The beverage director for Andrew McConnell’s restaurants recommends the top tipples for the festive season. By Leanne Altmann.
The best wines of summer 2019
Albamar, 2017 albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain ($35)
Despite its home in the Atlantic north-west of green Spain, albariño just makes me think of summer. Juicy-sweet peaches, sunshine and seashells. Tins of sardines and green olives and white linen. Albamar has nailed this – it’s tart-sweet, pure and focused, with lovely white florals, grapefruit bitterness and that classic saline edge. Thirst quenching – especially if you manage to find an elusive magnum.
Dhiaga, 2018 gewürztraminer pétillant naturel, Henty, Victoria ($29)
Best’s winemaker Justin Purser is pursuing a new interpretation of Henty’s iconic cool-climate Drumborg vineyard. The young wine finishes its wild fermentation in the bottle, and the spent yeast brings savoury almond complexity and cloudy haze. Foamy and fragrant, there’s plenty of gewürztraminer’s varietal lift of lychee and rose balanced by a lick of refreshing acidity. This is fantastic fizz for the beach, for the park, for hot sunny days with friends.
Piper-Heidsieck, 2008 chardonnay/pinot noir, Champagne, France ($65)
Piper-Heidsieck cellarmaster Régis Camus is one of the best in the business, and when skilled winemaking is combined with a marvellous season such as 2008, you’re on a winner. This blend of pinot noir and chardonnay has eight years of ageing in the cellar before release. You’ll find orchard fruits, white strawberries and nougat – so complex and balanced. It’s the little black dress of Champagne – polished, poised and perfect for a party.
Hogs in the Woods, 2018 tempranillo, Fleurieu, South Australia ($13)
Chill it down and fire up the barbecue. Hogs in the Woods is unoaked tempranillo for early drinking – make sure you look out for the 2018 vintage – awash with juicy raspberry, tart cranberry and a lick of grainy tannin to keep that fruit in check. It’s simple, pleasurable and yours for less than $20.
Domaine Giachino, 2017 Roussette de Savoie altesse, Savoie, France ($45)
Planted high in the moraine of the French Alps, altesse is an indigenous variety of Savoie, nicknamed roussette for the redheaded tinge atop each ripe grape. Lovers of chardonnay and pinot gris might find common ground here – there’s both breadth and freshness, quince fragrance and ginger spice. The Giachino family are passionate about showing the simple purity of their organically farmed fruit, a sense of place. You can almost feel the mountain air.
Clos Cibonne, 2015 Côtes de Provence tibouren rosé, Provence, France ($50)
Everything you think you know about Provençal rosé? This isn’t it. First of all, it’s mostly made from tibouren, a particularly infuriating grape variety that insists on being grown in view of the sea, and is all but disregarded in the rest of the region. It’s rosé for ageing; made with a Burgundian spirit in the Provençal sunshine. Such density of flavour – all red currants, orange cream, scrubby herbs and rocky soils. Rosé for the table.
Mee Godard ‘Corcelette’, 2016 Morgon gamay, Beaujolais, France ($47)
Mee Godard is one of a next-wave of Beaujolais producers hitting Australian shores, and has made one of the most enjoyable line-ups of wines I’ve tasted all year. 2016 Beaujolais is a delight generally – open, midweight and pure. Godard’s skill is in harnessing the intensity and concentration of her old Morgon vines, while retaining freshness and drinkability. Ripe blueberry, musk and earth, gently warm pepper spice. Best of all is the fine, silky tannin – she’s “not afraid of tannin” – that provides essential structure to the supple fruit.
Burja Estate, 2017 zelen, Vipava Valley, Slovenia ($35)
Never heard of zelen? Neither have most Slovenians. This obscure indigenous variety, grown in the sunny, windswept Vipava Valley, is a real discovery in the hands of philosophical winemaker Primož Lavrenčič. Ripe brown pear and golden apple, gingernut, white flowers, chalkiness. It’s not a wine that’s interesting for interest’s sake, but interesting because it is so delicious, and so unlike anything else.
Yelland & Papps ‘Second Take’, 2017 vermentino, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($39)
Two hundred and thirty one days on skins. Now that’s commitment. The skin contact has certainly contributed volume and a fine pithy bitterness that seems best suited to Mediterranean food. This is such an intriguing expression of vermentino, which can sometimes be a simple lemon-and-salt kind of variety. Second Take is complex and alluring – crushed stones and saltbush, nectarine skin and preserved lemon. Take a second look.
Daosa ‘Natural Réserve’, NV (2016 tirage) pinot noir/chardonnay, Adelaide Hills, South Australia ($45)
Surely it must have been impossible for Xavier Bizot and Lucy Croser, scions of the Bollinger and Croser winemaking families, not to have been drawn to sparkling wine production. Daosa is sourced from their Piccadilly vineyard, historically an area known for some of Australia’s finest fizz. With cashew butter creaminess, and a little oak spice for complexity, there’s plenty of richness and flavour. Then a drive of brisk acidity tightens up the palate, with biscuity, yeasty savouriness to close.
Gutiérrez Colosía, Fino del Puerto, Jerez, Spain ($20 – 375ml)
Gutiérrez Colosía’s riverside bodega in El Puerto de Santa María speaks loudly of a declining world interest in sherry, surrounded by the abandoned warehouses of former competitors. This family producer holds fast to the typical Fino of El Puerto. Three years of biological ageing under flor yeast gives a wine that is salty, nutty and dry, but with a little more body than the racy brininess of Manzanilla. There’s nothing like a hot summer with an icy cold grenade of sherry in hand.
David Franz ‘Old Redemption XO’, NV tawny, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($50)
When Peter Lehmann turned up for his first day at Saltram’s in the Barossa Valley, this tawny fortified had already been sleeping in the cellar for 12 years. That was in 1959. Over the decades, Peter, and then his son David Franz Lehmann, nurtured these barrels, now a beguiling wine of age, old brandy spirit and cedar-and-tobacco complexity. Tawny might not be the height of wine fashion right now, but this is a piece of Australian winemaking history. Utterly delicious and perfect for a midnight mince pie.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on December 22, 2018 as "The best of summer".
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