First published Wine Times Hong Kong, September 2015 print edition. (Image credit: Kate Bisset Johnson Photography)
As the weather in Hong Kong starts to cool and memories of basking in the sun whilst sipping refreshing white wine on the deck of a junk boat begin to fade, it’s time to turn your thoughts to wines deeper in colour and better matched to delicious winter dishes.
It’s also time to forget thinking of Australian red wine as cheap and cheerful. We are experiencing a new era of quality wine readily available in Hong Kong from a variety of producers across that vast desert continent.
Australian winemaking is morphing from that eager to please Labrador into a finely honed Greyhound, ready to race ahead and surprise you with the sheer finesse and elegance on offer and all at a very reasonable price.
As shown in the recent Decanter World Wine Awards 2015, which saw Australia receive an impressive number of awards, the time has come to take red wine from this country more seriously. This sentiment was perfectly summed up by the Australia Regional Co-Chairs of the Decanter World Wine Awards, Anthony Rose and Michael Hill-Smith, when they noted respectively “pay a little more and you will be rewarded” and “don’t think of Australia as a place to buy inexpensive wine, think of it instead as a place to buy fine wine”. 
Wise words indeed … so what has happened in the Australian wine scene to effect such a shift in style? Perhaps most noticeably is the increased confidence in skill and expertise when it comes to understanding vineyard sites and reflecting this in the winery. A better balance between technology and intuition has also been key to the increase in quality offerings. Whilst continuing to be at the forefront of wine-related research Australia is now finding a better balance between how to harness the benefits offered by technology without overshadowing the skill of its winemakers and the quality of vineyard sites located across the country.
The result? A wealth of competitively priced high quality wines with increasing options for longer-term ageing. This point is thoroughly documented by wine critic and writer Ch’ng Poh Tiong with respect to the wines from Margaret River in Western Australia. You can read a more detailed account of wineries from this region in Mr Ch’ng’s Margaret River Wine Report.
What do to? The good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy some of the high quality wines on offer and with several local importers representing wineries from Australia it is easy to pick up a bottle or two here in Hong Kong and start exploring.
Looking for some tips to get started? If you enjoy a fuller red wine with a good amount of structure to it, look out for wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Shiraz from Western Australia’s Margaret River and South Australia’s Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra. South Australia was at the forefront of putting red wine from Australia on the map and rather than rest on their laurels, producers there have continued to refine a well established style of ripe fruit, velvet tannins and a luscious texture.
If you prefer a lighter structure to your red wine you might seek out some of the stunning Pinot Noir being produced in regions such as Victoria, in particular the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula, and Tasmania. Examples offering complexity, refined structure and good ageing potential are increasing in number, making it easier for you to get your hands on some.
Finally, if your palate prefers a spicier version of Shiraz you might look out for wines labelled Syrah from cooler climates such as Canberra in ACT (Australian Capital Territory) or the Yarra Valley and Beechworth in Victoria. These examples look to the Rhône Valley for inspiration and present a distinctly different expression of Shiraz. Or better yet, grab a bottle each of Shiraz and Syrah to compare and see which style you prefer.
No matter what is on the menu or how cold it might get outside, it’s worth taking a closer look at red wine from Australia and trading up to enjoy better quality wines. Why? Because you’re worth it!
Some suggestions in Hong Kong to get you started that won’t break the bank …
- Stella Bella – Suckfizzle Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River (Montrose)
- Cape Mentelle – Cabernet Merlot, Margaret River (Watsons Wine)
- Geoff Merrill – Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra (Wine’n’Things)
- McWilliams – Appellation Range Syrah, Canberra District (Capstone Wines)
- Jamsheed – Syrah, Beechworth, Victoria (Victoria Wines)
- Giant Steps – Pinot Noir, Gladysdale, Victoria (Altaya Wines)
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