"Don'tcha just love Autumn? Leaves turning these wonderful auburn, gold, garnet shades… the hot sting of the summer just fading and the promise of cooler nights at long last. And the bounty of the harvest is just over the horizon...
Don't worry, I haven't completely lost all sense of reality. It is, though, quite fun to think a little about the sort of sentiments our Southern brethren might be thinking at this time of year. And let's face it, here in Britain, we've grown rather accustomed to drinking superb wines from south of the Equator for quite a few decades now. So, whilst we continue to shiver at the biting winds and plan our summer holidays with relish, let's just turn our minds elsewhere for a moment and have a little review of some of the great things being produced between 40-60 degrees South.
Probably the first and still the best-known of the Southern producers, Australia is now entering something of a mature phase in its development as a wine producing country. We all know the "critter wines" that marked the rise of the Australian star in the UK market in the 80s, and started our love affair with amazing value, fruity wines. Since then, they've seen some serious growth, major oversupply and crash, competition from countries such as Chile and Argentina and now, finally, a period of focus on quality and provenance. These days, it's not easy to find those latter wines still, as you need to be prepared to pay a bit more for that quality. Italian varieties, rather than the classic French, are making a real impact as the climate lends itself well to such styles. Take a look, for instance, at the simply stunning "Hugh Hamilton Agent Provocateur" from McLaren Vale. It's everything you want it to be in a bottle - smooth, dark, fruity yet somehow extraordinarily zesty!
It's pretty much a cliché now - say Argentina, think Malbec. And to be sure, much of the rise of this country's growth has focussed on the easy-drinking, soft fruity version of this grape. This phase of development is actually crucial to the success of any newcomer to the international wine market - find a cash cow, and start milking it. Australia had Shiraz, USA had Cabernet… Argentina has Malbec. It brings cash, interest, investment and development in many areas, which, if sensibly handled, allow for that second phase of development to occur - when a country is "trusted" by the consumer to produce something good, it means they are more likely to start spending a little more on the better wines. We are now entering that phase with Argentina. And if you are willing to look beyond Malbec for the next "big thing" in Argentinian wines, I think you'd not go wrong in looking up Cabernet Franc. Originally from the Loire, where it produces very light-bodied, fresh reds with high acidity, in the warmer Argentinian climate, it turns into something really quite exciting: still vibrant, but with a wonderful depth and richness you don't expect. Check out our amazing Benegad Cab Franc (link) to see what I mean.
The final Southern Hemisphere country I'd encourage you to take another look at, is South Africa. I actually hesitate to put it in the New World bracket, since some wineries, established by the Dutch, date back to the pre-Napoleonic era. Equally, the wines are often a real half-way house between the more restrained European and more in-yer-face fruit classic New World styles. This is primarily because much of the Cape is actually remarkably cool - Franschoek for example has both altitude and cooling sea breezes moderating the sunshine. Grapes love the sun and heat, don't get me wrong, but it's a fine balance - too much, and you get baked, jammy fruit which don't produce well balanced wines. So have a look at a wine like our Lynx Vino Tinto (link) - an amazing value wine with incredible balance between delicious fruit and spice and just the right amount of acidity to keep things fresh.
So the future of New World wines is indeed excellent. I could have gone on for ages, and I haven't even looked at Chile, New Zealand or Uruguay. During our cold February, take a trip South and give these countries a go if you haven't for a while. Spend a little more and I promise you won't regret it!"