Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Some top buys to ward off the gloom

WINE ... with David Bray

Despite the number of less than optimistic reports recently published about the industry, the good news is that there is plenty of good wine around, at sensible prices. Some names new to your reporter, too.

For example, Western Australia’s Yilgarnia, three of whose good ones arrived a few days back: Yilgarnia 2007 shiraz, 2009 Classic White (pictured above), and Yilgarnia NV sparkling shiraz. Yilgarnia was established in the Denmark Region, on the state’s south coast, in 1997 by Peter Buxton, an agricultural scientist, and his wife Peg.
They have since been joined in the business by their three children, Sally (marketing), Anthony (viticulture) and Holly (sales). The vineyard is on north-facing slopes in the Hay River Valley, about 6km north of Wilson Inlet and a bit further from the town of Denmark.
The well-drained soils are low in nutrients but are judiciously fertilised through the drip-irrigation system – a process known as “fertigation”. Peter believes that this combination allows him to provide the vineyard with exactly the right nutrient levels to produce high-quality fruit without excessive vine vigour.
Yilgarnia enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate, with dry summers and moist winters. Average summer maximum temperatures are about 26ÂșC, which promotes a slow build-up of intense fruit flavours. A feature that Peter believes separates Yilgarnia’s vineyard from most others in Australia is the afternoon cloud cover brought in by the sea breeze. This reduces summer temperatures, maintains humidity and also reduces UV radiation – all potential factors in maximising fruit flavour and colour.
And that’s what I reckon is where the great appeal of these three wines lies – real fruit flavour, as promised and fairly priced. The 2009 Classic White will set you back around $17, the 2007 Shiraz $24 and the nv sparkling shiraz $36. More information is available at

Then there is the first wine from Verdun Park Wines, the 2009 Lyla Adelaide Hills sauvignon blanc, which has a lot going for it, not least a gold medal at the Adelaide Hills wine show.
Verdun Park in the Adelaide Hills, a property whose history goes back to 1880, though only recently has it produced wine grapes. It is owned by the Voumard family, with directors Sandy and Bob bringing backgrounds of education and accountancy and other family members experience working in some of South Australia’s best-known wineries.
They are understandably proud that their first wine to go on sale comes with that gold: “A premium parcel of cool climate Adelaide Hills fruit was selected from a high altitude location, for its quality and fruit characteristics ... expertly made into an exceptional example of an Adelaide Hills style sauvignon blanc, by Michael Sykes. It is named Lyla in honour of Bob’s mother, who died last year aged 96. The family says: “She was a true lady of her time, whose personality and characteristics are reflected in the refined, crisp, fragrant and character-filled sauvignon blanc ... She never consumed alcohol”. Verdun Park does not have a cellar door. Go to Likely price around $18.

Many, or perhaps most, people take a healthy, perhaps unhealthy, interest in their weight. So much so that many a business thrives on human avoirdupois. Maybe we people in the wine business should be more involved than we are.
Certainly McWilliam’s thinks so, and has done something about it. Yep, in what the company firmly states to be an Australian first, “newly-launched McWilliam’s Balance has become the only wine brand” in the country to be endorsed by Weight Watchers. The company makes several statements: • One 150ml glass of Balance semillon sauvignon blanc or shiraz has a Weight Watchers points value of 1. • The introduction of Weight Watchers points on the Balance range gives consumers the opportunity of enjoying a glass of wine while staying on track with their weight loss goals. • More than 1.8 million people follow the Weight Watchers program in Australia every year. • The Balance wines contain 8.5 per cent alcohol, which is one-third lower in alcohol and one third lower in kilojoules compared with the company's Hanwood 2006 shiraz and 2007 chardonnay. I’ll leave you to weigh up the merits of all this.