Monday 29 June 2009



A ZINGY white to enjoy year-round with fish and seafoods is Primo Estate's  La Biondina, a 100 per cent fun-blonde Colombard from South Australia's Adelaide Plains.

First created by Joe and Dina Grilli a near-ten decades ago, this zesty drop was blended for several more-recent vintages with Sauvignon Blanc, but for the 2009 makers Joe Grilli and Daniel Zuzulo reverted to 100% Colombard.

To get everything just as they wanted it, Joe and Daniel picked half the fruit in early February to capture its zingy tang, and the other half well into March when the more varietal tropical fruit flavours were coming to the fore.

The result is a nicely fruit-driven wine whose passionfruit, melon and citrus flavours make it ideal with fish and seafood, but if you're not into these you'll find this one goes just as well with spicy curries; well priced too at just $15.

ONE FOR LUNCH: THE Hunter Valley's Oakvale make some quite unique and very food-friendly wines, one in particular their Reserve Barrel Select Shiraz that's made only when winemaker Steve Hagan is sure there is something really exceptional about a particular vintage.

The just-released 2006 is one such drop, a rich and robust wine from the company's bunch-thinned, low-yielding vineyard at Broke – in fact so little fruit was available, Steve was able to make just 100 cases of this wonderful wine that's loaded with varietal dark cherry and berry fruit flavours, pepper and vanillan oak.

If it follows its predecessors it will prove another great hit for this small winery – the previous Reserve Barrel Select Shiraz, the 2003, picked up Gold at its first show outing; pay $45 and enjoy with a winter's osso bucco and creamy mash touched with garlic and a sprinkle of parsley. (If you have trouble finding it, get on the phone now to Oakvale's Cellar Door on toll-free 1800 005 550.)




[] THIS little blonde's still having fun a near-30 years on.

[] GET on the phone: there's just 100 cases of this top Hunter Shiraz.

Monday 22 June 2009



david ellis

AUSTRALIAN winemakers – particularly those who rely heavily on export orders – have become as much caught up in the world's current economic turmoil as any other industry, and while most consumers will empathise with them there are many who equally are rubbing their hands at the bargains that are currently to be had, particularly as regards top shelf labels.

Some makers have slashed prices by more than 50 per cent on their super premiums, others are holding back new releases to see how prices fare over the coming months, and others are quietly bottling these wines under new labels at lower prices.

One maker, the Clare Valley's Jim Barry looked at and then rejected all these options for economic or ethical reasons, and came up with something for their  classic McRae Wood Shiraz that should well-satisfy consumers, and help the maker through these current tough times.

Knowing he could not get the normal $45 for their ready-for-release 2007 McRae Wood, and conscious he was still holding big stocks of unsold 2005 and 2006 wine, Jim Barry's Managing Director, Peter Barry decided to blend most of the 2007 with their 2007 Lodge Hill Shiraz.

The result is a stunningly powerful yet soft wine with spearmint, violets, boysenberries and nice tannins on the palate, that appears almost tailor-made for hearty winter casseroles… and it's truly a steal at just $19.50 for a wine that's in much part made up of what would normally cost us $45 a bottle.

ONE FOR LUNCH to help kids with cancer: Canberra's Shaw Vineyard Estate has created a Laughter Series range of normally premium $15 wines for just  $129 a case – with $50 from every case going to Camp Quality, Australia's leading fund-raiser for kids with cancer. All from the 2008 vintage, the range includes a Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, a Semillon Riesling, a Shiraz Cabernet and a Cabernet Sauvignon: buy direct via  



[] STEAL at $19.50 for winter casseroles                                                               

[] WINES help Camp Quality's kids with cancer

Monday 15 June 2009



david ellis

IF ever there was a white wine that you could say Mother Nature designed to gracefully transform itself from a moth to a butterfly over a few years slumbering in the cellar, it is Hunter Valley Semillon.

McWilliams have for years been masters at this art, withholding their Mount Pleasant wines for at least four years in-bottle before release, and their latest,  the 2004 Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon, once again shows the rewards of this practice for we consumers.

"Hunter Valley Semillon is a wine that cannot be replicated anywhere in the world," says Mount Pleasant Winemaker, Phil Ryan. "It is Australia's only truly unique wine style and the transformation it undergoes through maturation is what makes it so special."

