A good friend and trusted confidant in all things vinous, once described the new breed of Australian wine flooding Canadian shores as, in his words, “a one night stand.” They were, you see, in his estimation, everything that such an encounter can and should be. Everyone is happy with the outcome, having accomplished what they had set out to achieve, but at the end of the day, one can’t help but feel as though the evening might have been better with someone else.
For years, it’s been hard to find reasonably-priced exceptions to this well-considered edict. With bottle after bottle of pepper-jam rushing across the palate, Australian wine —once the darling of the New World oenophile’s collection — has become a touch monochromatic, at least on most LCBO shelves.
That’s precisely why a recent dinner at Queen Street’s Edward Day Gallery, hosted by Bill Hardy, sixth generation Aussie winemaker and global ambassador for the brand that still bears his family’s last name, was such a refreshing departure.
A true raconteur at heart, Hardy led the gathered group of media-types, wine reps, and industry guests through a delightful series of courses that included dishes such as seared scallop with braised leek, spring vegetables and saffron cream; lobster poached in lemongrass consume and a lamb duo with cherry infused jus and mashed potatoes. But as solid as the evening’s food happened to be, the wine in the glass, accompanied by a century and a half of cellar stories was undoubtedly the main attraction.
To dispatch immediately with the stereotype, many of the wines poured on the night were surprisingly divergent from what we’ve come to expect from Australian wine, such as ‘The Gambler’ Chardonnay / Pinot Gris blend that was light, refreshing and clean, as well as one of the stars of the event, the Eileen Hardy Chardonnay. Named after the current Hardy’s late-grandmother —who, as it turns out was something of an Australian widow Clicquot and who was also presented the Order of the British Empire by the Queen for her contributions to the Aussie wine industry — the wine itself is made of 100% Tasmanian grown grapes which gives this Southern Chardonnay with it’s expected tropical fruit characters, some decidedly cool-climate, flinty, and welcome acidic layers to it as well.
In conversation, Hardy says that there is a genuine shift in Australian wine making today, moving some of that county’s vintners away from the fruit-bomb styles of the past, and towards what Hardy calls more “savoury and food friendly styles of wine.” The aforementioned Tasmanian-sourced, cool climate Chard certainly fits the bill. On the red side, so does a fruit-forward, yet balanced and nicely acidic blend dubbed, Hardy’s Butcher’s Gold Shiraz, Sangiovese.
Fans of the more traditional style with massive bursts of berry and blackberry fruit normally associated with Australian Shiraz need not panic, as Hardy certainly has fine, and admittedly refined examples of these as well. We had the HRB Shiraz and the Eileen Hardy Shiraz, both of which paired nicely with the aforementioned lamb, along with a selection of cheeses.
The evening closed with a delicious pairing of chocolate and espresso dipped beignet, paired with a sweet tawny port — a drink not normally associated with the region, but as Hardy notes, essentially what started the Australian wine industry — and the true revelation was undoubtedly the renewed balance and food-focus for Australia's winemakers. Should the trend continue and expand, don’t be surprised if your next Aussie one night stand turns into a much more rewarding, long-term relationship.
Currently available at the LCBO:
Hardy’s Butcher’s Gold Shiraz Sangiovese Chr. No.3
Hardy’s The Gamble Chardonnay Pinot Gris Chr. No.2
Written by J.D. Ney
After years of editorial positions with two of Canada’s leading food and hospitality magazines, J.D. decided to get out of the professional journalism game, but found that he couldn’t leave the writing–to say nothing of the food and drink business–behind for good. Combining a passion for fine food and better beverages, with a keen eye for the broader story and culinary trends across the city, J.D.’s work can be read here at Spotlight, and you can follow him on Twitter.