FIFTY FINEST FROM AUSTRALIA

Good company for me: Maurice O'Mahony (centre) and Darren Calnan (right)

OZ TOUR DE FIFTY AT SCHOOL OF MUSIC

Cork’s School of Music, one of the city’s newest gems, played hosts to the wines of New World producer Australia last night as local wine scribe Blake Creedon orchestrated a tasting of Australia’s fifty finest.

Blake (who hosted the event with Wine Australia’s Johnny McDonnell), delighted to be dispensing actual wine instead of advice (as he does in his Examiner column and in his blog, admitted that the fifty was  a bit of a misnomer as he had been “forced”, to our advantage, to include some sixty five.

Well, 65 of the top Australian wines, some tasty bites provided by the in-house cooks, live piano music in the background and the chatting and sipping among pleasant company all made for a lovely evening. And a special word too for the people from O’Donovan’s wines, who staffed the stands; they were knowledgeable, helpful, courteous and friendly.

Started off with a taste of “an accomplished sparkler that single-handedly introduced the world to enjoyable fizz at approachable prices”: NV Jacobs Creek Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut Cuvee.

Then concentrated on a series of Rieslings, eight in all. My top two were: 2009 Knappstein 8;8;18, Clare Valley and the 2006 Pikes, Clare Valley. And just behind were 2008 Penfolds Bin 51, South Aus, along with the 2008 Pewsey Vale, Eden Valley.

As Johnny McDonnell had mentioned at the opening, the Australian Chardonnay has come a long long way from the big aromatic in your face types that gave the grape a bad name a decade or so ago. And his point was well illustrated by Blake’s selection here, about eight excellent examples.

Not a dud amongst them, all fairly closely matched. If I had to, I’d go for these four: 20054 Stonier; 2008 Xanadu Next of Kin; 2004 Brown Brothers and the 2007 Lindemans Bin 65.

The first of the red tables kept the best until the last. The 2008 Heartland Dolcetto Lagrein (Langhorne Creek) was at the end of the line and it was well worth the wait, though the 2006 Pikes Loccio Sangiovese wasn’t half bad either.

I keep getting drawn back to the Margaret River and this time the one that grabbed my undivided attention was the 2003 Clairault Estate Cabernet Merlot, “a glossy sensuous Bordeaux blend”.

Blake is strong on Shiraz and this was reflected in the selection of quite a few, some blended with Viognier. Not too easy to pick from the eight or nine on offer. I would settle for any of these four: 2007 Penfolds Bin 128; 2007 Langmeil Hanging Snakes (Shiraz/Viognier), 2007 Tim Adams and the 2006 Jim Barry Lodge Hill.

It wouldn’t be an Australian night without a sticky end and I finished with a “heady flourish of candied citrus fruits, honey and marmalade”. Not sure if it is all true but I couldn't have put it better myself if I had to describe the fantastic 2007 Tamar Ridge Kayena Vineyard Botrytis Riesling from Tasmania. What a sweet sweet devil!

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