Monday 27 October 2008



YOUR FREE WEEKLY WINE COLUMN for week beginning October 27 2008

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The Hunter Valley's Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard has included an inaugural Semillon and Semillon Sauvignon Blanc in a half-dozen just-released wines from the 2008 vintage, wines not only notable for their excellence but for the fact they came from one of the region's most-forgettable harvests in a century.

"The vintage was almost entirely washed out," says winemaker, Jeff Byrne. "We had the coolest and wettest growing season in a hundred years, we suffered fruit fly, fruit rot and we got very high disease pressures as we were unable to spray because the soil was saturated.

"We made no reds at all from the vintage because things were just so disastrous for our red fruit, but I'm exceptionally pleased with the way our whites and Rosé turned out," Jeff said.

The 2008 Museum Reserve Semillon is an excellent wine at $35 with great depth of flavour, but the '08 Audrey Wilkinson Verdelho is our choice when it comes to value for price.

This one's full of rich passionfruit and tropical fruit characters and has a lovely soft citrus finish… at $19.99 put it on the outdoor table on a sunny day with crumbed fish and chips or a cold seafood salad.

ONE FOR LUNCH:  PETER Logan has finally got the Moscato he's been twice thwarted in making at his Orange, NSW Central Ranges winery.

On the first occasion in 2006 fruit for his inaugural Moscato, a sweet and delicate sparkling wine, was trashed by hail just the day before harvest. Then last year as he was about to send his wine off for bottling, a cellar-hand mistakenly pumped "a heap" of Cabernet Sauvignon into the Moscato tank.

"But the 2008's been worth the wait, with its delicious pear and peach flavours and nice hint of spicy ginger," he says.  We agree: pay $20 and celebrate!  

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[] GREAT drop from one of the Hunter's more forgettable vintages.

[] REASON to finally celebrate.

Monday 20 October 2008



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THERE's every chance you've never heard of Alberino, but if King Valley, Victoria winemaker Sam Miranda has his way it won't be long before it's on popular wine lists across Australia.

Likened by many who know it to New Zealand-style Sauvignon Blanc, Alberino hails from the cool Rias Baixas region of north-western Spain and is late-ripening with high natural acidity, intense aromas and complex flavours.

Always looking beyond the horizon, Sam Miranda planted an experimental sixty vines of Alberino on his Symphonia vineyard in the early 2000s, and following their success increased this to 1.25ha in 2006.

Fruit was hand-harvested this year and made into a fresh and zesty wine with fragrant peach and apricot aromas and a dry and lingering creamy lemon tart finish – a wine that's great value at the asking $20.

Sam sees an exciting future for Alberino as a delightful food-match alternative to mainstream white varietals; team it up with a Spanish paella from its homeland – an easy cook-up of rice, prawns, calamari, mussels and chunks of flathead or snapper.

ONE FOR LUNCH: ROBERT Black has put to good use his experience both in France and on his Bunnamagoo Estate on NSW's Central Tablelands to produce small quantities of outstanding quality Chardonnay, Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, that have now been joined by a very more-ish Sauvignon Blanc Semillon from the 2008 vintage.

Making just 14,000 cases a year all-up allows Robert to concentrate on each individual wine, and this latest certainly doesn't disappoint: pay $21.95 and enjoy the grassiness of the Sauvignon Blanc and the lovely tropical fruit flavours of the Semillon with buttered grilled asparagus topped with parmesan.

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[] SPANISH heritage: Alberino a welcome alternative white

[] MORE-ish – and just the drop with buttered grilled asparagus topped with parmesan  


Monday 13 October 2008




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A SYDNEY couple has launched an on-line wine-buying service whose profits will go to charity and not-for-profit organisations.

Damian and Terri Percy were respected ballroom dancers with over 45 national and international titles between them, but their lives took a totally new direction after the birth of their second son Callum 18 months ago: Callum was born with Down Syndrome.

"We've experienced first-hand the immense difficulties faced by charity and not-for-profit organisations to raise enough funds to simply stay afloat," Damian Percy said. "So we decided to launch The Charity Wine Shop, with its initial beneficiary Down Syndrome NSW and ten others."

Fine wine buyers have a choice of wines from six wineries that have so far teamed-up to supply to The Charity Wine Shop: buyers simply log onto to place their order and nominate the charity or non-profit organisation of their choice from an-already near-dozen on the site.

