New Wines in Town from Australia's Hunter Valley

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New Wines in Town from Australia's Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley, Australia's oldest wine-producing area, is home to 80 or more wineries. The region, about two hours' drive from Sydney, has been producing wines since the early 19th century and is renowned for its world-famous wines such as Lindemans and McWilliams. For those who enjoy high quality European grape varieties, such as Semillon or Shiraz, new wines made by the winemaker Wolfgang Grimm will offer a surprisingly sophisticated European taste. His winery and guesthouse, Grimm's Domain, may be relatively new to the industry, but his experience in wine tasting is far from novice.

Formerly the proprietor of a well-known Sydney hotel and general manager of the Inter-Continental hotel in Seoul, he is now serving as the vice president of operation support for Bass Hotels and Resorts Asia Pacific. For the past 10 years, Mr. Grimm has been turning his 25 years of experience in the service and dining industry to good use as a winemaker.

Two of his best wines, the 2000 Sunrise Ridge Semillon and the 1999 Moon River Shiraz, are now exported exclusively to Germany and Korea. Asked why he chose these two countries in particular for his first exports, he told the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition, "Germany is the country of my birth, and Korea is the country of my love." Mr. Grimm visited Seoul last week to introduce his very first creation from Grimm's Domain.

Mr. Grimm's Semillon is made from unblended, single-variety grapes. It has a citrus aroma with a grassy undertone, a fresh and lively taste of great longevity, and a fruity flavor and refreshing acidity at the finish. According to Mr. Grimm, the wine will age well when properly cellared.

The taster is pleasantly surprised at the wine's aroma at the first whiff and sip, and this is due to the pressing process of the wine. After the bunches of grapes are hand-picked and sorted in early February, they are pressed softly and slowly, taking as long as 45 minutes per load. This method is to prevent the wine tasting bitter from the stems. The pressed juice is left for three days until the skin sinks to the bottom. The extract is then kept at a cool temperature, about 4 or 5 degrees centigrade, for two to three months for fermentation. This method preserves the taste of the grapes. After storage, nothing is added; no oak, wood or additives.

The winery is not irrigated; the only water it receives is natural rainfall. This makes for a more tasty variety in less volume. The winemaker strictly adheres to a "quality over quantity" policy. Because of the wine's purity, it looks clear and tastes rich, but very clean. After 10 years of proper storage, the light yellow color will turn gold, which accompanies an oak taste. This all adds to the wine's distinctive "personal character," as every Semillon is an individual, according to Mr. Grimm. The 2000 Sunrise Ridge Semillon works well as an aperitif or a subtle accompaniment to seafood.

The 1999 Moon River Shiraz is made from the fruit of 30-year-old Shiraz vines in the lower Hunter Valley. It is a medium density red-purple wine with a savory earth tone and a subtle undercurrent of cedar oak. It has a predominant berry fruit flavor, some spice and elegant tannin. Like the Semillon, the Shiraz will age well if cellared properly.

The grapes are harvested a little later than the Semillon grapes, in the second or third week of February. This wine is made using an old method. Grapes are hand-sorted and put into a very big open concrete vat. The juice, whose sugar content is 12-13 points, is pressed out by the force of the weight of the fruit itself and stirred with a big fork.

Everything inside the vat is fermented at a warmer temperature than the Semillon. It is left for six months in a 4,000 liter American oak barrel, called a barrique in French. Compared to wine fermented in a small vat for a short period of time, wine fermented in a big vat for a long time tastes softer, richer and has a deceptive "vintage" flavor even when young. This Shiraz goes wonderfully well with lamb and beef dishes.

Mr. Grimm bought the land in Hunter Valley 10 years ago and has been growing grapes for the past five years. This is the first year that wine bearing the Grimm's Domain label will be released. It will be available in leading hotels and wine shops in Korea and will be priced at about 35,000 won ($27). For more information, e-mail Mr. Grimm at or contact Bradley John Mitton at Omega Trading (02-3445-8711).

by Ines Cho

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