IN review - South Australian Wines I Loved in 2021 (Tony Love)

"It’s been some year. Say no more. And yet, South Australia’s grape growers and winemakers still delivered their unique capacity for passion and joy.

They encourage us to explore and discover the things that put a smile on our face. We need that. We need them.

So, here are the drinks and the people behind them that I learned of and loved in 2021. Some of these ragged recollections have been mentioned in previous InReview and SALIFE features but they’ve risen again to the surface, simply because they are the ones that have resonated the most.

Others have come from wider horizons, regional travels, judging at wine shows and major tastings. Hopefully, you’ll be able to track down a few bottles from this collection at cellar doors and your favourite retailers.

The one recurring positive for the year was that 2021 was a cracker vintage across most of the state in most of the varietals and styles that we’ve been able to taste so far.

That applies to a wide range of white wines that are now out and about, and a few of the lighter red styles that are increasingly the way we are drinking: fresh out of the blocks, vibrant, exciting and for summer, eminently chillable.

Modern Mediterraneans

While Grenache and Shiraz continue to be the big-game players in McLaren Vale, and let’s not dismiss Cabernet Sauvignon as well, there’s another red variety making its presence felt, if only in small volume – Nero d’Avola. This is one to watch both here and in other warmer regions like the Riverland. It has all the markers of a modern Mediterranean variety with restrained fruit, enticing aromas and balanced structure. As a young wine, it is very, very approachable.

The McLaren Vale wines to keep an eye out for are Sherrah Wines 2021 Nero d’Avola, Coriole 2021 Nero d’Avola and Bondar 2021 Nero d’Avola, while from the Riverland, Ricca Terra 2020 Nero d’Avola is sensational in all its mouth-watering, crushed cherry-fragrant and gently fruited style. For another very attractive variation, this time out of Clare, Stephanie Toole’s Mount Horrocks 2019 Nero d’Avola celebrates to the highest degree everything the variety can offer.

Right alongside Nero sits another Mediterranean-origin grape that now has a seat at the table of white varieties of note in South Australia – Fiano. In McLaren Vale, it has such a presence now it commands its own varietal trophy, this year awarded to the Haselgrove 2021 Alternative Series Fiano, which then went on to win best white wine of the show.

The other gold medallist in the Fiano class was the Sherrah 2021 Fiano. Both are crafted by Alex Sherrah, who has a heap of experience with the variety going back to its earliest introduction here via Coriole wines, whose 2021 Fiano and its reserve, barrel-fermented Rubato Fiano (2020 if you can track one down) continue to impress. Mark all these as must-try, and note, too, that the variety can gather beautiful mature characters over many years. (A mention also has to go to Ricca Terra, again in the Riverland, for its superb 2021 Fiano.)

While that variety appears to have pushed ahead in acceptance of another Italian white grape, Vermentino, one Big V has stood out for me, another Riverland-grown outing, Small Victories 2021 Vermentino which I loved sipping in the sun overlooking the Murray River, and which recently won the trophy at the Melbourne Royal Wine Awards, for best Single Varietal White (not including Riesling, Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris/Grigio). A huge accolade. A side note – it also is grown on one of Ashley Ratcliff’s Ricca Terra vineyards.

I hope you get the opportunity to get out and try them as well".

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