Monday 14 December 2009



david ellis

A MATE with a big family is doing something a little out of the ordinary this Christmas, with the festive lunch being a couple of roast legs of lamb and an oven-load of baked vegies and home-made mint sauce to go with them.

He reckons there could be nothing "more Aussie," and with it he's serving a 2008 Westend Richland Cabernet Sauvignon – which is a good choice because this wine goes really well with lamb, and is one of Westend's biggest sellers both here and internationally.

And better still, it's just a miserly $10.99 a bottle – probably little wonder it helped Westend Wines win this year's NSW Exporter of the Year Award, a nice accolade for a Riverina company that began exporting in 1998 with just 400 cases, and this year selling over 260,000 cases internationally.

IF opting instead for seafood this Christmas and you're looking for a good Riesling to go with it, think about a case of Shaw Vineyard Estate 2009 Laughter Series Riesling – you'll be doing yourself a favour, and kids suffering from cancer as well.

This excellent wine from the Canberra region is $15 a bottle, but by the case just $129 a dozen, a saving of $51 – and on top of that the Shaw family give their $50 profit on this label to Camp Quality, our leading children's cancer charity; to buy a case in time for that Christmas seafood, phone the Shaws on (02) 6227 5827 or email

AN interesting trio of sparklings for Christmas is the new Si (pronounced Sigh) range at just $17.99 each at BWS, Woolworths Liquor and Dan Murphys.

The Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc NV is ideal with prawns, shellfish and oysters, the Sparkling Pinot Gris NV with deep sea fish such as tuna, kingfish and mackerel (or creamy mushroom pasta dishes,) and the Sparkling Moscato NV with lobster or crab or fruity desserts. Or enjoy them all with a cheese platter.



[] EXPORT champion – and a great match with roast lamb at home

[] CHRISTMAS seafood bargain, and helping kids with cancer at the same time

Thursday 10 December 2009

"Jeannie Cho Lee, the First Asian Master of Wine, to Tour the Region with Award Winning Book - Asian Palate"


Food & wine events in major Asian cities to reveal the findings of this unique guide to wine pairing with regional cuisine

(HONG KONG, December 10, 2009) – Celebrated wine aficionado and the first Asian Master of Wine, Jeannie Cho Lee, will embark on a tour of Asia with a programme of high profile food & wine events starting in the New Year. Jeannie will share first-hand the findings of her award winning book, 'Asian Palate' which is a guide to the increasingly prominent role of wine in Asian dining.

The official book tour, which is scheduled for January and February 2010, will visit nearly every city explored in the book. In each of the cities, the events will be hosted at a Hyatt Hotel & Resort property which will include a press cocktail as well as an evening of fine dining with local specialties prepared by renowned chefs and paired with wines.

Confirmed dates are the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong (January 15), Park Hyatt Seoul (January 22), Grand Hyatt Bangkok (January 26-27), Park Hyatt Beijing (January 28), Park Hyatt Shanghai (January 30) and Grand Hyatt Singapore (February 26). Firm dates from other cities such as Mumbai, Tokyo  and Taipei will be confirmed over the next few weeks.

'Asian Palate' is a unique, lavishly illustrated, coffee table guide to wine and Asian cuisine, which was launched last month at the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair.  Since then 'Asian Palate' has been shortlisted for the 2009 André Simon Food and Drink Book Awards and received the Gourmand World Cookbook Award 2009 for Hong Kong.

The book takes an insightful and informative look at the historical influences and development of Asia's diverse cuisines and how wine can best complement distinctive flavours of familiar local dishes, highlighting how local spices, ingredients and cooking methods impact on wine. Pairing suggestions range from informal, family style meals to formal banquets.

"The tour is an opportunity to introduce food and wine lovers to a new taste sensation pairing local Asian flavours with wine," Jeannie said. "The experience includes a fine dining evening with authentic local flavours and fine wines."

Born in Seoul, Jeannie Cho Lee is the first Asian to be awarded the coveted title 'Master of Wine', an elite group of just 278 in the world acknowledged by the prestigious Institute of Masters of Wine in London.

One of Asia's pre-eminent authorities on wine, Jeannie is a columnist for a number of renowned wine magazines and is a wine consultant to Singapore Airlines. Her work as an international wine judge, speaker, journalist and educator has led to extensive travels through Europe and North America and in 2009 she was awarded the Vinitaly International Award for her contributions to the wine industry.

"Asian Palate is the result of years of research and offers a new perspective on pairing wine with Asian food that takes into consideration factors unique to the Asian table such as strong condiments and spices, communal dining and a very wide range of flavours.  In many parts of Asia, pairing wine with Asian cuisine is a new area of discovery," Jeannie added.

'Asian Palate' is the first of a two-part series to include 'Mastering Wine at the Asian Table', focusing on mastering the language of wine from both Asian and traditional Western perspectives, understanding major grape varieties and wine regions, and including the views of prominent Asian wine collectors.

Sponsors for the book tour currently confirmed include Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Chateau Palmer (Bordeaux), Maison Joseph Drouhin (Burgundy), Domaine Jacques Prieur (Burgundy), Pol Roger (Champagne), Moet Hennessey (Champagne), Paul Jaboulet/ Domaine Thalabert (Rhone Valley), Shaw & Smith (Australia), Domaine Weingut Heymann-Lowenstein (Germany), Jacques Lurton (Loire Valley), Grace Vineyard (China), Grace Winery (Japan), Sula Vineyards (India) and Siam Winery (Thailand).

'Asian Palate' is priced at US$98, available to order from Asset Publishing and Research Limited, Hong Kong +852 2573 6078,, through and from Watson's Wine Cellar stores and selected fine book stores in Hong Kong including Dymocks and Page One.

To book seats for the any of the food and wine pairing evenings, please contact the Grand Hyatt or Park Hyatt hotels in the respective cities listed above or visit their website:

Monday 7 December 2009



david ellis

IF you're amongst the increasing numbers of Australians opting for seafood this Christmas Day, and you want a classic bubbly from the heartland of France's Champagne region to celebrate with it, give thought to a bottle of Champagne Taittinger's Prelude Grands Crus NV.

Although it carries a $130 price tag, this is the real thing with which to reward yourself (if just once a year,) being made with equal parts of Chardonnay from the Cote des Blancs and Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims.

Intensive fresh citrus fruit flavours coupled with suggestions of white peaches in syrup make this a perfect match with the majority of seafoods, in particular hot or cold lobster, mixed seafood platters, with the hors d'oeuvres pre the main course on Christmas Day – or to ring-in the New Year.

