Refreshing: Branch out and try something other than your traditional Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc. Photo: Jennifer Soo
Summer arrives this week, and so our drinking habits change to light-bodied dry whites and rosés. We want refreshing wines for warmer weather, lighter foods and relaxed dining.
With so many grape varieties now in play, there’s no reason for being bored.
For many wine drinkers that means sauvignon blanc, quite likely from across the Tasman. For many of these people, any time of year is sauvignon blanc time: their consumption is not seasonally determined.
Change of pace: Summer is the time for rose and other lighter wines. Photo: Jennifer Soo
To you people, we at Good Food say, ''Move on - try something else''.
Not all sauvignon blanc is Kiwi, of course, and there's good and bad savvy, on both sides of the ditch, just like any wine. Sauvignon blanc continues to dominate Australians' white wine drinking. It's the Black Caviar of wine: it's first across the line, then comes daylight, followed by everything else. However, in the interests of promoting diversity and variety, I want to share with you some of the most delicious summer wines that have come my way lately, other than those containing sauvignon blanc grapes.
With so many grape varieties now in play, there's no reason for being bored. Some of my summer favourites are mono-varietals made from pinot gris, roussanne, savagnin, fiano, vermentino and gruner veltliner. Others are blends and, working on the hypothesis that multiple grape varieties equals more complexity, blends are potentially most exciting. With more imported wines available, the wine list for the balmy months is more fascinatingly diverse than ever before.
2012 Chapel Hill Il Vescovo McLaren Vale White (verdelho, savagnin, roussanne), $20
Light straw hue; savoury, mineral aromas of crushed rocks and earth, a hint of malt. Light and soft, with the barest trace of sweetness; texturally fine and smooth. The flavours aren't simple, but floral, herbal and faintly tropical. This shows the way for other verdelho-makers. Drink young. 90/100
2012 Casa Freschi La Signorina (riesling, gewü¨rztraminer, chardonnay, pinot grigio), Adelaide Hills, $30
Medium-light straw yellow colour; a complex and attractive bouquet of smoky sulfides, caramel and spices. The palate is also full of interesting flavours, backed firmly by lively acidity, giving a lemon-sherbet tang. Good balance, refined texture and length. An entertaining dry white. Best within two years. 92/100
2013 Jericho Fiano, Adelaide Hills, $25
Very light bright yellow hue; a complex bouquet of smoke, honey and passionfruit, with some spices and toasty barrel hints. This is different. And more interesting than most Aussie fianos. There's a lick of sweetness in good harmony and the wine is generously flavoured without any sharp edges. It's quite nuanced; a very attractive drink. Best within two years. 91/100
2013 Oliver's Taranga Vineyard Small Batch Vermentino, McLaren Vale, $24
Palish straw colour; an interesting bouquet of toasted-nutty aromas, savoury and complex while the taste is clean and fresh, light and dry, with crisp texture (but not high-acid), and the same complex flavours as the nose, hinting at some barrel involvement. It has a touch of richness and finishes almost dry. A very appealing wine, on a different plane from other Aussie vermentinos. Best within two years. 90/100
2013 K1 by Geoff Hardy Gruner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills, $28
Light-medium yellow hue; it smells straightforward initially, with a straw-like aroma, then builds lightly peppery notes and hints of creamy lees. The taste is again simple, but it has fruit and character, and there's depth and richness as well as delicacy on the palate, assisted by a gentle tannin grip. The finish is clean, soft and dry. A subtly appealing wine of restrained personality, good texture and harmony. Now to 2017. 90/100
2011 Redbank Garganega, King Valley, $25
Bright light-medium yellow colour; creamy, peachy aromas, a suggestion of old barrels, adding an extra dimension. Intense and medium-full flavoured with a touch of richness and a slight textural grip, but the wine is pristine and fresh and very well balanced. It has harmony and line. As for varietal character … who can say how garganega is supposed to taste? A really lovely drink and fresh for its age. 90/100
2012 La Vendetta Pinot Grigio delle Venezie IGT, Veneto, Italy, $17
Pale straw hue; some spice aromas within a clean, fresh and truly well-made frame. A lot of Italian grigios are watery and bland, but this has some intensity of palate flavour and, while delicate, it has refinement and charm. Soft yet lively, clean and refreshing: a very good grigio indeed. Best young. 89/100
2011 Domaines Schlumberger Les Princes Abbé´s Pinot Gris, Alsace, France, $31
