It’s an ironic if not cruel twist of fate, but when our viticulturists do it tough through the drought, it’s the consumers who benefit from the struggles in the vineyard. In drought-stricken regions when a lack of water smashes the crop, the lower yields and stressed vines can mean a higher quality of fruit as the concentration of flavour and nuances of the terroir are intensely represented in the smaller yield of fruit. And so it was for the growers from the Orange region in Central West New South Wales with their difficult 2019 vintage.
The Orange district is located about 250 kms to the west of Sydney and is centred around an ancient volcano, Mount Canobolas. And the region can genuinely claim to be a “cool climate” region as the vineyards are generally planted at around 600 metres above sea level making them some of the highest vineyards in Australia. And the topography of the region is dramatic, with areas of undulation punctuated by steep limestone escarpments and the torrents of the snakelike Belabula River. The Orange region really took off through the 1980s with a proliferation of plantings through that period and as the vines matured, as did the local industry. Cellar door outlets became commonplace and so too did B&Bs and eating houses – oenological tourism flourished. These days, the area has 1,500 hectares of vineyards spread across 80 different wineries and the success of the district is widely celebrated in October each year at the Orange Wine Festival.
While there are any number of terrific wineries in the region, one of my favourites is located on the southern slopes of Mount Canabolas near Panuara, about 35 kilometres to the south of the Orange township. With 220 hectares under vines, Angullong is the largest producer in the region and sits between 580 and 620 metres above sea level. While the winemaking team do make a cabernet and a shiraz, it’s their range of whites that most excites my palate. Their 2019 Angullong Pinot Grigio ($22) scored 96 points and was recently awarded the Trophy for the Best Pinot Gris/Grigio of the Show at the 2019 Australian Highland Wine Show and in doing so, underscored the irony of a troublesome vintage resulting in wines of exceptional quality; despite a low yield.
I do enjoy a good pinot grigio but it was the sister wine, the Angullong Sauvignon Blanc 2019 which most impressed my taste buds despite scoring slightly lower at 95 points at the same Highland Wine Show. It’s a lively and fresh style showing passionfruit and guava on the nose and some tangy pineapple and zesty lemon rind through the middle. The finish is nicely balanced by gentle acids and shows hints of grapefruit and citrus as it crosses the back palate. It’s a perfect choice for a Sunday afternoon tipple on the deck, but would equally acquit itself well served with Chinese Spicy Garlic Prawns. I’m salivating just thinking about it!
As the mercury climbs, most of us look for a refreshing style of white with solid fruit and a zippy finish; and the Angullong savvie certainly fits that bill, and at around $20 a bottle, is pretty good value as well.