ONE FOR LUNCH: A novel idea from South Australia's Angove Family Wines should appeal to the cooks amongst us: it's a free packet of San Remo Linguini or Risoni pasta and a recipe card from celebrated Adelaide chef Adam Swanson with every bottle of Angove's Brightlands 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon and 2007 Brightlands Cabernet Merlot, that are themselves great value buying at $13.95 each.

Owner of restaurants Esca and Zucca in Adelaide's Holdfast Shores precinct, Adam's recipes are for Cockles and Fennel Linguini to match the tropical overtones and racy lemon/lime flavours of the Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, and a Spiced Veal Osso Bucco with Herbed Risoni to enjoy with the black fruit flavours of the Cabernet Merlot.

The free San Remo pasta packs and Adam's recipe cards are available – while stocks last, which will hopefully be until sometime into January – when you buy either of the Brightlands wines through most liquor outlets.



[] THE 'real thing' to celebrate Christmas or New Year

[] JUST the drop with Veal Osso Bucco and Herbed Risoni

Monday 30 November 2009




david ellis

WHEN British sea captain Henry Stentiford swallowed the anchor and opted for a life ashore back in the 1890s, he chose Coonawarra in far-off Australia with the idea of growing grapes for winemaking.

But he couldn't tear himself totally apart from his days on the sea, and named the 4ha parcel of prime 'terra rosa' land he bought in Coonawarra after his beloved square-rigger sailing ship, Laira.

Today, 116 years later Brand's Laira* is a deservedly-respected household name when it comes to wine-talk, with its super-premium reds still coming off vines planted by Captain Stentiford all those years ago in 1893. (*The property was bought by legendary Eric Brand and his wife Nancy in 1950 who re-named it, and is now owned by McWilliams.)

The just-released 2005 Brand's Laira Stentiford Old Vine Shiraz is a stunner of a wine, one for special occasion celebrations when you're prepared to pay for only the best: a flag-bearer for the label, it has great plum and blackberry fruit intensity, spicy cinnamon, nice oak, and a powerful tannin structure.

Don't baulk at the $74.99  price tag on that special occasion treat with family or friends; serve it with pan-seared filet mignon and a Bordeaux sauce.

ONE FOR LUNCH: Summertime is seafood time, and seafood time is Riesling time: Penna Lane's 2009 Hand-Picked Riesling from the Clare Valley is one such that 's sure to please the most fastidious Riesling buff, offering up an intense concentration of citrus fruit flavours and a refreshing, zesty acidity.

Enjoy with an alfresco summertime seafood salad, or pan-fried fish fillets with either home-cut chunky chips or a tossed salad. Certainly rewarding buying at $21.



[] FOR that very special occasion, from 116-year old vines

[] REFRESHING summertime seafood Riesling

Saturday 28 November 2009

What is Park Hyatt Sydney's Nick Caraturo drinking?

With the arrival of new executive chef, Andrew Kee, Park Hyatt Sydney's sommelier, Nick Caraturo, has been busy updating the wine list to match Andrew's adventurous new flavours.

"The menu is like a wild horse galloping off into the distance," remarks Nick with a casual nod toward the kitchen, "but my wine list moves at a much slower pace."
Since my last visit, Nick has added some interesting reds for summer including an Oliver's Taranga Vineyard '07 Cadenza Grenache.

"I love the jammy, cooked fruit flavours and it's beatufully soft with light tannins and acid."

And if you're looking to challenge your palette, Nick has added a rich '06 Kangarilla Road Primitivo (aka Zinfandel).

"This is a really full-bodied wine that is almost at 'fortified' strength (16%). It's from the McLaren Vale region, where winemakers are re-inventing this unusual grape."

Perfect for sitting back and enjoying with the Friday and Saturday night jazz in the harbourkitchen&bar.

Nick's Tips for Summer Drinking:

"Pinot Noir is getting boring, so try a locally grown Temporillo. There are more and more goods ones available now with fresh, crisp raspberry and cranberry flavours - and don't be afraid to chill it first."

Nick also recommends storing your half-finished bottles of red (if you have any) in the fridge.

"Refrigeration slows down the oxidisation so you can keep it longer after opening. Not a problem I have at my place!"

- Roderick Eime reports on hotels and resorts for HM Magazine

Echuca-Moama launches new food and wine trail

Echuca-Moama is best known by tourists for its paddle-steamers and scenic river location, however this is about to change with the recent launch of the new Echuca Food and Wine trail.

Featuring over 40 operators, the Echuca-Moama Food and Wine trail will harness the riches of the area’s local produce and wine and includes restaurants, cellar doors, wine tour operators and more.

Available from visitor information centres in the area, the trail features two maps - one dedicated to wine, and one to food.

On the wine map, visitors can find all the wineries in Echuca-Moama and surrounding areas including the historic Cape Horn vineyard, originally established in the 1860s to serve the thriving riverboat trade and Monichino Wines, which was opened by one of the first Italian immigrants in the Yarrawonga-Mulwala area and is famous for its barbera and sangiovese.

The food map highlights over 30 diverse eateries from the award-winning Oscar W’s Wharfside to on-the-water dining aboard the paddlesteamers Emmy-Lou and MV. Maryann, quirky pub fare at The Shamrock to Morrison’s Riverview Winery and Restaurant, famous for its picturesque riverside position.

For further information: call Echuca-Moama Tourism Ph: 1800 804 446

Monday 16 November 2009



david ellis

AUDREY Wilkinson is one of our oldest-label wines, the original vineyard being planted by the man himself in the Hunter Valley 143 years ago in 1866, and often referred to as "the birthplace of wine growing in Pokolbin."

It's an illustrious heritage and Audrey would doubtless have cracked a smile had he still been around the place to see the 2006 Audrey Wilkinson Museum Reserve Semillon named NSW's 2008 Wine of the Year.

The company has now released a 2008 "The Ridge" Reserve Semillon, so-named as fruit for this came from its oldest contour-planted Semillon vines running along the elevated Western Ridge of the vineyard.

This is a wine we see as having a huge future – whether it can ever replicate the honour bestowed on the 2006 last year, remains to be seen. It has strong lime and lemon aromas with suggestions of sherbet and snow peas that carry through in the crisp fruit flavours.

At $35 its one to splash out on for a special occasion, matching it butter-brushed grilled lobster and a tossed green salad with a handful of snow peas.

