Monday 20 April 2009


david ellis

VERY special occasions call for very special wines, and up there with the very best special-occasion reds is Mount Pleasant's 2005 Hunter Valley Maurice O'Shea Shiraz.

Hand-nurtured from the start with the selection of individual bunches of fruit from 125-year old vines on the Old Hill Vineyard, through the winemaking process and into bottle, this wine was first created in 1987 as a tribute to legendary Maurice O'Shea, and his recognition of the special partnership between soil and varietal, site and style, and vineyard and individual winemaking expression.

2005 was an excellent vintage in the Hunter and Mount Pleasant's Chief Winemaker, Phil Ryan used this to full advantage, crafting a wine that would surely bring a sparkle to Maurice O'Shea's eye if he were around today: it has beautifully rich blackberry and plum fruit flavours to the fore, nice layers of spice and velvety tannins.

It is classic Hunter Valley Shiraz, reflecting its origins in the heavy, rich, volcanic soils in the Old Hill Vineyard that O'Shea purchased back in 1921 from the King family, who had planted it to vines in the foothills of the Brokenback Range way back in 1880.

Well priced at $65 for a wine of such finesse for that very special occasion, match it with roast duck, a red currant jus and seasonal vegetables.

ONE FOR LUNCH:  Spring frosts followed by above-average temperatures during the growing season resulted in reduced yields in Coonawarra in 2008, but rewarded makers with fruit of great flavour-intensity. One such was Katnook Estate's Wayne Stehbens who produced a beautiful Sauvignon Blanc from this topsy-turvy vintage: it has subtle herbaceous and mineral notes and a nice richness on the palate – don't look past it at $28 to go with oysters, prawns and a warm crusty baguette, or spicy chicken or veal dishes.




[] SPECIAL occasion red that honours a legend.

[] MATCH this with oysters, prawns and a warm crusty baguette.

Friday 17 April 2009



david ellis

WINEMAKERS can be a droll lot, and Chateau Tanunda's Tim Smith certainly typifies this with his description of a 2009 vintage in the Barossa Valley that began perfectly, then descended rapidly into hellishly heatwave conditions that Adelaide newspapers described as "ferocious."

On top of that, for some reason when fruit had to be assessed for picking in February, Tim found some vines suffered severe heat stress, while others  were almost unaffected and showed extremely good natural acid levels.

And so how did he sum up such a cantankerous vintage? "It was certainly interesting," he said. Now that's droll, and Tim chose his fruit for one particular wine, a 2009 Moscato under the Barossa Tower label that's particularly close to his heart, by combing through his vineyards virtually bunch by bunch.

"We first made Moscato in 2005 when an Australian style of this wine was relatively unknown," Tim says. "But we've enjoyed continuing success with it, and actually have had to increase production year after year. In fact our 2008 has won two Gold Medals, as well as being named by the Adelaide Advertiser newspaper as one of the "Best Buys of 2008 at $15 and Under."

The just-released 2009 Barossa Tower Moscato from that "interesting" vintage, is a naturally sweet wine with refreshing acidity, and is full of fresh lime, watermelon and guava fruit flavours, with a soft gentle spritz. Pay $15 and enjoy with spicy Thai dishes – or apple pie and ice-cream.

ONE FOR LUNCH – in the Hunter Valley, Friday April 17 to Sunday 19 when 150-plus Hunter Semillons will be showcased as part of the 8th Semillon and Seafood Festival. There'll be matching food and Semillon tastings, cooking demonstrations, and the chance to meet with such legendary winemakers as Bruce Tyrrell, Mike Deluliis, Keith Tulloch, Phil Ryan, 2008 Winemaker of the Year, Andrew Thomas and others. Program details, ticket prices and to book into demos: (02) 4991 4533 or  




[] MATCH for spicy Thai main courses, or with apple pie and ice-cream.

[] ANDREW Thomas: holding a Masterclass on Sunday April 19 as part of the Hunter Valley's Semillon & Seafood Festival.

Thursday 9 April 2009



david ellis

PINOT Gris that hails from France is not the easiest grape variety to grow in Australia, but it's found a home at Orange in NSW's Central West where it enjoys the region's intense sunlight, mild clear days and very cool nights.

Senior Winemaker at Climbing Wines, Debbie Lauritz spent some time working with Pinot Gris in Alsace and has a passion for the variety that's reflected in the exceptional 2008, a somewhat voluptuous wine with beautifully concentrated zesty pear and apple flavours.

It's certainly rewarded Debbie for the patience needed in the vineyard – a lot more than usual pruning as well as bunch and shoot trimming – and consumers who are turning in rapidly growing numbers to this varietal.

"It's worth the effort," Debbie says. "Because the older the vines become the better they get, and with ours now 12 years old they have a well-balanced canopy that results in less fruit, but much more concentrated flavours."

Pay $21.99 and don't look past enjoying with simple fish and chips or fried chicken and salad.

ONE FOR LUNCH:  In his constant search for the best parcels of Hunter Valley land for creating wines of exceptional character and longevity, the legendary Maurice O'Shea in 1945 came across a block of rich volcanic soil that he planted to vines and named Rosehill Vineyard; he was able to develop the vineyard with the backing of the McWilliam family, and today it is one of the iconic Mount Pleasant stable of unique Hunter Valley vineyards.

A just-released 2004 Mount Pleasant Shiraz crafted by Chief Winemaker, Phil Ryan is a grand tribute to the foresight of Maurice O'Shea: it has dominant red berry fruit flavours complemented by earthy characters and a lovely savoury palate. A good choice at $33.99 to enjoy with roast duck, parsley mash potatoes and a green peppercorn sauce.



Photo captions:

[] CLIMBING to new heights in popularity, and just the drop with fish and chips

[] PLEASANT tribute to a Hunter Valley legend, enjoy with roast duck dishes