Do you smell?


Honestly, I sometimes think I get more fun smelling a wine rather than actually drinking it. It’s probably because in a previous life, I was almost certainly a dog.

If you have the time and the inclination the aroma of a wine can keep you busy for ages; identifying the different smells you think you can detect. It’s only by smelling wine that you can detect most of the flavours. This is because your nose can detect a vast array of subtle aromas whereas your tongue is limited to primary tastes. Contrary to popular belief, wine does not taste of grapes, or not very often anyway.

Paul Lapsley, Hardys Chief Winemaker.Paul Lapsley, Hardys Chief Winemaker.

Aromas seem to present themselves in layers. The primary layer is usually fruity and sometimes comes through quite dramatically. As you continue to nose the wine, you should begin to get the feel of the different secondary layers and with a bit of luck (and experience) start to identify them. Then you might become aware of fainter smells in the far background. If you want to get the best out of the wine, keep going back to the aroma because after the bottle has been open for a time the aromas develop or new ones emerge.

Thomas Hardy probably had a good nose for wine too. He was born in 1830 in the English county of Devon and in 1850 he went in search of a new life in Australia.  In 1853 Thomas married Johanna Holbrook (who had travelled to Australia with him) and they bought their first property on the banks of the River Torrens. This property would become known as “Bankside” and is now recognised at the birthplace of Hardys wines. This year – 2013 – will mark the company’s 160th Anniversary.

Hardys VR Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (white), Australia (Bt. 599 @ Tesco-Lotus and others)

Hardys (without the apostrophe, for some reason) is one of Australia’s biggest and most successful wine producers. Their VR wines (it means Varietal Reserve) are full-flavoured easy-drinkers.  This is an agreeable pale straw with hints of green and there’s a floral, honeyed aroma of gooseberries and ripe pears. In the background, you might pick up the attractive and delicate smells of dill, a touch of white pepper and a fresh grassiness.  At first sniff, it could almost be a Chardonnay, but the taste leaves no doubt that it’s a Sauvignon Blanc with an Australian accent. The wine makers have taken the wild and elemental Sauvignon Blanc grape and tamed the wine into an off-dry, soft-textured drink with only the slightest touch of acidity. It’s very clean and refreshing with a long, pleasing finish. It reminded me of the musical “My Fair Lady” in which you may recall that Eliza Doolittle, a simple flower-girl with a coarse East-London accent, received elocution lessons from a Professor Henry Higgins so that she could pretend to be a lady of high social class.

I know some wine purists would probably disapprove of taming the Sauvignon, but this isn’t a wine for purists. It’s intended as a light easy-drinker for those who want a reliable but uncomplicated dryish white.  It’s just 12% alcohol content and being off-dry would make an excellent partner for many Thai dishes, chicken and fish. It goes well with alpine cheeses too, like Emmenthal and Gruyère.

Hardys VR Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (red), Australia (Bt. 599 @ Tesco-Lotus and others)

If you like your Cabernets packed with fruit, you’ll certainly appreciate this one. It’s a rich, dark red medium-bodied wine with a strong and slightly jammy aroma of dark berries, blackberry, and a faint hint of plums and spices. You might pick up the “heat” of the alcohol on the aroma too for this wine comes at 13.5% alcohol content. On the palate, there are plenty of blackberries and rich dark cherry fruit but very soft tannins, so soft that you might not notice them at all. The wine has a pleasant long, dry and fruity finish and you might even pick up a reminder of oaky vanilla. Although it’s a dryish wine, the plentiful fruit gives a slight impression of sweetness.

I’d guess it would work well with fairly full-flavoured dishes and it would make a good partner to rich beef or lamb dishes, casseroles or the bright colours of Mexican cuisine. Now, I have to admit that I prefer a little less fruit and a bit more tannin, but this is a matter of personal preference. I am sure that this big, confident Australian wine will win many friends. It’s uncomplicated, cheerful and easy to drink and a wine that’s obviously made to please.  But don’t forget to give it good sniffing first. You need to poke your nose right into the glass (but not into the wine) and take quick sniffs – like a blood-hound. A few dainty sniffettes won’t tell you anything. Remember, I was once a dog, so I know about these things.