ONE FOR LUNCH: A BRIGHT and bouncy lighter style red to enjoy slightly chilled over a long summer luncheon platters of Mediterranean fare, tapas or antipasto is the 2008 Pepperjack Stylus.

A blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Merlot it's got almost pastille fruit flavours that are soft, juicy and more-ish; pay $24.99.

ANOTHER FOR LUNCH:  IF you're a seafood buff, knock up a shellfish salad and match it with a bottle of Hardys Nottage Hill Sauvignon Blanc; a blend of warm and cool-climate fruit it's got nice grapefruit and lemon rind characters that go beautifully with most seafoods. And it's just $12.50.



[] A HUNTER pioneer and one of our oldest labels

[] BRIGHT and bouncy for Mediterranean lunchtime platters



david ellis

IF you're already contemplating the Christmas turkey and ham and what you'll serve in a glass to go with it, give a thought to a nice chilled Rosé.

Served hot or cold, turkey and ham are both ideal matches with Rosé, and one to consider is Deep Woods Estate's 2009 Harmony label made from Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from its Margaret River vineyards.

Owner Peter Fogarty had this one crafted in the style of Southern France Rosés – bright and rich in colour with lovely summer berry and plum aromas that follow through on the palate; enjoy it well chilled with that turkey and ham with either hot vegies and gravy or cold salads, or with other Christmas or New Year lazy lunches, picnics or on balmy holiday evenings.

At $14.95 its certainly good value for money and a great food match.

ONE FOR LUNCH: IF you are going to at least try to be good over the Christmas celebratory season – but you don't want to have to knock back offers of a few glasses of bubbles – have a look at the new Omni Light range that have 30 per cent less alcohol and 25 per cent fewer calories than Omni's normal sparklings.

And importantly while lighter in alcohol and calories, they're not lighter in flavour: look for the Omni Light Classic that has lemon and lime on the palate, a Light Pink with fresh strawberries and cream flavours, and an Omni Cranberry that's a lively and effervescent sparkling Rosé style made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and with a touch of Cranberry.

This latter was our favourite, but be warned it's a limited-release bubbly that should prove quite popular, and like all good things when its run off the shelf that's that. At only $12.50 a bottle all three should prove somewhat popular this festive season with their lighter alcohol and calorie counts.



[] THINK about this with the Christmas ham and turkey

[] LIGHT approach to Festive celebrations

Monday 9 November 2009


w/b 09 Nov 09

david ellis

THE Barwang label could almost be described as the accidental wine of NSW.

Back in the 1960s former rear-gunner on RAAF Lancaster bombers, Peter Robertson planted vines on his property at Barwang near Young on the South Western Slopes of the Great Dividing Range, to supplement his wheat farming.

But when his first crop came along in 1970, authorities stopped him taking the fruit out of the area because of an outbreak of fruit-fly; undaunted, the resourceful Robertson set about turning his grapes into wine himself, and Barwang Wines was born.

Twenty years later McWilliam's bought the property and has been making exceptional wines under the label ever since – in particular an outstanding Chardonnay using fruit from the cool-climate hilltops of Tumbarumba.

The just-released 2007 Barwang Chardonnay made by Andrew Higgins has beautifully intense peach and rockmelon flavours, nice minerality and natural acidity; you'll not regret paying $19.99 to enjoy with pan-fried Atlantic salmon.

ONE OR MORE FOR LUNCH: BACK in 1979 the first edition of the "Australian Wine Vintages Gold Book" launched with a review of 800 wines.

The 2010 edition is now out in time for Christmas gift-giving to wine-buff family, friends (or yourself,) and it's got close to 2500 wines from 300 Aussie and New Zealand wineries carefully reviewed by author and Master of Wine, Robert Geddes. There're also useful guidelines for visiting Australian wine regions, best places to eat and stay, varieties to look for in different regions, and Geddes' "Top 100" wines, plus wine terms and cellar door addresses.

At $34.95 it's an invaluable must-have for anyone with any interest in wine.



[] NO regrets about this one to enjoy with pan-fried Atlantic salmon

[] MUST-have for anyone with even a passing interest in wine

Monday 2 November 2009


w/b 2 Nov 09

david ellis

NEW Zealand's Marlborough region and Sauvignon Blanc have been virtually synonymous for the past 30-something years, and one of the best vintages was this year's when vineyards were bathed in sunshine throughout the ripening period and dry and clear conditions carried through to end of harvest.

At Essenze Wines, winemaker Corey Ryan chose fruit from the region's Awatere Valley for its steely and racy minerality, and from the Wairau Valley for its intense passionfruit and refined melon-citrus flavours, so creating a beautifully-flavoured 2009 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

This is a beaut summer wine for alfresco dining, and at $18.99 it's ideal to match with pan-friend barramundi and salad – or as personality chef Peter Howard suggested to me, with a Mediterranean char-grilled salad.

ONE FOR LUNCH: A couple of really interesting and rewarding reds out of Annie's Lane in the Clare Valley in 2008 are a Cabernet Merlot blend and a straight Shiraz.

The Cabernet Merlot is medium-bodied with plum, mulberry, fig and cassis aromas from the Merlot component, leafy characters from the Cabernet and a palate of rich fruit and lingering tannins. At $19.99 a nice one to match with a tangine of duck and green olives.

The 2008 Annie's Lane Shiraz is a great wine now with dominant plum and anise and lingering strawberry and raspberry aromas, and a palate of dense fruit, nice oak and chalky tannins – and its one that will improve beautifully with age.

Pay $19.99 for this as well and don't look past enjoying with Osso Bucco, mashed potatoes and braised spinach.




[] A KIWI to take to an Aussie barramundi lunch

[] ENJOY now with Osso Bucco, or tuck away for a bit more cellaring

Monday 26 October 2009



david ellis

DAVID Hook Wines have built up a nice reputation for single varietal reds and whites since being established in the Lower Hunter Valley by David and his family in the 1980s.

But every now and again they break out of the mould with a blend, and one that's just been released and well worth looking is their 2008 Shiraz Viognier, with 75-per cent fruit from an excellent vintage in the Hunter, 20 per cent from Mudgee and the remaining five percent from South Australia's McLaren Vale.

The individual parcels were fermented separately before blending and aging in older oak barrels for twelve months. The result is a very easy-drinking medium-bodied wine with nice red berries and spicy fruit flavours and pleasant tannins.

Enjoy now at a value $25 with char-grilled lamb forequarter chops off the barbie, or put it away to further develop over the next two to four years.

