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Story by Lachlan Aird - 2020 Wine Media Cadet
Every family has their own special festive traditions. Whether on purpose or not, there’s a set of rituals that may seem so normal and ordinary to us, but would be incredibly perplexing to outsiders looking in. While there’s a distinct image of an ‘Aussie Christmas’, of sunny outdoor Christmas lunches with fresh seafood, baked hams and pavlova, in Adelaide, South Australia we have another asset that makes our festive season extra special – our wine regions.
With so many wine regions in such close proximity to Adelaide, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to partnering our holidays with wines that speak to our little corner of the globe. This doesn’t only mean which wines are served on the table on Christmas Day, or popped open at midnight on New Year’s Eve, but the entire extended holiday period in general. As we enjoy our summer holidays and unwind with family and friends, we can do so while enjoying the many benefits our local wine regions offer. In turn, the benefits will be felt – and so appreciated – by the businesses and communities within the regions. This year, perhaps, more so than any other.
Two rituals appear standard in practically all festive traditions around the world – giving and sharing. The way that we give and share may vary, but the concept is the same – to show the people we love how much they mean to us. It’s hard to imagine this holiday period without the thought of spoiling those we love and indulging in some of our favourite things together. For so many Australians, wine plays a pivotal role.
Firstly, let’s get the hardest part out the way first: what to give. Deciding on gifts for family and friends can cause an undue amount of anxiety. Given the impact of COVID-19 has changed tourism as we know it, many wineries are now offering bookable, interactive and educational experiences to premiumise a simple wine tasting. This has been an unexpected positive for both customers and producers alike in 2020. Instead of tussling for space at a crowded tasting bench, straining to hear what the frantic cellar door worker is trying to tell you, guests are hosted for a unique experience that offers valuable insights into a producer’s winemaking, history and philosophy.
Instead of sinking money into an unwanted gift, book an experience or voucher for a loved one at a winery they love, or think they’ll love. Better yet, book yourself in too. Not only will the recipient (and potentially your future self) thank you for it, the winery will as well. We’ve all been apart too much this year – it’s time to get together and explore again.
The next dilemma is what we’re going to drink. This is often dictated by what we’re going to eat. Seafood is a quintessentially Aussie Christmas lunch staple. Another strange turn of 2020 events will make it a unique Christmas in South Australia, as crayfish will be more affordable than ever and will no doubt therefore be enjoyed across many tables this year, levelling up the usual spread.
Chardonnay marries beautifully with crayfish’s subtle flavour, as does Riesling, with its high acidity complementing the sweet meat. Luckily, South Australia has some excellent examples, particularly Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills (Shaw + Smith M3, absolutely) and Riesling from Eden or Clare Valley (can’t go wrong with Grosset or Pikes!). It goes without saying the importance of sparkling whites on Christmas Day, whether as a welcome drink, something to toast, or to continue the festive feeling all day. DAOSA from Adelaide Hills is a local bubbly that can rival any Champagne, alongside the award-winning range from Deviation Road, of course.
Perhaps the most famous South Australian Christmas wine tradition is Sparkling Shiraz, so much so that many don’t realize it's essentially a local delicacy. This in particular is one drink with many family traditions surrounding it. Legend has it that Sparkling Shiraz is best enjoyed at breakfast time – just ask anyone from the Barossa – but isn’t for the faint hearted. Others treat Sparkling Shiraz as an exclusively Christmas Day drink, Something to look forward to and be revered. Besides breakfast, Sparkling Shiraz is usually enjoyed at Christmas lunch or dinner where roasts are popular.
While you can take your pick of brands, as many feature the signature spice and black and red fruits of Shiraz balanced by the cool, crisp and refreshing bubbles, going with something quintessentially Barossan like Langmeil, Peter Lehmann or Rockford will provide the authentic experience of... the South Aussie answer to egg nog, perhaps? One thing’s for certain, it’ll help fuel the mandatory post-Christmas lunch nap. Another staunch ritual for many families.
Besides Christmas Day, the importance of holidays and wine to the South Australian community is perhaps more apparent now than ever. During the hazy period between Christmas and New Year when it definitely isn’t business as usual and finding ways to fill the days can be difficult, you can guarantee that the wine regions will be open and ready to welcome visitors with open arms. Since we normally associate holidays with discovering new and exciting places, why not apply this principle to our own regions and become better acquainted (or reacquainted) with the people and places that craft world famous wines?
The flow on effect by supporting the local wine regions and communities cannot be overstated. As we exit a difficult year, it's time to look inwards at how we can better support the businesses that make South Australia such a desirable place to visit. No doubt those reading this abroad will be seething with jealousy at the thought of a sunny Christmas lunch enjoyed with world class South Australian wines and cheap crayfish. Even more so would be the thought of what seems like an endless week of holidays where there’s little to do but get out and experience a seemingly endless array of stunning wines from so many unique regions, all a short drive from Adelaide.
There are so many ways in which wine already falls within our holiday traditions, yet there are so many more ways that 2020 can be the year that we make an even greater effort to incorporate the wine regions and support the local industry. Whether it’s a pre-emptive online order from your favourite wineries to stock up the wine fridge before Christmas, a gift to a loved one for a unique and memorable cellar door experience, or a considered effort to switch off Netflix and make the most of your time off by exploring the region around you, there’s so much to take advantage of – and so many people to benefit.
One thing’s for sure – these are traditions that our international friends will be wishing were their own. Until we can all meet again at the tasting bench, no matter where we’re from, let’s make the most of what we have right on our doorstep. If we give a little, we can share a lot.