California wines have become much more exciting over the past five years, so people who might have been inclined to purchase Australian wines have redirected their attention to the homegrown stuff. Also, the Asian markets have become significantly more important to Australia, which is now the second-largest exporter of wine to China, just behind France.
The big, jammy fruit bombs that came to characterize Oz wine for many still have their takers, but a growing number of folks are looking for wines that are lighter and have less alcohol. There are Australian wines that fit into this category made by newcomers, including BK Wines in the Adelaide Hills.
Owned by Brendon Keys, who is originally from New Zealand, and his wife, Kirsty, BK is producing cool-climate wines with minimal intervention, only using native yeast and minimal sulfur. The 2012 Gower Pinot Noir ($40) might be the best of the wines I have tried. A heady wine, with brooding fruit, sassafras, cigar-box notes and spice, it has the complexity of a premier cru Burgundy. I also really enjoyed their 2012 Cult Syrah ($30) from the organic Coulter vineyard. Smoky with potpourri, huckleberries and chocolate, it was modeled after syrah from the northern Rhone River valley.
BK’s wines are not overpriced given the quality, but if you are looking to try some of Australia’s newer wines on a more modest budget, there is promise. Dandelion Vineyards’ 2012 Wishing Clock of the Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc reminds me of a New Zealand sauvignon blanc without any herbaceous notes. Bright with tropical and stone fruits, it is a delightful New World example of sauvignon blanc. Unfortunately, some of its better wines are not imported to the United States yet, but it is just a matter of time. Meanwhile, some of the stalwarts, especially from the Margaret River Valley, continue to make great wines, even if they are not talked about as much these days. To be continued next week with the Margaret River ...
Pamela S. Busch has been working in the wine industry since 1990 as a writer, educator and consultant and co-founded Hayes & Vine Wine Bar and Cav Wine Bar & Kitchen. In 2013, she launched TheVinguard.com, a blog covering a variety of wine-related topics.