It's time to try the first wines of the 2021 vintage

Young wines such as rieslings are hitting the fridges.
Young wines such as rieslings are hitting the fridges. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Wine rant

Beaujolais Nouveau Day was a stroke of marketing genius. Back in the 1950s, French wine distributors started competing to see who could be the first to sell bottles of this barely-finished-fermenting fruity red in the bistros of Paris, just weeks after the harvest in Beaujolais, south of Burgundy.

By the 1980s it was a global phenomenon. I remember as a young sales assistant in a bottle shop, having to dress up in a comic French costume (stripy top, beret, fake moustache, baguette) on the third Thursday in November – the celebration's official day – to unload Beaujolais Nouveau air-freighted from France.

Maybe this is why I love celebrating the appearance of the first wines of the vintage: over the past few weeks I've really enjoyed drinking the 2021 rieslings and rosés and pet-nats and light reds that are hitting shelves and fridges around the country, bursting with freshness, begging to be enjoyed in the early spring sunshine.

Illustration: Simon Letch.
Illustration: Simon Letch. 

I'm not suggesting bottle shop workers dress up in some ockerversion of Beaujolais Nouveau garb (cork hat, singlet and stubby holder, perhaps?) but I would like to see a bit more of a fuss made about these new wines, especially as 2021 was such a good vintage in so many regions – a blessing after the disasters of 2020.

Wine for now

One of the absolute standouts of my recent tastings of 2021 vintage rieslings was the Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling ($20): so refreshing, like biting into a cool, crisp Granny Smith apple.

It's a reliable, great-value favourite that will also age beautifully in the cellar for 10 years or more. pewseyvale.com

Wine from Tuscany

Like many winemakers in north-east Victoria (and elsewhere in south-eastern Australia), Mark Walpole lost his grape harvest to smoke taint in 2020.

So, he called a mate in Tuscany and secured a few barrels of deliciously fragrant, charmingly juicy 2019 Chianti that he's bottled here under his Fighting Gully Road label, for $32 a pop. fightinggullyroadwines.com.au

Wine newcomers

Trait Wines is a name to watch in Margaret River. A couple of years ago, Theo Truyts and Clare Trythall – he's a South African winemaker, she's an emergency medical consultant – took over a near-abandoned 30-year-old vineyard and have done a fine job bringing it back to life.

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The first two Trait whites are the 2020 Field Blend ($33), a gorgeously complex, pretty mash-up of chardonnay, chenin, savvy blanc and semillon, and the seriously rich-but-fine, age-worthy 2020 Chardonnay ($89). traitwines.com

Wine in pouches

The latest winery to jump on the eco-friendly packaging bandwagon is Trentham Estate, on the NSW banks of the Murray River near Mildura.

Three's a Crowd, its new range of colourfully designed 1.5-litre wine pouches, produce 90 per cent less waste and have only 20 per cent of the carbon footprint of glass.

The wines – a crisp pinot grigio and a juicy pinot noir – are available through First Choice Liquor for $16 a pouch. trenthamestate.com.au

Wish list

Who Domaine A

What 2015 Tasmanian Pinot Noir

Why A delicious, bold, earthy pinot released with six years' bottle age, from a great, mature vineyard.

When Now to 2030.

How much $75

Where domaine-a.com.au

Max Allen is an award-winning journalist and author, who has written about wine and drinks for close to 30 years.