First, the good news.
“I reckon we’ve probably hit peak sauvignon blanc,” says Andrew Shedden, head of fine wine at Dan Murphy’s, of the drinking habits of Australian wine consumers. “It’s still massive and it’s going to stay massive. But a lot of people who were drinking just sauv blanc are now trying chardonnay, riesling or pinot gris. Or maybe even vermentino.”
As a wine buyer, it’s Shedden's job to know not just what we’re drinking now, but what we’ll be drinking tomorrow – and how.
“People want to try different things,” he says. “The growth is coming from lighter-style reds and whites. And we’re starting to move towards style and occasion rather than varietal. Instead of your best shiraz, it’s your best light, medium and fuller reds. Winemakers are getting more expressive.”
Moroney was also a judge in Dan Murphy’s inaugural Decoded Wine Awards, a new initiative for wine-lovers seeking a guide to wines both over and under the $20 benchmark.
“It’s a wine awards for wine lovers, not wine experts,” says Shedden. “It’s trying to cut the crap and get down to the basics of why a wine is great. Wine can be so serious sometimes, particularly when you get to the upper echelons. But for the average punter, you just want joy. What else could you possibly want?”
We asked Shedden to reflect on the judging process and shepherd us through three movements we can expect in 2020.
One of the most interesting developments has been in lighter-style reds, with some previously niche varietals making a bigger splash. “Pinot noir’s been booming for a couple of years,” says Shedden. “That continues to grow to stratospheric levels. But there’s [also] some unbelievable grenache, tempranillo and pinot meunier.”
That pinot meunier Shedden is referring to is the Seppelt Drumborg Pinot Meunier, grown in Henty, Victoria. “It’s just really different,” he says. “It has a slightly different edge that’s exciting and alluring. When I tasted it blind, I thought it was pinot noir. It’s just cool.”
Some spicier wines also managed to turn Shedden's head, including Z Wine’s Rustica Grenache from the Barossa. “We’ve grown grenache in Australia forever,” he says, “but we used to make some quite rustic styles. GSM [an acronym for grenache, shiraz and mataro] is the most famous blend, but you’re starting to see this lighter style of grenache which is a lot [more] accessible. The Rustica Grenache is about $16 and unbelievable quality.”
Wines that are not-quite-red but also not-quite-white are also having a moment. “The rise of rosé is extraordinary,” says Shedden. “Five years ago, we probably had one bay of rosé [in store]. These days most have gone to three. I don’t know if people didn’t take them seriously – the retailer, consumer and winemaker – [but] now they are, and that’s awesome.”
One choice example of the new wave of rosé is Blue Pyranees Bone Dry Rosé. “The name says everything you need to know,” says Shedden. “There’s a trend of more pale, blush colour and absolutely dry. Ten years ago rosé was more fruity and voluptuous. This is not that [and] it’s great.”
The real revelation for Shedden in judging wines for the Decoded Awards was seeing a new generation of chardonnay return to prominence, following the barren years of largely “awful” chardonnay produced in the ‘80s and ‘90s. “Most of those we tasted still have the level of complexity you expect in a chardonnay, whether from oak influence or malolactic fermentation or a bit of lees stirring,” he says. “But they’re more lean, linear, crisp and delicious [than traditional iterations].”
Shedden says the perfect example of modern chardonnay is the Devil’s Lair Hidden Cave Chardonnay, which clocks in at under $20. “The way the oak is integrated into this chardonnay complements it rather than smashing it,” he says.
Shedden’s final bit of advice is to find yourself a bottle of Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc. “This is everything a Marlborough drinker would love [Marlborough in New Zealand is famous for its sauv blanc]. But just so much [better] than what people are used to,” he says. “Let’s be honest: there’s some pretty average wine out there. That Craggy Range is some of the best expressions of sauv blanc I’ve ever had.”
See how these wines fared and more in the full list of finalists and winners of the Dan Murphy’s inaugural Decoded Wine Awards.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Dan Murphy’s.