Monday, 25 July 2016

Heemskerk 2014 Abel’s Tempest Chardonnay - Tasmania

HERE'S a Chardonnay that's equally at home
with Chicken Dijon or a cold seafood platter.

ONE TO NOTE:  HEEMSKERK Wines brought together fruit from cool climate vineyards in the Coal River and Derwent Valleys of Tasmania's south to create their very flavoursome 2014 Abel's Tempest Chardonnay.

Reflecting just how well Chardonnay does in such cool conditions, this rewarding drop has generous flavours underpinned by lemon/citrus fruit and subtle oak, yet still remains quite soft and elegant.

Pay $25 and pair with Chicken Dijon as a hot main course, or with a cold seafood platter of oysters, prawns, spanner crab and smoked salmon.

The Abel's Tempest label is named after the violent winds that hammered Dutchman Abel Tasman and almost thwarted his discovery and landing on Tasmania in 1642.

Calabria Family Wines 2013 Three Bridges Fortified Durif - NSW Riverina

GREAT match with winter's plum puddings
and rich fruit cakes, and for these delights once
again come the Festive Christmas Season.


David Ellis

IF you love your plum puddings and rich fruit cakes, and all the more so on these cool to chilly nights, a great wine to match them up with is a very more-ish Fortified Durif under the Three Bridges label from Calabria Family Wines in the NSW Riverina.

And being so wonderfully full bodied, rich and big, we'll bet you'll be quick to realise that this is a drop to start thinking about for another time too… December and these Christmassy delights all over again.

With 18% alcohol by volume this is a sipping wine that by enjoying slowly you'll really appreciate it's delightfully rich and intense palate of dark berries, balanced tannin and beautifully silky smooth finish. And on pouring, savour it's equally enticing aromas of lush berry fruits and elegant brandy spirit.

At $40 the currently available 2013 Calabria Family Wines Three Bridges Fortified Durif is ready for enjoyment now – then come Christmas, too – or it can be bought and put away for anything up to 40 years.

Is this the world's most expensive wine?

CHEERS – it's just $2,860 a glass

IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, David Ellis says a buyer in England has just paid 117,500 pounds – that's AU$206,000 – for a case of 28 year old French Pinot Noir wine.

And if he's going to share it around, it's going to cost him something like AU$2,860 a glass to indulge family or friends in this drop, a forebear of which the Archbishop of Paris famously likened in 1780 "to drinking velvet and satin."

The 1988 vintage Romanee-Conti wine that's just sold at a Bonhams auction in London for that huge price, is from a maker in Burgundy whose history goes back to the 12th century, when it was first made by monks in a local abbey. And interestingly at one stage was the centre of a bidding war between Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV of France, and the country's Prince de Conti – who won, and promptly added his name to the until-then just Romanee label.

FRANCE'S 12TH century Romanee-Conti vineyard is still
worked today by horsepower so that it's ground and vines
are not damaged by the wheels of tractors. (Wikipedia)

Today the winery produces a mere 450 cases of Romanee-Conti a year off a 1.8ha (4.4 acre) vineyard in which horsepower is used so the vineyard is not damaged by the wheels of tractors, and the only fertiliser put to the vines is compost made from waste from the winery itself.

Grape bunches are hand selected off the vines, each grape for the actual winemaking then hand chosen, and all 5,400 annual bottles individually numbered and their ownership tracked and recorded each time they change hands – or are finally consumed.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Sydney Craft Beer Week is back


Sydney’s largest celebration of craft beer, Sydney Craft Beer Week (SCBW), is back with a magnificent program brimming with beer-tastic adventures from Friday 21 to Sunday 30 October 2016. More than 100 events at over 75 different venues around Sydney will bring the brew to Sydneysiders, bigger and better than ever.

From axe throwing competitions, international brewery guests, hangover curing brekkies, beer matched chocolate desserts, sausage making classes and beer guzzling history lessons, the SCBW program offers up a smorgasbord of glorious hoppy-goodness for both craft connoisseurs and occasional drinkers alike.

No longer just a trend, craft beer has become ingrained in Sydney’s social culture. SCBW Director Joel Connolly said, “This year’s program is a reflection of the craft beer industry’s growing popularity. I started Sydney Craft Beer Week six years ago for quite selfish reasons, I just wanted to drink good beer and Sydney was in short supply. Now there are hundreds of incredible brewers doing some awesome things all across the city, which makes programming an event like Sydney Craft Beer Week a whole lot more fun!”

The festival kicks off with the pinnacle of craft beer experiences, the Opening Gala Night at the Giant Dwarf in Redfern. Each year the Gala is a sell out, so for 2016 the event will run two sessions across two days of the opening weekend. Thirsty hop diehards won’t miss an opportunity to sample a showcase of handpicked beers and brewers who will be featured over the Festival’s week long run.

The Crafty Pint is bringing the popular Pint of Origin™ to Sydney Craft Beer Week for the first time, turning Sydney into a microcosm of the Aussie beer world for the week. Six pubs across Sydney turn their taps over to beers and brewers from the six Aussie states to give small breweries a chance to showcase their wares to lovers of a good brew.

Pizza and beer has been an age-old match made in heaven, and this year everyone’s late night favourite, Frankie’s Pizza joins in on the fun, releasing nine brand new beers produced by top brewers from around Oz and NZ. The free entry event on October 24, will see the masses swiggin’ on cold crafts, sampling some top notch slices and rockin’ and rollin’ to Frankie’s World Famous House Band.

