Friday 22 February 2008




david ellis

WHILE most growers in Western Australia's Margaret River harvest
around four tonnes of grapes to the acre for their reds, at Brown Hill
Estate they're generally lucky to get around one tonne.

That's because it's a dry-grown vineyard, and in 2006 this coupled
with the coolest summer for a half century saw the Brown Hill
vineyards produce just 0.8 tonnes to the acre – something that
winemaker, Nathan Bailey was in fact delighted with.

"Our pursuit of dry-grown viticulture will always producer lower
yields than the norm," Nathan says. "But we're meticulous with out
vineyard management, so the 0.8 tonnes we got to the acre was good
fruit with 1.35-degrees Baume and ample ripeness."

The resultant 2006 Brown Hill Fimiston Reserve Shiraz underwent
secondary malolactic fermentation in barrel, that Nathan says
integrated flavours better. The result is a wine with wonderful plum
and cherry flavours, nice velvety tannins and a bouquet of more-ish
rich cherry fruit with traces of dark chocolate.

Good value at $25 to go with the Sunday roast.

ONE FOR LUNCH: An interesting low alcohol (just 5%) wine to enjoy as
an aperitif or with desserts is Deakin Estate's 2007 Moscato; it's
quite spritzy and a bit like biting into a fresh-picked green apple.
Good value at $10 to kick off that next party.

BUY OF THE WEEK: Capel Vale has released a new range of early-drinking
West Australian wines aptly named Debut, the 2007 Verdelho a well
rounded drop with plenty of fruit flavours and tropical aromas. Pay
$17.95 and linger with it over roast duck.

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BROWN Hill's 2006 Fimiston Reserve Shiraz just right with the Sunday roast.

LOW on alcohol, Deakin Estate's 2007 Moscato is just 5% by alcohol,
but big on spritzy apple flavours.


Monday 18 February 2008


THERE was a time back in the '70s when mention of Gewurztraminer brought about involuntary sucking-in of the cheeks and even a little shudder up the spine of many of us at the thought of some of the sweet, cloying wine of the era.

How things have changed. And amongst those who've steered it have been
Suzanne and Ian Little of The Little Wine Company who, since making
their first Gewurztraminer in 1984, have seen their label become
Australia's most-awarded for the variety.

And their just-released 2006 Olivine Gewurztraminer is anything but
sweet and cloying: it's racy, restrained, has a crisp dry finish, and
on the palate ranges through from musk and Turkish Delight to lychees
and citrus.

Although based in the Hunter Valley, in their constant search for the
perfect Traminer grape, Suzanne and Ian found for their 2006 what they
call "a beauty of a vineyard" in Victoria's Goulburn Valley, one that
gave them intense yet delicately flavoured fruit from mature cool
climate vines.

Pay $19 and relish this wine with Thai or other dishes with a bit of spiciness.

OUT OF THE BOX: WEST Australia's Fifth Leg may sound a somewhat
quirky operation, and while the team behind it obviously have lots of
fun doing what they do, they also know how to come up with knock-out

Owned by Devil's Lair Wines, their 2007 Fifth Leg White is a zesty
blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Chardonnay that's full of
fruity lychee, lime, citrus and fresh cut-grass flavours – and not a
hint of oak.

At $20.99 it's nice and refreshing served chilled with seafoods, or
try it with asparagus under a mild cheese sauce.


PHOTO CAPTIONS: OUT of a "beauty of a vineyard," the Little Wine

Company's 2006 Olivine Gewurztraminer.

QUIRKY name but a quality drop: the
2007 Fifth

Leg White from WA's Devil's Lair.


NOT only does Hamish MacGowan make a ripper red for those who like
their steaks big and rare, he's one of the few makers with the
foresight to put his wine into both regular size bottles, and also
into "halves" for solo diners or couples who simply don't want more
than a glass or so.

Its five years since Hamish launched his inaugural 2002 Angus the Bull Cabernet Sauvignon, and over those years he's not had a vintage that's
disappointed. And his 2006 continues his philosophy of selecting only
the best of fruit, no matter how difficult this can sometimes be, with
that for 2006 sourced from a half dozen-plus vineyards across Victoria
and South Australia.

This is a big wine for a big steak with Potatoes Dauphinoise and a red wine and mushroom sauce. Its generous palate follows through on the ripe black fruit, rich dark chocolate and vanillin aromas, and is
coupled with firm tannins and a boldly savoury finish; the 750ml
bottle costs around $20 and the 375ml "calf" $12… what a shame more
makers don't think about doing similar.

ONE FOR LUNCH: MOST of us don't need much coercing to pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly, and a special occasion bottle that's worth putting on the ice comes from our leading sparkling wine region, Tasmania. Arras 2002 Pinot Noir Chardonnay from Bay of Fires sparkling maker, Ed
Carr is an elegant, full-flavoured bubbly that's refreshingly dry with
an almost-sherbet lemon finish. Well worth the $43 price tag to enjoy
on its own, or with a celebratory Lobster Thermidor (lobster meat
tossed in Béchamel Sauce, packed back into the shell, topped with
Parmesan, and browned under a griller.)

