The wonderful wines of Down Under

Australia and New Zealand are well known for their wines and some of the many options available at Jacques Scott were reviewed during a lunch at Tukka Restaurant and Bar, Cayman’s Australian eatery with a Caribbean twist. 

Trends in wine, like many other consumer products, are always changing. Buttery and oaky California Chardonnays were once the hottest trend around, but these days, most people can’t stand them. Merlot was once a big favourite because of its easy-going drinkability, but after the 2004 film ‘Sideways’, Merlot was shunned for years. 

In the 1990s, Australian Shiraz was one of the hottest commodities in the wine world. More recently however, as the Australian wine industry became more commercialised and flooded the export market with lower quality wines, Shiraz has fallen out of favour. 

But not only does Australia still produce good and even great Shiraz, it also produces other fine wines. 

Jacques Scott wine professionals Lee Royle and Sarah Howard were joined by marketing assistance Jo Austin at Tukka Restaurant and Bar to sample six wines from Down Under. Joining the group was Tukka owner and head chef, Ron Hargrave. 

 

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 

‘Down Under’ includes New Zealand and when it comes to hot wine trends in the Cayman Islands, there’s nothing hotter than Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.  

There are a few good reasons for this. First of all, New Zealand Sauv Blanc – as it is often called – is a very flavourful and refreshing wine with sharp acidity, making it a good choice in Cayman’s tropical climate.  

In addition, although many white wines should be served around 45˚F to taste the best, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has so much flavour that it can be served ice cold and still have a lot of taste. However, it’s that intense ‘in-your-face’ flavours of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that turns some people off. For those people, Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc [Retail: $17.99] is a good choice, said Jacques Scott’s Sarah Howard. 

“Compared to a lot of New Zealand Sauv Blanc, this one is a bit restrained,” she said. “This has some elegance.” 

Produced in the Marlborough region like many of the best of the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, Nautilus displays a nice complexity of aromas, from lime and passion fruit to fresh herbs and wet stones. On the palate, it showed the bright acidity and hints of the grapefruit flavours New Zealand Sauv Blancs are known for, but also flavours of tropical fruits – especially lime. 

With the wine, Tukka served a tasting medley of some of its Australian dishes – crocodile and conch fritters, ‘kanga bangers’ (kangaroo sausage), pepper-crusted tuna and the ceviche of the day, which on this day was lionfish. The versatile Nautilus was actually quite good with all of the seafood items. 

 

Aussie Chardonnay 

Jacob’s Creek is one of the best-known wineries in Australia, exporting to more than 60 countries around the world.  

More than anything, the Barossa Valley winery is known for producing solid wines with good value. Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay [Retail: $15.99] is one of those good value wines. 

This is distinctly a New World Chardonnay, but it’s not like super-buttery and oaky California Chardonnays of the ’80s and ’90s. This wine has those things, but in a toned down fashion that lets the aromas and flavours of the grape shine. It has aromas of pear and favours of ripe citrus and stone fruits. 

“The good thing about this is it’s a very versatile wine that you can drink on its own or have it with food,” said Howard.  

“It’s a porch pounder,” said Jo Austin, referring to its easy-drinking characteristics that would make it a good choice for something like an outdoor happy hour. With a relatively low 12.7 per cent alcohol/volume content and a wallet-friendly price, this would indeed make a good ‘porch pounder’. 

Although this wine would probably pair best with white fish and meat or creamy dishes, it was sampled with one of Tukka’s happy hour specialities, salmon sliders with pesto sauce, and the pairing was fine. 

 

Down Under Pinot 

New Zealand has certainly carved out a name for itself in Pinot Noir by producing some award-winning wines that fall in between the fruity offerings of its New World counterparts in California and the subtle complexities of Burgundy. But Australian Pinot Noirs, which have similar characteristics, aren’t very well known in North America and the Caribbean. 

However, North Americans have probably heard of Lindeman’s, the award-winning Australian winery that produces some great value wines. Bin 99 Pinot Noir is just another example of such a wine. 

It’s very hard to find a decent Pinot Noir wine for under $20 no matter where it’s made. But with a retail price of only $13.99, the Bin 99 is the porch-pounder to end all porch-pounders for Pinot Noir fans.  

“It’s a crowd-pleaser,” said Howard. “It’s a wine that can fit on the table with multiple dishes and be happy.” 

With aromas of cherries,flavours of berries and the refreshing acidity that Pinot Noir is known for, this is a medium-bodied wine that can take some chilling for outdoor drinking. While it may not have any aspects that would be considered great – after all, it’s only $13.99 – there’s nothing that stands out as a major flaw, so head to the porch and pound away. 

This wine would have been perfect with the salmon slider, but unfortunately the salmon slider was so good, it was gone before the Pinot was poured. 

 

Shiraz 

Back in the 1990s, Australia was making some of the world’s best Shiraz, and that includes the offerings made in the rest of the world made with the same grape and called Syrah. Wines like the legendary Penfolds Grange elevated Australia to the top of the charts when it came to Shiraz. The buzz around Australian Shiraz has since died down, but the wines still represent a unique and quality expression of the grape. Although a bottle of Grange will cost hundreds of dollars, Australia makes good Shiraz at budget prices as well. 

Like Jacob’s Creek and Lindeman’s, Rosemount Estate is another well-known producer and exporter of Australian wines. Its Diamond Label Shiraz [Retail: $17.99] is another wine with a lot of ‘drinkability’ with its fruit-forwardness and soft tannins. 

“If you like big, unctuous wines, you’ll like this,” said Howard, referring to the rich flavours and texture. 

The inky-coloured wine had the spicy nose that is typical of Shiraz to go with aromas of dark fruits and hint of chocolate.  

“It’s like chocolate-covered espresso beans,” noted Howard. 

Shiraz is one of the classic pairings with lamb and Tukka didn’t disappoint with the lamb. The restaurant’s macadamia nut-crusted rack of New Zealand lamb – which Chef Ron believes is the best in the world – was fabulous. 

“This is a cravable dish,” said Howard. 

 

Cabernet Sauvignon 

When thinking about Australian wines, Cabernet Sauvignon probably doesn’t immediately pop into mind for many people. Maybe it should. 

Two different Australian Cabernet Sauvignons were served with one of Tukka’s signature dishes, the Tukka Brochette – a mixed grill of beef filet, lobster medallions, chicken and king prawns.  

Although it’s easy to see why the tasty brochette is Tukka’s best selling menu item, the big red wines were best paired with the top tier of skewers – the beef filet. 

The 2008 Wolf Blass President’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon [Retail: $24.99] has the full flavours of a New World Cab, minus the harsh tannins. This is a wine probably best enjoyed young.  

It exhibited aromas of eucalyptus and green pepper and flavours of dark berry fruits. 

But the undisputed best wine of the afternoon was 2007 Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon [Retail: $168.99], a perfect example of how good and how distinctive an Australian Cabernet Sauvignon could be. 

“This is a show stopper,” said Royle “It’s a very sexy wine.” 

Bin 707 is only made in certain years, when grapes of the required style and quality are available to make the wine. 

This is a wine that evolves in the glass with time. 

“It slowly reveals itself,” said Howard. “It offers so much with each sip, but it needs patience; it’s like a woman.” 

The nose of the wine also evolves. Behind the aromas of black fruits are hints of black olive that give way to wide variety of unlikely foods, eventually ending with a slight eucalyptus freshness that also shows on the palate.  

With its price, Penfolds Bin 707 Cab isn’t a wine for everyday drinking, but for those looking for a wine with truly distinctive characteristics, this is a great choice.  

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