"I am not a fan of Australian Merlot, but Paringa's 2002 Merlot Individual Vineyard offers persuasive evidence that some producers get it right. A New World effort with a deep saturated ruby color and a bouquet reminiscent of Haagen-Daz mint chocolate chip ice cream, it reveals nicely textured, chocolatey, berry fruit flavors that are pure, authoritative, and supple. Drink it over the next 2-3 years. This is a lot of Merlot for the money." -The Wine Advocate
Alan Robb Hickinbotham (David's grandfather) became a founder of the Australian wine industry almost by accident. In May of 1936, Hickinbotham established the Roseworthy Oenology course with the intent of furthering winemaking by instructing viticulturalists to use scientific research to produce better wine.
David eventually purchased 300 acres of prime vineyard land in McLaren Vale early in the 70's. There was no irrigation at that time so the vines were dry grown. This produced grapes of intense flavor that captured the distinctive character of McLaren Vale fruit.
The Paringa vineyard is set on about 1700 acres of prime Riverlands property about 150 miles northeast of Adelaide in South Australia. The rainfall in the region is quite low but the Paringa property abuts the historic River Murray so they have a convenient source of water for the vineyard's drip irrigation system. The vineyard has been planted to Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, plus small sections of Chardonnay, Columbard, and Ruby Cabernet.
Yields are maintained at approximately 6 tons per acre and careful attention is paid to canopy management and irrigation technique. David Hickinbotham and winemaker Mike Farmilo both agree that the quality of the wine improves with lower yields and have made the decision to go for quality over quantity.
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With a landmass the size of the US, Australia has just as many appellations. Many wines are simply labeled from their state of origin. Some of these are the most popular:
New South Wales
- New South Wales has a variety of smaller wine growing regions. Many wines are a blend of these smaller appellations, leading to the more encompassing designation of New South Wales.
– A small percentage of Australia’s winemaking occurs on the West Coast. The largest Australian state, Western Australia, includes the appellations Margaret River and Great Southern.
– This appellation encompasses the states of South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. Grapes are often trucked in from at least 2 of these states for crushing and bottling, giving the wine a more general appellation of origin. This is the broadest appellation in Australia.
Like the United States, which is about the same size, Australia's winemaking regions are huddled into one or two pockets of the country. The state of South Australia, which produces about 60% of the country's wine, also has the most wineries and sub-regions, including McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, Coonawarra and Barossa Valley. New South Wales is home to the Hunter Valley, while the smaller, southern state of
Victoria is best known for theYarra Valley. Head way west to the very large state of Western Australia and you'll find the tiny region of Margaret River at the southern tip.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.