On Friday, 23rd August 1850, a young man wrote in his diary, “My world was
to be keeping cattle… then bullock-driving and work in the vineyard.” The
writer was the twenty-year-old Thomas Hardy, who in the summer of that same
year had left his home county of Devon in England to live on the other side
of the world in the fledgling colony of South Australia.
man himself: Thomas Hardy in his later years.
He found work on a farm that also had a vineyard, where he learned the
basics of vine growing and wine-making, but after a couple of years he left
for the goldfields of Victoria. For those were the days of the Australian
Gold Rush which began in 1851 after a prospector claimed to have discovered
gold in New South Wales. Thomas worked for a meat company that fed the
ravenous miners who spent most of their time slogging away in the gold
fields in search of a fortune.
The big change for Thomas came in 1853. He had saved enough money to get
married and buy his first property which he called “Bankside” which has
since become known as the birthplace of Hardy’s wines. It was originally a
mere forty-six acres, sitting on the banks of the River Torrens which flows
from the Adelaide Hills down to Gulf St. Vincent. In 1854 Thomas planted his
first vineyards with Shiraz and Grenache vines. He made his first wine in
1857 and a couple of years later exported two hogsheads of Australian wine
to England. It was one of the very first wine exports from South Australia.
And by the way, a “hogshead” is an old English name for a barrel containing
about sixty-three gallons. The word fell into disuse years ago, along with
other quaint wine measurements like the “puncheon” and the “rundlet”. The
English beer industry also used hogsheads, but they also had other
delightful words for measuring beer, notably “kilderkins” and “firkins”.
Thomas Hardy had a driving ambition and bought up vineyards whenever he
could. He eventually founded The Hardy Wine Company in Adelaide and the
business soon became South Australia’s largest winemaker. Today, Thomas
Hardy is considered Father of the South Australian Wine Industry and the
company is one of the most powerful Australian wine brands. This year the
company is celebrating its 160th Anniversary.
Hardys Stamp of Australia Cabernet-Merlot (red), Australia
(Bt. 519 @ Tesco-Lotus and others)
Hardys “Stamp of Australia” series first appeared fifteen years ago and has
become one of their most recognised products. The series consists of about a
dozen varietals, all of which are entry-level wines. This purple-red wine
has a jammy aroma of ripe black cherries, blackcurrants and a touch of fresh
mint. You might also detect the smell of plums and sweetish oaky vanilla.
One thing that always impresses me is that the winemakers at Hardys
invariably manage to bring out excellent aromas in their wines, even the
basic entry-level jobs.
The wine is medium-bodied and very fruit-forward; loads of blackcurrant and
cherry on the palate and only the slightest hint of acidity. Although
there’s hardly any tannin, the wine is medium-dry but not in the
dry-as-a-bone class. It has a pleasantly smooth mouth-feel along with a very
fruity, rounded finish (that’s the time the taste persists in your mouth
after you’ve had a swig. The wine comes with 13.5% alcohol content, which is
almost the top of the tree for table wines. They probably sell this wine by
the truck-load and it would be perfect if you want an easy-drinker to knock
back at the Barbie. It would probably go down well with those people who
don’t normally consider themselves wine drinkers.
Hardys VR White Moscato (sweet white), Australia (Bt. 410
@ Tesco-Lotus and others)
In case you’re wondering, the “VR” stands for “Varietal Range”
and the name “Moscato” is just another name for “Muscat” a grape that
originated somewhere in the Middle East. The colour of Muscat grapes ranges
from white to near black, and their wines invariably have a pronounced sweet
floral aroma. The grape is perhaps best known in the form of Moscato d’Asti,
a pleasant and very popular wine from Italy’s Northwest region of Piedmont.
So here we have an Australian Muscat: a pale straw color with flecks of
green. There’s a fresh and attractive aroma of green apples and herbs. I
could also pick up hints of citrus and a kind of flinty grassiness. Although
the wine is very sweet, it’s not cloying because there’s a very slight
crispy spritziness to the mouth-feel and this helps to balance out the
sweetness. The taste rather reminded me of the apple pies my mother used to
make during the middle years of the last century, and the wine really has a
kind of old-fashioned summer fruit flavour.
In contrast to the Cabernet-Merlot, this wine comes at only 6% alcohol and
barely qualifies for the term “wine” at all, because wine is usually defined
as having at least 8% alcohol. Until a couple of years ago, if any
Australian winery produced something with an alcoholic content below this
value, they were not allowed to call it wine. But in 2011 the regulations
were changed by the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, with the
result that low alcohol sweet wines are now appearing. This type of light
wine has been experiencing enormous growth in Australia for the past three
years as a very refreshing alternative to traditional white wines.
As you might expect, it’s made in an easy-to-please style, and it would
probably work well with apple desserts, fresh berries or cakes - or just on
its own after a meal. It would certainly make a good partner for many Asian
dishes but to my mind, the wine tastes best when it’s really cold, so you
can serve it straight from the fridge.
You might like to try it with a mild cheese like Brie or Camembert. Forget
that old nonsense about always drinking red wine with cheese. I have no idea
where this daft notion came from, but it simply isn’t true. For some
cheeses, notably Beaufort, Brie, Gruyère, Emmenthal or Feta, white wine
invariably makes a much better partner than red. Go on - dare to be