Vancouver International Wine Festival 2015 Aussie Recommendations

Australian tasting
Australian tasting

The Vancouver International Wine Festival 2015 is coming upon us quickly, with the Festival starting on February 20.  There will be 170 wineries in attendance from 14 different countries in attendance.  At the Acura International Festival Tasting Room in the Vancouver Convention Centre, there will be more than 750 wines available for sampling.  It is of course not possible to go to one of the evening tastings, and get through all these wines.  But perhaps I can help narrow down your search.

Australian Wineries

Each year, there is a theme country and global focus.  The country this year being “Australia” and the global focus being “Syrah“.  Australia will have 55 wineries from 20 regions pouring 220 wines for you to taste.  Sounds more manageable, but still quite daunting.  Some regions I like from Australia are the Hunter Valley, Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley, Barossa, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra, and Margaret River.  Although Australia is well-known for their full-bodied Shiraz wines, it is not necessarily the grape that is best for all these regions.  Hunter Valley produces wonderful, ageable Semillon.  The Adelaide Hills is known for Sauvignon Blanc.  Clare Valley for Riesling. Margaret River for Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.  From my list of regions, Barossa, Coonawarra, and McLaren Vale are prime producers of Syrah.  It is also quite interesting to note, that even though Australia is known as a very hot climate, it produces some wonderful white wines, from grapes that don’t necessarily like hot weather.  So there are pockets of Australia that do have a cooler climate that can produce quality aromatic wines from Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc.

A Few Australian Winery Recommendations

With this in mind, here is a list of a few Australian wineries that I would recommend that you visit when you are in the Festival Tasting Room. (I really would like to recommend you visit them all, but our time with them is limited.)
  • Hollick CoonawarraHollick Wines – This winery come from the very small region called the Coonawarra, quite a bit south and east of Adelaide, and best known for their “terra rossa”, or red soils.  While this region produces top quality Shiraz, you also can find some tasty Chardonnay.  I had a chance to try the Hollick Bond Road Chardonnay 2001 recently and it was very elegant in the glass.  I am looking forward to trying their other wines.


  • Gemtree logoGemtree Wines – is a bio-dynamic winery coming out of the McLaren Vale area, which is just south of Adelaide.  I have been quite interested in bio-dynamic wines, as the ones that I have tasted in the past tend to show vibrant fruit flavours, and feel quite full of energy.  The first biodynamic wine I ever tried was from Australia.  In addition, the McLaren Vale wine region is being heavily mapped for it’s geology, so that grape growers and wine makers can best figure out the small differences in the soil, and how that impacts different grape varieties and the terroir.  As part of this mapping, wineries in the McLaren Vale have been producing “Scarce Earth” Shiraz. According to the “Scarce Earth” initiative “McLaren Vale Scarce Earth encourages the release of single block Shiraz wines to allow us to continually learn more about our region and to also further explore the relative influence of geology, soil, climate and topography on wine style.“  I was able to try some Scarce Earth Shiraz produced by Kangarilla Winery, and it really did speak of a place, so I am hoping the same will be true for Gemtree Wines’ Scarce Earth Shiraz.


  • Thorn-Clarke logoThorn-Clarke Barossa Winemakers – comes from the Barossa Valley, located to the northeast of Adelaide.  I have followed this winery for many years, since I was part of the South World Wine Society.  This winery produces consistent wines each year.  A few to try are their Shotfire Shiraz and William Randell Cabernet Sauvignon.


  • TYRRELLS LOGOTyrrell’s Wines – located in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, this region is best known for their Semillon wines, as I earlier mentioned.  Probably many of you have not heard of the Semillon grape, or possibly tried a Semillon-based wine, without realizing it.  Semillon is a white grape that originated in France, as is grown in the Bordeaux region.  A white Bordeaux is actually a blend of Semillon with Sauvignon Blanc. It is also used in the production of the sweet Sauternes wines. The Semillon grape can actually age many years and gets a toasty flavour which you may mistake comes from oak aging.  It is truly a very interesting grape.  Tyrell’s Vat 1 Semillon is a wine you should definitely try. In addition, Tyrrell’s also produces very good Shiraz. Read about my Tyrell’s wine maker dinner article with my notes on all the wines they poured.


  • Penfolds logoPenfolds – a premium producer, with their flagship wine being “Grange“, a wine primarily made from Shiraz, but sometimes has a sprinkle of added Cabernet Sauvignon.  They harvest their grapes from across South Australia, choosing the best grapes for Grange.  Truly an exceptional wine.  If you are lucky and purchased a ticket to the Penfolds dinner, you can taste the 2004 vintage. I don’t know which wines they will be pouring but if we are lucky maybe there will be some Penfolds Bin 389, aka Baby Grange.  This Cabernet Shiraz blend I believe is aged in part from used Grange oak barrels. If you prefer Cabernet Sauvignon on it’s own, try to see if Bin 707 is available for a sip. I also should recommend you taste their elegant Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2009.


  • d'arenberg logod’Arenberg – McLaren Vale – produces a wide range of tasty wines.  The Stump Jump, a blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre (aka a GSM blend, originally from the Southern Rhone Valley), The Dead Arm Shiraz, named after vine disease caused by the fungus Eutypa Lata that kills one half, or an ‘arm’ of the vine while the grapes on the other arm, have increased flavour intensity. The Laughing Magpie Shiraz Viognier, which as noted is a co-fermentation with Shiraz, and a bit of Viognier, which increases the colour intensity and adds a flowery component to the wine. If you like white wine, try their The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne. These 2 white grapes are native to the Rhone Valley in France and are quite aromatic and flavourful reminding one of stone fruits.  I’ve had this wine before and it had a minerality that reminded me of the sea, and I’d love to enjoy with crab and other shellfish.
You may have picked up that many of the wineries I picked are in the McLaren Vale district, but please give the other regions a try as well.
There may of course be other undiscovered gems from Australia.  I have tried to give you some pointers to wineries that I have some knowledge of, and feel confident will be a treat in your glass, but don’t hesitate to try other Australian wineries too.  Enjoy.  Please say “Hi” if you bump into me in the tasting room.
Author: mywinepal
Drink Good Wine. That is my motto and I really want to help you drink good wine. What is good wine? That can be a different thing for each people. Food also loves wine so I also cover food and wine pairings, restaurant reviews, and world travel. Enjoy life with me. MyWinePal was started by Karl Kliparchuk, WSET. I spent many years with the South World Wine Society as the President and then cellar master. I love to travel around the world, visiting wine regions and sharing my passion for food & wine with you. Come live vicariously through me, and enjoy all my recommended wines.

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