A celebration of Australian wine

Round & About


Our wine columnist Giles Luckett brings you sunshine, toasting the best wines from the land Down Under

Hello! And a belated happy new year.

January & february may be associated with the blues, but for me, they’re months of red-letter days, with few bigger than the Australia Trade Tasting. This annual celebration of Australian wine is packed to the gunnels with a mixture of unbeatable classics and innovative creations. This year I’m looking forward to tasting a Coonawarra Savagnin, though I may give the Hollick Sparking Merlot (!) a wide berth.

In the run-up to the event, I’ve been doing a spot of training. I’ve been popping, pouring, tasting, spitting, pouring and repeating and here are my current recommendations for those looking for some Australian wine brilliance to banish their winter blues.

First up, a sparkling wine, and not just any sparkling, but one of the best in the world, the Jansz Premium Vintage Rosé 2017 (Wine Direct £31). The first time I tried this tremendous Tasmanian sparkler was at the winery on a press tour where we were treated to a tasting of over 30 wines. I must confess, little spitting was done and the afternoon ended in a contented, if sleepy, blur. I had the 2017 rosé recently and was blown away. Pretty pale pink, and the nose is full of savoury raspberries and succulent strawberries with a floral edge and a background of freshly baked bread. The wonderfully complex palate boasts everything from piquant red berries to sweetly toned fruits of the forest preserve by way of almond croissants, and citrus. This is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest sparkling wines, yet it remains affordable.

My next recommendation is a new wine from an old friend. I’ve expressed my admiration for Yalumba’s wines before and the new GEN Organic Sauvignon Blanc (Ocado £11) is another winner. Demonstrating this family-owned winery’s longstanding commitment to sustainable winemaking, it’s certified organic and it’s quite delicious. Australian Sauvignon and I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, but this is excellent. The nose is soft and ripe, with a noticeable peachy tone. On the palate, it offers rounded, pear, peach and melon fruit, a ripe texture with the classic green pepper and gooseberry adding interest from the wings rather than taking centre stage. I had this with a chicken risotto and it was a great pairing, but it’s also lovely as a solo sipper.

Australian Chardonnay is rightly loved around the world. With its dazzling array of sites and soils, Australia produces a glittering lineup of Chardonnays that range from big and buttery to elegantly reserved. Penfolds Max’s Chardonnay (Waitrose £19.95) sits somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. Mid-gold, with a smoky, nutty, apple and guava nose, in the mouth it combines generosity with refinement. It opens with a fresh-tasting wave of green apple, pear and white peach before fatter notes of honeydew melon, crushed nuts, vanilla spice, and minerals come through. Interestingly – well interestingly to me as I’m dull like that – this is a wine whose character is transformed by decanting. Pop and pour and it’s lively and bright. Let it breathe for a couple of hours and it’s much, much richer, fuller, and indulgent.

My next choice is a wine I discovered at the Australia Trade Tasting a couple of years back, it’s the Jim Barry Assyrtiko (Strictly Wine £22.14). Jim Barry is one of the great names of Australian wine – the Armagh Shiraz (Laithwaites £235 is a legend) – and across the range, their wines deliver the goods. The Assyrtiko is a beguiling wine that has the piercing intensity that, like Poly Styrene’s vocals, ‘Could drive holes through sheet metal.’ Lemons, limes, grapefruit, minerals and rhubarb all come through on the nose and in the mouth, but there’s weight, softness, and delicacy here too. This is one of the best Assyrtiko’s I’ve had outside of its homeland of Greece, and it goes brilliantly with poultry, pork, white fish, or stir-fried vegetable dishes.

And so to the reds. When most wine lovers think of Australian red wines, their minds turn to Shiraz. Shiraz certainly helped put Australian wine on the map, and as winemakers have learnt more about site selection, it too now comes in a range of exciting styles. The Robert Oatley Signature Series Shiraz (The Co-Op 10.50) is from the McLaren Vale in South Australia. Shiraz grows well here in a Mediterranean climate that allows a long growing season and gives grapes that are full of complexity and aroma as the Oatley demonstrates. Inky blue-black with a crimson rim, the nose is a joyously heady mix of black berries, black cherries and Oriental spices. In the mouth it’s full but refined, the bold blackberry and blueberry fruit offset by sweet oak, charcoal, chocolate and mint. Put this with a cheeseboard and the long winter nights will fly by…

