Australia, Wine

The Truth About Mac Forbes

Let’s try to forget Mac Forbes is rather attractive. I don’t want this to influence my perception of the wine in any way. Of course. That’d be completely unprofessional. Hands up – I had written about his wine before I met him: “Supersonic”. But, for the sake of objectivity, let’s get this out of the way… and he is married. So, I said it. There.

What about the wine?

Mac was in London between visiting Austria and Portugal. In itself, this is a very Australian idea of Europe and her wine. The island of Australia covers from St Petersburg to Dublin. Yet this is the key to understanding it. Let me explain.

There’s something very different about Mac Forbes wines compared to the stereotype of Australian wine you see in the UK over the past 5 years. It has a light touch, pale in colour and in flavour. Take every stereotype and turn it on its head.

We tried his 2009 wines at Fulham Wine Rooms (in the sake of interest, I worked in Kensington Wine Rooms when I was doing freelance writing, and they were very sympathetic to my random hours – so big up). I was sitting with the incredibly talented sommelier, young Olly, who does a brilliant job editing the enomatics across Fulham and Kensington. I trust his palate implicitly. He is very courageous. When he invites, I jump.


As is usual in Europe, we were talking about Mac’s Pinot Noir trying to work out how it relates to Burgundy. We could not work it out. Beaune? Chambolle? Then we hit upon it.

None of the above.

Blaufrankisch.

Forget Burgundy with Mac Forbes. These are high-end Blau – there is a silkiness but freshness that is unlike anything found in Europe. With Pan-fried monkfish, butterbeans and mushroom casserole, the deeper melancholic flavours of cinnamon and strawberry with the silkiness of top-level Blaufrankisch.

His Gruyere Shiraz  – totally incomprehensible name for anyone who loves Gruyere cheese (in UK) – is named after the town in the Yarra Valley named after the town in Switzerland by Swiss immigrants. The town first, not the cheese. But there is, undoubtedly, a Germanic connection with this wine.

This is Mac’s own business without any commercial interests other than his own. Unlike Burgundy, Australia is a young country with economic costs on the land. It’s not an old Bentley purring along, as Andrew Jefford once said about Burgundy. This is an achievement in itself – to make these experiments.

He chooses the wine on “vibrancy” and “energy” in the fruit. Insects free to live in the vineyard, life, crunchy and vivid fruit.

He strips the layers back rather than adding layers. An incredibly radical idea for Australia and one I fully endorse.

Jamie Goode wrote on twitter before I said I was to meet him, there was a lot of good wine coming out of Australia. Yes, there is, but not as many as cool as Mac Forbes, let’s face it.

Good looking or not.

Half-joking – thank you for the opportunity to taste the wines, Mac Forbes. And thank you Fulham & Kensington Wine Rooms, London for the invitation. I wish you every success – I am not alone in wanting a broader representation of Australian wines in the UK.