China’s loss – Angullong Crossing Reserve Shiraz

China’s loss – Angullong Crossing Reserve Shiraz

Angullong Crossing Reserve Shiraz

Since China imposed crippling tariffs on Australian wine imports in November last year, many Australian winemakers have been furiously re-strategising in order to find new markets for their wares. For many, the sudden imposition of punitive duties was as unexpected as it was destructive. The latest torpedo launched by the Chinese government in their spat with Australia and its allies was intended to inflict financial harm in an attempt to bring the Aussie cattle dog to heel, however with a record 2021 crop and a growing UK market, it may be the Aussie winemakers that have the last laugh.

Until November last year, there were about 800 domestic producers who exported their wines to Chinese territories. And the prize has been significant given that about 1.3 billion dollars’ worth of wine was purchased by the Sinitic consumers each year. Alas, such is the magnitude of the tariffs (which can be as high as 212%) that it is now pretty well pointless for the local vignerons to ship any of their wine to China. Of the corporate producers, Treasury Wine Estates has the most to lose given that its labels have been sending around half a billion dollars of wine into the Chinese market each year; largely because its Penfolds brand has been highly prized by the locals. Perhaps it was the status symbol or just the thrill of a trophy, however, it has been the highly priced premium red wines that have gained the most traction with Chinese wine drinkers. Nevertheless, not anymore!

In a twist of fate that would put a wry smile on the faces of Aussie vintners, the 2021 vintage is set to be a cracker with high yields and exceptional quality across most of our table wine producing vineyards. Many would say that we were due a good season given the challenges of drought and bushfires that have seen smaller volumes and lesser quality in the previous few years. According to the industry body, Wine Australia, the 20/21 vintage is the biggest in history with around two million tonnes of grapes crushed by Aussie producers. The biggest contributor to the oenological largesse are the South Australian vineyards, which have been responsible for over half the entire crop.

With so much high quality juice, our wineries shouldn’t have much trouble in finding willing buyers for the bottles that would otherwise have been shipped to China. According to Wine Australia, the UK exports have already gone up by 23% to $472 million and the rest of Europe is also buying more of our wines. It makes me wonder if privately, the individual members of China’s Ministry of Commerce will soon rue their infantile stunt?

Among the Australian wineries that once exported to China are large brands like Wynns, Penfolds and Wolf Blass but there are also more boutique producers who have had to look to target non-Chinese consumers. One of those smaller wineries that has been impacted by the souring Sino-Australian relationship is Angullong; a small winery located at Millthorpe in the Orange region on the Central tablelands of New South Wales. I first took note of the winery a decade ago when a friend sent me a bottle of their fragrant, passionfruit laden sauvignon blanc. It is an impressive and zippy number with as much tropical fruit as it has zippy acidity.

Given the Chinese penchant for an Aussie red, I reckon the Angullong Crossing Reserve Shiraz is definitely one of the tastiest fish that got away. It’s as dark and brooding as the South Australian reds that have put us on the world stage but shows more elegance than power with red fruit characters of stewed plums, ripe cherries and blackcurrant. I love the spicy edge to the middle and the allure of cedarry oak laced with fine tannins that grace the finish. It’s a cool climate shiraz at its finest and sure to impress the European and American palates – especially given the affordable $45 price tag.

According to the Orange region’s vintage report, the 2021 vintage will be one to remember. The white varietals are expected to show high natural acidity along with great purity of fruit. Amongst the reds, the yields will be lower due to the drought induced need to reduce vine capacity, but the quality is exceptional. That gives us something to look forward to – especially for those who are fans of the regions chardonnay and pinot noir!

The recent Chinese tantrum may have resulted in the toys and Aussie wines all being thrown out of the proverbial cot, nevertheless, the 2021 unicorn vintage for Aussie winemakers means that China’s loss may well be the UK and Europe’s gain.


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