Writing about Australian wines might look like fun, but it's not always easy

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      Although I’m completely aware that what I do for a living isn’t exactly breaking rocks under the sun, there are, indeed, days that can be quite exhausting. The times I find most draining—yet get the least sympathy for (not that I’m looking for any, really)—are when I’m travelling for work.

      As an example, when I was on a trip with Wine Australia a few weeks back—visiting dozens of wineries and attending many events over nine days—it proved quite challenging. We’d started in Sydney, then flew to Adelaide in the south to tackle a few regions, then flew to Perth on the west coast for further travels, and then back to Sydney before heading home. The land covered was pretty much equivalent to beginning in Nova Scotia, then on to Toronto, Vancouver, and back to the Maritimes.

      The days were as full as possible. I usually got picked up by 7 a.m., with the first winery visit of the day happening by 9 a.m., then about three or four vineyard stops after that. These visits usually entailed some sort of winery or vineyard tour, then a sit-down tasting with the winemaker, which could involve anywhere from a half-dozen to 24 wines, with me taking notes diligently throughout. Yes, there is certainly spitting going on during these tastings. No, the spitting doesn’t happen 100 percent of the time. (I’m looking at you, Penfolds Grange [South Australia; $750, B.C. Liquor Stores] .)

      Again, not looking for sympathy here.

      After a good handful of days tasting through upward of 150 wines, taking notes, interviewing winemakers, keeping focus, and squeezing in as much travel and sleep as possible, it truly gets a little intense. That, coupled with being self-employed, finds me working on various projects upon returning to my accommodations around 11 p.m. or midnight. (Perhaps now is a good time to apologize to my editors at the Straight for the column I filed a few weeks back at about 3 a.m. after a very full day of wine and hoopla.)

      The small breaks or lighter moments on these trips are remarkably valuable. They are a chance to catch breath and to recharge. One of these moments on the fifth day of our trip wasn’t a break for some frosty lagers on a patio or a little downtime on the beach but a tasting with a flock of winemakers from Adelaide Hills.

      We’d driven up to a rural artisan pizza joint called Lost in the Forest, situated in a repurposed church, and the winemakers we visited specialized in what are casually known as natural wines, or wines made with minimal intervention. The outdoor walk-around tasting (and pizza-eating) was as casual as could be, no fussiness or pretence; it was simply shooting the shit with some winemakers who are making some of the most honest, intriguing wines in the country.

      Everything hit the spot. Their wines were all particularly refreshing and bright, not bogged down by additives or too much oak. They were sipped, slurped, and sometimes gulped, each one a breath of fresh air. These were some of the wines that lift an industry that can occasionally collapse under the weight of its own seriousness or stodginess.

      Here are four from a couple of producers I quite enjoyed. In the middle of a few heavy work days? Get some good pizza, crack open one (or two) of these bottles, and let them carry you away.

      Ochota Barrels “Green Room” Grenache Shiraz 2014

      (McLaren Vale, Australia; $29.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)

      Taras and Amber Ochota decided to start the Ochota Barrels project after many years of wine-industry experience and a little downtime on various surf trips. This blend is bright and almost crunchy, with plenty of purple fruit, cherries, and a good crack of clove. Looks like the only bottles in Vancouver are at the Jericho Village liquor store. Grab a bottle and hit the beach!

      Ochota Barrels “I Am The Owl” Syrah 2014

      (Adelaide Hills, Australia; $42.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)

      Fresh-cracked-peppery plums and blooming with violets.This is a fine balance of Aussie Shiraz and French Syrah yet confident in its own spicy, floral persona. Hit the Robson Street liquor store near Denman for this one.

      BK Wines “Skin ‘n Bones” Pinot Noir 2013

      (Adelaide Hills, Australia; $36 to $40, private liquor stores)

      After time spent in New Zealand, Argentina, and California, Brendon and Kirstyn Keys have settled in South Australia and we’re all better for it. What a stunning, bright, fresh, and lively Pinot Noir, overflowing with huckleberries, mulberries, nutmeg, and thyme. Spotted at Everything Wine in North Vancouver.

      BK Wines “Cult” Syrah 2013

      (Adelaide Hills, Australia; $36 to $40, private liquor stores)

      So your friends think all Australian Shirazes (or Syrahs) are gonna be jammy fruit bombs with no character? Good. Then you can keep this elegant, savoury little number to yourself. Blackberries, sun-dried tomato, bacon fat, and perfection. This one also recently spotted at North Vancouver’s Everything Wine.