Spain’s role in bridging the wine style gap between Australia and France »

On the spectrum between power and intensity to subtlety and nuance.

By Joseph Burton
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El Seque 'Laderas de el Seque' Monastrell Blend 2013

El Seque 'Laderas de el Seque' Monastrell Blend 2013

Joseph Burton, Sommelier
Eidosela Albarino 2012
Valformosa Brut 'MVSA' NV
Vineyards in Ribeira Sacra, Spain

 

I’d like to propose that we, in Australia are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to understanding wines in the global context.  Before I elaborate, let me explain very clearly what I mean.

This is a comment on wine style, not on quality.  And by style, I mean type, not class.

Generalisations about wine are difficult to make and of course there will always be exceptions.  One I feel reasonably comfortable making is that Australians have, historically, had a tendency to celebrate richness and intensity in our wines. 

There has been a swing away from high alcohol, noticeably oaked and highly extracted red wines of course, but it is fair to say that wines of this nature helped forge Australia's national wine identity and reputation.  Wines that are obvious and bold and took the international markets by storm.

Given that almost every wine consumer in Australia tends to drink domestically produced wines – at least at the beginning of their wine drinking career – it thus becomes difficult to be able to view Australian wines in the context of the rest of the world’s wines. 

Naturally we make comparisons to styles that are familiar to us, and herein lies the problem (again, stylistically, not qualitatively).  If I were a statistician, I would argue that wines of the Australian style described are an outlier on the standard bell curve.

The difficulty is then created when we use this outlier as a benchmark for style.  Inevitably, by comparison, many of the world’s famed wine regions can seem a little delicate. 

It proves rather difficult and often a little disappointing for many a consumer when moving away from Australian wines, particularly if the next region explored is Burgundy or Bordeaux, as they often are, due to their global fame and esteem. 

Wines from these regions are celebrated for subtlety and nuance rather than power and intensity.  There are a huge number of factors that have shaped the style of wines from the old world and the new.

Moreover, they are used rather differently.  That is, they are more commonly consumed as an element of a meal than a beverage in their own right.  As such, the wines have evolved and changed in both parts of the world to reflect this application.

So how do we manage it, and bridge this apparent gap? Spain is one answer.

The modern wines of Spain offer what I like to call the best of both worlds, by which I mean wines that display characteristics of both the old and the new world.  Wines that have rich, ripe modern fruit aromatically, yet have firm, savoury and subtle flavour profiles (lending them better matched to food).

Not only do they bridge the gap rather conveniently, they also offer the opportunity for one to ease their way in to the more delicate and savoury wines of Europe.

For consumers, there is often an inverse relationship between price and amount of risk.  That is, we prefer to risk less on the unknown as the price increases. 

The great thing about the new wave of Spanish wines is they almost always over-deliver for their price, but often don’t necessarily involve handing over large amounts of cash.

As with all wine purchasing, the best thing to do is engage the person who is selling wine, at a restaurant, bar or retailer – including online.  More often than not you’ll find someone passionate who wants to help you find the best wine they can. 

 

Joseph Burton was the Sommelier and Manager of The Source Restaurant, MONA from Feb 2011 to until September 2014, and has since started his own business, Joseph Burton Wines.

Joseph was the first certified sommelier in Tasmania and is the most awarded sommelier in Tasmania. He is certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers, and a member of the International Sommeliers Guild.

He has won the Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine Wine List of the Year award for Tasmania eight times, including 2014, was a finalist in the Best Sommelier of Australia Competition 2011, and a national finalist in the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Young Sommelier Competition 2012.

Previously he was sommelier at
Me Wah Restaurant whose awards you can see here »

Joseph developed and curated the wine list that won the 2010, 2011 and 2012 Australia's Wine List Of The Year Awards and Tasmania's Best Wine List for 3 Consecutive Years – Hall Of Fame
.

 

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November 11th, 2014
 
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