Australian sweet wines used to be shunned by those in the know. Forty years ago there were few memorable drops and plenty of forgettable ones, then a transformation began in the 1980s. Winemakers explored new methods to impart something of the character of the great sweeties of Europe. Botrytis, the risky "noble rot" that concentrates flavours in Euro classics, started being encouraged, transforming wines to retain complexity and lusciousness while retaining vibrancy. Cane-cutting, the technique of cutting fruit-bearing branches on vines to concentrate the grapes, was also aimed at giving sweet wines greater interest, balance and freshness. Results have been impressive.
D'Arenberg The Noble Botryotinia Fuckeliana 2015 375ml $18-$20
Botryotinia fuckeliana is the scientific name for the botrytis mould (really!). This Adelaide Hills semillon sauvignon blanc shows its influence beautifully. Honey, lime marmalade, peach and apricot characters flow through a luscious, very sweet wine of rich, deep flavours and a tangy high-toned finish. Screw cap; 10.4 per cent alcohol.
Ageing? Drink over three years.
Stockists include Amato's Liquor Mart, Leichhardt (NSW); Stockade Cellars, Ballarat (Vic).
De Bortoli Deen Vat 5 Botrytis Semillon 2014 375ml $13-$15
Darren De Bortoli pioneered the use of botrytis in the Riverina. This well-priced example of his work is a golden sweet wine with aromas of cumquat syrup, stone fruits and white flowers with a hint of aromatic spices. It's sweet and direct with a slight herbal undertone and sustained, balanced flavour. Screw cap; 10.5 per cent alcohol.
Ageing? Drink over the next year.
Stockists include Vintage Cellars stores (Vic); Liquorland stores (NSW).
Foxeys Hangout Late Harvest Pinot Gris 2016 375ml $26-$28
Pale and every-so-slightly pink-tinged, this cane-cut Mornington Peninsula sweet pinot gris offers a musky nose of stone fruit and custard. It's medium weight with sweet, gingery-spicy flavours and a clean, lip-smacking feel with good acidity and firm structure underneath. Screw cap; 11 per cent alcohol.
Stockists include Small Patch Wines, Hawthorn (Vic); Foxeys Hangout Cellar Door at foxeys-hangout.com.au.