By Zachary Phillips - Winner of 2020 Wine Communicators of Australia New Wine Writer Award
Something wonderful is happening in Australian vineyards. Things are changing.
But - and here's the fun part - wine producers have been experimenting.
We are a continent, with a continent's worth of climates. The same five grapes simply will not work in every region. For every variety that likes the heat, there will be one that prefers the cold. For every grape that enjoys the rain, there will be one that can't stand it.
This is why there has been an explosion of new grape varieties in this country. New varieties are emerging all over Australia - Fiano, Vermentino, Sangiovese and a lot more where that came from.
Here are three up and coming red varieties which have already won us over.
Shown above, the Prometheus Grenache and the lighter Prometheus Grenache Rosé
What is Grenache?
Grenache is a grape that, depending on who you ask, comes from either Spain or southern France. These are both hot and dry regions, so it makes a lot of sense to plant this grape in parts of Australia which share similar conditions.
Is Grenache a light or heavy wine?
The answer is, annoyingly, it depends.
Back in the day, Grenache was blended with Shiraz and Mataro to make a full-bodied wine. Today, Aussie winemakers shy away from blending and make medium-bodied wines, with bright cherry and raspberry flavours, or even a light rosé. It's a versatile grape, which makes a range of styles. It's part of the charm, really.
What does Grenache pair with?
With cleansing acidity, Grenache plays nicely with natural fats and oils. Anything barbecued or charred is a good option. It goes beautifully with lamb, but will pair just as well with roast eggplant too.
What is Tempranillo?
Tempranillo is unequivocally a grape with Spanish origins, making utterly delicious red wine. Its name comes from the Spanish word temprano ('early'), because the variety tends to ripen before others. It's smart, then, to plant it in regions that see rainfall during harvest. Being an early starter, Tempranillo can be harvested before any damaging rain.
What type of wine does it make?
The Spanish make three main styles of Tempranillo - joven, crianza and reserva. Joven wines are 'young,' with little to no time in oak to create a juicy, easy-drinking wine. Crianza styles see at least a year in oak and reserva are bigger, more serious wines. Generally, Australian Tempranillo falls into the joven or crianza style and emphasise freshness, designed to be drunk on the younger side.
What should I eat with it?
Tempranillo has been drunk in Spain for millennia, so it's safe to say that they've figured it out. Follow suit and drink this with rich tomato, garlicky tapas. It is an incredibly food-friendly variety though, so try it with Mexican, Moroccan or a cheeky pizza party.
If a slightly heavier red wine appeals to you, the Colab and Boom offers great value for money and is definitely worthwhile. But if you want a juicier, thirst-quenching style, you simply can't go wrong with the Gibson Discovery Road.
What is Malbec?
Malbec is a red grape from France, where its spiritual homeland is Bordeaux. Some attentive winemakers realised that Malbec almost always suffered from rot in wet years but that, curiously, it almost always excelled in dry years.
Connecting these dots, people started planting Malbec in drier climates. Mendoza is a worldwide phenomenon, but Malbec is an Australian success story too, especially in Langhorne Creek and Margaret River.
What does Malbec taste like?
It's inky purple with flavours to match. Juicy blackberries, mulberries, plums and lavender are consistent flavours here, but you can get elements of smoke, cocoa and leather too. It's a good wine to try if you're a fan of Shiraz. It just has less tannin.
What does Malbec pair well with?
It's one of the few heavy reds which consistently pairs well with bolder cheese - smoked cheddar, stinky blue and washed rind all work well. It's also an option with less fatty meats and chicken. But, if you're looking for an inside tip, we've never met a burger that Malbec didn't like.
Bleasdale are Malbec entrepreneurs in Australia and we can't recommend them highly enough. The Bleasdale Generations Malbec is a great example, and one of the best value for money wines made in the entire country.
These are great places to start exploring the wide world of wine. They're easy, fun and delicious grapes which offer so much exciting potential. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!