It’s Sustainable, it’s Australian and it’s Wine

Let’s talk about eye-openers, those you look forward to with great excitement before the drop and the palate have said hello. Here in Helsinki, we’re rubbing our palms together, salivating at the thought, allowing our minds to run wild with what they’ve come up with this time. It’s the Australian Wine Tasting Event with a Master Class lead by Mark Davidson and the subject is Sustainability.

Vine of the Riesling

Call it trendy, call it hip but don’t you ever call it a passing fad because we all know where we’re heading as far as this planet is concerned. The numbers are too scary for words: species die out between 1000 and 10 000 times higher than their natural rate; CO2 levels are rising consistently; the planet’s average surface temperature has increased by 1.1° C turning 2016 into the warmest year ever recorded.

What happens to wine in this bad-case scenario and how do winemakers get those labels with that magic word ‘organic’ or ‘biodynamic’ printed on them? Strange as it may sound, hard-earned capital leads the way: money is what it takes to use methods that are minimal and money is what is required to get official authorisation. And not just a one-off payment but a year-by-year commitment to stick to your principles no matter what. The maze of organisations out there with recognised authenticity to declare a winery sustainable is in itself a hard task to sift through. But when you’ve got it, you make the best of it even when the odds are stacked against you.

Organically grown and treated Rieslings from Australia

Pewsey Vale ‘The Contours’ Eden Valley Riesling 2011 is one such wine. Louisa Rose and her crew went biodynamic in 2011 and even through it was a wet, cold, challenging period they pushed on, risked failure and came up with this superb example of Riesling. It tingles on the tongue, mingles toasty brioche with citrus fruit and leaves you with a long, lemongrass flavour for pure savouring or cutting the grease in a leg of roast duck.

Grenache in a blend, Grenache on its own – organic and purely delightful

Drought makes us all sit up and place bricks in our toilet cisterns. Australia reminds its citizens every day of conservation and recycling of this valuable asset, a commodity the wine industry cannot do without. When aquifers are used, they are kept at replenishable levels. Mulching is common practice on organic farms and grey water is pumped for irrigation. Grenache is the most widely planted red wine grape in the world. It’s hardy, it’s not too thirsty and it outperforms its siblings on yields. Australians have recognised these facts and made good use of this versatile varietal. John Duval’s Annexus 2015 is a new venture with a delightful floral character and savoury spice. Tannins caress your tongue in the finish with long brush strokes of velvet.

New innovations

Where do they go from here? The thing is, Australian winemakers are already pushing the envelope with the varietals that we all expect from them so why not fool around with a Touriga Nacional for instance, or a Graciano, so popular in Spanish blends? The latter used on its own is the edgy path Paxton McLaren Vale Graciano 2016 follows. It presents you with a plate of nutmeg, cinnamon and other spices with a touch of oak to keep those flavours lingering.

Organic or biodynamic, irrigated or dry, Australian winemakers who chase the elusive star of purity without sacrificing taste, are on a trail-blazing track to that point of excellence.

History, Evolution, Revolution – Australian Wine Master Class

Blown away is somewhat of an understatement. I expected thick, over-oaked, jammy, and I got none of these. Where have I been all this time?

The tasting was cleverly arranged in 3 categories showcasing the exceptionally old age of some of the vineyards, how wine making has changed and where it is going, as indicated in the title above. Twelve wines in all, I’ll talk about the ones that impressed me most.

We kick off with a Semillon from McGuigan Wines ‘Bin 9000’ from the Hunter Valley, New South Wales, 2007. From the first commercial wine region of Oz comes this surprise: could have sworn it was oak on the nose but on the palate this young, early picked grape just comes alive in a balanced lemony, acidic palate which has even a little spice on the finish. Considering it’s a 2007 vintage, it’s retained its fresh, vibrant quality. With only 11% alcohol, makes you think.

Available at:

Alko in Finland – €19,59

McGuigan Wines –

Winesearcher –

With Mike Davidson at Restaurant Sipuli, Helsinki
With Mike Davidson guiding us at Restaurant Sipuli, Helsinki

Crossing over the full extent of this huge continent all the way to Margaret River near Perth, sits Vasse Felix Winery in Western Australia. This ‘Premier’ Chardonnay is as young as 2014. With ocean on 3 sides, the conditions are simply perfect for this grape varietal. The terroir of loam soil, limestone and clay produce this delicate grape which after 9 months in French oak, 50% of which is new, is transformed into elegant acidity with notes of butter and pepper. This wine is resoundingly vibrant and bright with a luscious mouth feel and a lingering finish. Am I imagining it or was there something like mushroom in there?

Available at:

Winesearcher –

Vasse Felix –

Vasse Felix Winery, Margaret River, Western Australia

Yarra Valley? Victoria? We go way over on the other side again where we come across Luke Lambert who has favoured keeping 40% of the whole bunch of Syrah grapes in his fermentation process. Added to this, the juice is wild fermented and only wild malolactic is allowed. Matured in 28 year old puncheons, yeah I was wondering too, no fining or filtration takes place. Small production, minimal messing around and you get this classy, restrained example of this grape varietal. Nice blackberry, floral nose with a super divine violet palate and a finish that gets you grabbing for more. A puncheon, by the way, is a wooden barrel holding 500 litres of liquid.

Available at:

Winesearcher –


And then the Revolution. Route du Van – a humorous play on words befitting the people that run the show and the winery’s relaxed attitude taking the consumer on a road trip exploring Victoria. Their Dolcetto and Shiraz is undeniably different, the former grape springing forth from some of the oldest vineyards in the world. You thought it was Italian, right? So did I but now I know better. They call this one a Wednesday night wine. No need for pretense, it’s just yummy without being jammy with just enough tannins on the finish.

Available at:

Winesearcher –