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Strong showing for Oz at Harpers Wine Stars Awards as classics lead way

Published:  05 January, 2018

The UKs biggest wine category is popular for a reason and that reason remains rooted in the flavour-laden bang for your buck that Shiraz and Chardonnay can deliver, albeit in a more modern framework than of old.

This was the message delivered by our judges at Harpers recent Wine Stars Awards where Australia gained an impressive number of Five and Four Star Awards, with buyers from across the trade revealing that the market remains strong for Aussie classics, with generous fruit and full-bodied appeal still popular with consumers.

While the judges unanimously praised many of the newer wave of artisanal wines and more off-piste grape varieties, agreeing that such styles are generating interest and excitement among trade and writers, “the level of the noise being generated is at odds with the commercial reality” - which is that most consumers want to remain within their comfort zone.

And for most, this means wines that fully express their Australian personality, with perhaps a just little more freshness and polish than the rugged blockbusters which originally put Australia on the vinous map.

The judges also cautioned against “stripping out too much Aussie character”, referring to the recent trend for producers to pick early and deliver lean, sometimes under-ripe Chardonnay and Shiraz.

“We still see a good cross section of styles selling, people are trying the newer, fresher, brighter styles and varieties, but we have a very solid market for traditionally made Aussie classics,” said Noel Young of Noel Young Wines.

“Shiraz never went away,” added John Hoskins MW of the Old Bridge Inn. “There are still customers out there that like big rich wines. Some Shiraz and Shiraz blends have toned it down a little, which suits the [Australian] domestic market, but actually a lot of people like those bigger styles,” he said.

Similarly, Young said of Chardonnay: “What we haven’t seen is a huge shift to modern styles of Aussie Chardonnay, the leaner styles. People are looking for a bit more flesh on the bone - not going back to the old days, of massive buttery oak, but wherever we find a reasonably priced Chardonnay with a bit of fruit and oak, we sell loads of it.”

Michael Patterson of D&D Restaurants offered a possible explanation for the continuing popularity of the old school mainstream varieties.

“When the economy is slightly unpredictable or unstable, then customers go with familiarity, so at the moment customers want the well established styles from Australia,” he said, with reference to Australian sales across the group.

However, with high Star ratings awarded for both traditional and newer varieties and styles, the judges agreed that overall a shift to fresher, more poised wines had upped the ante in terms of food compatibility in general with Australia’s offer.

At the Awards, judged by buyers for buyers, grapes that also came in for high praise including Pinot Noir and Vermentino, along with a wider slew of Italian and Spanish varieties, which were singled out as exciting and successful additions to the traditional mainstream quality players.

To view the full results of our Wine Stars Australia Click Here