Don Kavanagh: Cheap ... but not nasty

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You'll be amazed at the reds the Aussies are churning out, notes Don Kavanagh.

Bethany Wines in the Barossa Valley, South Australia. Photo / Supplied
Bethany Wines in the Barossa Valley, South Australia. Photo / Supplied

I've been drinking a fair bit of red wine recently, mostly as a result of the weather.

I'm not usually a fan of the "reds in winter, whites in summer" way of drinking wine; I'd rather suit my wines to my mood and to my food. But the weather drove me to it. There's something lovely about a warming red on a cool spring night.

Now, although I've been a long-time fan of New Zealand reds, I'm also a staunch defender of the much-maligned Aussie red. Certainly local reds are lovely and the popularity of pinot noir and syrah is down to much more than clever marketing; the good wines are exquisite.

However, we are in danger of overlooking some great reds from across the ditch as a result of our burgeoning parochialism. This was brought home to me rather forcefully a few weeks back when I went to a tasting of the rather wonderful Wynn's range.

The Wynn's wines have always had a touch of real class and never fell into that Aussie trap of overdoing things.

Many Australian wines have historically been so over-powerful that they verged on the blowsy; the chardonnays were the colour of liquidised canaries and the reds were so jammy that you could easily spread them on your toast.

But there is a fresh wind blowing through the Australian wine world. Words like elegance and class are cropping up more often and those writers who taste them are expressing surprise at the structure and finesse they are finding. And best of all, Australian wines are still very affordable.

A decent Aussie red will set you back as little as $15. And when you trade up to the more expensive labels, the quality quotient rises proportionally. For the sake of $45 you'll get a wine every bit as good as a Kiwi one in the same price bracket, and often you'll get better quality.

You can spend large sums on New Zealand wine and still be vaguely disappointed. That won't happen with Australian wines since the Aussies have been - unfortunately for them, but luckily for us - traditionally stuck at a cheaper price point.

But cheap or expensive, open a bottle of something nice from Coonawarra, Barossa valley, McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills or Eden Valley and you will be rewarded with a great glass of wine and one that won't necessarily give your wallet a headache.

* Don Kavanagh has been involved in the hospitality trade for more than 25 years and is the editor of Hospitality magazine.

- Herald on Sunday

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