we have 64 GIs [geographical indications, the official term for wine regions] across the depth and breadth of Australia.’

Regionality in Australia began with the establishment of the colonies in the 19th century. Settlers brought with them grapevines and, as Tony Jordan pointed out, they planted them in what turned out rather fortuitously to be fairly useful viticultural regions. Adelaide enjoys a nice Mediterranean climate, for example, and Melbourne is just a little cooler. It is only since the 1970s that science has been enlisted in prospecting for new viticultural areas, such as Margaret River, Tasmania and Great Southern.

Two of the tutors conferring: Michael Hill Smith and Tony Jordan

The viticultural areas are largely located in the south. Australia is a vast country, and most of it is unsuited to viticulture, but even so, the current vineyards occupy just 2% of the land where they could potentially be planted. Water is one of the limiting factors hindering further development, but there is still plenty of room for expansion. The factors influencing temperature include latitude, altitude (lapse rate of 0.65 °C for each 100 m shift) and the prevailing weather patterns. Significantly, cyclonic weather patterns come off the cold Southern Ocean and move from west to east, and have a cooling effect.

One of the difficulties in getting to grips with Australian regionality is that winemaking style can imprints itself over the regional style. Not not all Barossa wines taste like they come from the Barossa, and not all McLaren Vale wines taste like McLaren Vale, and so on. But this is a problem encountered across the wine world: the influence of site can be lost through heavy-handed winemaking styles, or picking late. In fact, it’s probably true to say that regional characteristics in a wine are the result of a combination of site and the human element – including both viticultural and winemaking practice.

So, what was the point of this initial tasting? It was to introduce some of Australia’s regional classics. In each region, one or two grape varieties tend to produce great wines. For example, Coonawarra makes OK Sauvignon Blanc, OK Riesling and OK Shiraz. But it makes fabulous Cabernet Sauvignon. So regional classics are the wines where region and grape combine to make something really special. These wines were chosen to be examples of some of these, and to set the scene for a more in-depth exploration of Australia’s fine wine dimension in the subsequent sessions.  

One of the wines of this first tasting

2008 Grosset Wines Polish Hill Riesling, Clare Valley
Handpicked, destemmed and just the free-run juice used, fermented at 14–17 °C. Taut, fresh, mineralic nose is limey and precise. The palate is intense and dry with a lean, high-acid, lemony character. Great concentration and precision here, tending towards the austere with this limey character to the fore. A striking wine. 92/100

2002 Pewsey Vale The Contours Riesling, Eden Valley 
From a cool vintage. Really intense, taut and mineralic, with a limey, slightly toasty nose. Showing some nice evolution. The palate is concentrated and intense with spicy, limey, mineralic fruit and real intensity. Very dry with savoury complexity and good acidity. Lovely. 92/100

1998 Tyrrell's Wines Vat 1 Semillon, Hunter 
Toasty, citrussy and quite intense on the nose. Just beginning to evolve. The palate is savoury and lemony with high acidity and the first signs of the broader, more toasty notes emerging. Finishes tight and quite intense, with a long future ahead of it. Just 10.8% alcohol. 91/100

2005 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, Margaret River 
Made with skin contant and no solids in the fermentation (these can add more savoury characters). Rich, complex, broad and toasty on the nose with some nutty notes. The palate shows coconut, pineapple and peach notes as well as breadth and elegance, despite the size. Complex and long. 93/100

2006 Petaluma Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills 
Fresh and focused with some nutty, toasty notes. A lighter style with some elegance and a lemony edge to the fruit. Nice oak use. Light and quite elegant with a subtle toastiness. 89/100

2006 By Farr Sangreal Pinot Noir, Geelong
Wonderful aromatics: sweet herbs, cherries and spice. Complex and warm with some meaty hints. The palate shows fresh, pure cherry and spice notes with lovely focus and some hints of meat and earth. Wonderful stuff: big but expressive, and truly complex. 94/100

2001 Cullen Wines Diana Madeline Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Margaret River
Sweet dark chocolate, earth and spice notes on the nose, with gravelliness and also some earthy blackcurrant fruit (blackcurrant bud). The palate is fresh and dense with lovely taut earthy structure, nice spiciness and focused dark fruits. With freshness and complexity, this is ageing really nicely. 94/100

2004 Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra Subtle green edge to the fresh blackcurrant fruit nose, but also some appealing creamy richness. The palate shows great concentration of sweet, pure blackcurrant fruit with a spicy edge. Lovely definition here. A beautiful, pure, balanced Cabernet. 93/100

1998 Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz, Hunter
Evolved nose showing beautifully floral, earthy, spicy notes and a hint of medicine. The palate is broad, warm, earthy and spicy with lovely earthiness and a touch of iodine. Just lovely, with real complexity and some elegance. Apparently this isn’t as fresh as this wine typically shows. 93/100

2004 Mt Langi Ghiran Langi Shiraz, Grampians 
Lovely pure, fresh, focused dark fruits on the nose with some fresh black pepper in the background. The palate has lovely freshness and precision with a delicious peppery edge. Sweet, pure fruit, yet some elegance, too. 94/100

2006 Henschke Mt Edelstone Shiraz, Eden Valley 
From vines planted in 1912. Rich chocolatey, spicy nose. Quite ripe. The palate has a ginger spice edge to it with focused sweet red and black fruits. A bit lighter than the normal Barossa style, with a warm spicy finish and some plummy characters. 92/100

2004 Penfolds RWT Shiraz, Barossa Valley
Ripe and rich with bold, sweet, focused blackberry and plum fruit. Nice density with lovely focused fruit and good structure. I like the cherry and plum fruit characters on the palate: it’s quite a big wine, but expressive with it. 93/100

2006 Glaetzer Anaperenna Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Valley
Lush, pure and super-sweet with blackberry and cherry fruit. Lush, smooth and intense with soft structure and good definition, finishing spicy. A little unusual but really good. 93/100

2006 De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon, Riverina
Very fresh apricot and spice nose with some lemony notes. Powerful, intense, lush palate is viscous and shows lovely spiciness and ripe peach, pear, melon and apricot fruit. 92/100  

Landmark Australia
Visiting the Australian Wine Research Institute
Session 1 - Regional Classics
Session 2 - Riesling 
Session 3 - Shiraz and Blends
Session 4 - Historical Perspective
Session 5 - Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Blends
Session 6 - Cabernet Sauvignon and Blends
Session 7 - An Alternative View
Session 8 - Chardonnay
Session 9 - Pinot Noir
Session 10 - Blending the rules
Session 11 - Sparkling
Session 12 - Fortified

Wines tasted 06/09 
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