According to the most recent Wine Australia report in July 2013, Australia ranks fourth among the world's 10 biggest wine exporters in the average value per litre of bottled wine exports, behind New Zealand, France and the US but ahead of Argentina, Italy, South Africa, Germany and Chile.
Singapore garnered a mention in this report, as having the second highest number of exporters with 280, ahead of the UK (273), Canada (253) and USA (226).
No surprise there, as Singapore has long enjoyed the affordable fruits of the Australian wine industry. However, what may surprise long-time drinkers is the modern fine winemaking approach of today's producers, resulting in progressive strides in quality.
Jancy Tan, business development manager from Parklands Fine Food and Wine, has noticed the trend over the years, and explains: "These vineyards we chose (Kooyong, Moorooduc and Tim Smith) are very small producers and are owned by people who wish to make the best their region can offer. These are examples of the handcrafted wines that are often overlooked when people think of Australian wines. The wines are linked to the winemakers' DNA, as you can see with the thumb print on Tim Smith's wine."
Agrees chief judge of the BT Wine Challenge, Lim Hwee Peng, CSW, FWS: "Gone are the days of the 'sunshine in a glass' approach in crafting wines from Down Under." He singles out cool climate Chardonnay that offers controlled mineral notes and complexity, as well as delicate, steely, bone-dry Riesling that yet exhibits fresh and lemony flavour. However, he saves the ultimate praise for Cabernet Sauvignon: "Increasingly, wines from Coonawarra and Margaret River are occupying my cellar. I'm running out of storage space as these bottles are 'living' longer than the allocated cellar spots!"
On that note, we present the nine wines selected from Australia - the largest number from a single New World country in this inaugural Business Times Wine Challenge, presented by UBS.
Chatsfield Riesling 2012
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Where exactly is the Great Southern in Australia located? This coolest of West Australia's wine-growing regions is roughly 350km southeast from Perth, with its wine industry taking off commercially since the 1980s.
Within the Great Southern is the inland Mount Barker sub-region, distinguished by its gravel loams called marri that promote good drainage and low fertility. A cool temperate climate encourages a riesling style that is elegant, complex and concentrated, and which is fast catching up to better known Clare and Eden Valley Rieslings.
Considered one of the oldest vineyards in the Great Southern, establishing its first Riesling and Gewurtztraminer vines in 1976, was Waterman Wines - now known as Chatsfield and under different hands. Chatsfield derives its name from a local bird known as chat that made its home among the vines, helpfully eating insects. In fact, as part of its long-term aim to have organic management of the vineyard, sheep and cows are grazed to maintain weed and grasses, while guinea fowl roam freely for additional insect control.
Tasting notes: The crisp nose opens with aromas of red apple, lime and white flowers. The expressive palate is forward with lemon and spicy minerality, with natural acidity guiding the long, clean finish.