The wines that define 2017
Author: Max Allen
Photography: Rob Shaw
Wine styles define an era as precisely as fashion, food and music. In the 1980s we were drinking golden, oaky chardonnay and lean and leafy cabernet. In the 1990s we wanted our chardonnay unwooded and fruity and our red wines - preferably Barossa shiraz - big and butch. In the 2000s we started broadening our drinking horizons, quaffing riesling out of screwcapped bottles, filling our fridges with Marlborough sauvignon blanc.
So what about the late 2010s? What wines are we drinking now that set us apart from previous decades? Here I've identified a few styles that characterise our modern wine-drinking trends. I've recommended a few local names and labels, too: some widely available brands found in big-chain liquor stores, some obscure, limited-production wines you'll probably track down from a good independent merchant or laneway bar.
Pictured above, from left: Quealy Amphora Friulano, De Bortoli La Bohème Act Two Dry Pinot Noir Rosé, Ochota Barrels From the North mourvèdre, Glaetzer Dixon Nouveau pinot noir, Delinquente Pétillant Naturel, Maidenii Sweet Vermouth.
We still love Champagne in 2017, of course - especially high-quality Champagne from small-scale growers - but we're also really digging different styles of fizzy wine from other parts of the world: top-shelf Tassie sparkling; prosecco (especially mixed with Aperol in a refreshing Spritz); cloudy, unfiltered, rustic pét-nat, fermented in the bottle.
Mainstream Dal Zotto prosecco from the King Valley.
Indie Delinquente Pétillant Naturel from the Riverland.
White wines with texture
"Minerality" is the wine buzzword of the moment: a glass of white that tastes like it's been sprinkled with granite dust is catnip to a wine geek. So: bone-dry, minerally grape varieties such as chenin blanc, grüner veltliner and assyrtiko are hot right now, as are varieties that have a rich, creamy mouthfeel - fiano and Friulano, pinot gris and petit manseng.
Mainstream Coriole Fiano from McLaren Vale.
Indie Quealy Friulano from Balnarring on the Mornington Peninsula.
Nothing says 2017 hipster drink quite like a glass of orange-coloured wine made from white grapes that have been wild-fermented on their skins (preferably in a clay amphora) and bottled with no clarification or filtration. Unfortunately, you won't find these in your local (just too painfully obscure), but sommeliers love them, so they're surprisingly well represented on wine lists and in indie stores around the country.
Mainstream No, sorry, I got nothing.
Indie Cullen Amber from Margaret River.
Pale, dry rosé
We've fallen hopelessly in love with rosé in 2017. Imports are booming (Provençal rosé sales grew by more than 120 per cent last year) and we lap up as much of the local gear as winemakers can throw at us. Not that I'm complaining: I love how we've finally embraced a wine style so perfect for our food and lifestyle.
Mainstream De Bortoli La Bohème Act Two Dry Pinot Noir Rosé from the Yarra Valley.
Indie Castagna Allegro Rosé from Beechworth.
Light young reds
Long gone are the days when you needed to cellar red wine for a decade before it was ready to be drunk. Now we want our reds juicy, medium-bodied, full of freshness and fruit - snappy, smashable wines made from grapes such as gamay, pinot noir, cabernet franc and touriga, and new, lighter interpretations of traditionally fuller-bodied varieties like shiraz.
Mainstream Glaetzer Dixon Nouveau pinot noir from Tasmania.
Indie Ravensworth gamay from the Canberra District.
One of the most exciting wine trends in 2017 is the growing number of producers making vermouth: gently fortified wine flavoured with bitter, aromatic botanicals. This gives winemakers enormous creative freedom, and gives us a whole new spectrum of flavours to revel in.
Mainstream The Maidenii range of vermouths from central Victoria.
Indie The new red and white vermouths from the Adelaide Hills Distillery.
Back in the 1990s, when I started writing about wine, Australian grenache and mataró (also known as mourvèdre) were dismissed by many as third-rate red grape varieties, and were mostly used to make cask plonk or cheap port. But a new generation of winemakers has turned that perception on its head, sourcing outstanding fruit from old, low-yielding grenache and mataró vines to produce characterful, distinctive red wines. And we're loving them.
Mainstream SC Pannell grenache from McLaren Vale.
Indie Ochota Barrels From the North mourvèdre from the Barossa Valley.