I have recently been doing so through a terrific selection of Australian wines. Narrowing down the field to half a dozen recommendations was one of my toughest assignments so far: Australia really does produce consistently good wine in a style best described as “fruit-driven”. For a decade and more we British have been in love with those tropical, buttery, new-oaked chardonnays and rich, blackcurranty cabernet/shiraz blends. The Australians pioneered a high-tech approach to wine-making that captures these up-front flavours brilliantly – an approach that has since been copied across the globe, including in many regions of France. And the wines have been developed recently in the age of Pacific Rim cuisine, where many influences come from Asian and Oriental traditions. Many dishes employ the fragrant herbs and spices of Thai cooking for example, along with fresh, simply grilled fish or seafood. For these a sparkling wine would be perfect:
Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot Noir is as sheap as quality fizz gets. It has a delicious aroma of hazelnuts and freshly baked apple pie and there’s just a hint of sweetness on the palate before a long, dry finish. It has the savoury quality necessary to make it perfect with food.
For dishes featuring the palate-tingling flavours of fresh ginger or galangal, I suggest Sainsbury’s Classic Selection Australian Chardonnay. This would make a stunning match: the wine itself has a vivid aroma of ginger and there are also honeysuckle and tropical fruit notes. On the palate it is rich and powerful, with delicious pear and mango flavours.
Thomas Mitchell Marsanne is another wine that would match a variety of seafood dishes. Marsanne makes a peachy, rich, yet clean style of wine and this example also displays flavours of honey and butterscotch.
Reds this month all come from Oddbins, one of the pioneers in bringing Australian wine to the British high street.
Wilted greens (like spinach) are a popular ingredient of fusion cuisine and can present a tricky wine-matching challenge. Spinach in particular can taste rather metallic, so an unoaked white or soft, low-tannin red is needed to avoid a clash. Mount Hurtle Grenache Ros´ is my recommendation. With soft strawberry fruit on the nose and warm red-fruit on the palate it also manages to be clean, with the fresh appeal of a dry white wine (serve this one lightly chilled).
Let’s finish with two big reds to help polish off that other Australian staple, barbecued food. With those char-grilled flavours I like a red that is juicy and fruity, but also has some meatiness and depth:
Normans “Jesse’s Blend” has a nose of dark, briary fruit with hints of the barnyard. On the palate it is smooth and flavoursome, with juicy berry fruit and a nice spicy finish.
But my wine of the month has got to be:
d’Arenberg “The Footbolt” Shiraz. Made from old vines (some a century old) and given a very gentle treatment in the winery, this wine has a concentrated fruit-pastille nose with hints of black pepper, mint and vanilla. Dense and powerful on the palate, it is like the essence of sweet blackcurrant jam. There are complex flavours of grilled-meat and liquorice too. A cracking buy.