When Hollick isn’t doing odd things with Merlot, they make excellent Cabernet Sauvignon like their 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon (South Down Cellars £19.95). Cabernet is often referred to as the king of black grapes, and there’s a real breed to this example. Very deeply coloured – there’s virtually no give at the rim – a quick swirl reveals a complex bouquet of crushed blackberries, candied mint, green peppers and a whiff of black pepper. Well-extracted and with plenty of body, there’s a savoury undertone to the crisp blackcurrant fruit, as tones of toast, fresh herbs, cocoa and pencil lead seamlessly intermingle. Give this an hour or two open and serve with fine red meats or a vegetable lasagne.

When it comes to Australian wine classics, they don’t come much greater than the Yalumba Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz (Majestic £41.99 a bottle or £34.99 on a mixed 6). Legend has it that pioneering Australian winemakers blended Cabernet with Shiraz as they didn’t have any Merlot to create a Bordeaux blend. Personally, I suspect they were saving the Merlot for Hollick to make into fizz.

Whatever the case, it’s a marriage made in heaven. This hails from the Barossa Valley and is everything you could want in a Cabernet-Shiraz. Massive, exceptionally well-fruited, juicy, complex, and compellingly delicious, it fully deserves its iconic status. The combination of crisp blackcurrants, spicy red berries, plums, morello cherries and tangy loganberries make for a show-stopping glassful. Wine Enthusiast magazine gives this 93/100 calling it ‘Classic Barossa’. I couldn’t agree more.

I’ll finish with a flourish with a wine from another great family of Australian wine, Henschke. The Henschke Mount Edelstone (Hic! £135) is a wine that deserves to be on every wine lover’s bucket list, well, bottle list, at least. One of Australia’s most renowned single vineyard wines, some of the vines in Mount Edelstone are over one hundred years old and give tiny quantities of incredibly concentrated fruit. Predictably inky in colour, the nose is a heady mix of spices, blueberries and blackcurrants with a hinterland of bay and sage. The gorgeous palate is packed with dark fruits – mulberry, blueberry, blackberry, and black currant – warm spices, pepper, chocolate, and grilled meats. The finish is long, silky, and fresh, and the ripe tannins and minerals bring harmony to this extraordinary wine. One for now and the next decade or so.

Well, that’s it from me for now. Next time out as it’s Valentine’s, love will be in the air. The love of wine that is.



Adopt a grandparent and help out

Karen Neville


Charity of the Year: ‘Adopt a Grandparent’ secures Co-operative support for fundraising push

‘Adopt a Grandparent’ has been nominated to benefit from Co-op’s Local Community Fund – being named as one of its charities of the year and making a major step towards its 2023 fundraising goals.

The independent charity works to pair elderly care home residents with volunteers worldwide to combat loneliness and isolation. What began as a project based out of one Surrey care home group became a fully-fledged charity in 2022 and now works with care homes across the UK, with almost 100,000 volunteers signed up to ‘adopt’.

The Co-op donates 1p from every £1 spent on selected Co-op members who chose to support Adopt a Grandparent will be directly benefiting the charity through this Fund when shopping. With the charity requiring a minimum of £100,000 a year to stay in operation, and hopes of growing this to £1million, support such as this is essential to maximise its potential impact. Co-op members can choose Adopt a Grandparent as their elected charity by visiting its page on the Co-op Membership site: Co-op (coop.co.uk)

Deborah Speirs, Co-op Member Pioneer for Surrey and Sussex Borders, said: “We’re thrilled that Adopt a Grandparent is one of the charities and causes set to benefit from our Local Community Fund. We proudly support projects across the UK that our members care about, giving local causes a helping hand whenever our members buy selected Co-op products and services. Since 2016, £117million has been raised by our members, helping to make a significant difference to countless people.”

As part of the package of support from Co-op, Adopt a Grandparents will be taking part in a community morning at its local Co-op in Farncombe, Surrey on Tuesday 21st March. The event will give the charity the chance to raise awareness of its work among local residents and encourage them to choose it as their nominated cause for the year.

Shaleeza Hasham, founder of Adopt a Grandparent explained: “Loneliness became a huge crisis during the pandemic. The health risks related to loneliness include a higher risk of mental and physical conditions including heart disease, depression, anxiety, dementia and premature death. By helping volunteers to virtually ‘adopt’ a grandparent, we hope to alleviate loneliness and generate companionship in as many communities as possible, with both parties benefiting from the enriching relationships.

