Tuesday, 18 December 2007

THE RIGHT WINE FOR YOUR FESTIVE TABLE

YOU know what you’re putting on the plate for Christmas, but do you know if what you’re putting in the glass is the right wine to enjoy with it?

Here’s some help with what matches most popular Christmas lunch offerings.

ANTIPASTO: If you’re heading towards seafood antipasto, for a bubbly try the citrusy 2002 Starvedog Lane Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir Pinot Meunier at $26, or Koonowla’s 2006 Riesling that’s fresh, crisp and limey ($22.)

CHEESE & FRUIT PLATE: Penna Lane 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon – fruity and tannic to match hard cheeses ($24;) if you’re serving soft cheeses, Piromit 2005 Botrytis that’s sweet without being cloying, is a great match at $18 for 375ml.

BAKED TURKEY, HAM & VEGIES: BlackJack 2005 Shiraz that’s a seriously gutsy red at $35 for a serious main course; if you prefer white, go for the $20 Bidgeebong 2004 Tumbarumba Chardonnay that’s robust with lots of flavour.

ROAST PORK: Red – what else but Jim Barry 2004 Three Little Pigs (a smooth blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec) at $18; for a white, Lillypilly generously flavoured yet soft and more-ish 2005 Chardonnay ($15.)

SEAFOOD SALAD: Seafood & Semillon go hand in glove so Tim Adams lemony 2006 Semillon; or the lemon/limey Chateau Tanunda 2007 Riesling ($18.)

HAM, TURKEY AND CHICKEN SALAD: Penna Lane 2007 Rambling Rosé, a seductively flavoursome pink to serve chilled ($18,) or try a touch of Spain with Bidgeebong’s slightly sweetish 2004 Tempranillo ($24,) or a taste of Italy with the Piromit 2005 Pinot Grigio – and upfront white loaded with flavour ($15.)

CHRISTMAS PUDDING: Lillypilly NV Fratelli Seven that’s a sweet, gently fortified wine at ($19 for 375ml,) or Tim Adams 20 Year Old Tawny Port ($35.)

FRUIT SALAD & ICE CREAM: DeBortoli’s Deen Vat 5 Botrytis, a delicious lighter-style “sticky” that’s ideal with fruity deserts; $12.99 for 375ml.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: Rosemount Show Reserve 2006 Chardonnay

ONE FOR LUNCH: The 2006 vintage in the Hunter Valley got off to a good enough start with cool and dry conditions, but a burst of heat in December and January reduced crop sizes… which in fact resulted in high quality fruit for makers like Rosemount, whose Show Reserve 2006 Chardonnay is loaded with stonefruit flavours, creamy complexity, oak and touches of minerality.

Pay $20.99 and put it on the table with a seafood salad or roast chicken.

ON THE TRAIL OF A FLAGSHIP SHIRAZ

CAROLINE Dunn has once again melded the very best of Clare Valley fruit and her own unique skills to create the 2002 Copper Trail Shiraz, the flagship wine of the Annie’s Lane label.

She first selected small parcels of fruit from individual vineyards, and then used small-batch open fermenters to keep these parcels separate, so that each vineyard’s unique characteristics could be brought to the fore. The wines then had 22-months in a combination of new and seasoned French and American oak barrels.

All this resulted in beautifully rich blackberry, violet and dark chocolate aromas, and well-balanced ground coffee, mineral and berry characters, velvety tannins and a silky texture on the palate.

This a deservedly flagship wine that’s a delight to enjoy now, or think about tucking it away in the cellar to further develop over the next six to eight years.

The $53.99 price is not cheap, but for such a rewarding wine is well worth it for that special occasion lunch or dinner; share it with friends over a good char-grilled steak with garlic and herb butter or peppercorn sauce.

(If you’re wondering about the Copper Trail name, it goes back to a route forged by prospectors following the discovery of copper at Burra in the late 1840s; the Trail passed through what are today the Annie’s Lane vineyards.)

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: Beelgara’s 2007 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc

ONE FOR LUNCH: SEMILLON Sauvignon Blanc has really taken off in this country in recent years, and when you can grab an award-winning bottle such as Beelgara’s 2007 at just $7.99 it’s little wonder. This wine’s got lively citrus flavours, touches of capsicum, and tropical-fruit freshness; at the price and quality it’s just the drop with summery seafoods, salads and crispy warm rolls.

AWARD-winning Beelgara 2007 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc: great value at $7.99 to go with seafood or oriental stir-fries.

A GOOD NOSE & GREAT LEGS…

WE always digress a little at this time of year to bring you our pick of some Christmas-stocking reading for a special someone into the enjoyment of wine.

And if you’ve family or friends fit that category, don’t look past giving them The Art of Wine from the Vine to the Table – sub-titled “a good nose & great legs.”

Written by wine educator, broadcaster and marketer, Robert Geddes it’s 300+ easy-to-read pages are jam-packed with the story of wine from the importance of where the grapes are grown (“soils ain’t soils,”) to their month-by-month life-cycle, the difference between making table, sparkling and fortified wines, and wine varieties including some we bet you’ve never heard of.

Rob, who was only Australia’s third Master of Wine, also talks about what to look for in terms of bouquet and nuances of flavours on the tongue and through the nose, the importance – with examples – of matching food and wine, “glass rules,” and the difference between “great” and “boring” wine lists.

This is a most enjoyable book for those who already know something about wine, but want to know more: and you’ll enjoy his lively writing style that ranges from the racy to the delightfully droll and quirky.

At $39.95 in time for Christmas, the wine buff will find themselves referring to this gem time and again – and we loved the many quotable quotes scattered liberally through its pages, from W.C. Fields’ “Who took the cork out of my lunch?” to the white-collar crim who told his captors on his way to prison: “I’m not worried about the reds, they’ll keep. But I am worried about the whites.”