ONE FOR LUNCH: LONG Flat has been around for over forty years now, and with summer just around the corner their 2008 Pinot Grigio that's just been released is absolutely great buying at only $9.90 for hot-weather quaffing around the pool, or with summery chicken, turkey or seafood salads.

Winemaker Shane Virgo used multiple-vineyard NSW Riverina fruit for this wine whose crisp and lively palate has dominant apple and citrus fruit flavours and a lingering pear finish. A hard one to beat for flavour and value at under $10.

ANOTHER ONE FOR LUNCH: If you'd prefer an inexpensive red around the pool on coming warm days, Pinot Noir and lamb off the grill or out of the oven were made for each other. Hardys 2008 Nottage Hill Pinot Noir at $12.50 is a corker for such pleasures, with cherry and mint flavours and nice sweet oak


[] QUINTESSENTIAL blend from the Hunter, Mudgee and McLaren Vale

[] HARD one to beat for flavour and value

Monday 19 October 2009



david ellis

REGULAR readers will know that we've long advocated the enjoyment of lighter and softer reds off the ice on warmer days and balmy summer's evenings.

Quite a few of makers suggest on their back-labels popping some of these reds in the fridge or in the ice-box an hour or so before opening, and Joe Grilli at Primo Estate in McLaren Vale has now gone one step further.

He and fellow maker at Primo, Daniel Zuzolo have created a light 2009 red they call 'Merlesco' (Little Merlot) that's got loads of fresh blackberry, blueberry and cherry fruit flavours – and it's unoaked.

This  soft and fruity wine is designed to be enjoyed young, fresh and chilled, and goes especially well with pizza or pasta; and at just $15 a bottle set aside some room in the beer fridge now for a few for summer, and take Joe's advice and don't drink it from traditional wine glasses – he says it will taste even better chucked down from a glass tumbler.

ONE FOR LUNCH: THIRTY years ago you could count the number of vineyards in the NSW Orange region on the fingers of one hand.

Today there are 30-something wineries and cellar doors in the region that at 600m is our highest-altitude wine-growing region, and amazingly now attracts around 5000 visitors a year for its annual Orange Wine Week in October – showing they've got to be doing something right.

One winery earning a particularly enviable reputation for its Chardonnay is Climbing Wines. Its just-released 2008 is full-bodied with lovely citrus notes and typical Orange elegance and refinement – the reason the region is often referred to as "Australia's answer to Burgundy," with its food-friendly Chardonnays (that go particularly well with seafoods and platters of fish paté, quality cheddars and crackers,) driving much of this reputation.



[] SUMMERY enjoyment with this red to quaff off the ice

[] CLIMBING in reputation: one for a platter of fish paté, quality cheddars and crackers

Monday 12 October 2009



david ellis

WAS 2007 "the greatest red vintage ever" in Margaret River? If you listen to Evans and Tate winemaker, Matthew Byrne the answer's a resounding "Yes."

Matthew says slightly warmer than usual weather was the key, and that a resultant 2007 Shiraz blended from fruit from vineyards in both the northern and southern areas of the region was "benchmark Margaret River."

This elegant wine has beautiful aromas of mulberry and plum and a rich palate of dark fruit flavours and tannin ripeness; exceptional value at $22.99 to enjoy with braised lamb shanks and parsley-infused mashed potatoes.

ONE FOR LUNCH: IT'S that time of year when our thoughts turn to bubbles, and reflecting their Italian heritage De Bortoli Wines have come up with something quite out of the ordinary – a sparkling Pinot Grigio.

Bottled under their Emeri label – appropriately so-named after the wife of the late Deen De Bortoli, the ever-bubbly Emeri – this is a great value party-room wine for the Festive Season. At just $15 lay in a few to enjoy with Christmas canapés or to go with holiday seafoods, salads or light pasta dishes.

AND ONE OR FORTY TO TASTE: Join NSW's best winemakers in Sydney on Thursday October 22 for a "tour" embracing the State's 2009 Wine of the Year, Trophy Winners and it's "Top 40" Wines. Choose a guided small-group tasting tour with one of the successful "Top 40" winemakers, or simply D-I-Y; all wines will be matched to appropriate regional cheeses at this one-off opportunity to see all the wines that made the "Top 40" in 2009.

Venue: Customs House, 31 Alfred St, Circular Quay, Sydney from 5.30pm to 9.00pm. Tickets cost $40pp that includes a NSW Wine glass, Wine & Cheese Tasting & Winemaker Tours. Buy tickets online at



[] ONE for a rich lamb shank casserole

[] JUDGES do their thing to choose NSW's 2009 "Top 40" – and Wine of  the Year

Monday 5 October 2009



david ellis

IF you were a grower or a winemaker prepared to take a punt on a just-conducted survey of our wine-drinking habits, you'd be chopping out your Chardonnay, swooning over your Sauvignon Blanc, and planting Pinot Noir.

The survey, amongst guests and diners at Mercure Hotels' 23-properties across Australia, found drinkers were turning off Chardonnay in their droves – making it the fastest-declining white variety in the popularity stakes.

By comparison, sales of Sauvignon Blanc through the Mercure Groups' restaurants and bars increased 47% over the past two years, and while Shiraz was the overwhelmingly most popular red in the same period (followed closely by Cabernet blends,) the fastest-growing red wine of choice was Pinot Noir.

And probably not surprisingly the survey found New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc  leading the field in popularity, but with Aussie labels catching up as diners seek out local food-friendly wines – something Sauvignon Blanc certainly is.

Riesling was another variety to take a hammering in the survey, and interest-ingly it was women leading the charge on Sauvignon Blanc (as well as better sparklings and lighter reds.) A majority of men still preferred reds to whites.

ONE FOR LUNCH: In our own tasting of Aussie-made Sauvignon Blanc, we gave our thumbs-up for Best Value For Money to Westend's 2009 Richland from the Riverina – a nicely full-bodied and richly textured wine with loads of tropical fruit flavours, a dry crisp finish and a hard-to-beat  $11.99 price tag.

Best Food Match: Logan Wines' 2009 Sauvignon Blanc from Orange – plenty of zingy lime, pink grapefruit, green mango and minerality ($22;) Best Party Room SB: Wicks Estate Adelaide Hills 2009 – an $18 beauty of a quaffer with herbaceous and tropical fruit flavours; Best Value Import: The Crossing 2008 SB from New Zealand's Marlborough, an undeniable ripper at $16.99.

Enjoy all these wines with shellfish, Asian stir fries or stronger cheeses.



