Australian wine is coming of age. In the past, the country's wines were big, bold, high-octane fruit bombs but they've evolved as producers seek out new, cooler regions.
New South Wales (NSW) displays a great diversity of wine styles. It is Australia's second-largest wine-producing state. In a country where the wine industry is dominated by large corporations, NSW is an anomaly, with family businesses accounting for more than 75 per cent of production.
Many of these producers are adopting new-age techniques, planting only what is suitable for the climate. Oak usage has been dialled back and there is a trend towards purity and elegance.
The McWilliam's estate was established in 1877 by Irish immigrant Samuel McWilliam, who planted vineyards in the Riverina region of NSW. The winery is now led by sixth-generation family member Scott McWilliam, who acknowledges he has big shoes to fill. A science geek at heart, McWilliam also believes that winemaking is an art.
"Wine is like a living organism and is always changing," he says.
That sentiment is reflected in the myriad styles of his wines. NSW has a diverse climate, from the warm, humid regions of the Hunter Valley, to the fertile plains of the Riverina and the mountainous areas. Today, it is the new cool-climate regions that are producing the most exciting wines. Here are a few that are worth looking out for.
McWilliam's Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2013
At the base of the Snowy Mountains, Tumbarumba is NSW's coolest wine-growing region. The vines here were planted in 1982 at altitudes ranging between 300 and 800 metres. Chardonnay and pinot noir account for more than 75 per cent of grape production. In the past, the fruit was destined for sparkling wine but, with climate change, the warmer weather has allowed the fruit to reach optimum ripeness for table wines. McWilliam predicts that in 20 years' time, Tumbarumba will be making the best chardonnay in Australia.
Restrained citrus, nutty, mineral notes. Elegant with steely acidity, intense citrus fruit, some creaminess and spicy tannins on the finish. HK$280
McWilliam's Canberra Syrah 2013
Over the past 10 years, Australia's capital, Canberra, has been receiving increasing attention for its wines. By 2013, there were an estimated 40 wineries in the region. It is best known for its cool-climate shiraz and shiraz/viognier blends.
Fresh black cherries, red fruit, and some floral notes with sprinklings of black pepper. Medium body, with crisp acidity, crunchy fruit and firm underlying tannins. Elegant and a good example of a cooler-style syrah; McWilliam's has labelled this wine syrah (as opposed to shiraz) to reflect the wine's more northern Rhone style. HK$280
McWilliam's Hilltops Shiraz 2013
The original vines were planted at the end of the 19th century by immigrants from the Dalmatian coast in Croatia. However, it is only post-1975 that the wine world began paying serious attention to the region.
Vibrant black fruit with spicy, peppery notes. Rich, full-bodied, with high fruit intensity and well-integrated oak tannins. Finishing quite long. HK$280
Wines available at Capstone Wines capstone-hk.com