Michael Hill Smith is one of the most congenial and experienced characters in the Australian wine industry. In 1988, he became the first Australian to pass the master of wine exam. He is a co-founder of the respected Shaw + Smith winery in South Australia; he is an international wine judge and vice-chairman of the Decanter Asia Wine Awards; and he is part of a tasting panel at Singapore Airlines, helping the carrier select the wines served on flights. In 2008, he was awarded the Order of Australia for his contribution to the country’s wine industry.
Hill Smith’s vineyard is situated in Adelaide Hills, about 30-minutes’ drive from Adelaide. The area was formerly eclipsed by neighbouring wine regions – Barossa and Eden valleys to the north and McLaren Vale to the south. Adelaide Hills is now coming into its own and today it is home to 95 wine producers with more than 4,000 hectares of vineyards.
The region’s elevation ranges from 400 metres to its highest point of 700 metres, at Mount Lofty. The higher altitude means Adelaide Hills is markedly cooler than its neighbouring wine regions – on average by four degrees Celsius during the day and eight degrees at night.
In the past, the grapes were used to make sparkling wines by large-volume producers. Nowadays, Adelaide Hills’ grapes produce fine regional wines. The area is known for its sauvignon blanc and chardonnay but red varieties, such as pinot noir and shiraz, are also improving in quality.
Here are three standout wines from Shaw + Smith.
SAUVIGNON BLANC 2016
This year marks the 27th vintage of the sauvignon blanc and the wine has consistently improved over time. Climate change and the warmer weather it brings means the fruit is sourced from higher and cooler vineyards, to preserve freshness of acidity. This exemplifies the winery’s house style, with its pink-grapefruit character.
Vibrant citrus, grapefruit and floral aromas. Soft and round body with refreshing acidity. An understated and elegant sauvignon blanc showing classical varietal character. HK$243
M3 CHARDONNAY 2014
A lot of rain meant 2014 was a challenging vintage. Fortunately, the grapes were picked early so the wines were not diluted. “Chardonnay is the most interesting wine coming out of Australia,” says Hill Smith. The wine style has gone through dramatic changes. Long gone are the golden coloured, rich, buttery, oaky wines that once epitomised Australian chardonnay. The M3 wine is “at the forefront of the ongoing refinement and evolution of Australian chardonnay”, says Hill Smith, and in terms of style it aims for “elegance, restraint and the capacity to age in bottle”.
Youthful and restrained on the nose with hints of citrus and spicy oak flavours. Taut structure with crisp acidity, some elegant oak tannins and a creamy finish. A smart, well-made chardonnay. HK$357
PINOT NOIR 2014
The fruit is handpicked and undergoes whole-bunch fermentation producing a fragrant and lighter style of wine with a good concentration of fruit.
Seductive red fruit character with strawberry and raspberry. Lighter bodied with intense red fruit, fine silky tannins and a long finish. Very delicious and drinking well now. HK$400
The wines are available from www.linksconcept.com.hk.