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: Logan 2007 Hannah Rosé

ONE FOR LUNCH: ROSÉ is a wine we often overlook when thinking about Indian food and in particular curries, but it goes exceptionally well with such food, and particularly so when served well-chilled.

Peter Logan used Shiraz fruit for his exceptionally tasty 2007 Hannah Rosé he made at his Orange, Central Western NSW, winery; while it’s a really dry wine, it bursts with fruity, Shiraz-spicy flavours and is very good value at $20.

LOGAN Hannah Rosé: just the thing for your local Indian curry house.

PENNA LANE’s ROAD TO SUCCESS

AN Adelaide landscaper facing a crossroads of life, and an English salesman tired of hammering the motorways of the UK, seem an unlikely duo to create a new wine label in South Australia’s Clare Valley.

And even more so when they don’t even own a winery. But between them and their wives, Ray Klavins and Stephen Stafford-Brookes have created Penna Lane Wines, a label that you’ll find is well worthwhile a bit of searching out.

Ray and Stephen didn’t know each other when they tossed in their jobs and entered Roseworthy College to study oenology and viticulture in 1991; they struck up a quick friendship, went their own ways in pursuit of work after graduating, and came together again in 1998 to launch Penna Lane.

With their College experience they chose to concentrate on grape growing, and to use Neil Paulett’s Clare Valley winery to make their wine. “We may not have our fingers on all the buttons all the time, but it allows us to direct our limited funds into grape growing, and to keep our fingers on the pulse. We still make all the crucial decisions about timing of harvest, choice of yeasts, fermentation techniques, oak maturation, blending and the like,” they say.

They’ve currently a 2007 Riesling ($20) and Sauvignon Blanc Semillon ($18,) and 2005 Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon (each $24;) our choice is the Shiraz with a good cheese platter – its rich black cherry, black olive and prune fruit flavours are well balanced with acidity, soft tannin and a hint of spicy oak.

(Phone (08) 8843 4364 or go to www.pennalanewines.com.au for stockists.)

Monday, 19 November 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: Saltram’s Mamre Brook 2005 Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon


ONE FOR LUNCH: A mate with a passion for cooking, sweated through a recent weekend creating a Duck Confit he served with caramelised root vegies and a quince paste jus for a half dozen colleagues, and poured a wine you’d think was created with his Dinner Party in mind – Saltram’s Mamre Brook 2005 Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon.

The full-bodied wine was gutsy enough to match the richness of the duck and the fats its “Marylands” (legs and thighs) had been cooked in: great concentrated mulberry and blackberry fruit flavours, fine tannins, and aromas of dark plump berries and chocolate that almost jumped out of the glass. A great companion at $26.99 for a great dish.

RICH reward with a rich dish – Saltram’s Mamre Brook Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon an ideal match with Duck Confit.

HORROR HARVEST’S BENCHMARK WINE


TIM Smith must have wondered if he’d crossed a black cat enroute to his first vintage as Chief Winemaker at Chateau Tanunda in South Australia’s Barossa Valley.

After a highly-respected career with Yalumba, St Hallett and Tatachilla, and stints wine-making in Portugal and France, Tim arrived at Tanunda earlier this year to anything but what he’d hoped would be a great vintage for his first wines under the company’s label.

First it was to be the Barossa’s lowest-ever cropping vintage, and secondly it would be the earliest harvest in living memory, all brought about by severe frosts in October ’06, then drought, and finally rain at a time when the Barossa is normally dry pre-harvest.

The result was that what low crops were on the 80-year vines suddenly ripened and had to be harvested three weeks early, and while some offered up as little as a 20th their normal weight in fruit, careful bunch selection achieved fruit of exceptional flavour.

And Tim’s first wine from the vintage, his 2007 The Chateau Riesling is remarkably looking like being credited as something of a benchmark Riesling in the Valley: it has beautifully abundant lemon and lime aromas with hints of passionfruit, and on the palate a wonderfully juicy lime fruit finish with a crispy touch of minerality.

At $18 it’s a ripper to enjoy with seafood, but with its clean natural acid it’ll also go down well with lightly spicy Thai Green Chicken, or even Sweet and Sour Pork.


EXTRAORDINARY success: Chateau Tanunda’s 2007 The Chateau Riesling.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

GREAT DROP FROM BEST OF THE BEST

WHEN you enjoy a vintage that produces fruit that’s described as “overall excellent,” and you choose just the very top 25% of that fruit for your wine, you can expect to come up with a top drop.

Wynns’ Chief Winemaker, Sue Hodder did just that with the 2005 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon, a classic that once again underlines why the Black Label – now in its fiftieth year of production – continually sets the benchmark for Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra.

Sue says this latest release is a true expression of the Wynns style of Cabernet. “Its very ‘Wynns like’ in that it exhibits dark fruit flavours with a hint of classic Coonawarra mint; we had an almost perfect vintage in 2005, with a lack of rain and slightly warmer than average temperatures producing intensely flavoured fruit that allowed us to produce a wine with rich flavours and generous tannins,” she said.

This is a wine that makes for great drinking now, or can be put away to reach its peak around 2015; pay $29.99 and enjoy with roast beef, lamb or hearty duck or game dishes.

WINE OF THE WEEK: Ferngrove’s Symbol Sauvignon Blanc Semillon

ONE FOR LUNCH: THINGS went anything but well in 2007 for makers in Western Australia’s Frankland River region 300km south of Perth: rainfall was fifteen per cent below normal, and consecutive days of 39-degree temperatures in March elevated baumes and shrank the fruit.

Ferngrove Wines’ Senior Winemaker, Kim Horton decided under such conditions to harvest six weeks earlier than usual, and by throwing every human resource at his disposal into the job, ended up with wines of surprising quality – particularly his 2007 Symbols Sauvignon Blanc Semillon.

Kim managed each block as an individual entity and remarkably finished with a wonderfully full-bodied wine with dominant passionfruit, citrus and gooseberry aromatics; a great drop at $15.95 with seafood dishes.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: McWilliam’s 2006 Lillydale Estate Pinot Noir

ONE FOR LUNCH: McWilliam’s 2006 Lillydale Estate Pinot Noir must qualify as the closest you’ll get to a virtually “hand made” wine – beginning from the hand-picking of the fruit in its Yarra Valley vineyard, through to careful de-stemming, and 5-days pigeage (foot treading in vats in the winery.)

This largely Old World treatment has resulted in a wonderfully elegant, regionally expressive wine that bursts in the mouth with cherry flavours and hints of gaminess; well worth $26 to linger with over a rack of lamb.

ORGANIC WINES A FAMILY AFFAIR

WHEN the Statham family talk about their organic Rosnay vineyard near the little village of Canowindra in the central ranges of NSW, they’re talking about more than just eschewing artificial fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides.

To them it’s a whole lifestyle thing that goes back to when Grandfather Statham grew home-vegies organically, his passion being enthusiastically embraced by his son, and in turn his sons as well.

Now the close-knit Statham family not only doesn’t use artificial aids in the vineyard, they’ve grown thousands of native trees in belts amongst their vines, balanced minerals organically, they mulch and compost, and even move large flocks of sheep around small units of land for short periods of time to better distribute manure, build-up organic matter and compact the soil less.

It’s resulted in what was once a farm beset with powdery soil with little organic matter, now a rich organic island producing quality wines with higher levels than normal of micro-nutrients anti-oxidants that can help the body detoxify.

The 2005 Semillon could arguably be dubbed the flagship of the ten year old Rosnay’s whites, a perfect seafood-matcher with outstanding crisp apple, light grassy and lime flavours, and a toasty complexity.

Super buying at $16 to go with pan-fried crab cakes and sautéed asparagus.

Monday, 22 October 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: Logan Wines' 2005 Cabernet Merlot

ONE FOR LUNCH: LOGAN Wines in NSW’s central west has a well-deserved reputation for its rich-flavoured cool climate Pinot Noir, Shiraz and a stand-out Cabernet Merlot, the 2005 of which has just been released – a full-on wine whose dark-chocolate flavours are supported by hints of tobacco and soft tannins. Its one for the roast lamb and baked vegies, and good value at $25 to enjoy now or to tuck away to develop gracefully over the next six or eight years.

PIROMIT’S A DRIVE-AWAY SUCCESS

THERE was a time, thirty-odd years ago, when the folk of Griffith in the NSW Riverina would take themselves to their Hanwood drive-in theatre, and ’tween catching snatches of whatever was on the screen, quaff the wine hits of the day – things like Ben Ean Moselle, Porphry Pearl and Mateus Rose.

Today those classics so many of us cut our wine-drinking teeth on are mainly memories, the drive-in’s long gone, and somewhat fittingly in its place is a winery – a 21st century affair big in size but boutique in winemaking approach.

And to preserve a bit of the site’s history, the one-time drive-in’s ticket booths are the weighbridge station of the winery, called Piromit Wines.

Piromit that was created in 1998 is the runaway success of the efforts of four Griffith entrepreneurs who combined their specialist skills in sales, promotion and marketing, viticulture and farm management, and wine science.

Their state-of-the-art winery handles over a thousand tonnes of grapes annually, producing not just wines for their own label, but under contract for other companies; for Piromit they pick the best premium grapes from select local growers to produce a range that includes a Chardonnay, Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Shiraz, Sangiovese and a Cabernet Merlot.

Their 2005 Piromit Shiraz is typically rich and ripe Riverina, with intense dark fruits and berry flavours and a peppery, fragrantly spicy bouquet; its excellent value at $14.99 with barbecued prime rib, followed with tasty hard cheeses.

Monday, 15 October 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: 2006 Starvedog Lane Pinot Grigio

ONE FOR LUNCH: PINOT Grigio – or as the French call it, Pinot Gris – is gaining increasing favour in Australia, particularly with those who enjoy a splash of white with seafood-enhanced pasta dishes.

The 2006 Starvedog Lane Pinot Grigio from the Mediterranean-climate Adelaide Hills is a great example of the variety, with fresh, rich flavours of blood oranges, poached pears and savoury spice, and crunchy acidity.

Nicely priced at $24 to match with – naturally – Italian dishes. Try linguine vongole (clams): simply cook the clams in some white wine, garlic, a little chili and plenty of chopped Italian parsley, then toss into the cooked linguine to which a good splash of olive oil should be stirred before the clams.

DELIVERING BEYOND EXPECTATION

ROSEMOUNT’s Show Reserve is an interesting range of wines sitting between their Diamond and Flagship Labels, and giving consumers good-value fresh, bright and vibrant wines around the $20 a bottle mark.

They’ve a half dozen wines in the range from vintages in NSW, South Australia and Western Australia between 2004 and 2007, with one of the real crack-a-jacks their Show Reserve Western Australia Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2007.

This is an aromatic wine that delivers beyond expectation: there are plenty of lychee and passionfruit aromas, and the palate has generous notes of orange blossom, kaffir lime, red grapefruit and honeydew melon, reflecting the fruit from which the wine was sourced from across a variety of WA vineyards.

For those who like a touch of oak there could be some disappointment in this wine having no oak, but the intense fruit flavours certainly make up for any perceived shortcomings in this regard.

Excellent buying at a recommended $20.99; enjoy with asparagus quiche, green salad and a crusty baguette straight out of the oven.

