Monday 23 February 2009



david ellis

IT may come as a surprise, but the wine that's currently out-pacing the rest of the field in the local popularity stakes is Pinot Noir.

In the past year alone sales of this varietal in Australia have rocketed an astonishing twenty-nine per cent, and one label in particular that's helping lead the onslaught is Western Australia's Capel Vale Debut Pinot Noir whose sales have recorded a 45-per cent growth rate in just twelve months.

In truth it's probably not surprising as Capel Vale have long believed you have to match the variety to the vineyard, and with their Pinot Noir have concentrated on planting in the Pemberton Region in the State's lower south-west; with its predominantly overcast weather, this region's shaping up to become one of the great Pinot Noir regions of the Southern Hemisphere.

The just-released Debut 2007 is a fresh, fruit-driven wine with characteristic black cherry, raspberry and spicy flavours that's excellent buying at $17.95.

Take a bottle along to your favourite BYO Chinese restaurant and enjoy with Peking Duck, or share it at home with a good old-fashioned lamb roast.

ONE FOR LUNCH:  Murray and Daphne Brown were amongst the pioneers of grape-growing and winemaking in New Zealand's Marlborough Region 30-years ago, and in 2002 pioneered again with the first grape plantings in Marlborough's Blind River area that was better known then as sheep country.

Their gamble paid off handsomely and a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc they've just released under their Cable Station label is a ripper of a drop with mouth-filling melon and passionfruit flavours and nice hints of citrus and herbaceousness.

Pay $18.95 and savour the flavours of this one with pan-fried Atlantic salmon cutlets and a tossed salad.



[] JUST the drop with Peking Duck or a lamb roast

[] PIONEER from New Zealand's relatively new Blind River sub-region

Monday 16 February 2009



david ellis

A READER dropped us an interesting note recently: he and mates love a seafood barbecue, but find that the few beers they share before the meal can tend to swamp the delicate flavours of the meal – and equally problematic – the accompanying lighter-style wines to go with seafoods.

So, he asked, are there some beers he and his mates could enjoy while cooking, and which would actually enhance the enjoyment of their seafood and wine to follow? It's not something we've done a lot of research into (but are certainly happy to give it a go!) but there is one relatively new beer on the market that we believe will achieve what our reader is seeking.

Its from boutique maker Monteith's, and is their Radler Bier – a "fruit beer" that's a concept which originated in the Bavarian Alps back in the 1920s, but is somewhat new here, with the beer being infused with lemon and lime juice.

The result is a zesty drop with a citrus spine and a residual sweetness that compliments the beer's natural bitterness and flavours. And while officially a "fruit beer" it is not a frilly "pop beer," and it certainly does makes a nice preamble to seafoods, salads and follow-up seafood-friendly wines such as Chablis, Riesling, Pinot Gris and even bubblies.

Monteith's Radler Bier is available at select liquor outlets at $16.99 for a six 330ml pack. ("Fruit beers," interestingly, are now the fastest growing segment of the beer market in America, enjoying an annual growth rate of 37%.)

ONE FOR LUNCH: A bubbly we experimented with in conjunction with our "beer, seafood and wine" tasting was the Evans and Tate Pink Moscato that certainly proved itself a great choice.

With a lovely fruity passionfruit, guava and watermelon freshness, and at just $18.99, this is an ideal crispy sparkler to enjoy over a long and leisurely sea-food and salad lunch – particularly as it has a lower than normal alcohol level.



[] FROTHY start to seafood and wine barbecue: a "fruit beer" that won't negate the meal's flavours.

[] BUBBLY created with a seafood spread centre of mind.

Monday 9 February 2009



david ellis

A GREAT wine to serve chilled straight off the ice during this extraordinary summer that's sent much of Australia into meltdown, is Pinot Grigio – after all it had its origins in the heat of Mediterranean Northern Italy, where it's an entertainer's favourite on stinker days.

And one of the greats of Australian Pinot Grigio comes from Griffith in the NSW Riverina under the Richland label, whose winemaker Bill Calabria should know what he's doing: his Italian parents who encouraged him onto the road to winemaking stardom, were amongst the area's pioneer makers – and not averse to planting "foreign" grape varieties from their homeland.

As well, not only is this a great drop on a hot day – or any other time for that matter – but Bill's priced it at just $11.99, making it probably the best-value Pinot Grigio on the market.

And what he's created is one of those wonderfully "zingy" Pinot Grigios that's beautifully refreshing with pear and apple fruit flavours, a touch of perfume, and a gorgeously soft yet richly textured finish.

At the price you can afford to invite some mates around to share a few bottles with salmon steaks on the BBQ, an Italian salad and garlic bread. Oh, yeah.

ONE FOR LUNCH: IT'S over 140 years since Thomas Hardy first created a dual region wine from fruit from the Adelaide Plains and Southern Districts.

Today, Hardys HRB (Heritage Reserve Bin) wines represent the epitomy of it's winemaker's blending skills, with a just-released HRB/D636 Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 derived from fruit from premium Coonawarra and Margaret River vineyards – a blend Hardys believes is an Australian first.

Rich with intense fruit flavours and fine tannins, at $40 this is an ideal red for a special occasion slap-up with lamb shanks and baby potatoes.




[] OUR best-value Pinot Grigio?

[] HRB blends share a rich heritage


Monday 2 February 2009



david ellis

MOUNT Pleasant Lovedale Hunter Valley Semillon is an extraordinary wine, not just for the quality of the wine itself, but for the fascinating tale behind it.

Situated in NSW's Lower Hunter Valley, the Lovedale Vineyard sits across a patch of sandy loam soils that when the legendary – and visionary, as it turned out – Maurice O'Shea planted it to Semillon grapes in 1946, local wags chortled that the block was so poor, even the rabbits had to bring along a tucker bag just to survive.

And that the rabbits had to watch their backs too: the only thing the block had ever proven useful for, was as an emergency airfield during the Second War.

But O'Shea knew what he was doing and proved the wags the bunnies: since its first vintage in 1950 Lovedale has produced wines that are benchmark Australian Semillons keenly sought-after by aficionados here and world-wide.

Made only in exceptional vintages, Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon is a style unique to Australia and the Hunter Valley, and according to current maker, Phil Ryan – only the third to be charged with producing this iconic drop – one of just a few Aussie whites with 30 years cellaring potential.

The just-released 2003 echoes the marque's classic history: it is refined and delicate, subtle yet mouth-filling with lemon and lime flavours and a hint of grapefruit about it, and has a rich toasty mid-palate. At $65 enjoy it on its own now with good friends, or put a bottle away for a VIP visit down the track.

ONE FOR LUNCH: DOWIE Doole's 2007 Shiraz is an explode-in-your-mouth wine that's big on full-bodied sweet cherry, plum, spice and liquorice flavours, and has a more-ish long savoury palate. This 10th vintage Shiraz from Dowie Doole is excellent value at $25, so grab a bottle and indulge winemaker Brian Light's magic with savoury Italian beef dishes heavy with tomatoes, garlic and mushrooms. And consider a few for the cellar: this one's got 6 or 8 years in it.




[] CREATER had last laugh on irreverant wags with this iconic Aussie white

[] JUST right with Italian beef dishes heavy with tomatoes, garlic and mushrooms