Now here’s a history lesson your taste buds will thank you for, Beer through the Ages: A Beer History Experience, is a brand-spanking new event for the Festival and takes beer lovers on a drinkable journey through time. Learn about the migration of beer from Mesopotamia to Egypt, Scandinavia and beyond, all while enjoying five historical styles of beer from different periods of time.

Beer is great, but free beer is LEGENDARY! Beer Cartel’s Ultimate Free Beer Tasting is giving a chance to taste over $1000 worth of craft beer - for free. Brewing powerhouses Westvleteren 12, Founders KBS, Stone & Wood and many more have banded together to deliver the ultimate tasting experience. Like a beer themed tour of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory, there’s a lottery to decide the lucky few who get to snag a golden ticket to this event. Register on the SCBW website to enter the draw to win a seat!

To celebrate the thriving craft beer industry, SCBW are hosting the inaugural Sydney Craft Beer Awards. Not only will the best of beers and brewers be celebrated in this industry night of nights, but also all those behind the scenes that make the craft beer scene in Sydney as rich and vibrant as it is today.

After the awards, punters can sooth their fuzzy heads with the Hair of the Dog Breakfast at the Rocks Brewing. Six indulgent courses will be paired with six of the best beers to help relieve the craft comedown bought on by the night before.

Festival favourites also return in 2016. Last year Holes ‘n’ Hops was a sell-out with punters starting the day smashing burgers and brews before taking to the greens for a nine-hole golf tournament - with a beer for each ball sunk.

Most wouldn’t think sharp tools flying through the air and beer would be the best mix. Not so, says SCBW! Last year’s Meat, Beer Axe event was as thrilling as it was safe, and returns in 2016. Willie the Boatman is teaming up with Maniax axe throwing centre and the juicy lads of Bovine and Swine to present another night of axe throwing, beer drinking and meat eating fun.

Like Sydney’s craft beer movement, Sydney Craft Beer Week has grown to be hugely popular with locals and visitors alike. So gear up, polish off the beer goggles and get ready to say a toast to Sydney’s favourite Festival.

To check out the full program of events, visit


What: Sydney Craft Beer Week
Where: Over 75 venues across Sydney
When: Friday 21 – Sunday 30 October, 2016

Monday, 11 July 2016

Margan 2011 Aged Release Shiraz - Hunter Valley.

BIG and full-bodied from the Hunter Valley for
a special-occasion dinner of roast duck,
or venison in a red wine sauce.

ONE TO NOTE:  ANOTHER nice big one that'll have you quickly smacking your lips – and particularly so if you've reason for special-occasion dining coming up – is a Margan 2011 Aged Release Shiraz from the Hunter Valley.

Made from fruit off forty year old vines, this exceptional drop had 20 months in French oak barriques after fermentation, and was then bottle aged in Margan's cellars for a further four years.

It means that today it's full-bodied and smooth with varietal white pepper spiciness, and with classic ripe dark-berry, tar and cigar box characteristics of Hunter Shiraz. With its solid tannin structure you can see this one maturing beautifully over the next couple of decades… but if you want to enjoy it now (and its currently $100 a bottle,) match with a special-occasion dinner of roast duck, or venison in a red wine sauce.

Taltarni Cabernet Merlot Petit Verdot - Victoria

A TRADITIONAL "Bordeaux blend" of Cabernet,
Merlot and Petit Verdot for big-hearted wintertime
dining such as Steak Entrecote Marchand de Vin.


David Ellis

A NICE big-hearted drop to enjoy this time of year with equally big-hearted wintertime dining, is Taltarni's classic "Bordeaux Blend" that brings together Cabernet, Merlot and a splash of Petit Verdot.

Sourced entirely from Victoria's Pyrenees, the 52% Cabernet Sauvignon gives this one beautiful dark-berry fruit flavours, the 42% Merlot plum and cocoa, just 6% Petit Verdot balances acidity, and there are lovely tannins… making for an overall judiciously full-bodied food wine that can be bought and enjoyed now, or popped away to develop for even greater pleasure a few more years down the track.

And it's one to also think about decanting before serving, giving it a chance to open-up and show itself off to best advantage upon pouring; just 15 or 20 minutes for the currently available 2014 vintage would be fine as it's a still quite young drop.

Great buying at just $26. And as this is a classic French blend, think France again and put it on a winter's table with an equally classic French pan-fried Steak Entrecote Marchand de Vin (ribeye with a sauce of red wine and shallots.)

11 Jul 16

Friday, 8 July 2016

Lonely Planet Wine Trails

ONE TO NOTE:  IF you're heading overseas, or just staying closer to home on that next holiday, and some winery visits along the way are on the agenda, a must to get hold of before you go is a book from Lonely Planet called Wine Trails.

For here is a meticulously researched introduction to not only something like 330 wineries in 52 regions of twenty countries, but tips on where to stay around those wineries, where to eat, maps to help get around… and of course the specialities in local wines. And it covers not just major established wine countries and regions, but newly-emerging one too like Lebanon and Georgia, with suggested local wines to try.

Designed for social quaffers and free of confusing mumbo-jumbo wine-talk, this is a must-buy at $35 to ensure getting the most out of winery visits on that next big trip.

[] HERE'S a helping hand to get the most out of winery visits on that next overseas or Australian holiday.

4 Apr 16


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