Wines are delivered free, have a money-back guarantee, and at least $20 a case goes to the nominated charity; wineries, charities or non-profit groups that would like to join-up can contact the Charity Wine Shop on 1300 854 707.

ONE FOR LUNCH: IF you're having fun building up that wine cellar, make a note to invest in a couple of Penna Lane's new-release 2006 Shiraz while its still just $25 – this is a ripper wine with a good ten years cellaring potential and will certainly only get more pricey in the years ahead (if not sold out first.)

Winemakers Ray Klavins and Stephen Stafford-Brooks used 100 per cent fruit from the Clare Valley to craft a wine that's loaded with spice, cherry and dark chocolate flavours, soft tannins and cedary oak complexities. If you can't resist the temptation to try it now, do so with full-flavoured beef or kangaroo dishes or a good cheese platter.

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[] DANCING to a new tune, the Percy family – Callum is with dad Damian.

[] ONE for the cellar, or enjoy now with hearty beef, kangaroo or cheeses.

Monday 6 October 2008



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WHETHER you've a palate you reckon could rival the best of show judges, or you're just a social slurper who enjoys a red or white or three any time, the place for you on October 22 will be Sydney's Wharf 8 where you'll have the chance to drink your way through the best from NSW's best wineries.

Called NSW Wine @ Wharf 8, it will be an opportunity to not only taste this year's NSW Wine Awards' Top 40 wines, but others from fifty-plus wineries in the State's fourteen wine regions that put up a good showing in the Awards.

"It's a chance to experience the State's best wines – including the NSW Wine of the Year and the Wine Awards' trophy winners – discover something about the State's fourteen wine regions, and to meet the people who make the wines," said Chair of NSW Wine Strategy, Tiffany Nugan.

"It'll be both educational and fun. For just $35, visitors get a souvenir wine glass and will be able to taste as many wines as they wish – coupled with gourmet cheeses to match all styles and varieties from table wines to bubblies, fortifieds and dessert wines," Ms Nugan said.

NSW Wine @ Wharf 8 will be staged from 5.30pm to 8.30pm on Wednesday October 22 at Wharf 8 that's at 53-59 Hickson Road, next to King Street Wharf on Sydney's Darling Harbour; for bookings or more information phone (02) 6964 4762 or visit

ONE FOR LUNCH: WHEN McLaren Vale's Dowie Doole winemaker, Brian Light launched his new Second Nature label, for his inaugural white he headed for the hills – the Adelaide Hills that is, which he reckons produces the best Sauvignon Blanc fruit in Australia.

"Our 2008 Second Nature Sauvignon Blanc shares Marlborough (New Zealand's) intensive, distinctive aromatics, but our's probably shows stronger bursts of tropical fruit flavours – and its mouth-filling and not thin on the palate." Pay $19 and enjoy with Coffin Bay oysters or grilled sand whiting.

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[] BOTTLER! Bountiful expectations at NSW Wine @ Wharf 8 on October 22.

[] THE best of our Sauvignon Blanc – its Second Nature to Brian Light.


Friday 3 October 2008


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MAKERS in South Australia's cool-climate regions will long remember the vintage of 2008 – right in the middle of harvest they were slammed by a heatwave that was not only freakish for the 35-degree temperatures that came with it, but the fact it lasted an extraordinary fifteen consecutive days.
Growers drew on every resource they could to get fruit off vines and into overflowing wineries as tonne upon tonne of grapes literally ripened before their eyes, throwing up challenges of enormous proportions in all directions.
Kirrihill Wines' senior winemaker, Donna Stephens recalls it as one of the toughest and most exhausting of her career, but is delighted with the resultant Companions Range wines that came out of such adversities.
Particularly outstanding is the 2008 Companions Chardonnay Viognier, a real stunner for what is normally a cool-climate wine, with a typically Clare Valley buttery and pineapple Chardonnay component and spicy peach and apricot from the Adelaide Hills' Viognier input.
And interestingly Donna gave it no oak maturation, thus preserving those full-on varietal characteristics. Great value at just $14.95 – and as it came from the heat, how better to enjoy than outdoors with a summery Caesar Salad?
ONE FOR LUNCH: WHEN a West Australian bandit named "Moondyne Joe" Johns decided to relieve a thirst by breaking into Houghton's Swan Valley winery in 1869, it's unlikely he would have expected to find himself honoured by the company on one of its labels 139 years later.
Moondyne Joe was on the run from prison and unfortunately for him a group of thirsty police officers investigating a local drowning turned up and found him in the winery cellar as he was helping himself to a quiet litre or three.
Houghton's The Bandit range includes a fruit-laden Sauvignon Blanc Pinot Gris 2008 ($19.95) that's excellent with white-fleshed fish and a garlic sauce.
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. COOL result from freakish 15-day heatwave
. WINE thief steals centre stage