Monday, 8 October 2007

WINE’S HERITAGE A BLAST FROM THE PAST

IT’S worth taking a drive to the NSW Southern Highlands tourist township of Berrima to taste the wines of small family winery, Blue Metal Vineyard – and at the same time try the local produce on tasting and sale in their café-cum-shop.

Blue Metal was planted in 1999 and covers just 10ha of rich red soils and free-draining clay loams over basalt rock, a heritage from aeons past of neighbouring one-time volcanoes Mt Gibraltar, Mt Jellore and Mt Misery.

And remarkably small as this vineyard is, innovative winemaker Nick Spencer has been able to produce an amazing range of lip-smacking wines from it, including four whites, eight reds, a non-vintage Rose and a fortified.

One that’s certainly destined for recognition on the local and international scene is the super-premium Blue Metal Ignis Merlot, a medium-bodied wine with great intensity of flavour, more-ish chocolaty notes, and wonderful dark berry and plum fruit aromas.

At $45 at the cellar door, serve with braised lamb ravioli and wild mushrooms.

Blue Metal Vineyard is just over an hour’s drive south of Sydney in the NSW Southern Highlands; as well as the Cellar Door that’s open Thursdays to Mondays, their café offers local cheese platters and Devonshire Teas and you can buy Highland cheeses, chutneys, jams, sauces, breads and olive oil.

Phone (02) 4877 1877 or check them out at www.bluemetalvineyard.com

WINE OF THE WEEK: McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Philip Shiraz

ONE FOR LUNCH: IT’S over forty years since wine buffs experienced their first encounter with McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Philip Shiraz, and in all those years they’ve certainly lost none of their enthusiasm for this great wine. Sourced from several Hunter Valley vineyards, it rewards with wonderfully sweet and soft red current fruit flavours, and classic Hunter earthy complexity.

This is a “juicy” wine that’s enticingly priced at $18; try it with venison cutlets.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: 2005 Tulloch Moor Shiraz

ONE FOR LUNCH: CLARE Valley winemaker, Kirrihill has decided on a change in making- and marketing-direction: rather than drawing on fruit from a range of South Australian regions, in future it will concentrate on single vineyard wines solely from the cool-climate Clare and the Adelaide Hills.

Former UK wine marketer, Matt McCulloch has been brought in to spearhead the new policy, that includes giving prominence to the names of vineyards from which individual-label wines are drawn, and their association with environmentally sound growing practices.

Amongst first releases under the new criteria is a 2005 Tulloch Moor Shiraz from the Tullymore Vineyard, one of the highest in the Clare Valley: this wine bursts with classic Shiraz spicy-fruit characters, nice tannin and good acid. Pay $19.95 and serve it up with a home-made game pie.

HUNTER’S LITTLE TASTE OF ITALY

THE Hunter Valley’s Little Wine Company has released a wonderfully drinkable Sangiovese under its 2005 Olivine label… a flavoursome yet light and food-friendly “Little Taste of Italy” made from the same red grape variety as the classic Chiantis of Italy’s Tuscany region.

Suzanne Little who oversees red wine production at the family winery says Sangiovese is particularly suited to the terroir of the Hunter Valley, with the 2005 the company’s fifth year of production of this variety – and she believes, the best so far.

The wine is full-flavoured with sweet cherry and leather tones and smoky chocolate and mushroom characters; its well priced at $19 a bottle from most independent retailers – if you can’t find it, give the winery a call on (02) 6579 1111 to find a local outlet.

Being a wine of Tuscan origin – it’s been made there for over 700 years – this one’s ideal with tomato-based pasta dishes or most pizzas.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: See Saw 2007 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc

ONE FOR LUNCH: SEE-SAW has done something unusual with its 2007 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc: the Semillon component comes from the Hunter Valley and the Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand – individually iconic regions for these two varieties. The resultant wine made by Andrew Margan and Hamish MacGowan is one of those wonderfully food-friendly drops that explodes in the mouth with fresh savoury and citrus flavours; another great buy at $19.95 and a good partner with Asian-style seafood dishes, a shellfish platter, or Spanish paella.

WINE OF THE WEEK: Tamblyn Cabernet, Shiraz, Malbec and Merlot

ONE FOR LUNCH: ANOTHER South Australian maker, Bremerton in cool climate Langhorne Creek, has come up with one of its best-ever Tamblyn label reds, a carefully crafted blend by Winemaker Rebecca Willson of Cabernet, Shiraz, Malbec and Merlot that’s she’s brought together in a soft, mouth-filling wine loaded with dark-fruit flavours and soft tannins. Rebecca and younger sister Lucy, who is company Marketing Manager, suggest cellaring this one for the next three years, but we’d recommend paying the $18 asking price and getting into it now with a good mixed cheese platter.

KATNOOK GOES “INFORMAL”

COONAWARRA’s Katnook Estate label has long been recognised as one of the region’s super-premiums, covering wines of enormous intensity and flavour, and usually available in only limited quantities that are much sought-after by aficionados – particularly the label’s reds.

But in 2005 it introduced a Katnook Founder’s Block, a label that Senior Winemaker, Wayne Stehbens calls “an introduction to the Katnook Estate label… and for Katnook Estate’s devotees, their informal drinking wines.”

Don’t think, however, that these are deliberately dumbed-down wines: Wayne and his team have maintained all of Katnook’s full-on flavour and elegance with the six varietals under the label – a Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Sparkling Shiraz – that are on the shelf at a good-value $19.99 each.

And although Coonawarra’s reputation lays with its reds, the Katnook Founder’s Block 2005 Chardonnay is one that will appeal to white wine lovers: its silky smooth texture is supported by generous peach, melon and grapefruit flavours, and there’s lively acidity.