The colour is full brassy yellow, quite forward for its age, but it's a lovely drink. Rich honey, vanilla and toffee-like aromas, quite wild and intense, rich and expressive, and much more than just simple pinot gris fruit. Medium to full-bodied, texturally dense - almost grainy, with lots of presence in the mouth, generous sweetness and fleshiness, yet it finishes cleanly with some textural phenolics helping to dry the finish. Very good. (The back-label sweetness scale declares it's medium-dry.) Drink soon. 90/100
2012 Bodegas Copaboca Peramor Verdejo, Rueda DO, Spain, $21
(Verdejo is a native Spanish grape, unrelated to our verdelho.) Bright, light yellow hue; the nose is elusive, somewhat neutral, but fresh and clean, and the palate is soft and again quite simple, with a softness assisted by a faint trace of sweetness. A very light, simple wine, but well-made, refreshing and nicely balanced. It has good texture, mouth-feel and harmony, and it finishes cleanly. Best young. 88/100
2012 Dopff au Moulin Riesling, Alsace, France, $13.30
Pale yellow hue; very restrained, fresh, clean and floral aromas; the taste intense and quite rich, lifted by fresh acidity, with a touch of sweetness (the maker rates it 2/9 on a sweetness scale). Well-balanced and very drinkable. A very good basic-level Alsace riesling, with a touch of phenolic ''chew''; just enough to add a little density and texture. Clean, dry finish. Best young. 88/100 (Exclusive to Dan Murphy's and BWS)
2013 Leo Buring Leonay Riesling, Clare Valley, $40
A wonderful example of Clare's finest. Palish straw colour. Lime-juice fragrance with a hint of crushed lime leaf, the palate is very frisky and briskly acid, with terrific freshness and intensity. A great riesling: tremendously fine and intense, concentrated and long. Drink now to 2025. 95/100
2013 Pooley Coal River Valley Riesling, Tasmania, $33
Shy straw-like with rocky/mineral aromas. The acidity is zesty and limey; slightly shrill but nicely harmonised with a lick of sweetness. This gives a sprightly palate that really jumps. The acid under that sweetness is pretty fierce, but the balance is spot-on. It's very intense. A superb wine. Now to 2023. 95/100
2013 Thomas Wines The O. C. Semillon, Hunter Valley, $23
O. C. stands for Oakey Creek Road, Pokolbin. This is a slightly softer, fruitier style than Thomas's dearer Braemore, but damn near as good in 2013. Light green-yellow hue; fresh lime/lemon and green-herb aromas, then a big volume of fruit on the palate, which is generous and deep, but also lively and refreshing. Tremendous intensity and volume of fruit flavour: a superior kind of semillon. Beautifully balanced: a delicious summer drinking wine. Now to 2019. 94/100
2013 Pepper Tree Alluvius Semillon, Hunter Valley, $35
Pale straw colour; dried-herb, lemon and dry-grass aromas are fresh and clean, bright and youthful, with tangy acidity a little prominent at this stage. It's tight, firm and high-acid, finishing very dry with a little firmness. It needs time, and will be even better in a year or so. An excellent wine now and great potential. Best drinking 2015 to 2021. 94/100
2012 Indigo Chardonnay, Beechworth, $27
Light yellow/straw; a very fresh, youthfully restrained aroma displaying mineral and lightly herbal notes is followed by poised, refined, intense flavour with precision and length. It's a fruit-driven style with a hint of sweetness and focused flavour. The fruit does the talking. A lovely understated chardonnay, and a real bargain. Now to 2018. 93/100
2011 Tyrrell's Belford Individual Vineyard Chardonnay, Hunter Valley $35
Bright light-medium yellow colour; the aromas are very fresh and alive, with creamy lees and cashew-nut fruit. Grapefruit palate flavours, intense and focused, refined and long. A very polished chardonnay in a scintillatingly fresh, fruit-driven style, which also manages to be full of interest and anything but simplistic. Now to 2019. 93/100
2013 Head Grenache Rosé, Barossa Valley, $27.50
The colour is a full shade of hot-pink and the aromas are sweetly shrill and raspberry-like. In the mouth, it's fresh and clean, fruity and balanced, with low phenolics and gentle, soft acidity. There's plenty of fruit and flavour, with the merest trace of sweetness, but also lovely balance and mouth-feel. A delicious rosé. 92/100
2013 Torzi Matthews Vigna Cantina Rosato Sangiovese, Eden Valley, $20
Rosato is Italian for rosé, and this has a medium-full rose-red colour with some purple tints, and attractive nutty, toasty, lightly smoky aromas, with barrel involvement adding extra nuances. It's light and soft, dry and savoury, with some textural impact from oak and tannins. It's rich and generously flavoured, with a trace of sweetness, but balancing acidity. Lots of flavour and presence. I'd have a glass or two. 89/100