[] THUMBS-up for Best Value For Money local Sauvignon Blanc

[] GREAT food match – particularly shellfish, Asian stir fries and strong cheeses

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Chardonnay on the nose, according to new Mercure wine survey

Aussie wine drinkers favour ‘local’, despite Kiwi sauv blanc assault

21 September 2009: A national survey of wine drinking habits by one of Australia’s largest hotel groups – Mercure – has highlighted that chardonnay’s grip on the palate of Australian wine drinkers is rapidly loosening, with sauvignon blanc dominating the preferences of white wine drinkers.

Although New Zealand sauvignon blancs maintained a high popularity, with some persuasion local sauvignon blancs were beginning a fight-back and there was a distinct preference for wines from the local State.

There was some experimentation with newer varietals such as pinot gris/grigio for whites and temparanillo and sangiovese for reds, but generally red wine drinkers voted for the most traditional of reds – shiraz, even if it increasingly involved an added dollop of viognier in the blend.

Not so fortunate was another old Australian favourite – riesling – which continued to garner only minority interest, despite its popularity with wine judges and other professionals.

The survey was conducted across the Mercure hotel network, which comprises 23 hotels in every State of Australia. Each Mercure hotel surveyed wine drinking habits in their bars and restaurants to determine changing trends over the past two years. The results were compiled and released as part of the launch of the Mercure Grands Vins spring/summer wine selection.

Mercure Grands Vins offers guests staying or dining at Mercure hotels around Australia specially-designed wine lists showcasing the most attractive wines of their local State. There are specific regional wine lists compiled for NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland – Mercure is the first major hotel group in the State to offer a specialist Queensland wine selection.

Every wine offered has been selected by an expert tasting panel comprising sommeliers, wine connoisseurs and food and beverage professionals, and, importantly, final judging is conducted with appropriate food courses to ensure the wines are “food friendly”. Some 80% of wine sold at Mercure hotels is consumed with food, so compatibility with food was a major judging criteria.

Summary of major findings:

· Chardonnay is the fastest declining white wine variety

· Sauvignon blanc is the dominant white wine choice, with growth of 47% over the past two years, with Mercure Townsville reporting a 70% increase and Mercure Parramatta a 75% growth in demand for SB and SB blends.

· New Zealand sauvignon blanc is still the preferred SB, but local SB and semillon sauvignon blanc wines are fighting back (“We push a local SB over NZ SB and find positive feedback from guests. 95% purchase the Victorian SB” – Mercure Melbourne)

· Wine drinkers are resisting the “riesling renaissance” – “Riesling is still assumed to be sweet and it is very hard to sell a non sweet Riesling” – Mercure Geelong

· Pinot gris/grigio’s surge appears to have slowed over the past year. Other white wine varieties such as verdelho (NSW/Queensland) and chenin blanc (SA) retain popularity in States where the variety is prominent

· While shiraz (overwhelmingly) and cabernet blends are the largest selling reds, pinot noir is the fastest growing red wine choice (particularly in Victoria & Tasmania)

· Local is king – “Guests are turning away from brand names and are looking for something regional and different. They are willing to spend extra to get quality as long as they see the value for money in the product they purchase – Mercure Hobart. “There’s a very strong push to buy local, with only New Zealand sauvignon blanc being the exception,”- Mercure Ballarat.

· Not much change in men’s preference for red over white wine, but women are ordering more sauvignon blanc, quality sparkling and lighter bodied reds

· Growing demand for food-friendly wines – “People are becoming more experimental, wanting to try different kinds of wines as well as showing greater interest in matching it with food. More guests are moving away from heavy bodied wine and want to try light, fruity and easy to drink wines,” – Mercure Cairns

· There has been a 31% increase in by-the-glass sales over the past year – “Our feedback from the Grands Vins selection is that people want to experiment, so they will often choose two or three different wines from the selection during their meal. The key factor is the pricing of wine-by-the-glass,” – Mercure Perth

“The aim of the survey was to choose the Spring Grands Vins wine selections according to the changing tastes of our guests,” said Greg Brady, co-ordinator of Mercure’s Grands Vins programme in Australia.

“While the survey reflected what many people already suspected – that poorly made, over-oaked chardonnay was on the nose with the wine-drinking public – what also came out of the survey was that there has been some renaissance for newer-style chardonnay and, as a chardonnay lover myself, that was very encouraging,” said Mr Brady.

“What also came out strongly was that both guests and local diners alike want to have a taste of their local region, especially when they dine out at a restaurant. Mercure hotels have always positioned themselves as the ‘keys to the region’, providing an authentic taste of the city or the region in which they operate, so the Grands Vins selections are an important component of that local experience.

“Equally important is the pricing. We want to dispel the myth that good wine is only associated with high-end restaurants and high-end prices. Mercure’s Grands Vins shows it is possible to enjoy great wines – many from smaller vineyards - at very attractive prices.”

The Grands Vins wine list is designed to make wine selection easier, grouping wines in four particular styles – fresh and tasty; fruity and light; balanced & elegant and spicy and full bodied – to help guests choose the most suitable wine for every occasion and for every dish, while introducing wines from a range of distinctive wineries from the State that guests might not otherwise have a chance to experience.

The Mercure Grands Vins regional lists complement each hotel’s standard wine list, which together provide a comprehensive range of Australian wines. Mercure Grands Vins was first introduced in France in 1983, and the programme celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Grands Vins lists are available in 20 countries around the world.

Monday 21 September 2009



david ellis

WE've long subscribed to the view that the Australian wine industry is made up of some of the world's more interesting characters who display a diversity of interests, pastimes and lifestyles not found in the Old World – where wine-making is more-largely simply handed down from father to son or daughter.

Jim Wolfensohn is one such of our more unusual winemaking characters: Aussie born and raised, he spends most of his life in New York's heady world of finance, including Presidency of the World Bank from 1995 to 2005.

Hardly the sort of guy you'd find getting down and dirty in a vineyard on visits home to one of our smaller winemaking areas, Hilltops. But Jim does just that at his Yabtree West grazing property near Gundagai when not in the Big Apple, and where he's mastering a few hectares of exceptional Shiraz vines.

With the help of Simon Robertson whose family pioneered the Hilltops region with their Barwang vineyard, Jim Wolfensohn draws on the local rolling hills to  provide reflected sunlight that harnesses the power of photosynthesis, helping grapes ripen earlier and reach full fruit maturity at a lower-than-usual sugar level – much like in Germany, France and Italy.

