06/19/06 – Australia pt. 1 (Chardonnay)

By Jesse on June 18, 2006


Tomorrow night marks our preliminary foray into that godless land of wallabies and wombats, kangaroos and kalababbles, Tasmanian devils and devilled dingos.  Yes, we’re going to drink some Australian wine, and we’ll have to do our best to avoid exercising the spirits of all of the lawless criminals upon whose labor the modern Australian wine industry was built.  For many years, the Australian wines were considered something of a joke… it wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that they started to earn some respect.  Of course, this can be said about many emerging wine regions, California included, but since Australia was always sort of the “dumping ground” for England’s nastier elements (like New Jersey is to New York), the British have been particularly cruel in their mockery of Australian wines.  Here’s a short Monty Python audio file that I hope will demonstrate my point.

There’s a lot to say about Australia that I’m not going to get into in this first e-mail… we’ll be spending four weeks there, so we’ve got time.  Perhaps one of the most distinctive and recognizable characteristics of Australian wine, though, is the blatant, unabashed blending that takes place.  Certainly, the blending of multiple grape varieties is a practice we’ve seen in each region we’ve visited, but nowhere is it done with as much pride or unpretentious simplicity as in Australia.  In Bordeaux, several grapes are blended and then simply labelled “Red Bordeaux” — you have to really know your shit to have any sense of what’s inside.  In Australia, they tell you right on the label… on the FRONT label, no less.  “Cabernet-Merlot” is sold next to “Chardonnay-Semillion.”  And besides their up-front labelling system, Australia’s producers are also noted for the daring new combinations they’ve developed.  Shiraz (Syrah) and Cabernet Sauvignon were a rare pairing until the Australians discovered that they have the potential to work very well together… now, Shiraz-Cabernet blends are very popular.

So why don’t we spend two weeks on white, and two on red, and then we’ll move over to New Zealand.  This first week, lets do Chardonnay, the leading white grape of Australia.  (Australian wines are really hard to distinguish by region, for reasons that we’ll discuss later, so we’ll be taking the country “as a whole” in each of these meetings.  Bring wine from any region.)  In order to get the full range of what Australians do with Chardonnay, please feel free to bring either 100% Chardonnay or any Chardonnay blend that you can find (the other grape usually will be Semilion).  You should have plenty of options at any liquor store as well as at most good grocery stores.  Next week we’ll do the remaining whites (Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, etc.) and then spend two weeks doing reds.

We’ll be meeting at Jason’s house in Brentwood.  Here are the address and some directions: (gone)

Bring a nice bottle of Australian Chardonnay (or a Chardonnay blend) from any region, chilled please…. and don’t worry about bringing extra glasses, cause Jason’s the glassmaster.  We’ll see you all on Tuesday night at 9:00.