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Aussie talk and taste: Barossa Beauties

Published:  31 January, 2019

Harpers invited a panel of independent merchants and sommeliers to join Grant Burge chief winemaker Craig Stansborough to talk, taste and pair his Barossa styles with some demanding dishes. Andrew Catchpole was on hand to assess the feedback on these modern Australian wines and their place in the premium drinking repertoire.

The Food and Wine Pairing

The dish: Cheeseburger

Aged Dexter beef ragu, pickles, burger sauce, yellow mustard, caramelised onion.

Paired with: Sparkling Shiraz/Cabernet NV

This lively, fruity but dry sparkling red was a real hit with the panel, packing a flavoursome fresh punch on the palate, promising good food-matching potential.

The match: As predicted, this superior fizzy red took the pickled and hot mustardy elements of the dish in its stride, also matching up to a variety of tough pairings including the chicken and harissa and rich porchetta.

The dish: Grilled spring chicken

Verbena harissa, yellow peppers, olives, lemon.

Paired with: Holy Trinity

GSM Blend 2012

Deemed an excellent example of this classic Australian blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre, this showed great balance, with moreish hints of spice and a fresh core of acidity that belied its mellowing age.

The match: The fiery harissa proved a tough customer and while this GSM generally stood the test, it was deemed a much more natural partner when paired with the smoked porchetta dish below, where it lifted through the richness of the dish.

The dish: Bone marrow & whole cow chilli

Roasted bone marrow, crispy onion, parsley and parmesan.

Paired with: Balthazar Shiraz 2014

An aromatic, berryish, intense but well-balanced and enticing Shiraz, with complex depths of dark fruits and a lingering, elegant finish.

The match: This worked well in matching the umami-rich bone marrow and parmesan, also pairing across a range of the dishes, with the plush, enveloping fruit and tannins able to take a hint of chilli in their stride.

The dish: Whole pig smoked porchetta

Vermouth peach, burnt orange, onion, rosemary.

Paired with: Filsell Shiraz 2015

A dense, dark and powerful wine, ranging from floral high notes to inky depths of figgy fruit, this was underscored by uplifting fresh acidity, delivering vibrancy through to the long finish.

The match: This stood up well to the unctuous texture and sweet, smoky flavours of the porchetta, but was also a surprise hit with the cheeseburger tacos, again having the balance, concentration and yet freshness to cut through the richness of the dishes.

The dish: Lamb barbecoa

Braised lamb, chilli, lime.

Paired with: 10 Year Tawny

Orange peel, walnuts, toffee and ripe plums were just some of the attractive notes found in the rich depths of this popular and complex Tawny, which was beautifully balanced and fresh to its long finish.

The match: Not a bad shot at pairing with the intense, slow-cooked lamb, this also fared well with the complex flavours of the cheeseburger, but perhaps best enjoyed on its own.

The winemaker’s view

Grant Burge winemaker Craig Stansborough highlights the shifts in viticulture and winemaking practices that are delivering a fresh new face to Australia’s leading styles of wine.

“There had been a slow curve back to lean wines, a focus on acidity, then back out to where it should be, getting that balance of flavour and acidity right and getting the right regions for Chardonnay. Shiraz has gone through a similar curve; we’ve seen back through the 1970s a movement to quite lean, early picked styles, with Shiraz and Cabernet, and then we went to ridiculously high-alcohol wines – really the influence of one person – and now we’re getting to a level where we are making wines as they should be made.

“Australia is the oldest young country, but really the new age [of winemaking] only started in the 1960s. Then we went through a boom in the UK, making wines to please everybody in the country, and then went for bigger, full-bodied styles and that was where the market for 100-point wines came in. Now, I’ve been making wines for 25 years, we’ve come full circle and are where we want to be, just making wines off the vineyard, as they should be made. Not thinking about export markets, wine writers or wine shows – and it’s a really good thing.

“We’re in a good space and the wines

are reflecting that – hands off, true, exploring other techniques that suit the region, the vineyard, with less oak, better quality oak and just more refinement. A lot of work in the vineyard is key, it’s certainly been a key focus for us, getting a healthy balance in the vineyard.

“We are using no pesticides, it’s all about sheep in the vineyards, using under-vine mulch, to keep the temperatures down, soil monitors to know exactly where you are before some warm weather, so you don’t waste water, all those things to give you greater control and finesse.

“The Barossa is two valleys, Barossa and Eden Valley, and there’s a massive difference. We have to work with Mother Nature.

“We’ve looked at what do in the winery.

A lot of people are starting to use a bit of whole bunch with Shiraz, tweaking all the time to get a little more elegance and balance. Cold soaks, wild ferments, cooler ferments occasionally, leaving wines on lees for a bit longer to keep freshness, using larger barrels. Myriad things we are doing to get a bit more refinement. But we shouldn’t take it too far and shy away from what the region does best. We do get ripe, soft tannins, plushness in our wines – and that is part of the attraction as well. You want flavour.”

The Panel

Michele Bove, wine buyer, The Coal Shed

Rodrigo Mamanna, retail stores manager, Amathus Drinks

Richard Milward, managing director, Wine Utopia

Toby Spiers, head of Fine Wine Partners UK and Ireland

Craig Stansborough, chief winemaker, Grant Burge

Andrew Catchpole, editor, Harpers Wine & Spirit

The Venue

Temper Covent Garden

5 Mercer Walk, Mercers Yard, London WC2H 9FA

Harpers would like to thank the team at Temper for hosting our food pairing and discussion.