“It’s exciting to be a part of Co-op’s Local Community Fund and we love that members are able to support a cause that matters to them while doing their regular shop. We’re hoping lots of people in our local community will nominate to support us for the year, but also that those further afield will do the same since the charity’s work benefits older people throughout the country.”

It costs £1 to become a Co-op member and those who wish to donate towards the charity’s £15,000 target through the initiative, will have until October 2023.

While financial support is critical to the charity’s continued work, so are people. The charity is currently on the lookout for ‘Adopt a Grandparent Community Champion’ volunteers, who can help spread the positive work of the charity in their local communities. Those interested in getting involved and being trained up as a volunteer, can email Michelle Husserl at [email protected].

Those who wish to sign up as a volunteer can do so by visiting the website or downloading the free app, which is available through Apple’s App Store and Google Play. They can also donate to the charity’s GoFundMe page.

For more information on Adopt a Grandparent, please visit Adopt a Grandparent

Raising a glass to Australian wine

Round & About


Our wine columnist Giles Luckett is on a mission to raise January spirits with these wizard (wines) of Aus!

Hello, and a belated Happy New Year.

While for many people January can be a trying month, for the wine trade it’s a time of excitement and discovery. With the Christmas rush a distant memory and stocks as low as many people’s moods on Blue January, this quiet sales month gives wine professionals the chance to get out and taste. While tasting invitations are already piling up like pizza leaflets, there’s one that’s a big red-letter day in my calendar: 24th January and the Australia Trade Tasting.

I’m part of the generation of wine lovers who got to know wine thanks to Australia. In the late 1980s they exploded onto the scene, offering big, bold, fruit-bomb wines that were about as reserved as an Aussie backpacker in an Earl’s Court pub at closing time. They were a revelation. Affordable and accessible, they offered budding wine students the chance to get to grips with a range of grapes and styles.

Fast forward 30 years and Australian wines have matured and now boast a raft of examples that are fit to rank with the world’s best. Wines such as Penfolds’ Grange Hermitage and Bin 707, Henshke’s Hill Of Grace and Mount Edelstone, Leeuwin’s Art Series, and Wynn’s Michael Shiraz should be on every fine wine lover’s tasting wish list. And beyond these super stars there remain hundreds of exceptional wines that encapsulate Australian wines’ founding principles of individuality, brilliance and value. So, here are some suggestions for alleviating the January gloom with a taste of Australian wine excellence.

My first recommendation is the Robert Oatley Signature Series Chardonnay (The Co-Op £11.50) Oatley produce wines in various parts of Australia with the emphasis being on producing ones that have a “taste of place”. Modern in origin and outlook – the winery was founded in 2006 – the Signature Series Chardonnay is a fine wine at an affordable price. Pale green gold, the use of oak is well-judged and the nose is focused on fruit and floral tones. In the mouth there’s an immediate freshness and lift from apple, white peach and melon tones, before richer, fatter vanilla and honey comes through. The whole thing is rounded off with crisp acidity and touch of savoury minerals. Sophisticated is the word that leaps to mind, this is a far cry from the ‘bottled sunshine’ Chardonnays of old.

Next up is a wine that’s as leftfield as its much-missed creator, Taras Ochota. I had the pleasure of meeting Taras in London and his home in the Adelaide Hills before his untimely death at the age of 49. He was a maverick, a devout punk – wines such as Fugazi and In the Trees are named after bands and songs he loved – and one of the most talented winemakers of Australia’s modern era. Ochota Barrels Weird Berries in the Woods (Indigo Wines) Gewurztraminer is, for me, his best white.

I’ll be honest, usually Gewurztraminer isn’t my cup of tea. I find the combination of lychees, black pepper, sickly lavender honey, and tinned peaches about as lovely as it sounds. Taras, however, managed to tame these wild elements to produce a dry, elegant, complex wine that flows with oriental fruits with hints of spice and add a dryness, and a cleansing acidity that make for a memorable glassful.