A good everyday drinking wine to match it with pasta served with a pesto of blended basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

VOLCANO WINE’S ERUPTION OF FLAVOUR

ANGULLONG Station and Vineyard at Orange in the NSW Central West has garnered itself something of an outstanding reputation for fruit it’s provided on contract since the turn of the century to many of the top names in the district’s winemaking industry.

Following its successes in that field, in 2003 it decided to launch its own A Wines label, and has now followed this with a Fossil Hill range that reflects the adventurous spirit of its owners, the Crossing family: they’ve opted for non-traditional Pinot Gris, Viognier, Sangiovese and Barbera from vines that have taken to the unique 450-million year old soils of Angullong like the proverbial duck to water.

The Crossing family – directors Bill and Hatty and their sons, James who is Vineyard Manager, and Ben Director of Sales and Marketing – bought Angullong Station on the lower slopes of the ancient Mt Canobolas volcano in 1950, adding the vineyard in 1998.

And interestingly they use several local winemakers who are overseen by well-known Orange regional guru, Jon Reynolds to make these wines, outstanding of which among their Fossil Hill range is the 2006 Pinot Gris.

This is a variety that’s gaining strong following amongst real wine buffs looking for that something a little different, the Fossil Hill Pinot Gris a wine with an eruption of rich pear and pineapple flavours, crisp acidity, and nice pear and citrus aromas.

Great value at $19.95 for those who enjoy Mediterranean-style seafood dishes from its homelands in France and Italy (where it’s known locally there as Pinot Grigio.)

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: Deakin Estate 2005 Shiraz

ONE FOR LUNCH: PIE-eaters rejoice: Deakin Estate’s released a 2005 Shiraz that’s a superb red for next time you put a gourmet beef pie on the table – and better still, it costs just $10. Fruit from the company’s vineyard at Red Cliffs in North West Victoria gives this wine a rich palate of dark berry fruits and fine tannins, with lovely spicy fruitcake, raisin, plum and chocolate aromas.

PUT A PARTY IN YOUR MOUTH

A bit of tweaking of acid levels in the just-released 2007 Jim Barry Watervale Riesling has rewarded the company – and consumers – with a superb wine that’s got considerably fresher and more pronounced fruit flavours on the palate than many of its predecessors.

Jim Barry Wines has been a leader with this variety in Watervale, Australia’s home of Riesling, for thirty years, and while many may wonder why they considered it necessary to in fact make any adjustments at all, Managing Director, Peter Barry considers it all part of progress.

“We wanted to encourage sophisticated, younger wine drinkers to grab a bottle of our Riesling to try it, so we brightened up packaging and at the same time made the 2007 with a pH of 2.92 compared with the norm of 3.1 to 3.2.

“It doesn’t sound much, but is enough to give the wine that little extra acidity that in turn’s made it much fresher, and the fruit flavours more pronounced.

“With plenty of lime, pink grapefruit and mandarin up front, and suggestions of rose petals, cardamom, star anise and lychee behind these,” Peter says. “We’ve had it described as ‘like having a party in your mouth.’”

Always great with seafood, this Riesling’s excellent buying at $14.95 so treat yourself to a platter of oysters with lots of lemon and a coriander garnish to start, followed-up with grilled white-fleshed fish topped with a dab of butter, a little chili, lots more lemon and again a hearty garnish of torn-up coriander.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: 2006 Chalkers Crossing Hilltops Semillon

ONE FOR LUNCH: Another relative newcomer with a French connection is Chalkers Crossing at Young in the Hilltops region of the NSW Southern Highlands: the first wines came out of this winery in 2000 under the hand of Paris-born and Bordeaux-trained, Celine Rousseau. Her 2006 Chalkers Crossing Hilltops Semillon has nice citrus and apricot flavours, while the delightful balance of fruit and acid make it ideal to share with rich-flavoured sardines, whitebait or salmon Gravalax. A top-value drop at $18.

WORTH HOCKING THE FARM FOR

IT’S a brave man who decides to hock the successful 90-year old family farm and put the money into buying 70ha of virgin land to grow grapes and dream of hopefully launching his own premium quality wine label.

But Murray Burton, a West Australian south coast farmer did just that in 1996, and after mortgaging the family beef and dairy property, started his new wine venture on the Frankland River, 360km south of Perth.

He’s not looked back: not only did his Frankland River Vineyard thrive in the temperate Mediterranean climate, a couple of years later he bought another 155ha nearby that he named Ferngrove and there built his dreamed-of winery.

Murray brought in highly-respected Kim Horton as Senior Winemaker and saw his 2000 harvest turn into his first Frankland River wine: he’s now released four new reds from the 2005 and 2006 vintages under the Ferngrove Symbols label, the must-buy amongst them for red devotees the 2006 Shiraz Viognier.

Murray and Kim were inspired by the wines of the Rhone Valley to create this 93% Shiraz and 7% Viognier blend, that combines loads of ripe mulberry and raspberry flavours from the Shiraz component, with the Viognier’s aromaticity.

Outstanding value at $14.99; and with its soft, juicy fruit characters, how better to enjoy than with a wood-fired gourmet pizza.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: 2005 Pepperjack Shiraz Viognier

One For Lunch: A nicely balanced blend of Shiraz and Viognier from the Barossa and Eden Valleys can be found in the 2005 Pepperjack Shiraz Viognier that with its rich, ripe and plentiful fruit characters makes a good partner with game dishes or Chinese five spice quail. Certainly worth the $22.99 asking price for enjoyment now, or with its screw cap it will develop further over the next three or four years in the cellar.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

$308,000 – NOW THAT’S A DRINK…

A couple of wine buffs have just paid $308,000 between them for two complete collections of every vintage of Penfolds Grange.

And a single bottle from the first-ever vintage in 1951, fetched $51,000 at the same on-line auction conducted by Langton’s Fine Wines earlier this month.