BUY OF THE WEEK: FIFTH Leg's 2007 Western Australia Rosé is a nice
balance of Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon that's got plenty of
zesty Rosé zing about it, and with its almost cheeky cherry pink
colour looks as good in the glass as it tastes. Pay $20.99 and share
it on the Sunday table with Mediterranean cheese and herb frittatas
topped with tomato and balsamic jam. Oh yeah.


Photo captions: ANGUS the Bull: ripper red for those who like their steaks

big and rare.

GO Mediterranean with Fifth Leg's 2007 Western Australia Rosé – ideal with cheese and herb frittatas.

Monday 11 February 2008


TWO things happened at Leeton in the NSW Riverina 25 years ago:grape-growers Pasquale and Angela Fiumara built a winery on their 10-year old Lillypilly Estate vineyard, and one of their seven sons, Robert began indulging his passion for crafting fortified wines.

And most years since, Robert has put aside a portion of the fortifieds
he's made from Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Muscat of Alexandria,
and blended various vintages into occasional releases of late-bottled
vintage-port styles under the Lillypilly Estate Fratelli 7 (seven
brothers) label.

His latest is tagged "Domenic Blend" after the Pasquale's eldest son
who encouraged Robert to become a winemaker, and who died in 1987; as
it includes material dating back 25 years to Robert's first-ever foray
into making fortified wines, its little wonder it has such a beautiful
depth of mature, rich and complex flavours.

At $23.50 for a 375ml bottle it's a great match with chocolate-dipped
strawberries or a cheese and fruit platter to finish up a fine dinner.

OUT OF THE BOX: We truly indulged recently over a birthday-party
seafood banquet that featured a bottle – okay, six between half a
dozen of us – of the Audrey Wilkinson 2002 Museum Reserve Semillon.

This really is a knock-out Hunter Valley-style Semillon that abounds
with lemon, honey and toast flavours, and has enormous citrus aromas
that burst out of the glass on pouring. An ideal wine with grilled
fish, cold seafood or spicy Thai dishes; $35 from the cellar door via or phone (02) 4998 7411.

BUY OF THE WEEK: The 2006 Catching Thieves Margaret River Semillon
Sauvignon Blanc at $15.99 is loaded with generous passionfruit and
gooseberry flavours and crisp acidity; a perfect seafood and salad

(David Ellis' wine columns are archived on


PHOTO CAPTIONS: HISTORY in a bottle: portions of this drop date back

a quarter century.

KNOCK-out from the Hunter Valley
for a special-

occasion seafood banquet.

Monday 4 February 2008


PINOT Gris, that wonderfully French-origin wine the skin of whose
grapes gives it a nice pale salmon hue, is gaining plenty of fans here
amongst those who enjoy how it matches our bourgeoning fondness for
spicy Asian dishes.

Philip Shaw and Debbie Lauritz, the winemaking team behind the
boutique Climbing Wines at the high, cool climate Orange in the NSW
Central West, have released their second vintage of the varietal, a
2007 made from fruit from their 20ha block of 10-year old Pinot Gris

Philip and Debbie got the nice balance they were seeking in the 2007
by stopping fermentation in a proportion of the wine that kept a touch
of natural sugar, and resulted in a drop that has great ripe pear and
floral aromas and a beautiful fruit driven intensity with zesty
mineral acidity.

And while some winemakers tend to remove that subtle pink hue from
their Pinot Gris through juice oxidation or fining as they consider it
off-putting to consumers, others say it's a trademark-like plus for
the variety – Philip and Debbie are amongst the latter, describing the
pale salmon hue as "sassy."

This is a good-value wine at $19.99 to enjoy with spicy Asian dishes,
duck, strong cheeses, or salmon with a twist of lemon.

OUT OF THE BOX: LOGAN Wines' Peter Logan is an unabashed sparkling
wine buff, and he's made his latest drop in the Italian prosecco style
that he says has less fruit character than Champagne-style wines, and
so does not overpower the palate. If you've a special event coming up,
celebrate with Weemala Brut NV ($22) with fresh oysters, sashimi and
prosciutto on papaya.

BUY OF THE WEEK: At just $10 you'll find it hard to beat Deakin
Estate's 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon for that next barbie: this bargain
buy is loaded with berry flavours and a nice oak spiciness to
complement the steaks, chops and sausages.


PHOTO CAPTIONS: SOMETHING for spicy Asian dishes or strong cheeses,

the 2007 Climbing Pinot Gris.

BUBBLY idea, Logan Weemala Brut NV
won't overpower celebratory
special-occasion oysters, sashimi or prosciutto.

BARGAIN $10 barbie wine: Deakin
Estate's 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon.