Drink More Australian Wine!
Updated: Oct 25
Just a few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to have Master Sommelier and Australian wine importer Jonathan Ross pay us a visit at Edmund’s Oast Exchange and guest teach our Australian Somm School. In my five years of teaching Somm School I have always started this particular class with the disclaimer that I feel like the American market is missing out on a lot of great Australian wine as it’s just so far away, and there are not that many importers willing to devote a ton of resources to the category.
Don’t get me wrong I have counted my blessings every year that we receive allocations from cult producers like Ochota Barrels via Vine Street Imports, but quantities have always been notoriously tiny. And for such a huge country it just seemed like there had to be more young producers breaking down the silly stereotypes surrounding Australian wine (namely that it tended to be jammy, high in alcohol, and probably sporting a critter on the label)!
So imagine my delight when Legend Imports arrived to the South Carolina market this past year. This is the passion project of two highly accomplished American sommeliers – Jonathan and his wife Jane Lopes. They spent years in top American restaurants before moving to Australia and achieving equal success there. They also realized the abundance of dynamic Australian wineries who had zero representation in the United States. Thus, their brainchild: Legend Imports. They have recently moved back to the states (Tennessee to be specific), and they are ready to show us what we have been missing – namely, fantastic, thoughtfully made Australian wines.
In our class with Jonathan we tasted everything from a Pet Nat (aka natural sparkler) from the Adelaide Hills to an elegant Pinot Noir from Victoria to a supremely unctuous Riesling from Tasmania. You can see the full lineup below, but let’s dig a bit deeper on that Riesling, which was my favorite out of an outstanding lineup (so you know it’s REALLY good).
I’ve written before about the difficulty of selling Riesling in general but then you throw in a lesser known region alongside the “R” word, and you’ve most likely got an uphill battle. So, here I am going full force on why you must experience this Tasmanian Riesling – I must be crazy!
Yes, while I truly loved all of Jonathan’s wines, the Riesling was the one that I reached for at the end of the day, tucking it in my bag to take home for Sunday dinner. The mouthfeel of that wine just had me craving a longer experience. And to be honest, in the past I’ve not loved many Australian Rieslings. Oftentimes, they boast boatloads of “petrol” (the funniest Riesling descriptor!) on both the nose and palate and have a ripping acidity without a ton of body.
The Stargazer Riesling is the antithesis of all these things. Well, I suppose it has a touch of petrol but really even that comes across as more minerality than true petrol, and alongside that minerality there’s tons of tropicality…think pineapple, lychee, and lemongrass, and there’s also a lovely, mouth coating body to this wine. All of this is quite astounding since it actually comes from the very cool climate region of Tasmania. If you have not brushed up on your Australian geography lately, there’s no judgment! Tasmania is an island that is 150 miles south of Victoria. Tasmania was in fact connected to mainland Australia but broke off about 12,000 years ago. Today, most wineries can be found in the far north or south. Stargazer is in the south, the Coal River subregion to be exact, just inland from the town of Hobart. There, Samantha Connew is a one woman show, a transplant from New Zealand, who caught the wine bug and worked around the world before making Coal River her home.
At home, we enjoyed her Riesling next to a cheese board (of course!) and a terrific late summer meal of Triggerfish with roasted okra and Sun Gold tomatoes from the garden. The Riesling matched the beauty of our local South Carolina bounty with its own complex beauty that continued to unfurl over a few hours (and as the wine warmed up). And like most Rieslings, it honestly tasted even better the next day with an open faced smoked salmon sandwich!
While the quality and remote nature of this wine lend to its higher price point ($45 on our shelf), I believe it’s worth all of this and more. Plus, its ability to teletransport you to the remote island of Tasmania has to be priceless!
Look for Legend Imports and other small Australian producers in your own market or email me firstname.lastname@example.org regarding shipping!
Our Full Legend Imports Lineup with Our Pricing:
Ngeringa Pet Nat $38
Grapes: 5 varieties, including Pink Semillon, Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah
Region: Adelaide Hills (Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australia)
Stargazer Riesling $45
Region: Coal River Valley, Tasmania
Silent Way Pinot Noir $26
Region: Macedon Ranges, Victoria
Mother Block Red Blend $16
Grapes: coferment of seven lesser known grapes including Sagrantino, Piedirosso, Negroamaro, Graciano, Teroldego, Nero d’Avola and Uva di Troia
Region: Murray Darling (on border between Victoria & New South Wales)