Wines for Australia Day

Drinks blogger James Robertson picks wines to celebrate Australia Day.

AS WE wearily trudge through the tail end of winter, looking forward to those glimpses of spring, down under in Australia today they celebrate their national day. The BBQs will be lit, stubbies of beer will be in the cool box alongside some chilled bottles of Australian white wine, with the red on standby for later.

In case any of us wished to join in, here are some stand out wines from that amazing diverse country.

Thistledown Suilven Chardonnay 2018
I first came across this wine during lockdown as I found out that an old friend of mine that I first met in Beijing in 1984 was now growing grapes in the Adelaide Hills. I bought a couple of bottles and was immediately hooked, not just with the personal connection but it is everything that I love about Chardonnay. I am a Burgundy fan and I am not comparing this to that wonderful region, however it has the complexity, finesse and structure but with an Oz side to it. Ten months of aging in new French oak hogsheads adds a light toast on the nose and palette with tropical fruit, dried apricots with balance, minerality and real poise. This is worth every penny. £43.50,

Houghton Heritage White 2022
Courtney Treacher began working at Houghton in Margaret River as a cellar hand in 2004. Fifteen years later, she was made the head winemaker. This wine is made up of an array of grape varieties that Courtney has married together to highlight the best of the Houghton Estate. Its 70% Chenin Blanc provides lovely balanced acidity and citrus fruit, while the addition of 23% Muscadelle, 5% Chardonnay and 2% Pinot Gris adds pear drops and rose petal notes to the finish. £11.99, Waitrose

Yering Station The Elms Chardonnay 2021
From the Yarra Valley, the vineyards date back to 1838 when the Ryrie Brothers from Scotland acquired the land to farm and make wine; they were Victoria’s first vineyard. Several owners later, in 1996 the Rathbone family took over Yering Station. This Chardonnay spends about five months in French oak barrels adding a little complexity to the wine, which has soft melon fruit notes with a touch of vanilla and citrus. £10.50, Waitrose

Thistledown Gorgeous Grenache 2020
I hope that master of wine Giles Cooke won’t mind me saying this, but he is slightly obsessed with Grenache. His passion for it shines through in all the wines from Thistledown. The vintage was incredibly tough – devastating bushfires that ripped out grower’s livelihoods in a matter of hours followed by the pandemic, so having a wine that came from all that is all the more remarkable. This is his entry-level Grenache if one can call it that. The grapes are sourced from the Riverland and McLaren Vale; small batch vinification and barrel fermentation makes a wonderfully aromatic wine with lovely red fruit, rounded tannins and a lovely textured finish. £13.49,

Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz 2020
I cannot remember the first time that I tried the Wynns Shiraz, but I do remember that it used to be called “Hermitage” rather than “Shiraz”. It has not changed – it is still an outstanding wine and ridiculously priced, in a good way. Wynns is not only an historic but an iconic Coonawarra estate. This is a wine to be enjoyed now but, with careful cellaring, will last a few years. Yet right now it is hard to resist the black cherry, cinnamon spice and balanced tannins. £12, Majestic

McPherson Wines Don’t Tell Gary Shiraz 2019
You cannot beat a good story behind a bottle of wine. Jo Nash discovered a 20-year-old vineyard in Victoria’s remote Grampians. The issue was that, although the grapes were amazing, the budget she was working with did not cover the cost. Jo took a deep breath and without telling “Gary”, the company accountant, she bought the grapes. The result is a deep ruby wine with classic black cherries, a hint of toasted oak, blackberries and silky tannins. £16.69, flag an Laithwaites

Read more of James’s recommendations on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.