Hooray for spring! The season that wakes up our senses, brings freshness and vitality and gets us back outside enjoying the great outdoors.
When the weather warms up, there’s no doubting that getting together with friends for lunch and a glass or two of wine in the sunshine is high on our priority list.
So, to help find your own alfresco favourites, Panellist, Wine Show Judge and Wine Educator Adam Walls has put together his list of top spring-friendly wines. Covering classics like Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir to lesser well-known Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc, there’s the perfect wine for everyone and every spring entertaining occasion.
Adam says: “The energy and warmth of spring calls for white wines that mirror this freshness and Semillon is the freshest by far!”
Semillon is renowned for its incredible ageing ability. When young it’s lovely and crisp with plenty of citrus aromas, while age brings complex toast, vanilla and honey flavours, creating depth and richness.
Great example: Briar Ridge Dairy Hill Semillon 2016
Adam says: “A Gold medal-winner from the Hunter Valley, this 2016 vintage from Briar Ridge is deliciously dry with an ethereal note adding to the lemony depth. It’s showing green apple and herb characters with lime-like acidity driving the long finish."
Perfect with: Seafood is the classic match – fresh prawns, natural oysters, and barbequed marron with garlic and herb butter pair perfectly with this varietal.
2. Sauvignon Blanc
Adam says: “Sauvignon Blanc is known for its mouth-watering nature. Its vibrancy and freshness channel the spring season and it’s perfect with lighter-style dishes.”
Australian Sauvignon Blanc runs the gamut of flavour from herbal, grassy, sour citrus and gooseberry, to passionfruit and tropical fruit characters. Structurally these wines can be light in body and crisp or made in a more textural, barrel fermented style.
Great example: Hamelin Bay Five Ashes Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2018
Adam says: “Classic Margaret River, this Hamelin Bay Sauv Blanc is bold and bright with loads of tropical fruit salad, juicy melon and lemon zest, creamy texture and satiny mouth-feel.”
Perfect with: Ash-rolled goats cheese, asparagus and poached eggs, smoked salmon.
Adam says: “Spring sees us all look for alfresco occasions to enjoy great food, wine and conversation in the warmer weather. If you have to pick only one variety to sip in the sun, then with its guaranteed refreshing characters, Riesling has to be it.”
Riesling is a late ripening aromatic white with high levels of acidity. Generally speaking, Australian Riesling is drier than German, Alsatian and New Zealand examples. Zesty and citrussy young, it can develop in the bottle to show gorgeous honey, toast characters after a number of years.
Great example: Robert Oatley Signature Series Great Southern Riesling 2017
Adam says: “An excellent Great Southern expression and a Trophy-winner to boot. It’s ripe, fresh, bright and very lively with an intense core of lime and green apple, fabulous minerality and complexity, and pure, driving acidity that makes for an outstanding Riesling. So pure, long and bright – beautiful now, but also has a great future.”
Perfect with: Grilled scallops with cauliflower puree or lemony-pasta with prawns.
4. Chenin Blanc
Adam says: "This variety has long been underrated. However, this is changing which is very exciting as it’s a variety that not only offers a mouthful of flavour, but it’s also fresh and lively and full of energy. A perfect accompaniment to spring and all of its energy!”
Chenin Blanc reached fame in wines made in France’s Loire Valley. In Australia, it’s mostly planted in Western Australia and really expresses its terroir.
Great example: Voyager Estate Chenin Blanc 2017
Adam says: “Crafted from premium Margaret River fruit, this Voyager Estate Chenin Blanc is Vibrant and savoury with mouth-watering texture. Quite varietal with juicy mouth-feel, terrific acidity and a touch of umami on the finish.”
Perfect with: Salmon fishcakes, prawn salad, seafood paella.
Adam says: “Grenache is painfully trendy at the moment. It’s one of the lead provocateurs in the rise of mid-weight and easy to drink red wines. These styles of red are made for spring sipping as they love the sunshine as much as we do.”
