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Australia

With many of the veteran growers suggesting that harvest 2017 was a return to the harvests of old, Australia bucked the seemingly unerring trend towards earlier and hotter harvest conditions.

Historically wet conditions in the winter of 2016 and cool damp conditions in the winter of 2017 may have made a few Aussies shiver but there were smiles all-round grower communities across Australia during vintage 2017. Though the weather was by no means perfect, the longer growing season resulted in excellent quality and satisfying yields even if it did mean that there were some exhausted growers and winemakers by the end of it.

 There was palpable relief that 2017 delivered a healthy crop - it was much needed in many regions, their bulk supplies having been plundered over the preceding year by rampant demand from China. A few years ago, many actually hoped for lower yields to put a floor under pricing and to reduce the excess supply but all that has changed. Gone are the long faces and dire warnings, replaced by a new found optimism and confidence that the future Australia is now forging is more sustainable.

 Thistledown is certainly forging its own future, taking it on a path laden with beautiful old vine Grenache, cool, crisp Chardonnays and sanguine, sassy Shiraz. In ever more detail, Thistledown continue to unpick the rich patchwork of South Australian Grenache - reassembling it in their own inimitable style. 2017 witnesses the launch of many new wines from Thistledown but none more exciting than She's Electric - a single vineyard McLaren Vale Grenache with a truly remarkable and oh-so-Aussie tale to tell.

 We're also delighted to welcome Garagiste to the Alliance family. Barney Flanders' wines have been much lauded by James Halliday and on visiting the winery, it's easy to see why. As well as being a "good bloke", Barney has the golden touch when it comes to Mornington Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and an admirable, playful approach to skin contact whites, demonstrated by his Cotier wines. There are few regions of Australia capable of making world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir - Barney ably demonstrates why Mornington Peninsula is one of them.