We arrived in Adelaide on Monday evening for our big tour of our Australian producers. Akira Takahashi from Vinteloper met us off the plane. For 48 hours we've been acclimatising, getting over jet-lag (like a hangover, but without the fun journey) and familiarising ourselves with the 'City of Churches'.
Adelaide is a very cool place. It has a young, laid-back vibe. Lots of construction is underway, but it retains a country town feel. The renovated airport is tiny, with one baggage carousel in arrivals, but it's an increasingly important international hub. More than a million people live here, but fewer than two million people live in the whole of South Australia. The city has the feel of somewhere confidently going places, but not too fast thank you very much.
A delicious meal at Chinatown institution Ying Chow, followed by a fitful, brief night's sleep, a run along the Torrens, and Akira took us on a whistle-stop tour of Adelaide and it's beaches. Here's four things I've learned.
- The drive-thru bottle shop, a defining cultural experience? In Australia, supermarkets don't sell alcohol. Instead it has a copious number of bottle shops. There are big brands and smaller independents. When living in Syndey in the mid-2000s I got to know them well. Generally speaking a great range and knowledgeable staff. What I'd never seen was a drive-thru bottle shop. Pull up the ute, call out a six-pack of West End Draught, a bloke fetches, takes money, and you drive off. Like ordering a Happy Meal. Consider my mind blown.
- Tempranillo has arrived. We nosed around inside a few of these bottle shops, and in a chain called Thirsty Camel I spotted something really fascinating: Tempranillo had its own shelves. Of course so did the usual suspects, like Cabernet, Shiraz, Chardonnay and so on. Then there were the "Alternative Varietals" shelves, featuring things like Nero d'Avola, Sangiovese, Fiano, Vermentino, even Blaufränkisch. But Tempranillo was given its own slot. We see a bit of Aussie Tempranillo in the UK, but not on this scale. The best example I've had is our very own Sue Bell's, from Wrattonbully. Australia is getting behind these alternative varieties partly for interest's sake, but also for viticultural reasons: their climate is often better suited to heat-loving Mediterranean grapes than those from Burgundy or Bordeaux. That being said, great Tempranillo thrives in slightly cooler climates (such as Rioja Alta) as well as limestone soils, making regions like Wrattonbully a prime spot for it.
- Vinteloper Park White is just as good on a beach as in a park. Akira took us to Aldinga Beach, south of the city, for a (brisk and chilly) swim and some of the 2016 Vinteloper Park White (photo above). These small-format (50cl) crown-capped bottles have caused a massive stir, selling out within days of landing last January, and with the next lot on their way to the UK in the spring. The 2016 white is skin-contact Gewürztraminer (the red is Dolcetto), unfined and unfiltered, cloudy, dry, and a huge amount of fun. You might call it a 'natural wine', but David wouldn't. Twenty-one days on skins, minimal sulphur. It's an awesome drop.
- Coffee is all it's cracked up to be. The Antipodean coffee scene in the UK has been done to death, but it's not without foundation. The main industry here - certainly where drinking stuff is concerned - is undoubtedly wine, but in a city with no shortage of actual churches, coffee is its own mini-religion. On a local wine chum's recommendation we breakfasted at Flinders Street Project over peerless flat whites and - the real litmus test - cracking espresso.
And after a sort-of-decent night's sleep, it's out to the Vinteloper vineyards today.