With a similar weight and tannin structure to light to medium bodied Shiraz, Grenache is light on the palate and is all about purity of fruit. With aromas like pomegranate, wild strawberries, violets and red fruits and a palate that’s restrained and fine in texture, it is often blended with Mataro/Mourvedre, which provides a heightened element of spice and tannin. But, with careful oak treatment, Grenache can be a splendid single varietal wine.
Great example: Head Wines Old Vine Grenache 2017
Adam says: “Textbook Grenache from the Barossa Valley, it’s generous in style with a deep core of cherry and plum fruit, soft, almost creamy texture and beautifully ripe tannins. So well-balanced and long.”
Perfect with: Veal cutlets with olive and parsley pesto, pulled pork burgers, sticky glaze duck with rocket and pear pizza, and Asian-style dishes as long as they aren’t too spicy.
6. Pinot Noir
Adam says: “Light-bodied, but full of spice and scoring high on the ‘ease of drinking’ scale, Pinot shares a natural fusion with spring. It can be enjoyed on its own, but is versatile when it comes to matching food and occasions.”
Australian Pinot Noir is typically medium in colour pigmentation, has a perfumed nose and shows red fruit such as cherry, raspberry and blood plum flavours balanced by smooth tannins. Great Pinot Noir should age well and develop complex truffle, game and earthy characters.
Great example: De Bortoli Villages Pinot Noir 2018
Adam says: “This wine has Yarra Valley written all over it. It delivers a medium-bodied frame with red berry fruit intensity, silken tannin mouth-feel, fine crunchy acidity and well-judged oak. Very varietal from start to finish.”
Perfect with: Dishes featuring truffles and mushrooms, charcuterie, pâté or terrine, seared salmon or tuna.
7. Nero d’Avola
Adam says: “Light to medium-bodied reds suit spring’s sunshine and warmth, however, you still need reds with flavour and Nero is one of them. Black fruits and spice all from a mid-weight frame!”
Translating as ‘black grape of Avola’, Nero d’Avola hails from the Italian town for which it’s named. It didn’t arrive in Australia until 1998 and while it’s not widely known, it’s proving to be a delicious drink. Nero d'Avola is made in two different styles. The first is fragrant and crunchy, light to medium bodied, almost like Pinot Noir. The second is dark and densely coloured with black fruits and spice and a weight more reminiscent of Shiraz. In Australia, you're more likely to come across the first style, as our Nero d'Avola vines are younger and therefore have not reached the point of producing more robust wines.
Great example: Coriole Nero 2018
Adam says: “An awesome Trophy-winning expression from McLaren Vale. This Coriole Nero is medium weight, juicy and layered showing fantastic poise and balance throughout with a fine tannin foundation, bright acidity and a touch of background oak.”
Perfect with: The high acidity that characterises Nero d'Avola means it will work well with any of your favourite tomato-based recipes. For the lighter styles think grilled fish and light meats in Mediterranean-style dishes. You can even chill these styles on a warm day.
8. Cabernet Franc
Adam says: “You may not be familiar with Cabernet Franc, but we think you should be. A parent of the famed ‘Cab Sav’, it offers similar flavours, but with a lighter touch. The lighter body makes it easy to appreciate in the sunshine.”
In both France and Australia, Cabernet Franc is mainly used in blends and while it’s not an alternative style, it’s rare to see it as a straight variety.
Great example: Whistle Post Cabernet Franc 2017
Adam says: “Coonawarra is producing some fabulous Cabernet Franc like this one from Whistle Post. It’s showing a bold mix of black and blue fruit with savoury graphite touches, powerful yet fine tannin foundation, and background oak support. A tightly-wound wine that will continue to develop with a bit of time in the cellar.”
Perfect with: Crispy pork belly, tomato tart tatin, cumin crusted lamb rump, minted green lentils and peas.
For great spring wine deals, head to our Special Offers page!