The New Australian Red – Light, Bright and Bolshie

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Mar 29, 2017

by PETER BOURNE, Writer

Australia is renowned for its bold reds; wines of structure and power. Think Penfolds Grange, Jim Barry The Armagh, Torbreck RunRig and Wynns John Riddoch – just a handful of the many shiraz- and cabernet-based reds that cry out for 10 years in the cellar and/or a big, juicy steak.

Lighter reds are more versatile, partnering beautifully with seafood, spicy dishes and salads. Yes, crisp whites and savoury rosés work well with summertime menus but there’s nothing wrong with a pinot noir on a warm day. It’s an extremely food-friendly wine that happily accepts a light chill when the temperature rises.

Pinot noir’s Champagne sibling, meunier, and Burgundian cousin, gamay, offer the same red-fruit, light-bodied, acid-refreshed drinkability. Pink-fleshed fish, spaghetti vongole, salads such as Niçoise, Caesar and Waldorf, plus the cuisines of India, Thailand and Vietnam are all perfect tablemates for the extended pinot family.

And there’s a new wave of light-bodied reds that are often made with Mediterranean grapes and not necessarily from a single variety. South Australian winemaker Steve Pannell is a leading exponent who has proven that you can win the coveted Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy with a lithe Adelaide Hills syrah, as opposed to the power-packed reds that scooped the award for decades. Pannell produces an array of highly slurpable reds blended from varieties such as grenache, mataro (mourvèdre), Montepulciano, tempranillo and touriga.

In SA’s Clare Valley, Kerri Thompson takes a similar drink-it-now approach under her Wines by KT label; 5452 by KT is an easy-drinking shiraz-grenache-tempranillo-mataro blend, while her equally approachable Pazzo by KT is made of shiraz, grenache and cabernet sauvignon from the 2012, 2013 and 2014 vintages. Pazzo means crazy in Italian and wine purists may think KT’s idea mad. But it works and, at $18, it’s a bargain.

In Victoria’s Yarra Valley, Mac Forbes has an EB (experimental batch) range featuring his EB26 Meunier, a fresh, raspberry-flavoured, lively red unmarked by new oak. Regional stalwart Steve Webber follows the same mantra with his De Bortoli labels, including the operatic La Bohème Act Four Syrah Gamay. Even chardonnay- and pinot noir-obsessed David Bicknell goes off piste with his Oakridge Meunier, a perfect lunchtime red that he serves at the Oakridge restaurant helmed by chef Matt Stone.

So grab a bottle from this new breed of agile reds, pop it in the Esky, head to the beach or the bush and enjoy a cool red at your next picnic. Easy. 

2015 S. C. Pannell Grenache Shiraz Touriga McLaren Vale, SA, $30

Steve Pannell twists the Rhône GSM trio by replacing mourvèdre with touriga, which adds a rustic note. It’s medium-bodied with intense blue and black fruits yet remains agile. Its sinewy tannins would easily cope with barbecued lamb chops.

2015 Montevecchio Rosso Heathcote, Vic, $24

From the inspiring Chalmers family, this dangerously drinkable Italianate blend combines aglianico, nero d’Avola, lagrein and negroamaro. Boisterous red-fruit flavours reflect its similarly perfumed bouquet. An underlying savouriness cries out for pizza with plenty of anchovies.

2015 Seppelt Drumborg Vineyard Pinot Meunier Henty, Vic, $36

Champagne’s most abundant variety flies solo, soaring to new heights in the hands of winemaker Adam Carnaby. Redcurrant and raspberry aromas abound, with a whiff of aniseed, and it has fresh, bright flavours of red fruit. Tuna Niçoise, please.

2016 Eldridge Estate PTG Mornington Peninsula, Vic, $30

This duet of pinot noir and gamay has juicy red fruits with star-anise and wild herbs. The well-defined palate is brimming with red cherry and ripe plum flavours, while gently persuasive tannins enliven the finish. Perfect with terrine and a fresh baguette.

2015 Brown Brothers Banksdale Gamay King Valley, Vic, $22

The Brown family regularly brings alternative varieties into the mainstream – here it’s the grape of Beaujolais. Dark cherry and raspberry aromas mingle with allspice. It has red- and blue-fruit flavours, incisive acidity and gentle tannins. Pair it with pork sausages.

Shop these wines at Qantas epiQure