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The Matthew Jukes 100 Best Australian Wines Roadshow rolled into Cambridge on 31 March as Noel Young Wines held a tasting at John de Bruyne’s Anstey Hall. Tom Lewis, the Cambridge Wine Blogger, was there and shares his recommendations from the roadshow with City Connect.
Described by award-winning Daily Mail writer Jukes as “a legend in the wine industry”, Noel had selected 40 of Matthew’s 100 wines to present that evening and anyone wishing to get a sense of what Australia has to offer could do much worse than turn up at one of these roadshows.
Arriving half-way through the event, I speed-tasted my way through the wines and then had a chat with Matthew to find out more about how he chose his top 100.
Tasting 30,000 to 40,000 wines a year – that’s an average of 100 wines every single day – Matthew keeps a note of all those which he scores 18.5 or over and then whittles them down to 100 by focusing on what is available for the UK market.
He does not moderate his list in any way; that is, he does not put in wines he feels “ought” to be included or add in a few worthy, but underachieving, wines to round out the list of grape varieties.
Rather, he just lists his top 100, noting that each year there ends up being a small number of fizzes and stickies, with an approximate 50:50 split for the remaining reds and whites that simply represent his personal preferences and assessment.
There is not room here to record all the wines I tried and in any case you can find the full 100 list here, but after all the tasting what struck me was that it was the varieties for which Oz is known best that generally stood out – Chardonnay, Cab and Shiraz.
I asked Matthew about his thoughts on where Australian wine is, and should be, going.
Explaining that what he admires most about Australians is their open frankness and ability not only to take criticism on the chin but also to act on it, he told me he had been invited to talk at a marketing conference on Aussie wines not for any in-depth subject knowledge, but for his own plain-speaking no-nonsense approach.
His view is that Australia needs to continue turning away from the volume-driven supermarket turf war area and focus on its terroir and wines in the mid-range where it has huge potential – three-for-a-tenner wines, he explained, are now the preserve of South Africa, not Oz.
In short, then, Australia needs to grow up and become more serious, more European even – and whilst certain retailers’ shelves may currently be awash with cheap, overly fruity and sweet Aussie plonk, this could be a final hurrah before exchange rates and rises in duty make this cease to be an attractive area for business.
He also believes that Oz’s future lies in its most well-known, international varieties – he is not a fan of Spanish or Italian varieties being grown in Oz and says they usually end up being not as good as, but more expensive than, the styles they try to emulate.
However, he does believe Australian Pinot Noir is getting better all the time and is one to watch.
The full list of the wines on show that evening is here, but what follows is my condensed summary of the ones I liked.
NV Jacob’s Creek, Blanc de Blancs, Australia – this was light, crisp and fresh with a good finish. Price not available as, bizarrely, Jacob’s Creek refuses to tell Noel Young the trade price.
Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc
These wines were lean and crisp in a cool-climate sort of way; not typically Australian at all.
2010 Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills, SA (£12.99) had a smokey, flinty nose, crisp acidity, a full palate and good length on the finish.
2005 Tyrrell’s Belford Single Vineyard Semillon, Hunter Valley NSW had a complex but restrained nose with hints of diesel and a ripe, linear and balanced acidity.
There were a number of quite good ones here, but the 2009 Pikes Riesling, Clare Valley, SA (£15.99) showed perhaps the best overall complexity and balance between fullness, acidity and minerality.
There were two very good Chardonnays on show – but neither cheap. Both were quite pale in the glass with great complexity and structure, toasty oak and impressive finishes; 2008 Yabby Lake Vineyard, Chardonnay, Mornington Peninsula, Vic (£24.99) and 2008 Xanadu Reserve Chardonnay, Margaret River, WA (£38.95).
The two Pinots on show were pale, almost rose-like, mushroomy and pleasant enough, but I’m not sure I quite share Matthew’s enthusiasm for them at this stage.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot
Unlike the cool-climate feel of the whites, the style here is still mainly New World – soft, smooth and full of blackcurrant fruit, with the odd more seriously-textured wine thrown in at the upper end of the price range.
The 2008 Wirra Wirra Church Block, McLaren Vale, SA (£16.99) was good, but the 2009 Mitolo Jester Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, SA (£12.99) made partially in the amarone style was ripe, mouth-filling and smooth with minty eucalyptus.
Also very impressive for its texture and tannic structure was a 2007 Petaluma Coonawarra, SA (£30.75).
The “weird and wonderful reds”, all lighter and more fruit-driven, were an enjoyable diversion into more affordable, everyday-drinking wines before the hedonistic delight that was the final run of Shirazes.
Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvèdre
2009 Glaetzer, Wallace Shiraz / Grenache, Barossa Valley, SA (£17.50) had sweet prune fruit and minty eucalyptus.
2007 Plantaganet Shiraz, Great Southern, WA (£24.99) had ripe prunes and plums, a soft-but-full texture and a toasty finish.
2007 Mitolo Savitar Shiraz, McLaren Vale, SA (£29.99) had a complex mix of mouthwatering fruit, dense texture, minty blackcurrant, a toastiness and good grippy finish.
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About the Author: Tom Lewis is a wine writer and educator from Cambridge with a particular interest in Austria and France. His comments have been published on JancisRobinson.com, Local Wine Events, as well as in the local press in his hometown of Cambridge, UK. When it comes to buying wine, Tom’s philosophy is to buy as close as possible to where it comes from. He writes a regular blog, the Cambridge Wine Blogger which launched in 2009 and is a presenter for the Cambridge Food and Wine Society. To read more of Tom’s work, please check out cambridgewineblogger.blogspot.com