Far From Isolated and Ordinary: Australian Wine Industry is Achieving Global Connectivity

Miami marked the middle of the Far From Ordinary Roadshow 2019 presented by Wine Australia. The event commenced in New York City on September 19 and concluded in San Francisco on October 3. I was delighted to attend this event through an invitation from good friend and mentor, Stefano Campanini, who is the founder of the Italian Wine School and Wine by the Bay.

The Far From Ordinary Roadshow took place in Miami’s exclusive Design District, and hundreds of guests enjoyed the perfectly executed presentation, fantastic selection of wines, opportunities to speak with winemakers in person, and delicious food.

Wine Australia has developed an impressive marketing and educational platform for industry professionals, providing  the starting point to a further understanding of the people, places, and grape varieties that make Australian wine unique. Attendees—importers, distributors, wholesalers, buyers, educators and media—attended each location’s event that presented 500-plus wines from 100 brands per city.

Key programming elements were a trade tasting, seminars, Made Our Way Theatre, and Australian Wine Discovered Lounge.

About 50 guests joined a morning seminar and sit-down tasting titled, Heritage And Place—The Evolution Of An Australian Classic. Mark Davidson, Market Development Manager for Wine Australia, moderated a spirited discussion about Australia’s most widely planted grape, Shiraz. The panelists were John Retsas, First Drop Wines; Chester Osborn, d’Arenberg; Steve Flamsteed, Giant Steps; and Janice McDonald, Howard Park Wines.

Some History

Shiraz (or Syrah) is a late-budding and late-ripening red grape and the first vines came to Australia as part of James Busby’s 1832 collection. Named “the father of Australian wine,” Busby brought the first vine cuttings to Australia from France and Spain. Because of this history, Australia is home to the oldest continuously productive Shiraz vines.

Are Old Vines Better?

Located in South Australia, Barossa Valley has the oldest Shiraz vineyards, and this grape variety does well with the region’s climate of dry, warm summers and cool, wet winters. It is generally thought that older vines are better because they yield more concentrated fruit. John Retsas pointed out that this assumption depends on the site, and old vines come with challenges such as that they can’t be machine-harvested, are labor intensive, and are prone to disease. “Typically our philosophy is to distinguish a site’s good growers,” explained Retsas. Chester Osborn added, “Older vines express the geology more, have an extensive growth system, and are not stressed out a lot.”

Read more about Barossa Shiraz on the Wine Australia website.

Eight Expressions of Shiraz

As  John continued to ask each speaker questions and accept questions from guests, he guided us through eight different Shiraz wines. The panelists had an opportunity to give further insight into the vision and history of their own wines while offering an objective evaluation of the wines presented that they didn’t produce.

While all were good, the ones that I personally favored—and in order of preference—were

Giant Steps “Tarraford Vineyard” Yarra Valley Syrah 2018

This wine has a very youthful purple/red color which is deep and bright. The bouquet is young and fresh, very primary, and shows a little reduction. There are meaty, pepper, spice, and dried herb notes, too. The wine is raw, callow, concentrated, and very primary, unready just yet, with lots of pepper, graphite and earthy nuances. It does seem to have tremendous potential. The texture is already delectable.

Tournon by M. Chapoutier ‘Shay’s Flat’ Pyrenees Shiraz 2013

A deep garnet appearance complements a complex nose of black fruits and cherry with hints of tobacco. The palate is rich and opulent, and  black fruits and licorice with supple, delicate tannins dominate it.

Sidewood Estate Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2017

This Shiraz displays aromas of mulberry, blackcurrant, and an elegant spiciness which lead to a palate with generous flavors of dark plum, chocolate, and white pepper. Rich and silky tannins linger on the palate with seamless persistence.

On the Lighter Side

There were over 40 presenters spread out between three floors of the Moore Building. It was fantastic opportunity to speak with winemakers and representatives of the wineries plus acquire a good knowledge of most of the wine regions of Australia.

After tasting quite a bit of Australian red wine, I was eager to learn more about some whites. I tried the following whites:

Wine Australia considers Hunter Valley Semillon  to be “the jewel in the Australian wine crown,” and no other seemed to express that as well as Tyrrell’s Wines. The family-run winery has been producing wines in Hunter Valley, New South Wales, since 1858 and shares the position of being the second-oldest continuously owned and operated family winery in Australia.

I tasted Tyrrell’s Wines Hunter Valley Semillon 2018, ‘Single Vineyard HVD’ 2013 and ‘Winemaker’s Selection Vat 1’ 2014. The latter is the winery’s award-winning flagship Semillon. It has notes of lifted lime citrus aromas, and the palate is seamless showing the typical powerful fruit core which is balanced by the wine’s texture and soft acid profile. This wine shows a length of flavor only produced from great vineyards. Discover more about these wines here.

I was very impressed with a representation of outstanding female winemakers who each seemed to express that great wine comes from hard work, regardless of gender.

Sandra de Pury is the fourth generation of her family to make wine at Yerinberg in Yarra Valley, Victoria. She is the chief winemaker and manages the estate with her father, Guill. Founded in 1863, Yerinberg is also one of the oldest continuously owned and operated family wineries in Australia. I tasted the 2016 Marsanne Roussanne (Marsanne 59% and Roussanne 41%), single vineyard. When I asked for additional information, de Pury told me that she doesn’t have time to work on the website and handed me a little card with all of the wine’s information. Her time is well spent though as she has gained worldwide recognition for producing wines that are known for their finesse and elegance.

You don’t have to spend more than one minute speaking with Virginia Willcock, chief winemaker at Vasse Felix (the first vineyard and winery established in the Margaret River region) to realize that she is extremely passionate about her work and wines. Willcock feels that as a female winemaker, she demonstrates great multitasking skills and can achieve a distinct expressiveness in her wines. I greatly enjoyed tasting and learning about her selection of Chardonnay and the very elegant and prestigious, 2015 Tom Cullity.

Distinctively Sweet

Sometimes all that glitters is gold. Rutherglen, Victoria’s wine industry emerged in response to the 1850’s gold rush. The area responded to a demand (mostly by the British) for sweet, fortified wines. This liqueur-style wine became the region’s signature style. While I did prefer the amber-hued and honey tasting Chambers Rosewood Vineyard’s Muscadelle, I did not pass up the opportunity to try the entire line-up. You can read more about this unique region here.

Achieving Global Connectivity

The Far From Ordinary Road Show marks just the beginning for the US consumer. To educate wine lovers, Wine Australia has created a valuable tool for wine industry professionals that will certainly be a benchmark for the future of wine education as a whole. Peruse the educational branch of the Wine Australia website, www.australianwinediscovered.com and discover a wealth of complimentary teaching and tasting resources—videos, educator guides, presentation slides, tasting sheets, certificates, and more. The wine tourism industry in Australia is also forecasted to grow exponentially, and funding opportunities for research and advanced studies can be found on the Wine Australia website.

Down Under is no longer so far away. It begins in the glass and leads us to a vast, wine world still to be fully discovered.

Lisa Morales

Based in South Florida, Lisa Morales is a marketing and publication relations director by day and by night: writer and editor-in-chief for Live in Italy Magazine. She holds an Honors B.A. in Cinema Studies and English Literature from the University of Toronto, and a certificate in Business Administration and Radio and Television Arts, from Ryerson University. Lisa is WSET 2 certified with distinction, loves to cook, and take photos. Follow @AllegoryPR #MyArtEscape.