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.

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