There were 51 bottles in each of the two collections, stretching from the inaugural 1951 to the latest released on the market, the 2002. One collection went under the hammer for $157,551 and the other for $149,501.

They were amongst a total of 1386 lots of some of Penfolds’ greatest-ever vintages, including two rare imperials (6-litres/8-bottles) of the 2004 Bin 60A Coonawarra Cabernet Barossa Valley Shiraz and 2004 Block 42 Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that fetched $15,972 and $15,526 respectively.

Penfolds Grange was created in 1951 by Max Schubert and for those of us who can’t lay claim to having ever tasted it, is officially described as “a wine of extraordinary dimension and power… richly textured, intensely concentrated and packed with fruit sweetness.”

It has been credited with rivalling some of the greatest wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy, listed by America’s Wine Spectator magazine as “one of the greatest wines of the 20th century,” and is the only wine to be heritage listed by the South Australian National Trust.

The current-release, 2002, is selling for around $500 to $525.

WINE OF THE WEEK: Starvedog Lane’s 2006 Sauvignon Blanc


One For Lunch: Starvedog Lane’s 2006 Sauvignon Blanc is a real quaffer of abundant grapefruit and lime flavours and a lively natural acidity that reflects the cool Mediterranean hills climate of its home in the Adelaide Hills. Pay $24.50 and offer with soft shell crab accompanied by wilted spinach and a warm tomato-basil vinaigrette.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

A CLASSIC FROM CATTLE COUNTRY

ITS not so long ago that growing grapes and making wine was the last thing on peoples’ minds in the cattle country of Queensland’s historic South Burnett.

But in the early 1990s a consortium of wine-lovers and investors did their research and figured that the area, that had been described as far back as 1861 as “the greatest pastoral district in the whole colony,” had the potential to add winemaking to its beef and dairy heritage.

They planted their first grapes in 1995 on the 150 year old Barambah estate, and so successfully did the idea take off that there are now around eighteen other makers in the area, although cattle is still the region’s mainstay.

Barambah Wines, that was bought in 2006 by Steve and Jane Wilson as an adjunct to their cattle business, has recently released a classic Unwooded First Grid 2007 Verdelho to add to its range of First Grid Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, and Rack Dried Semillon.

The wine was made by respected consultant-maker, Peter Scudamore-Smith who has an enviable reputation for coaxing the best from the grape, and almost cheekily boasts its Queensland heritage with beautiful ripe mango, pawpaw and lime sherbet acidity on the palate, and a lifted tropical nose.

Good buying at $19 from Barambah’s “cellar door” at the Cheese Centre in Kingaroy, or check-out www.barambah.com.au for select outlets or to order on-line. It’s a great wine on the table with a Thai Green Chicken Curry.

Monday, 13 August 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: Italian Riccadonna Ruby

ONE FOR LUNCH: IF you’re looking for a nice bubbly for upcoming celebrations but want to go a bit lighter on the alcohol, try the Italian Riccadonna Ruby that’s just 8% alcohol – compared with around 12- to 14% for most other sparklings and Champagnes. This is a fruity, naturally sweet red bubbly that’s great value at around $16, and goes really well with char-grilled salmon, turkey, pork or puddings, crumbles and soufflés.

HONOURING A LEGEND

WAY back in 1880 Ferdinand de Lesseps started his ill-fated attempt on the Panama Canal, Wabash Indiana became America’s first city to be lit solely by electricity, Canada allowed women to practice medicine for the first time, and Ned Kelly was hanged in Melbourne.

The same year the King family planted the Old Hill Vineyard in the foothills of the Hunter Valley’s Brokenback Range – and 120-odd years later fruit from those gnarled old vines is still used to make one of Australia’s most legendary wines, that honours its most legendary winemaker, the late Maurice O’Shea.

O’Shea bought the vineyard in 1921 and at the same time planted the Old Paddock Vineyard and established the esteemed Mount Pleasant estate; today McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Maurice O’Shea Shiraz honouring him and Mount Pleasant is the company’s flagship red.

The just-released super-premium 2004 made predominantly from Old Hill fruit with a small proportion from Old Paddock, lives up to the label’s outstanding reputation, coupled now with the advantage of being the first vintage to be bottled under a screwcap to ensure a good five or so years further cellaring.

This is a wine with a generous nose of plums, raisins and raspberries, hints of paprika, pepper and smoky chocolate oak, and on the palate dense sweet fruits, ripe fruit tannin, vanillin oak and a touch of spicy paprika.

Pay $65 and serve with roast duck, red currant jus and seasonal vegetables.

Monday, 6 August 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: De Bortoli’s Show Liqueur Muscat

ONE FOR LUNCH: IT doesn’t matter much whether you are a traditionalist and like to finish a celebratory meal with desserts of the wonderfully rich, dark Christmas pudd -style, or more modern playthings like horns of chilled dark chocolate filled with whipped soft white chocolate, a great wine that’ll match either is De Bortoli’s Show Liqueur Muscat. This rich fortified is loaded with raisin, fig and dried fruit flavours, and as English wine scribe, Matthew Jukes once wrote, is like “liquidised boozy Christmas cake in a glass.” Well worth the $22 price tag.

ICONIC SHIRAZ FROM CHARDY COUNTRY

SOUTH-Eastern NSW’s Bidgeebong Wines can justifiably lay claim to coming up with one of our more distinct drops of Shiraz, both because of the district in which it’s located and the methods used in the vineyard it gets its fruit from.

Located on the outskirts of Wagga Wagga, its grapes come from the so-called Bidgeebong Triangle bounded by Tumbarumba in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, Young, and the Murrumbidgee plain around Gundagai.

Fruit for the just-released 2004 Icon Series Shiraz came from the Billinudgel Vineyard of former naval officer, Peter Paffard and his wife Anne, in the Tumbarumba district – one that’s more generally regarded as Chardonnay country, but which being protected from chilly alpine winds, also produces exceptional Shiraz fruit that’s quite akin to that from France’s Rhone Valley.

