Saturday, December 31, 2011

Highlights and Trends in 2011

There was much to enjoy in the world of wine in 2011. Focussing on Australia and nearby, I found the following developments remarkable:

1) The quality of Pinot Noir. Australian Pinot Noir is now at a point where it is hard to find a bottle which is really bad. Many wineries located on the geographical ring around Melbourne produce subtle, but complex wines, which are really interesting. Tasmania is starting to deliver more consistently as well. Good quality is now available at $20-$25 per bottle as well.

2) The 2011 Riesling vintage. The very wet 2011 vintage has been written off by many critics and some wineries as well, but some outstanding Rieslings have been produced. Grosset and Best's are examples.

3) Aged Margaret River Cabernets. At the other end of the spectrum, if you will, I enjoyed 10 to 20 year old Margaret River Cabernets from leading producers. These wines have great mouthfeel, silky tannins and a lengthy finish. Cellaring brings out the best in these Cabernets.

4) So called alternative varieties improve in quality. Following consumer interest in flavoursome and serious, but less heavy red wines, there are now some good Australian Sangiovese and Tempranillos offered, e.g. by Pizzini, Castagna or Tscharke. Barolos have a way to go, before they come close to Piedmont quality levels.

5) Early picked red wines from the Barossa. The style pioneered by Spinifex is gaining ground. A number of producers from the Barossa now offer interesting early picked and lower alcohol Shiraz as well as other varieties.

6) Sweet white wines from New Zealand. This is my only gripe in this list. Remember New Zealand white wines from 20 years ago? Many were sweet Mueller-Thurgau wines. Unfortunately, many producers have not improved, simply changed varieties. Now the sweet, sugary wines are Sauvignon Blanc and spilling into Pinot Gris. Obviously, there are great producers, but overall, a disappointing development.

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