My turn to host our local group blind tasting and I chose a theme of Australian wines. I have been working through my backlog of older Aussie wines, many of which were in a style I enjoyed, but I stopped buying much at all when the style changed to a sweeter and often less structured sort of wine in the mid 2000 decade – perhaps the buying public listened to the wrong critics and bought anything that was like a mouthful of jam? Particularly annoying as I was aware that the style I prefer was still being made, just not being imported here much.

I enjoy matching food to the wines, so had made a terrine of chicken (with lots of added pork – belly, gammon bacon) all flavoured with Madras curry (I’ve found that well spiced food works well with wines, though some people shy away from it).

2015 Soumah Yarra Valley Chardonnay – showing a fair bit of colour, and a nose with obvious but not overdone oak and significant sulphur which took a bit to blow off. Apricot and pear in the nose and on palate a medium bodied tasty chard that certainly doesn’t warrant the odd review I’ve seen that thought it over the top. On the contrary, it deftly danced the line between rich fruit and acidity. Very pleasant.

2017 Fraser Gallop Palladian Chardonnay – a bottle brought back from Oz by a visiting friend. This small production (and pricy) Margaret River chard was more in the citrus and apple side of things in the nose, lighter cooler fruit than the previous wine. In terms of balance, there was more than ample acidity but it seemed well balanced by the fruit so didn’t come across as lean. Not one for the long haul, perhaps, but if you need an Aussie white to awe the Burgundy admirers in your group, this might do it.

We switched to reds and with them I served a lamb tagine (yes, it was a meat heavy menu!) with around 5 pounds of lamb cubes simmered for a couple of hours in stock and red wine, and garnished with olives, garbanzos, zucchini, pearl onions and carrot just before service. The spices I added included cumin, coriander, ginger, chilli, black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, clove, and a fair bit of grated orange zest, all served over rice (you could use couscous given the Moroccan origin of the dish).

2017 Ashton Hills Pinot Noir Piccadilly Valley – this mid-red wine (I’ve seen Rosés with almost as much colour) had a really intriguing nose that was hard to characterize – perhaps some oriental spice here (this was before the food was served) along with some sweet fruit. Refined, high toned, but probably best for early drinking. Delightful now.

2013 Bannockburn Pinot Noir De La Terre – medium color, a big dill nose, moderate fruit levels with slightly high acidity and overall not very Pinot-like. After some discussion the conclusion was that it might be a substandard bottle.

1993 Lindeman's Cabernet Sauvignon St. George – this Coonawarra Cab showed light edges, typical cab nose with some decent black cherry/currant notes, ripe in the mouth and decent length.

1991 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon John Riddoch – my turn at bat and the first bottle of this I have opened (patience is a virtue!). Quite dark with light but not brown edges, a slightly spicy warm cabernet nose with warm walnut and some cocoa and coconut nuances, and on palate the once harsh tannins have softened and the wine has become almost elegant with a good long finish. Should be good drinking over the near term. I may open another bottle together with the same vintage of Penfolds Bin 707 just to compare them, flagship wine to flagship wine.

1996 Hardys Cabernet Sauvignon Thomas Hardy – a dark minty wine with hints of cedar and roasted meat as well. On palate it was powerful and smooth with medium finish. Better showing than I would have anticipated (I have some 93 I’ve been neglecting and should get to – soon).

2006 Two Hands Harry & Edward's Garden Shiraz – this Langhorne Creek wine brought us into this millennium with a bit of a start. Big rich minty nose, and as one would expect, a mass of black fruit on palate, a bit monolithic. Absolutely ready to drink and without the ageing capability of the old style wines. Pleasant, but this is exactly the sort of wine that led me to stop buying from Oz.

1998 Best’s Great Western Shiraz – typical minty nose, quite good flavour concentration and still drinking acceptably. Had I seen the bottle beforehand I wouldn’t have given it much chance of still being good. A nice surprise.

1995 Barossa Valley Estate Shiraz E & E Black Pepper – another dark wine with a minty nose (go figure!). Lots of dill in the nose, plus some other oaky notes, and on palate a resolved mature shiraz but without the black pepper suggested by the name. Fully mature and at the drink up stage, but decent. The 1996 is a better wine and still has time (I am slowly working my way through my cache).

As a pleasant way to finish (with much fromagery at hand) I opened a Penfolds Grandfather 20 year Tawny Port

Penfolds Grandfather Rare 20 Year Tawny– light brown colour, a nose of sweet nuts and raisins, thick mouth feel and a bit hot on palate. Overly sweet for traditional Tawny Port Lovers.

Next month – Northern Rhones. Should be interesting.