The Paffards are organic devotees, do not till the soil, avoid sprays, and as they’re totally surrounded by natural bushland, employ backpackers to shoo-off native birds as the grapes ripen. In the case of the 2004, all this resulted in Bidgeebong’s Director of Winemaking, Andrew Birks enjoying that exceptional fruit to produce an elegant wine that’s loaded with forest berryfruit flavours, a touch of spice and nice oak.

Pay $35 and enjoy this one with grilled lamb back-straps accompanied by steamed baby ’taters, carrots and beans.

Monday, 30 July 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: Wolf Blass 2005 Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon

ONE FOR LUNCH: IF you’re partial to roast beef with baked vegies, Yorkshire pudd and rich gravy, put it on the family Sunday table with a bottle of Wolf Blass 2005 Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon. This medium to full bodied wine displays good varietal Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon berry and plum flavours, a sweet middle palate and smooth tannins; grab it at from as low as just over $10 on special.

BEING ADVENTUROUS BEARS FRUIT

ROBERT Fiumara, Chief Winemaker at Lillypilly Estate in the Riverina, is an adventurous soul, his latest effort an usual dessert wine he thinks will appeal to those who like their sweets and puddings, but not of the overly-rich variety.

Robert’s stepped away before from the Semillons and Rieslings that are the usual backbones for botrytised dessert wines to experiment with Sauvignon Blanc, Traminer, and Muscat of Alexandria, but with his 2006 Noble Blend he’s done the somewhat unthinkable – he’s included Chardonnay in the blend.

Many fellow winemakers were possibly horrified at the idea, but Robert says he was quite excited to find botrytis developing in a small block of Chardonnay in his Leeton vineyard in 2006 – and admits that when he tried to hold-back some of the normally early-ripening fruit from the same block this year for a 2007 Noble Blend, he lost the lot when the berries broke down too quickly.

His 2006 Noble Blend is an interesting compilation of 35 per cent Semillon, 30 per cent Riesling, 25 per cent Sauvignon Blanc, and 10 per cent Chardonnay. “I think the Chardonnay has definitely added complexity and stonefruit characters to the bouquet, and an extra dimension to the palate,” he says. “But, no, it won’t be making regular appearances.”

All the same, this is a very delightful – if slightly different – dessert wine with lovely zestiness and freshness on the palate, and certainly well worth $24.50 for a 375ml bottle to round-off a good dinner with a fresh lime brulée.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: Rosemount’s 2007 Diamond Label Sauvignon Blanc

ONE FOR LUNCH: Seafood and Sauvignon Blanc go hand-in-hand, and Rosemount’s 2007 Diamond Label is just the drop to share with shellfish dishes or a heavily seafood-weighted paella.

Varietal grassy and green pea aromas bounce out of the glass on pouring, and flavours are equally grassy, coupled with ripe passionfruit and tropical fruit; if seafood is not your go, opt for something like a mushroom and tomato quiche. Pay $15.99 for this one, and serve well chilled.

RINGMASTER: A CRACKING GOOD DROP

WHEN Andrew Michael, owner of the Clare Valley’s Koonowla Wines wanted to come up with an eye-catching name for a high-quality second tier wine, he didn’t bother with concept companies to come up with an answer.

Rather, he and his small staff and a few vignerons, winemakers, marketers and other mates in the industry simply looked around them to see what they might have in common – and decided that as they all worked in the Ringmaster’s Office at the annual Royal Adelaide Show, this co-operative effort new-label wine should be called Ringmaster.

Two of the Clare’s Valley’s top winemakers, David O’Leary and Nick Walker were charged with the task of making the first Ringmasters, and crafted just what Andrew Michael was seeking: quintessentially full-bodied premium Clare wines displaying exceptional varietal characteristics.

One of their first, a 2005 Ringmaster Cabernet Sauvignon is a real stand-out, with distinctive varietal aromas of violets, spices and black fruits, a sweet fruit palate and a nice balance of acidity and fine tannins.

And the $17.95 price makes it an affordably-enjoyable wine, robust enough to go with a hearty gourmet mixed grill of spicy Italian sausages, lamb chops, bacon, creamy mashed spuds – the whole lot topped with fried eggs.

Monday, 16 July 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: De Bortoli’s Wild Vine Shiraz

ONE FOR LUNCH: IF you’ve a big winter’s-time BBQ on the horizon and you’ll be needing more than a few bottles of red to accompany those sizzling pepper steaks and jacket potatoes, consider De Bortoli’s inexpensive Wild Vine Shiraz.

This one’s got everything going for it in the value stakes: plenty of berry fruit, varietal pepper and a touch of oak on the palate, is priced at just $7.99 a bottle, and it comes under a handy screw cap so there’s no need to keep hunting for the corkscrew while you’re suppose to be turning the steaks.

SUCCESS OF A SWIFT SEA-CHANGE

ED and David Swift were only in their twenties when they decided on an earlier- rather than a later-in-life sea-change: Ed with an engineering background and David with one in design, decided they’d venture into the winemaking business.

So in the mid-1990s David started building a winery on Mt Canobolas in the Orange region of Central Western NSW, David got to in designing a label, they planted a vineyard, contracted a local grower to supply specific premium fruit for their enterprise, and invited a local winemaker well versed in the needs and potential of the Orange region, Robert Black to join them in their venture.

Their first wines under their Printhie label hit the market in 2004 and they’ve not looked back: amongst this year’s releases is a 2006 Sauvignon Blanc made from fruit off vigneron David Gartrell’s property over 1000m above sea-level on the south-western side of Mt Canobolas.

