Dark and Broody: Meet De Bortoli’s New Shiraz… and Much More!

The Australian winemaker goes from strength to strength in international markets

On 13th June, New South Wales Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton presented De Bortoli Wines with the state’s first Sustainability Advantage Platinum Project at a ceremony in Sydney. Awarded for outstanding environmental leadership and innovation, De Bortoli Wines is the only business in NSW to have reached this level in the Office of Environment and Heritage’s (OEH) flagship Sustainability Advantage program, which encourages and enables sustainable business best practice. This acknowledgement recognises “The De Bortoli Method”, a unique potassium recovery system that turns the winery’s wastewater into an environmentally friendly cleaning agent that has the potential for commercial application for any business using caustic chemicals. Meanwhile here at Vinexpo, Francis Aguilar – General Manager UK & Europe – De Bortoli Wines hosted a very popular stand, where we met with him and asked about the key trends in Australian wines today…

Mediterranean varietals such as Assrytiko, Tempanillo, Dolcetto, Arneis, Vermentino have been making waves either as straight varietals or blended alongside more familiar names such as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Shiraz. Pinot Noir has seen great changes over the past years with many cool climates slowly perfecting this ever-challenging grape variety. From choosing the right clone to using winemaking techniques such as whole bunch fermentation, have all added to the slow and steady improvement over the years. Regions such as Victoria’s Yarra Valley but also other Victorian regions such as Gippsland, Mornignton Peninsula and Geelong have grown a lot in popularity.

In general, there is a move towards more restraint and much more focus on tannin, character, and region rather than fruit, oak and so on. This you can find across all grape varieties — even in Chardonnay and Shiraz. For an example, we have released a wine called Woodfired, which has been a massive hit in Australia. It’s a dark broody Shiraz from Heathcote, but it leaves a nice crunchy freshness on the palet which you would not have found in Australian reds years ago.

How are Australian labels becoming more globally competitive up against famous French or Italian wines?

Australian Wine labels remain at the forefront of the global wine market today with its shift from a brand reputational message to a more casual and alternative “look and feel” that provide the consumers an emotion that inspires or conveys a sense of relating to oneself. This is the next step. Labels that talk, make you laugh, give a pointer to how you can enjoy… all things easy from an Australian perspective, which has the end result that consumers have learnt to love from Australia: providing a friendly demystified wine tasting experience.

How are sales of Australian wine progressing in China?

Booming! 5 years ago, when the Chinese leadership changed, everyone was crying as sales plummeted following the new leaders’ commitment to stamping out corruption. However, that’s all history given the build of the “real” market.

Sales are rising on an annual rate of plus 40%, to today’s gure of $US540M worth; second in line to France. This says a great deal, given the reputation for the image conscious Chinese consumer. So, China has turned out brilliantly, diverse as they come, with a real enthusiasm and recognition for Australian wine.

THERE IS A MOVE TOWARDS MORE RESTRAINT AND MUCH MORE FOCUS ON TANNIN, CHARACTER, AND REGION RATHER THAN FRUIT, OAK AND SO ON

Originally, Australia was known for the Barossa and Hunter Valleys, however this is changing rapidly today, with the Riverina and other key growing areas emerging with quality product. What are the key trends in that respect?

Indeed, Barossa and Hunter are 2 of the earliest wine regions to become famous. However, so many other regions are just the coolest places to be right now…whether it’s the 8,000-year- old Cambrian soils from Heathcote or the Upper Yarra sub region of Woori Yallock Australian wines of today are more about expressing the region or vineyard where they are from. Riverina is also interesting for botrytis, fortifieds and producing wines to a price. Organic is something which is growing in many regions.


Photo: Francis Aguilar – General Manager, UK & Europe, De Bortoli Wines