And he called on another local, Italian-trained Joel Pizzini to make his 2007 Yabtree Shiraz that's a wonderfully European-style wine, rich with deep ruby colours and mouth-filling flavours of blackberries, black pepper and aniseed.

Great $25 value with saltbush lamb, roast pheasant or wild mushroom risotto.

ONE FOR LUNCH: IF you've a favourite Indian or Thai restaurant that's BYO, next time you visit take along a bottle of Logan's Orange (NSW) 2009 Weemala Gewurztraminer. This is a curry-lover's wine whose spice mirrors that of the food, while the floral lychee and passionfruit flavours complement the heat and kick of the curry, much like a fruit chutney does.

At $18 this is a lovely cool-climate wine for curries and other spicy dishes.



[] NICE connections: from Heady New York to the road to Gundagai

[] CURRYING favour – this floral wine's ideal with curries and spice dishes

Monday 14 September 2009



david ellis

IT doesn't seem that long ago that Australian winemakers started putting the majority of their wines under screwcaps in place of cork, as they sought to eradicate cork taint and preserve wine freshness in the bottle.

But while the year 2000 is generally considered the "beginning" of the trend,  experiments in fact began as far back as forty years ago. And the first really concerted efforts to sell the idea of screwcaps to consumers in the 1980s and 1990s met with quite strong opposition: buyers looked on wines under the new closures as inferior products, and most makers went back to cork.

But in South Australia's Clare Valley when several makers banded together to import half a million screwcaps and bottles from France to bottle their premium 2000 Rieslings, consumers suddenly appreciated the reason for screwcaps: they were in fact an assurance of longevity and bottle freshness.

One of those Clare Valley makers, Peter Barry of Jim Barry wines remembers it well. "We were fed up producing some of the world's finest, most delicately and freshly flavoured Riesling, only to open bottles that had been cork-sealed and find our great wines corked, oxidised or just obviously dull," he says.

"The Australian Wine Research Institute, however, found that wines under screwcaps showed the highest level of overall fruit character retention, the least development of oxidised characters, and effectively zero cork-taint. It was exactly what we were seeking; armed with this knowledge and our own research, we knew the screwcap was here to stay."

Peter's tenth Clare Valley Watervale Riesling under screwcap for Jim Barry Wines, the 2009 is an almost flamboyantly-flavoured wine with beautifully forward Tahitian lime, cumquat and grapefruit flavours.

At just $14.95 it is ideal now with lighter-style seafoods, chicken dishes and salads – or rest assured that under its screwcap, it will cellar well into the next decade, further developing its already apparent layers of flavours.



[] PROVING the value of the screwcap: an almost "flamboyant" Jim Barry Riesling from the Clare Valley

[] ONE of screwcap's pioneers in Australia, Peter Barry of Jim Barry Wines

Screw Cap Wines: A good idea?

david ellis

PROVING the value of the screwcap: an almost
"flamboyant" Jim Barry Riesling from the Clare Valley
IT doesn't seem that long ago that Australian winemakers started putting the majority of their wines under screwcaps in place of cork, as they sought to eradicate cork taint and preserve wine freshness in the bottle.

But while the year 2000 is generally considered the "beginning" of the trend,  experiments in fact began as far back as forty years ago. And the first really concerted efforts to sell the idea of screwcaps to consumers in the 1980s and 1990s met with quite strong opposition: buyers looked on wines under the new closures as inferior products, and most makers went back to cork.

But in South Australia's Clare Valley when several makers banded together to import half a million screwcaps and bottles from France to bottle their premium 2000 Rieslings, consumers suddenly appreciated the reason for screwcaps: they were in fact an assurance of longevity and bottle freshness.

One of those Clare Valley makers, Peter Barry of Jim Barry wines remembers it well. "We were fed up producing some of the world's finest, most delicately and freshly flavoured Riesling, only to open bottles that had been cork-sealed and find our great wines corked, oxidised or just obviously dull," he says.

ONE of screwcap's pioneers in Australia,
Peter Barry of Jim Barry Wines
"The Australian Wine Research Institute, however, found that wines under screwcaps showed the highest level of overall fruit character retention, the least development of oxidised characters, and effectively zero cork-taint. It was exactly what we were seeking; armed with this knowledge and our own research, we knew the screwcap was here to stay."

Peter's tenth Clare Valley Watervale Riesling under screwcap for Jim Barry Wines, the 2009 is an almost flamboyantly-flavoured wine with beautifully forward Tahitian lime, cumquat and grapefruit flavours.

At just $14.95 it is ideal now with lighter-style seafoods, chicken dishes and salads – or rest assured that under its screwcap, it will cellar well into the next decade, further developing its already apparent layers of flavours.


Saturday 12 September 2009

What is Park Hyatt Sydney's Nick Caraturo drinking?

Spent an hour with award-winning sommelier, Nick Caraturo, at Sydney’s plush Park Hyatt harbourkitchen&bar trying his latest suite of house wines. Making a selection of crowd-pleasers from “regular” wines is where top sommeliers come into their own. Each wine belied its $20 bottleshop price tag and drank superbly. Here’s Nick’s list:
  • Sauvignon Blanc: Domain A Stoney Vineyard 2007 (TAS)
  • Pinot Noir: Park & Joyce Adelaide Hills 2007 (my favourite, a proper pinot) (SA)
  • Cab/Merlot: Wild Duck Creek, The Blend (VIC)
  • Shiraz: Bowen Estate 2007 (SA – Coonawarra) - Jeremy Oliver gave this one 92 points and who am I to disagree?
Why not slip into a comfy couch on a Friday or Saturday night and soak up the cool jazz and harbour views with a glass of Park & Joyce. Bliss!

- Roderick Eime

Monday 7 September 2009



david ellis

AN unseasonally cool February after moderate mid-summer conditions in the Adelaide Hills in 2008 certainly gave makers there plenty to think about, but there was worse to come in March when conditions swung from cool to one of the longest heatwaves in South Australian history.

Matt O'Leary at Wolf Blass, however, managed to get all the fruit for his white wines off the vines before the heatwave hit, and because of those earlier cool conditions this fruit was flavoured to the max, resulting for him in a really outstanding 2008 Wolf Blass Gold Label Adelaide Hills Chardonnay.

A very elegant wine rich with varietal Chardonnay flavours, it has a nice creamy texture, and aromas of grapefruit, white peach and subtle nutty oak.

Pay $25.99 and match with a creamy seafood mornay or roast pork. And while enjoyable now, it'll develop nicely over the next three to five years for even greater pleasure down the track.

