Tim's Blog

Victoria wines are seriously cool!

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Victoria, in the south east corner of Australia, was the focus of our tastings at the Richmond and Teddington Wine Societies last week.

Thirty people at Teddington enjoyed a superb lineup of wines with an Australian-themed meal on Friday, while on Tuesday and Wednesday Richmond Wine Society experienced a similarly great wine selection, with dinner featuring ribeye pork steak from the Britannia.

This is an area that deserves greater recognition for the wide diversity of wine style that it produces. Victoria is where you find the Mornington Peninsula – home to some of the most vibrant and expressive cool climate Pinot Noirs; and Rutherglen – where you discover the richly intense, sweet fortified Muscats. In between, a diverse set of terroirs allow sparkling wines, crisp Chardonnays, aromatic varieties and elegant Shiraz and Cabernet to thrive. With sub-regions called Grampians, Alpine Valleys and the Pyrenees, it is easier to understand the geographical mix: cooling maritime breezes on the coast, elevation inland permitting more elegance as well as the more traditional rich styles on the flatter hot plains.

There are a large number of boutique producers making small quantities of artisanal wine as well as huge producers such as Lindemans in the north east, producing oceans worth of Bin 65 Chardonnay on the irrigated flat lands of the Murray and Darling rivers.

We tasted an eclectic range that showcased some of the best that the region can offer. The famous Innocent Bystander winery delivered a delicious frivolous sweet, 5.5% Moscato – a lovely aperitif at Richmond, and utterly sublime at Teddington with a peach melba – and at £8.50 for a bottle or a fiver for a half bottle fabulous value.. Not many people know that this famous dessert was created by Auguste Escoffier, the famous French chef. He named the dish after Dame Nellie Melba – a famous Australian opera singer who frequented his restaurants and who started off her career in Melbourne.

We tasted elegant Pinot Gris and Chardonnay showing the judicial use of oak adds subtle richness and elegance.

Pinot Noir was, however our main focus and we tasted an exceptional range from the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula.

The William Downie examples were sublime. Having spent time in Burgundy, he returned to Australia determined to produce the finest Pinot Noirs he could. Totally organic and biodynamic with no filtration or fining, his wines are deep and intense with great potential for ageing – if you are prepared to invest £45 a bottle!

In contrast, the Giant Steps Yarra valley Pinot was bright and fruity with a wonderful approachability, and a much more approachable price of £18.50!

The Bordeaux Blend “Harrys Monster” from Giant Steps was anything but monstrous. Intense, fruity and concentrated but elegant and layered as well. Shiraz featured in the form of the stylish Chapoutier venture Domaine Tournon. Very Rhone like in style and contrasted with the richer and fuller Shiraz from Bob Oatley.

However, a star of the show was undoubtedly the Chambers Rutherglen Muscat. Decadence in a glance. Richly sweet but not cloying – full of dried fruits, spice, honey and sultanas. Would be perfect with Christmas pudding or a rich bread and butter pudding, and great value at £13/half bottle.