Jacob’s Creek were one of the first brands to make it big in the UK wine market. Their wines have always been good value make for a great buy when popping into a corner shop for a last-minute bottle. Their Reserve Adelaide Hills Chardonnay (£6, Amazon) is on another level though. Adelaide Hills is a cool climate region that’s making some of the most exciting wines in Australia. This fantastically well-priced wine offers a smoky, crisp, elegant example of Chardonnay. Peaches, pears, stonefruit, and a touch of grapefruit make for joyful drinking.

I’ll leave the whites with a Riesling. Australia is rightly proud of its dry Rieslings, with examples from the Clare or Eden Valley being as good as the finest French and German efforts. One I’ve always liked is the Tim Adams Riesling (Tesco £10). This Eden Valley wine offers an intense nose of limes, grapes, and citrus mingled with apple blossom. In the mouth its precise, clean, and poised, with a lovely combination of white berries, green apple, pear and citrus fruit, with minerals on the long, dry finish.

Australia arguably offers the most consistent and consistently good value reds in the world. From entry level wines such as Koonuga Hill Shiraz-Cabernet (Waitrose £7.99) to the likes of the mighty Hill of Grace (£250 Berry Brothers & Rudd), Australia has it all. I’m going to start my red recommendations with a pair of Cabernet Sauvignons from revered producer Wynns.

Wynns’ wines are classically styled and are made to reflect the vineyards from which they are made. Founded in 1891, their years of experience shines through their wines which are always beautifully crafted and offer an exceptional drinking experience at all levels.

My first wine is The Siding Cabernet Sauvignon (Tesco £15). This is produced in the Coonawarra region which is famed for its iron-rich terra rossa soils. This soil gives wines minerality and an extra level of complexity and depth, something Wynns have taken full advantage of. The Siding offers fresh, intense notes of blackcurrants, mint, mulberries and raspberries on the nose, while in the mouth fleshier notes of black cherries, roasted meat, plums and dried herbs come through. Medium-bodied but with powerful intensity, this is one for the hearty winter dishes.

Providing a fascinating contrast we have the Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (Majestic £25). Same grape, same producer, very different results. This is Aussie Cabernet showing its elegant, nuanced side. While the characteristic blackcurrants, mint and cherries are present, there’s also plums, earthy spices, these are all low-key, seamlessly integrated and nuanced. This is a fine wine that deserves respect. If you’re drinking it this year, I’d decant it or at least give it several hours open and serve it with fine red meats or baked cheeses.

Good Australian Pinot Noir was once a rarity. This notoriously fickle vine was once ‘a nice idea’ as one Australian producer caustically described Australian Merlot. These days great examples abound, and one of my favourites is the Yering Station (Waitrose £12.99). Based in the cool Yarra Valley in Victoria, Yering Station has established a reputation as one of Australia’s leading Pinot producers. The 2016 has a fragrant nose of plums, raspberries, with highlights of flowers and spices. In the mouth this gentle, medium bodied wine gradually reveals layer upon layer of black fruit flavours intermingled with creamy oak and touch of jamminess to the finish. This has to be one of the best value Pinots on the market, and it well-worth seeking out.

My last red is another Cabernet and another wine from Western Australia, the Robert Oatley “Signature” Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (Taurus Wines £13.99). This is Cabernet in the Bordeaux mould. The benign climate and exceptional soils of Margaret River give us a Cabernet whose emphasis is on elegance and complexity rather than power and drama. Deeply coloured, the nose is a quiet riot of fresh blackcurrants, eucalyptus, black cherries, spices, and smoke. The silken palate is packed with fruit, but everything is sedate, unhurried and poised. Like a great Bordeaux, it deserves time and fine food to appreciate its charms.

“I was lucky enough to spend some time in Tasmania on my last trip to Australia”

And finally, a fizz. Well, I couldn’t write a column and not mention at least one sparkling wine, could I? I was lucky enough to spend some time in Tasmania on my last trip to Australia, a region that is probably the most exciting in Aus. Cool, damp, and undulating, it’s ideal for sparkling wine production and Jansz Rosé (Fenwicks £15.99) is a fantastic wine. Pretty in pink colour, the vibrant red berry and yeast nose is followed by a fresh, tangy palate that leads with raspberries and strawberries, before darker, richer notes of dried cherry, rhubarb, and yeast come through.

Right, all this writing and meandering down wine memory lane had given me quite a thirst so it’s on to the practical for me – well, I need to have my palate in shape for the trade tasting, don’t I?

Next time out I’ll look at some reds that will banish those winter blues.

More soon…