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JACK Mann – legendary winemaker at Houghton's in Western Australia for an amazing fifty-something vintages from 1922 – was not just an extraordinary winemaker, he was an extraordinary person in the way he freely shared the wisdom of his years with anyone who wanted to listen, be they young or old.
And equally extraordinarily, he acquired his renowned outlook on life almost entirely within the confines of his beloved Swan Valley, only ever venturing out of his home State once, and that was a short trip to South Australia.
Now, as yet a further honour to his remarkable contribution to the industry, Houghton's have renamed their famous Regional Range –  that showcases the strengths and characteristics of individual regions in WA's premium wine growing areas – the Wisdom Range.
Among these six is a 2004 Wisdom Frankland River Shiraz that has sweet red berry and black pepper dominance both on the nose and the palate, and is further enhanced with savoury tones and fine grained tannins in the mouth. 
At $32 this is a drop made to share with herb-crusted rare roast beef, or an after-dinner platter of hard cheeses. And as Jack was always willing to create a quote to share with listeners, the label comes with one of his classic thoughts: "I think 1932 was the turning point, when after accumulating a reasonable amount of knowledge, I realised that I knew nothing worthwhile."
ONE FOR LUNCH:  DE BORTOLI's who were amongst those that pioneered the NSW Riverina's emergence from a cheap bulk-winemaking region to one that now relishes world-wide recognition, has released a mouth-watering new Sacred Hill label Semillon Sauvignon Blanc in time for summer celebrations.
This 2008 "buy now, drink now" wine bounces with wonderful varietal fruit flavours, and at just $7.49 is value buying to go with seafoods and salads.
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. LIKE the legendary Jack Mann, give proper thought as to how to enjoy this one – try it with herb-crusted rare roast beef
.  BUY now and enjoy now: a summer drop for seafoods and salads


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WITH warmer days not too far off, for many of us our thoughts will soon be turning to alfresco dining and a glass or two of lower alcohol whites to enjoy with summery seafoods and salads in the middle of the day.
Chateau Tanunda have come up with just such a drop, a ripper of a crisp dry white that's just 10.5% alcohol – nearly a third under the normal – that almost explodes with spritzy lemon and lime flavours coupled with a lively touch of grapefruit and watermelon.
This 2007 Grand Barossa Classic Crisp Dry White wine is best served well chilled and lives up nicely to its "crisp" labelling; at $18 it's just the drop to share outdoors with a seafood platter and salad, or simply fish and chips.
ANOTHER FOR LUNCH: MILDARA have been making wine since the late 1800s, and have been producing true-to-variety wines from the Coonawarra region since the 1950s.
Amongst their latest from this renowned area is a Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz from the rewarding 2005 vintage that gave winemakers fruit with exceptionally ripe-fruit flavours and generous tannins; this wine has rich dark berry fruit flavours with a sweet cinnamon spiciness and light vanillin on the palate.
Pay $28.99 and team it with a mixed grill accompanied by boiled tiny potatoes tossed in melted butter and sprinkled with Tuscan herbs.
WINE OF THE WEEK: IF there's a party on the horizon and you're going to need a few bottles of bubbles, give serious thought to De Bortoli's new Emeri Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc that at just $13.99 is loaded with soft tropical fruit flavours and a creaminess that will go with all manner of party-room finger food. And if for some reason you're looking for just a couple of celebratory glasses on your own, it also comes in a handy 200ml miniature at just $5.49.
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CLASSIC: This crisp dry white is nearly a third lighter in alcohol and ideal with midday seafood salads or fish 'n chips.
THINK about a mixed grill with Tuscan-herbed tiny potatoes to partner this exceptional Coonawarra red.