Tomorrow, January 26, is Australia Day, the most popular holiday in Australia. I visited Australia in 2008, specifically the wine-producing Barossa and Hunter Valleys, and found it to be a wonderful, wide-open country with amazingly friendly people and wonderful wines. While much of the Shiraz can be a bit too intense for me, I have friends who exist on it alone (that is, as far as their wine diet is concerned)!
Many people place a lot of value on the wine critic’s numerical score, but there’s so much more to enjoying a wine than simply what’s in the glass. The setting, the occasion, the company, the weather, the food, one’s mood -- all these contribute, or don’t, to the wine’s potential. Yet all these factors are shunted aside when a wine critic evaluates a wine in a technical setting divorced from real life and then assigns a number to it. And it’s his or her palate’s number, not yours.
An experience I had in Australia will make me remember Jacob's Creek Steingarten Riesling forever, and to seek it out when I'm looking for a Riesling. It was a beach picnic at Emu Bay on Kangaroo Island. After motoring out in a speedboat to a spot where we swam with a school of dolphins, we returned to a tented, open-air dining room in the sand and ate a delicate local white fish with an array of different vintages of Jacob’s Creek Steingarten Riesling. At least one was a decade old and still tasted fresh and lively.
So raise a glass of Jacob’s Creek Steingarten Riesling tomorrow -- or whatever your favorite Aussie wine is -- to celebrate Australia Day. The holiday is technically in memory of the First Fleet of Convicts to land in Botany Bay in 1978, but was not nationally celebrated until 1944.