Proctor : October 2018
53 PROCTOR | October 2018 A chance lunch conversation with a legal profession legend over a crust of bread turned inevitably to the subject of wine – the great and the good – but faltered at the subject of Queensland wines. Is it time to reconsider our local drop and the impact it has made on the national palate? If Queenslanders aren’t passionate advocates for the local vino, who will be? As consumers, we’ve never had it so good. Australian wine is growing from strength to strength; we have great varieties from all the old world countries making a home in our wide brown land, exports in the billions of dollars1 and some of the finest examples of the winemakers’ art that can be found. There is sufficient volume to make for a highly competitive wine market which gives consumers loads of excellent choice at modest prices. But have these good times come to Queensland, or are we just a northern oddity, battling against the inevitability of climate? If you look in the wine shops of our major cities, where once there were a number of local wines, usually only one or two brands remain. But why should this be so? Is there no quality in Queensland wine? Many judge the heights of quality by listing in the yearly Halliday Wine Companion. The 2019 tome lists only one Queensland winery in its ‘best of the best’ five red star category, Boireann from the Granite Belt. There are three other Granite Belt wineries listed with five stars: Golden Grove, Heritage Estate and Symphony Hills Wines. Witches Falls Winery is the only Queensland winery not from the Granite Belt to have five stars. All up that makes five great wineries in Queensland, equal footing with the Geographe region in Western Australia but less than the 60 noted in the Margaret River. Still, in Mr Halliday’s 2010 edition he only cited Boireann as five stars. In the 2019 ‘best of the best by variety’, there are two local wines noted – the very impressive 98 points for the 2016 Boireann Shiraz/Viognier and 96 points for the 2017 Symphony Hills Gewurztraminer (albeit under the moniker ‘New England’). These two wines were judged as mixing it with the best and, in the case of the Boireann, standing beside the mighty Clonakilla from the Canberra district to be the very best there is. For the record, no Geographe wines made it into the very top flight. The Halliday ratings are not the be all and end all of wine. Some smaller producers may not send their wines in to be reviewed and, as with everything about wine, the ratings are very subjective. But, it does show that high quality exists and can be obtained from local vines. This story hasn’t changed since the 19th Century when the first vines were planted. The conundrum of availability is more perturbing. One specialist retailer admitted that Queensland wineries don’t do much to promote their stock and keep it front of mind. “Other interstate wineries are here all the time, but you hardly see the Queensland guys,” he said. “You have to chase them, and who has time for that?” Perhaps it is just a function of small production and healthy online sales, and that is all good. But without more exposure of great local wines accessible in local shops, the understandably dour view of Queensland wine will remain. The sustainable future for our local wine is not in cellar door experiences but the hard edge of retail availability. Let’s drink to that happening. The first was the Nouva Scuola 2016 South Burnett Barbers which was a red brick colour with a brown tinge. The nose was morello cherry and burnt match. The palate showed some significant heat on the fruit, acid and some spice and mushroom. The second was the Wisehill Amarco Granite Belt Cabernet Shiraz which was a deep red-purple with a good vibrant hue. The nose had some menthol and mint with the savoury spice of white pepper and even floral rose touches. The palate was fulsome and had a lovely backbone of a tannin running through its nutmeg and black currant fruit which was quite charming. The last was the Golden Grove 2016 Granite Belt Mourvèdre which was the darkest purple red you could imagine. The nose was the sweet vanilla of American oak and some handsome forest floor textures which promised a wild ride on the palate. The attack was initially red forest fruits with a hint of leather strap and a exuberance of acid and depth of tannin making a very classy and smooth wine that was out of the ordinary but highly enjoyable. A long life ahead for this one. Verdict: The favourite was the Golden Grove; it showed a very deft touch in winemaking and imagination to do something interesting with good fruit. A lovely wine. The tasting Matthew Dunn is Queensland Law Society Policy, Public Affairs and Governance General Manager. Wine Fine wine or borderline? with Matthew Dunn Three local wines from a variety of producers were exposed to the tasting glass. Note 1 Australian wine exports increased by 15% to $2.56 billion in the 12 months ending December 2017, according to Wine Australia.