Wines with texture, wines from smoke affected regions, piquettes, non alcoholic beer. The drinks playlist has been as varied as the year, with many new and different fancies needing to be tickled as well as all new styles being born of necessity as well as experimentation.
“Textural wine” is one of those ambivalent non-descriptions we all use, and nobody really knows what it means except that they totally know what it means.
What I think of in terms of textural wine, is that it is wine you can feel, right? I think of fresh fruit, with the skin on, that first crunch, drink chenin blanc, think fresh Granny Smith. “Crunchy reds” think of wild plums, think of fresh cranberries, think of refreshing tannins as opposed to big, Sahara-inducing tannins.
Wines that kill it in this regard are things like the Poppelvej Irresistible Impulse Sauvignon Blanc. Sauv - yuck? Na, nah this is real good, it is interesting, it has TEXTURE in spades for sure. Think of green papaya, with a little saline kick.
Textbook textural White by Sigurd is in another realm of texture, thanks to a juicy makeup of grapes including the Italian varietal garganega, we get a drink that is akin to chomping down on some fresh pineapple, doused in lemonade fruit juice.
For a little bon vivant vibe for the red you can’t get much crunchier or more refreshing than the Laguzelle by Benjamin Taillandier. Bright, bramble-y fruit, featherweight, glide with pretty, palate-staining elegance, the punches of spice keep you coming back for more, this is best drunk at 12 degrees at the hottest.
Bushfires. The biggest news pre-covid and such a devastating event that we will still not fully see the results of for years to come.
Many winemakers were resolved to the fact that their wine would be completely done, either their vines properly set ablaze, or some vineyards being so blanketed in smoke, the skins of the grapes soaking up all the harmful flavour compounds that any resulting wine would taste like a wet ashtray. Or so we thought. Some like Bryan Martin of Ravensworth got creative, made delicious beer with the smoke afftected grapes, others like Sam Leyshon of Mallaluka, went in search of fruit further afield and made stunning wines with the imported grapes. And then there is Angus Vinden, who tried to work with the season, like any other vintage, and adjust his techniques to minimise unwanted aspects of smoke in the finished product.
Shorter skin macerations, less time on lees (the dead yeast cells that float to the bottom of the barrel), some real creativity went into making the Vinden 2020 wines, and I think it will really be a recurring theme as we see more wines coming out from these smoky regions. The results are really something else, of course there is smoke there, there is no trying to hide it, but it lends itself more along the lines of fine Mezcal, it tells a story, and provides a counterpoint to the pristine fruit flavours that shine through. If you have never had Smoke Afftected, and we say Affected, not Tainted in this case, this is a great place to start, it is uncharted territory for a lot of us.
Piquettes are the product of adding water to the Marc or leftover grape skins, stalks etc after pressing, and starting another fermentation. The result is one part sour beer, one part pet nat, all parts delicious, and better for driving responsibly at about the same ABV as a craft beer. Our favourite examples come from BK, who even in experimental styles lends his unique deft touch. These are ultra-refreshing, and very much a style to watch.
Speaking of responsibility, the non-alcoholic world has popped off in recent years, with some of the best restaurants adding booze-free pairings with degustations, to cocktail bars treating their tee-totalling guests with truly inventive concoctions. The beer world has always been dancing around the subject, not many products came close until Indigenous owned and operated Sobah jumped onto the scene. Refreshing and interesting beer styles, using true native ingredients, Sobah flipped the script on how good non-alcoholic beer could be, becoming the drink of choice for plenty of non-straight-edge drinkers as well. Ex-Young Henry’s alumni got together last year to create a true classic craft beer, sans alc last year, starting Heaps Normal. And oh boy does it trick the brain. The Quiet XPA is so close to a “Real beer” you have to shake off your faux-tipsy after #3.
2021 really might be a year of drinking smarter, not harder, sourcing hyper-local and opening our minds to some fresh genres of drink. Cheers.