This is a wine that’s fantastically drinkable with wonderful tropical fruit-salad flavours; served well-chilled it makes an ideal companion with steamed white asparagus, a dob of parsley sauce, and warm garlic bread on the side.

For a wine that delivers far more than it’s $16.99 price tag, we just wonder if Ed and David are under-selling themselves.

Monday, 9 July 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: 2004 Watershed Premium Shiraz

ONE FOR LUNCH: WATERSHED Wines in WA’s Margaret River region is just six years young, but is already making its mark with exceptional Shiraz that has some asking if this variety from the maritime-climate region (warm days, cool nights) could ultimately be hailed amongst Australia’s best.

The 2004 Watershed Premium Shiraz has sweet cherry and white chocolate flavours, and spicy and vanilla characters from maturation in French and American oak. Soft tannins round out the enjoyment of this wine that at $24 is a good-value match with a winter-time osso bucco.

GAMBLE MADE NZ WINE HISTORY

BACK in 1973 when Ross and Bill Spence started a small family-affair winery in West Auckland, they hoped that many of the techniques they planned to employ would assist revolutionise New Zealand’s fledgling wine industry.

They called their venture Matua Valley Wines, and within a few years had far exceeded their wildest expectations: after gambling with planting New Zealand’s first-ever Sauvignon Blanc, they went a step further by doing so in the Marlborough region in the north of the South Island, reasoning that it’s distinct micro-climate, soil type and topography would be ideal for the variety.

And the rest, as they say, is history: Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs are now considered amongst the finest in the world, with sales to Australia alone for these wines in the $19-$35 bracket increasing at a phenomenal 21.7 per cent a year.

The latest import from Matua Valley, their Estate Series Paretai Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, is made from fruit grown on the company’s Northbank Vineyard that lays across an ancient stone river bed, and has beautifully intense tropical flavours with an underlining minerality.

It’s well priced at $29.99 for a wine of its calibre; team it up with fresh oysters, or green-shell mussels served with a slightly chili-spiced coriander broth.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: Brands of Coonawarra Chardonnay

ONE FOR LUNCH: Brand’s of Coonawarra winemaker, Peter Weinberg likes to describe his annual Chardonnay offerings as “the winemaker’s white wine,” and his just-released 2005 showcases his enthusiasm for making this variety.

This one’s got lovely rockmelon and peach characters on the palate with a hint of creamy butterscotch; being a cool-climate Chardonnay it’s a different style to those from warmer regions, and well worth $22.99 to enjoy with seafoods.

BUBBLY OFFERING FOR BASTILLE DAY

WE’RE assured there’re 45-million bubbles in every bottle of Champagne, but we’re unsure if they were ever counted, or if it’s just an educated guess.

So we’re accepting the word of our French winemaking mates, and on the 14th of this month be amongst those world-wide who’ll enjoy a few million of those bubbles – Bastille Day, after all, is not just the preserve of the French.

And in Sydney one Frenchman who has chosen to spend half of every year living in the Harbour City will have a trifecta of reasons to pop the cork: Nicolas Feuillatte created the Champagne that today bears his name, he is an enthusiastic Bastille Day party-goer – and on this year’s Big Day he’s being honoured with the Legion d’Honneur, the French equivalent of a knighthood.

It is also France’s highest civilian award, Nicolas receiving it in recognition of his sixty years contribution to French commerce: his Champagne is now his country’s third largest-selling brand, and exported to over seventy countries.

Nicolas, who owned a small vineyard outside Reims with his brother Sege, founded Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte in 1976, dedicating the first vintage to a young opera singer he’d lost his heart to in New York. Since then his brand’s been the Champagne of choice of Jacqui Kennedy and JFK, Princess Diana, and been used on the set of British TV hit “Colin & Justin’s Wedding Belles.”

Nicolas Feuillatte’s biggest-selling label in Australia is the Reserve Particuliere Brut NV that sells for $55; it’s got Bastille Day partying written all over it.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

WINE OF THE WEEK: 2006 Fifth Leg Chardonnay


One For Lunch: Another West Australian, quirky-named Fifth Leg that’s grown to No. 3 best-selling WA brand in the $14 - $19 price range in just 10 years, has now released its first-ever single-varietal wine – all its previous reds, whites and rosés have been blends.

Winemaker Stuart Pym was inspired to come up with the 2006 Fifth Leg Chardonnay after being impressed with the individuality and style of a parcel of fruit he was considering for inclusion in one of his white blends. The wine is an easy-drinking, lightly-oaked and fruit-forward style – at $18.99 team it up at this time of year with a hearty seafood bisque.

Keeping the Legend Alive


It made its debut only in 1994, yet in it’s short lifetime it’s become as legendary as the winemaker it’s named after, garnering 22 two Show Trophies, 67 Gold Medals and countless Silvers and Bronze from only seven vintages, and has already become a benchmark of Australian wine investment.

We’re talking about Houghton’s Jack Mann Cabernet Sauvignon, a stellar wine from low-yielding, single-vineyard fruit off Houghton’s Justin Vineyard in the Frankland River area of Western Australia’s Great Southern Region.

The latest release, the 2001, once again epitomises Houghton’s philosophy with this label: to lend it only to their very best Cabernet Sauvignon.

The dry 2001 Spring, and even drier Summer, produced luscious-textured fruit of intense flavour that enabled Senior Winemaker, Rob Bowen to craft a wine with an enormous bouquet of blackberry, plum and mulberry, and a few hints of liquorice, truffle and bramble, plus a palate that’s opulent and concentrated.

At $100 from fine wine outlets, this is one to share with special-occasion guests over roast beef, baked Winter vegies and garlic gravy. (And while at it, raise a glass to Jack Mann, one of Australia’s most-visionary winemakers who steered Houghton’s through 51 consecutive vintages from 1922 to 1973

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