12 MARCH 2005, Page 59



You may remember the scene from one of Jancis Robinson’s excellent wine programmes. She offers a Burgundy vigneron the best selling Chardonnay in Britain.

He swirls it round his mouth and — here’s the fastidious detail leaves the shed in order to spit it out on the earth. If memory serves, he utters the single word ‘why?’ Well, some people quite like Jacob’s Creek. I am not one, but it certainly has a market. The wines offered in this week’s mini-bar — all from the estimable Graham Mitchell — are, however, the diametric opposite to mass-produced, branded, heavily promoted ‘product’. They are among the best wines made in Australia, in small quantities, every vine carefully tended by people more concerned with quality than cash, launched on the world with no advertising at all. They would be perfect for drowning our sorrows if the Aussie cricket team beats ours this summer.

Take the Red Hill Estate Chardonnay 20011 which comes from one of the most beautiful vineyards in the world, just south of Melbourne. The vines slope down to the sea, and the cool breezes give the wine an elegance which matches the rich, creamy, peaches and melons flavour. Some people detect butterscotch and cashews, and I cannot argue. A gorgeous wine for a mere £10.40. At the Hanson Tarrahill Estate in the Yarra Valley, Dr Ian Hanson, now aged 77, makes a grand total of just 900 cases a year. His Cabernet Sauvignon 20002 is wonderful: full, dark, smoky but with that slight hint of eucalyptus you sometimes get with the leading Oz wines. It costs £11.45 a bottle but, as I often say, if you could get it in Bordeaux for three times that price you would be happy.

Back to Red Hill for their wonderful Estate Shiraz 20013. Oz Shiraz can be a bit overwhelming, but this combines great strength with equal subtlety. There is that velvety pepper flavour you get from the best Rhône wines, plus spices, plums, cedarwood and cigars. A lovely wine for only £11.95.

A Frenchman, Guy Lamothe, who used to work in Meursault, now makes the wines at the Wedgetail estate, also in the Yarra Valley. If you caught the film Sideways, you will be keen to try a really first-rate Pinot Noir, and his 20004 is rated as one of the very best of all Australian wines, having an intensity of flavour that can match all but the most famous and expensive red Burgundies. It is not cheap (£16.95 a bottle), but it is unctuous, silky, perfumed and bursting with ripe fruit.

Delivery as always is free, and there is a sample case which I heartily recommend. C