Looking past the wine label
LOOKS can be deceiving so it was no surprise that some of the most delicious wines I've tasted all year were lurking behind some extremely basic-looking labels.
The three Ashton Hills pinot noirs served to wine writers at the Tasting Australia event earlier this year were a great reminder not to judge a wine by its front label.
The wines were made in au natural withwild yeast ferments, not fined or filtered before bottling, with no acid additions and just a smidgen of sulphur to prevent oxidation.
Okay, so that's all technical guff. The important thing is that the three Ashton Hills pinot noirs tasted as if they had come from top wineries in cooler climates. And that's interesting given that I've always thought Australia too warm to produce top pinot noir.
Their high quality reminds me of some other outstanding wines I tasted recently. They come from Kevin Judd - photographer, winemaker and owner of the relatively new Greywacke Vineyards in Marlborough, New Zealand.
It's Rudd's own label so he can do what he likes, up to a point, and he's never been one to shy away from experimenting.
His vinous trio includes a riesling, a gewurztraminer and a pinot gris. All are made in tiny volumes with grapes from Marlborough's southern valleys, and aged in old oak barrels. My favourite is the riesling.
But as we're talking about unusual wines let's focus on the Greywacke Pinot Gris. It has more body than most, probably thanks to a kiss of oak. It's worth checking out.
So are the outstanding wines of Yalumba, introduced by their chief winemaker, Jane Ferrari. She focused on the whites - another surprise since Yalumba's Barossa Valley is far more red-oriented.
All these wines are proof that quality comes from the most unexpected places.
Wines of the week
2008 Y Series Viognier - A reminder that Barossa is home to more than just over-extracted big alcohol, hot-climate reds. Also known as Yalumba's "baby viognier", this peachy white has all the body and weight of a red wine.
2008 Yalumba The Virgilius Viognier - Australian winemakers have cornered the quality viognier market with wines like this wonderfully peachy, bone dry, full-bodied example - a faultless example of one of France's most fashionable grapes, which has travelled successfully to a few quirky spots in the world.
2009 Greywacke Pinot Gris - Succulent and fresh with just off-dry flavours; it's made with grapes grown at the Wrekin Terrace Vineyard in the Brancott Valley, Marlborough.