In wine circles, we talk a lot about what qualities make a good wine. More recently, I have wondered what qualities make a good wine drinker? Writer and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Tis the good reader that makes the good book,” referring to those personal traits we bring to the object in order to better appreciate it.
I got to thinking about what are those qualities that make us not so much technical tasters or ideal show judges but good wine drinkers? If I had to choose, I’d say the qualities include traits similar to those that make a good traveller, reader or person and include but are not limited to being adventurous, the ability to revisit ideas, showing patience and being responsible.
Here are a few of the wines you might get to try with these traits in mind.
YALUMBA THE VIRGILIUS VIOGNIER 2010
When it comes to wine drinking, an adventurous streak will take you places – literally and metaphorically. New varieties, regions, countries, styles and ideas all open up when you embrace adventure. Start your wine drinking adventure right here with Yalumba The Virgilius Viognier. One of the most scarcely planted varieties on earth, Viognier hails from the France’s Northern Rhone and has been championed in Australia by Yalumba’s Louisa Rose to exquisite results; the 2008 vintage of this wine won the 2010 Adelaide Review Hot 100 SA Wines. If you have been raised on the white wines prolific in Australia – Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc – this is both a mini adventure in flavour and pronunciation. “Vee-on-yeah” brims with exotic notes of ginger, peaches, apricots and white florals; this, Yalumba’s flagship Viognier, is also one of Australia’s best aromatic, textural, complex, and layered. And don’t forget that even virtues need exercising so be sure to drink adventurously regularly and as Mark Twain said, “throw off the bow lines … explore, dream, discover”.
STEFANO LUBIANA PINOT GRIS 2012
“The care of the earth is our most ancient and after all, our most pleasing responsibility,” wrote American poet Wendell Berry. We are now more aware of the impact we have on the environment and of our responsibility to care for it. Happily, many parts of the wine industry are taking strides toward more sustainable farming that are better for the environment, the vineyards and the wine. Actions include improved vineyard management, fewer to no chemical introductions, organic farming and, like Stefano and Monique of Stefano Lubiana Wines in Tasmania, biodynamic farming. As well as better quality fruit and wine, their key objective with the certification was to work with nature not against it, leaving their site in a better state than they found it. The 2012 Stefano Lubiana Pinot Gris shows how good being good can be. An alluring nose of pear, apple and spice aromas that continue on the palate wrapped in a textural, oily and sensuous offering; it’s a beautiful wine from a considerate project.
MONTALTO MAIN RIDGE BLOCK PINOT NOIR 2012
Patience is indeed a virtue in both wine and life. Without it we would fail to reap many of the delights of wine that take time to shine. New regions need time to flourish, wine takes time to age, a winemaker needs time to understand a place; if we didn’t have patience, we might overlook great wines and regions. Aristotle said, “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” I suspect he was referring to the grapes of Pinot Noir. A famously fickle variety, Pinot Noir is the reason many are enchanted by wine; difficult to grow in the vineyard, easy to upset in the winery, Pinot Noir can give you nothing or offer a glimpse of beauty that borders on biblical. Mornington Peninsula’s endurance with Pinot Noir is being rewarded with a reputation as one of the country’s finest regions for growing Pinot Noir. This wine is one of the Montalto’s single vineyard wines of which there are three, all exquisite examples expressing the effects of various sites on the variety. It’s a lovely fragrant wine brimming with bright berry fruits, a hint of spice and excellent structure and length.
PETER LEHMANN LYNDOCH SHIRAZ 2011
A good wine drinker has the capacity to revisit things, particularly ideas you were once certain about. As ever, this applies as much to life as it does to wine but by revisiting your prejudices, confronting your biases and maybe throwing old ideas out the cellar door, you remain open to the changes occurring thanks to the natural evolution of the world. Barossa Shiraz was both famous and lauded for making a style of Shiraz that was big and powerful. These days, the evolution of the wine from the region has given rise to many and varied expressions of the variety; wines reflecting nuances of site, showcasing new blending partnerships, new winemaking philosophies and viticultural approaches. The District Range of the late great Peter Lehmann wines bring this evolution to light by aiming to highlight the 13 individual sub-regions of the Barossa. This wine from the Lyndoch sub-region is but one expression, brimming with dark berry fruits, spice and chocolate. No man steps in the same river twice, and when it comes to wine drinking, this makes for wonderful diversity.
These reviews first appeared in the print edition of The Melbourne Review