By Charles Fredy
As this holiday issue of Maui No Ka ‘Oi goes to press, our final ‘Aipono Wine Dinner for 2013 is officially sold out. That has to be gratifying for the Maui Culinary Academy at UH Maui College. The December 11 dinner will be held at the Academy’s Leis Family Class Act Restaurant, prepared and served by the Academy’s students and chef-instructors, and — as all ‘Aipono events do — raise funds for the Academy, as well.
If you are among the oenophiles who will be at that dinner, I look forward to leading you in an exploration of wines of the Southern Hemisphere: Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Chile. If not, I offer this gift — my recommendations for exploring those wines on your own.
I am not referring to mass-produced wines, but to artisan wines like those you will find from Australia’s McLaren Vale, Barossa and Eden Valleys; or the complex and sophisticated wines that are being produced in areas like Lujan de Cuyo in Mendoza, Argentina. The Maipo Valley in Chile is making wines that can compete with far more expensive wines from other parts of the world. And because New Zealand has very little land to devote to vineyards, growers and producers there are concentrating on higher quality wines.
Part of what makes the wines of these regions so intriguing is the consistent weather and authentic soils that impart lots of minerality. Wineries that treat the wine with balance, by not letting alcohol and fruit concentration run the show, can express a distinctive sense of place. The result is what I like to call “Middle World” wines — combining the fruit and power of New World wine regions with the character and charm of the Old World. It’s true that the winemakers of the Southern Hemisphere lean more towards fruit-forward wines, but many producers are pulling back from that over-extracted, heavy style and showing more expression of the soils. The results are exciting.
Finding your favorites will take some trial and error, but they’re well worth it. The most popular wines for these four regions, such as Aussie shiraz, kiwi sauvignon blanc, Chilean cabernet and malbec from Argentina, are some of the best values on the market. I think you’ll find experimenting with a riesling from Eden Valley, a pinot noir from New Zealand, a carmenere from Chile or a cabernet sauvignon from Mendoza very rewarding.
Here are some of my top picks.
Pewsey Vale, Riesling, Eden Valley, Australia, 2012
Torbreck, Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia, 2012
Clos Henri, Pinot Noir, Petit Clos, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2011
Bramare, Malbec, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina, 2011
Perez Cruz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, Chile, 2011