Whether you are reaching for a glass of a classy cool climate Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills, an old vine Grenache from McLaren Vale, or a refreshing Riesling from the Eden Valley; we as South Aussies are spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting a premium wine. We really have it all in little old Adelaide, but do our international friends and colleagues feel the same way about South Australian Wine?

My trip to Bordeaux to attend the International Annual Conference of the Great Wine Capitals (“GWC”) Global Network in November 2019, gave me the opportunity to discover how those on the other side of the world perceive our South Aussie wines. While in Bordeaux, there were two events I attended that were particularly useful in providing insight into how South Australian wines are perceived on an international platform.

International Tasting Party: “Taste the World in Bordeaux!”

The first event was the International Wine Party: “Taste the World in Bordeaux!”

The event was held in the grand Ballroom at Palais de la Bourse, it was a night to celebrate wine from each of the member cities of the global network. The evening kicked off with a theatrical choir performance and then evolved into an evening of mingling and of course, wine tasting!

While it was an event that formed part of the conference program, it was also an evening that was open to the general public. This provided an opportunity for the Adelaide delegation to showcase some of the best South Australian wines to not only conference goers, but also Bordelaise locals.

Our wine industry was represented by some of South Australia’s best including:

  • The Lane Vineyard Helen Cuvee (Adelaide Hills)
  • Coriole Fiano (McLaren Vale)
  • Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz (SA Various)
  • Elderton Neil Ashmead Grand Tourer Shiraz (Barossa Valley)
  • D’Arenberg d’Arry’s Original Shiraz Grenache (McLaren Vale)
  • Inkwell Shiraz (McLaren Vale)

Tony Love, of wine writing royalty, manned the stall with passion and charm. The stall was incredibly popular and was crowded for most of the night by patrons from all over the world, excited to taste and talk about the wines from Down Under.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Penfolds international profile, the St Henri Shiraz was one of the most sought after wines, but all of our wines on pour received positive feedback.

Also present, were some of the finest offerings from wine regions such as Bilbao and Rioja (Spain), Porto (Portugal), Napa Valley (USA), Lausanne (Switzerland), Mainz – Rheinhessen (Germany), Mendoza (Argentina), Valparaiso and the Casablanca Valley (Chile) and Verona (Italy).

Our Bordelaise hosts poured wines from their surrounding wine regions including Saint Emilion, Sauternes and Medoc, amongst many others.

While I was sipping on some Helen Cuvee Sparkling, I began chatting with a  local Bordelaise couple who were also enjoying the bubbles. I asked them their impression of the Helen Cuvee and they told me that it was “just as good as Champagne!” Up until this point, they were unaware that we produced Methode Traditional sparkling wine in South Australia, and they were quite impressed.

It was clear to me that people were genuinely interested and excited to try the South Australian wines on offer over the course of the evening.

So Australia!’ at La Cite du Vin

The second event was a public tasting of South Australian wine at La Cite Du Vin.

La Cite du Vin is an architectural masterpiece on the outside, but on the inside it is an interactive wine museum that uses immersive sensory experiences to educate visitors about the world of wine through the ages and different cultures and civilizations. It is also an educational facility with a focus on hosting wine tasting workshops.

So Australia!’ was an educational wine tasting session about South Aussie wines.

The wines poured on the night included:

  • Wolf Blass Chardonnay (Adelaide Hills)
  • Penfolds Bin 2 Shiraz Mataro (SA Various)
  • D’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz (McLaren Vale)
  • Wynns Coonawarra Estate Gables Cabernet Sauvignon (Coonawarra)

While the event was presented entirely in the French language, it was easy to pick up the general gist of what was going on. For each of the above wines the presenter spoke about the region from which that wine came. For example, when the Dead Arm Shiraz was poured, there was a discussion around McLaren Vale, the regions climate and the d’Arenberg cube. PowerPoint slides, and maps of the various regions aided each mini presentation.

As a patriotic South Aussie, it was wonderful to witness patrons smile as they sniffed, swirled and sipped on each wine. Their body language seemed positive and they all appeared to be enjoying each of the wines being poured.

At the beginning of the event, the hostess pointed out to guests that there were some Australians in attendance. At the end of the event some of these guests came up to meet us and to discuss the wines they had tried.

The ‘So Australia!’ event was not my first visit to La Cite du Vin. I had visited a little earlier in the week, as some of the conference events had also been held there. On one occasion, I arrived early for a lecture and while I was waiting, I began talking to one of the venue staff. When they realized I was Australian and that I worked in the industry, they asked me to recommend as many South Australian wines I could think of, so that they could seek them out and taste them!

To me, it appears as though there is a lot of curiosity around South Australian wine. I think that many of our international friends and colleagues find South Aussie wines exciting and maybe a little mysterious. I think many have moved past associating our entire wine industry with the ‘Yellow Kangaroo’ and are open minded about trying new brands and styles.

While La Cite du Vin offers one of the largest ranges of South Australian (and Australian) wine in Bordeaux, it is obviously not comparable to the range we have here at home. For this reason, I do think that our wines are deemed as being special, interesting and maybe even a little bit novel.

Based on my experience at these two international events, each held in the heart of the Old Wine World, there is no doubt in my mind that we should be proud of our local wine producers.

As we continue to spread the word of our wine from Down Under, our fan base will only grow, providing an exciting future for our wine industry internationally. 

Written by Mariette Morris, 2019 WCA Wine Media Cadet