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Column: Giving the gift of wine this year? Try these

Wine columnist Eric Hanson explains how to entertain with a trio of South Australian wines.
Three Aussie Beauties for Christmas. Photo: Eric Hanson

With Christmas and the holiday season of entertaining 10 days away, it’s time for some tasty wines that won’t break the budget. Having spent four weeks in the major wine regions of South Australia, I’m recommending wines from Australia’s major wine state that are available at our BC government stores.

First of all, what amazed me was that the prices here at the BCL stores are almost identical to the price that Australians pay. And they’re shipped half way around world.  Although you might spend $1,000 for the iconic Penfold’s Grange Shiraz, there are scores of delicious Aussie wines in the $20 range.

Barossa Valley Estate
Barossa Valley Estate’s vineyard where Shiraz is grown. Photo: Eric Hanson

My first recommendation is a Wolf Blass 2016 Yellow Label Chardonnay ($15.99). Wolf Blass was a German winemaker who came to the Barossa Valley in the mid-1960s and pioneered an easy drinking style for both reds and whites. Today, Wolf Blass wines are exported to more than 50 countries and are recognized internationally as prime examples of modern winemaking.

This Chardonnay sources fruit from two cool climate regions: the Adelaide Hills on the outskirts of Adelaide and Padthaway which is about five hours south of Adelaide.  As a result, expect a very fresh, fruit driven and well-balanced wine. There is a gorgeous bouquet and flavour of peach, melon, nectarine, and lemon. It has a medium body with 12 per cent alcohol, a creaminess texture, and a kiss of toasted almonds thanks to only six months in French oak.

Enjoy the Wolf Blass as a reception wine with hors’ d’oeuvres, or with main courses such as roast chicken with pancetta or pasta carbonera.

If you want a taste of the Barossa Valley, then the 2015 Barossa Valley Estate Shiraz ($19.99 on sale until Dec. 29th) is a wise choice. This is a cooperative winery that only makes three wines and they’re all red: Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and a GSM (Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro aka Mourvedre).

Yalumba, home of The Strapper GSM. Photo: Eric Hanson

I enjoyed the Shiraz’s generous bouquet of red, blue and black fruit. On the palate you get a burst of plum, boysenberry, blueberry and blackberry with hints of smoky Barossa mettwurst, as well as a flicker of eucalyptus.

Although it has a big flavour profile, medium tannins balance it. If you are going to dine on some lamb, beef or kangaroo, the Barossa Valley Estate Shiraz is a fair dinkum choice.

While Shiraz has been the darling grape of the Barossa, it now has a rival in the blend known as GSM. Take Yalumba 2015 The Strapper ($23.99) as an excellent example. In thoroughbred talk, a Strapper is the reliable member of the team that isn’t in the limelight. Yalumba’s website likens it to the kind of drink winemakers prefer when they aren’t sipping a Riesling or an ale. Wine Spectator critics think it’s wonderful and gave it 91 points!

GSM’s are blends of three varietals: The Grenache is dominant, with its raspberry and strawberry bouquet and cherry flavour, medium light body and elegance. The Shiraz contributes blueberry notes and a touch of savouriness, and the Mataro earthiness and rustic tannins. A well bred but reliable wine to enjoy on its own, with mild cheeses, or turkey, ham, or sockeye salmon.

Enjoy a Merry Christmas and Holiday Season with your family, and friends. Cheers!

Eric Hanson is a Richmond wine educator and journalist.