Australia, New Zealand and South Africa


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Australia, New Zealand and South Africa can provide serious cellar candidates for wine collectors on a budget, so long as you know where to look.

Of the three, New Zealand has the shortest history of producing wines worth ageing. Mature Chardonnay from top producers such as Kumeu River and Dog Point can be rewarding. So is Bell Hill’s serious Chardonnay or Pinot if you can find any. Pinots from the little North Island town of Martinborough tend to age longer than most, from Ata Rangi, for instance, and especially Kusuda. At a recent dinner for 20 wine lovers in finance, Kusuda Pinot Noir 2020 from Martinborough was preferred to Thibault Liger-Belair’s premier cru Les St Georges 2017 when the wines were served blind. Biodynamic Felton Road in Central Otago has proved it makes ageworthy wines, notably from the 2012 vintage onwards when they started to pick earlier and make fresher wines.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is one of wine’s great success stories, especially in the US, UK and Australia. Most of it is designed to be drunk young but a few producers make an oaked style designed to age. (Incidentally, those who find basic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc just too vapid should look out for bottles with the Appellation Marlborough Wine logo which ensures that the vines were grown sustainably, the grapes reached a certain minimum ripeness level and the wine passed a taste test.)

Australia has been making wines worth maturing for decades. One of the most memorable tastings I ever attended was organised in London in 1993 by the late Len Evans, known as “Australia’s Mr Wine”, to counter the idea prevailing in export markets then that Australian wine doesn’t age. There were fabulous wines from the 1940s onwards. Penfolds Bin 60A 1962 (recently offered by Hedonism at £13,900 a bottle) and Lindeman’s Hunter Valley Semillons were just some of the highlights.

Like many wine regions around the world, Australia succumbed to the turn-of-the-century fashion for making exaggeratedly blockbuster wines — especially at some addresses in Barossa Valley — but now freshness is in. In fact, some of Australia’s current wave of lighter reds are too light, I would argue. Where’s the beef? This is not an accusation that could be levelled at the country’s most famous producer, Penfolds. Its Shirazes and red blends, even the lowly Bin 28, last well — as do all the more refined reds from the Henschke family. Penfolds’ renowned chief winemaker Peter Gago told me he recommends Koonunga Hill 76 as a great-value wine worth ageing to his nieces and nephews. There are also many less mainstream South Australian cellar candidates such as the reds of Wendouree, Yalumba’s The Caley Shiraz/Cabernet blend and The Octavius Shiraz, as well as newer but reasonably affordable kids on the block, the McLaren Vale wines of S C Pannell and Yangarra. In Victoria, Yarra Yering has a proven track record, as has Clonakilla’s subtle Shiraz from the hills of Canberra.

Australian Cabernet may not currently be as fashionable as the country’s many variations on the theme of the Rhône grapes Syrah/Shiraz and, now, Grenache, but it generally ages reliably and often magnificently. In fact, Coonawarra Cabernets positively demand time in the cellar, and even the most basic one from Wynns is worth ageing — as is its Shiraz. Australia’s other Cabernet hotspot Margaret River produces a more luscious style that is also well worth cellaring. Cullen’s Diana Madeline is just one of many Margaret River delights while Vasse Felix’s Estate Chardonnay and Cabernet are also designed to last.

As I say all too often, Riesling is a wine that thoroughly repays ageing, and Australia’s steely, dry Rieslings are some of the best-value cellar candidates around. Grosset, Mount Horrocks, Jim Barry and Pewsey Vale are outstanding South Australian Riesling specialists, as are Frankland Estate in Western Australia and Crawford River in Henty in cool south west Victoria.

From Sydney’s hinterland, Hunter Valley Semillon is an unexpectedly light, dry white Australian classic which positively demands ageing, developing a uniquely toasty citrus character after many a year in bottle. As for Australian Chardonnay, the full-fat versions of the late past century fell flat on their faces and I’m just not sure at this stage how well the more austere current styles will age. It may be too early to judge.

I feel more confident recommending as cellar candidates South African Chardonnays such as Kershaw’s, Iona’s, and Neil Ellis’s from the Whitehall vineyard in Elgin, with their fine acidity plus mid-palate fruit. The best South African Sauvignon Blancs can last more than a decade. But the true glory of South African whites is the Cape’s panoply of old-vine Chenin Blancs from too many producers to list.

As for the reds, there are tried and tested traditional producers such as Kanonkop and Rustenberg from the classic vineyards of Stellenbosch. Among newer producers, Mullineux, Porseleinberg and Sadie Family, focused more on Swartland to the north, are clearly fashioning their wines to last. Eben Sadie, Andrea and Chris Mullineux, Adi Badenhorst, Duncan Savage and Donovan Rall were some of the most obvious early talents among the new wave of South African wine producers but there are now dozens more.

I think most British wine consumers are now aware of the fabulous value to be found in South Africa, but it’s taking a while to get the message through to their American counterparts. When that happens, we Brits can expect prices to rise considerably.

Great-value cellar candidates

NEW ZEALAND

  • Kumeu River, Estate Chardonnay 2021 Kumeu (13.5%)
    £24.60 Four Walls Wine, stocks a range of Kumeu River, as does Farr

  • Dog Point, Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2018 Marlborough (14.5%)
    £30.80 Hedonism

AUSTRALIA

  • Penfolds, Koonunga Hill 76 Shiraz-Cabernet 2021 South Australia (14.5%)
    £16.99 Majestic

  • Harewood Estate Riesling 2023 Porongurup (12%)
    £18.50 NY Wines

  • Yangarra, Noir (red Rhône blend) 2021 McLaren Vale (14%)
    £23.61 Lay & Wheeler

  • Mount Horrocks, Watervale Riesling 2022 Clare Valley (13%)
    £25.18 Shelved Wine

SOUTH AFRICA

  • Thorne & Daughters, Cat’s Cradle Chenin Blanc 2021 Swartland (13%)
    £24 92 Or More

  • Lismore, Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc 2018 Cape South Coast (13%)
    £29.48 Lay & Wheeler

  • Savage, Thief in the Night (Grenache) 2022 Piekenierskloof (13.5%)
    £35 92 Or More, Four Walls and others

  • Keermont, Riverside Chenin Blanc 2020 Stellenbosch (14%)
    £44 Swig.co.uk

Tasting notes, scores and suggested drink dates on Purple Pages of JancisRobinson.com. International stockists on Wine-searcher.com

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