ONE FOR LUNCH: NOT many wine labels take their name from supporters of the Temperance Movement, but Wynns' Alex 88 does just that.

A Miss Nora Alexander lived on the land at Coonawarra that became the Alex 88 block, and as a supporter of the Women's Temperance Movement dictated that after her death, the property not be sold for growing grapes; her nephew, however, sold it to a neighbouring winery some years later, and it was later bought by Wynns.

A 2006 Wynns' Alex 88 Cabernet Sauvignon (the number 88 comes about because the vineyard was planted in 1988) is a full bodied wine with beautifully forward blackberry fruit flavours, integrated oak and lingering tannins; a lovely red well worth the $38.99 price tag to share with roast lamb and garlic mash.



[] GREAT with seafood mornay now – even greater in a few more years

[] SOMETHING rare: a label named after a Temperance supporter

Tuesday 1 September 2009



david ellis

WHEN you get just a tonne of fruit off an acre in the Hunter Valley because of drought, you can bet that fruit will have really intensely concentrated flavours.

Certainly such was the case with Margan Family Winemakers with their 2007 Shiraz: after nearly ten years of drought, 2007 brought yet another hot and dry growing season, and from their Timbervine Vineyard at Broke just a tonne to the acre (0.40ha) of tiny Shiraz berries.

But those little berries were huge on ripe-fruit flavour, colour and tannin, and after fermentation winemaker Andrew Margan put the wine into older oak hogsheads so it could soften and mature without overt oak characters over eighteen months.

Enjoy this one with your favourite red meat dishes – and while it will develop more complex flavours over the next three years or so, you'll find that at $20 a bottle a great investment would be to put a few away for even more-rewarding, inexpensive enjoyment down the track.

Andrew's prediction, in fact, is that it'll cellar beautifully right through until around 2020 – and most likely longer.

ONE FOR LUNCH: ADELAIDE Hills' maker Wicks Estate Wines have taken a fresh and interesting approach to their 2008 Chardonnay – they barrel fermented just 15-per cent, fermented the remainder in stainless steel tanks, and at the same time trialed new yeast strains and extended lees contact.

The result is a beautifully flavoured wine with enhanced natural varietal nectarine, fig and pear fruit characters and a fine texture that showcases just how well- suited the Adelaide Hills' region is to Chardonnay production; at $18  share with family or friends over a chicken, leek and mushroom pie.



[] PAY just $20 and reap the enjoyment in 2010 – or later

[] ONE to enjoy with family or friends over a chicken, leek and mushroom pie

Monday 24 August 2009



david ellis

ONE of the more eye-catching labels to come our way of late is Good Catholic Girl from boutique maker Julie Barry in South Australia's Clare Valley.

The daughter of the late and legendary Jim Barry, Julie says that being born into a Catholic wine family, it meant that in vintage her fate was sealed, and only natural that she develop an interest and love of wine from an early age.

Just two wines are bottled under her Good Catholic Girl label: one is a Shiraz from her own Limerick Vineyard that was planted in 1997 with cuttings from her father's famed Armagh Shiraz vines just across the paddock (and certainly a great a head-start in the Shiraz-making stakes.)

The other is a Riesling from fruit she sources from two vineyards at Penwortham – the original settlement in the Clare.

We found her 2008 Teresa Clare Riesling (named after her mother) really something, with dominant cassis and lemon flavours, coupled with hints of lime and fresh Granny Smith apples – all-in-all a refreshingly succulent drop ideal with seafood such as crabmeat fritters and salad, or roast pork.

Julie made just 108 dozen; if it sounds appealing its just $25 a bottle plus freight. Order on 0419 822 909 or email

ONE FOR LUNCH: VICTORIA's cool-climate Blue Pyrenees' "Varietal" range certainly live up to their claim of value-for-money for premium quality wines at consumer-friendly prices.

The 2006 Blue Pyrenees Varietal Shiraz is one in particular to look out for if you like flavoursome reds: made from low-yielding, big-on-flavour vines, this one's got nice sweet blueberry fruit flavours that give way to hints of chocolate and varietal spice; pay $18 and serve with barbecued kangaroo steaks and whole foil-roasted buttered potatoes.



[] INVITE this Good Catholic Girl to a seafood or roast pork dinner

[] LIVING up to its claim: value-for-money premium quality red

Monday 17 August 2009



david ellis

WHEN boutique Margaret River winemaker Deep Woods released its 2007 Ebony Cabernet Shiraz last year, it was inundated with praise from consumers and wine critics alike as an outstanding wine at a great price for average consumers.

It's a safe bet Deep Woods will get the same praise again this year for its just-released 2008 Ebony Cabernet Shiraz, an equally good drop as the 2007 and still priced at just $14.95 a bottle.

Winemaker Travis Clydesdale drew on fruit from across the company's Margaret River vineyards to create a wine that he likes to describe as "a quintessential, juicy Margaret River red," with soft, juicy 'jube'-like fruit characters and ripe and plush tannin.

Certainly it's a very quaffable, easy-drinking wine, and by giving it only minor oak treatment, Travis has allowed its lovely Cabernet and Shiraz fruit characters to take centre-stage; a beaut drop to share with pizzas or pastas.

(If you're wondering where the name Deep Woods came from, the 32ha property is perched high on a ridge that unfolds into a picturesque secluded valley bounded by stands of jarrah and marri trees – hence Deep Woods.)

ONE FOR LUNCH: BARWANG Wines that originally planted its Tumbarumba vineyards south of the Snowy Mountains to make bubblies, made a good move when it experimented a few years ago with Chardonnay there as well

With cool winters and low average temperatures much like Champagne in France, the area's ideal for grapes to ripen slowly so the fruit develops wonderfully full flavours; the just-released Barwang 842 Tumbarumba Chardonnay (so named because the highest vineyards are at an elevation of 842m) has intense peach, rockmelon and lime flavours and excellent oak; pay $35 and enjoy with butter-brushed grilled lobster.



[] AT $14.95 just the drop with pizzas or pasta

[] TREAT yourself to grilled lobster with this top Tumbarumba beauty

Monday 10 August 2009



david ellis

EXCELLENT Autumn and Winter rains in 2008 and perfect ripening conditions earlier this year gave Hunter Valley makers every opportunity to create some exceptional wines from the 2009 vintage.

Tintilla Estate's owner/winemaker, Robert Lusby and winemaker son James, took advantage of every aspect of this vintage, and you'll have trouble trying to find fault with their 2009 Tintilla Angus Hunter Valley Semillon.

Somewhat fruitier than normal, this wine's got lovely lemon and lime flavours, good acidity and an austere finish, making it ideal to enjoy young with pasta smothered in a creamy mushroom sauce; certainly great buying at $26.

ONE FOR LUNCH: Just 80 lucky diners will sit down to a degustation prepared by classic French chef, Damian Pignolet of famed Bistro Moncur in Sydney's Woollahra, with accompanying wines from cold-climate Logan Wines at Orange in the NSW Central West.

A 2008 Chardonnay and a 2007 Shiraz will head-up the wine list: we're particularly wrapped in the Shiraz that's very food-friendly and almost a cross between the style of France's southern Rhone and that of Italy with its forward fruit flavours and excellent use of wood.

The Damian Pignolet/Peter Logan Degustation Dinner will be held at Logan Wines' Mudgee Tasting Rooms on September 19; details (02) 6373 1333. If you can't make it, pay $25 and match up the Logan 2007 Shiraz with roast duck and baked vegies.

FOR THE DIARY: The Hunter Valley's Inaugural 'Home Grown Gold' Wine Tasting will offer the first chance to taste Gold and Trophy winning wines from the 2009 Clear Image Hunter Valley Wine Show; venue is Lindeman's Wines in Pokolbin on Saturday afternoon August 29 with entry $20pp. There'll also be a Wine Masterclass ($50pp;) info or (02)4991 4533.




[] SHARE this one with pasta and a creamy mushroom sauce

[] FOOD-friendly Shiraz ideal with roast duck and baked vegies

Monday 3 August 2009



david ellis

THE Clare Valley's Kirrihill has released a new Clare Valley Regional Wines label with a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Shiraz for those looking for early-drinking, affordable reds.

Inspired by winemaker Donna Stephens, who joined Kirrihill's team just in time to work the 2008 vintage, the new range draws on fruit from targeted vineyards in several of the Valley's sub-regions to showcase its renowned regional characteristics.

The 2008 Kirrihill Clare Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, made jointly by Donna with side-kick Marnie Roberts, captures classic Clare plum, mulberry and dark cherry on the palate, coupled with aromas of blackcurrants and violets.

Nicely priced at just $14.99, this is a real-value buy-now, drink-now red for next you chuck a steak on the barbie.

ONE FOR LUNCH: Another Clare Valley maker, Tim Adams admits to a relatively new-found zeal for Pinot Gris – a variety he says has long held a fascination for him (although his wife and daughter reckon it's more midlife crisis.)

So when he decided he'd have a go at planting this Alsace variety, he didn't do as most do and stick in a few experimental vines to assess their worth over several vintages: with wife Pam Goldsack and friend Grant Crawley they devoted 2ha of their Sheoaks Vineyard to Pinot Gris in 2001 – and triple this (6.5ha) in their Ladera Vineyard three years later.

Their adventurous spirit has certainly paid off: the Tim Adams 2009 Pinot Gris ($23) has nice pear, peach, lychee and passionfruit flavours, and a crisp acidity, all attributes that make it ideal to share with Thai, Vietnamese and other Asian dishes that have a hint of chilli to them.



[] GOOD one to open with a good steak at the next barbie

[] FASCINATION – or midlife crisis? Whichever, it's a great drop

Monday 27 July 2009



david ellis

PINOT Gris is a relatively new variety to be planted in Tasmania, but the island State's cool-climate winemakers are showing they are up there with the best in handling this delightful and increasingly popular grape.

Bay of Fires, whose winemaker Fran Austin is crafting some really exceptional wines from a number of classic varieties the company is having plenty of success with, has just released a 2008 Pinot Gris that's sure to prove a hit with those turning towards this very versatile food-match wine.

Using fruit from across various areas of Tasmania's vineyard regions, Fran has turned out a more-ish wine with classic Pinot Gris pear, citrus and spice flavours.

Pay $28.50 and enjoy with a wide range of Asian pork or chicken dishes, or with Atlantic salmon steaks topped with a sprinkling of mixed herbs.

ONE FOR LUNCH: Senior winemaker at Coonawarra's Katnook Estate, Wayne Stehbens is being pretty modest when he says 2006 was such a great vintage that wines that came out of it were "almost self-made."

He should mention also that he's got a more-than-average handle on the place: he's been making wine there for Katnook for 30 years.

The 2006 vintage in Coonawarra was a very early one with slightly above-average temperatures during summer and extending into the ripening period, so that the low-yielding vines had loads of flavour.

Wayne's 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon is one of his best: elegant and generously flavoured with rich dark berry, sweet oak and fine grained tannins.

Pay $40 and enjoy with prime rib and a Bordelaise sauce whose peppercorn, shallot and thyme flavours will match this wine perfectly.




[] CLASSIC with Asian dishes or salmon steaks

[] PERFECT with prime rib and Bordelaise sauce

Monday 20 July 2009


MORE-ish with seafood any time

david ellis

THERE'S nothing new about making wine in the Canberra Region – they've been doing it for 180 years.

What is new – in the sense of the last ten or twelve years – is the exquisite quality today of some of those wines: owners of over 140 vineyards have worked hard to coax the best from their cool-climate vines, and some thirty-three wineries have worked equally hard to extract the best from that fruit.

One such drop is Ravensworth Wines' 2008 Riesling that's got lovely gentle apple and lime flavours, a hint of lemon and a touch of minerality that's crisp and more-ish; pay a good-value $18 for this wine and enjoy with your favourite seafoods.

ONE for gamey dishes on cold nights
NEIGHOURING Hilltops around the NSW town of Young is another of our smaller regions that's coming up with plenty of nice surprises.

Chalkers Crossing have created some really excellent wines here, and one worth searching out is their full-bodied 2006 Hilltops Cabernet Sauvignon: complex red-berry flavours and fine tannins are coupled with accompanying fresh cassis, blackcurrant and mint aromas.

Don't look past this now at $24.99 to enjoy with gamey meat dishes or a platter of strong cheeses – or put aside for greater enjoyment in eight or nine years.

THESE two wines, incidentally, are amongst thirty from six makers that will feature at an interesting "By the Dozen Top 6" Canberra and Hilltops tasting in Sydney's The Rocks on the evening of July 30th.

The 30 wines were chosen by "Top 6" founders David and Veronica Webster who tasted dozens from the two regions and will discuss their reasons for choosing their "Top 6" makers' final 30; cost is $25pp that's redeemable against orders of $240 or over. Book at – and ask about future "Top 6" tastings from Hunter Valley and Tasmanian makers.