This 2004 Semillon has lovely lime, lemon blossom and tropical fruit aromas, tight lemon and lime flavours and good acidity; a great wine now, it will continue to develop beautifully with a few more years cellaring… and interestingly, for the first time it is a Mount Pleasant bottled under screw cap.

Its price tag of $17.99 is quite surprising for a wine of this calibre, so grab a bottle or two and spoil the family with this and sautéed scallops, a creamy sauce with a squeeze of lemon to it and garlic-buttered crispy warm rolls.

ONE FOR LUNCH: THEY may be Little by name but they're anything than little by stature – we're talking about the wines of The Little Wine Company, and in particular their just-released 2006 Little Gem Shiraz.

Winemaker Ian Little says a dry 2006 gave one of the best red vintages he's seen in the Hunter Valley, providing plenty of excellent fruit that allowed him to create a "little gem" of a wine with rich, voluptuous Shiraz dark berry and chocolate flavours, typical spiciness and good tannins. Pay $37 and enjoy with a good roast and baked vegies.




[] BOTTLE-aging before release a grand reward for consumers.

[] LITTLE by name, but not little by stature.

Monday 8 June 2009


david ellis

ALTHOUGH Doctor Aniello Iannuzzi and Dr Eve Tsironis only ventured into winemaking in the Hunter Valley in 1999, their appreciation for the juice of the grape is rooted back years in two of the Mediterranean's most passionate winemaking regions.

For centuries Aniello's family tilled vines and made wine in the famed Campania region of Italy, while Eve's did the same in Greece's historic Peloponnese. And if they were around today, doubtless both ancient families would be mighty pleased with their descendant's continuing their winemaking story on the other side of the world with their Mount Eyre Vineyards label.

Drs Aniello and Eve bought the Three Ponds Vineyard near Broke in 1999, and a few years later the Holman Estate Vineyard in the heart of Pokolbin, engaging Rhys Eather and Steve Hagan to produce a small, premium-quality range of whites, reds and sparklings.

Don't look past their 2006 Holman Shiraz that's possibly the best-ever red from Mount Eyre, being beautifully soft with flavours of dark berries, chocolate and tobacco, and with fine tannins and acidity that should see it drinking marvellously for anything up to twenty years.

Pay $45 and whip up a duck-and-mushroom risotto to go with it.

ONE FOR LUNCH: A colleague once penned in a Sydney newspaper that Westend's Richland Pinot Grigio from the NSW Riverina "was the best-value Pinot Grigio on the market." He was anything but wrong: at just $11.95 this is a wine in which you can almost sense that Westend's Bill Calabria has woven his own Italian heritage into the very essence of this great Italian varietal.

Lightly perfumed on the nose, pear and apple flavours on the palate and a clean crisp finish make this a zingy white to enjoy equally with traditional Italian Antipasto, maybe even Thai dishes – or simply fish and chips.




[] A BOTTLER of Mediterranean history in the Hunter Valley

[] WEAVING Italian heritage into a great-value white from the Riverina

Monday 1 June 2009



david ellis

MARGAN Family Winemakers in the Hunter valley have just released their 2007 single vineyard White Label Semillon, a drop that's classic Hunter Semillon down to its bootstraps.

The company's White Label wines have never failed to appeal to true aficionados, being made in quite limited volumes from only those vintages that winemaker, Andrew Margan deem to be "just right" – in this case dry and hot with the fruit picked at low baume to create that classic Hunter-style Semillon.

And interestingly while the majority of Margan's White Label wines come from single vineyards in the volcanic Broke Fordwich area, this one was sourced from the 70 year old dry-land Belford Vineyard in the more alluvial creek country of Belford a little distance away.

It is a wonderfully smooth and easy-drinking wine with fine citrus flavours upfront, and in traditional Lower Hunter fashion displays a lemon butter softness and crisp acidity to ensure longevity.

It's only available from cellar door or mail order ( or 02 6579 1317) and select restaurants; at $30 its worth the phone call to buy by the case – put half away for super-enjoyment in five or six years, and savour the rest now with pan-fried white fish fillets or a creamy chicken pasta.

ONE FOR LUNCH: WE'VE long held a passion for Indian food and a good Rosé, and one of the best Rosés we've shared of late at our local Indian eatery is Rolling Wines' 2009 Rolling Pink.

Winemaker Debbie Lauritz used 100 per cent Shiraz from the company's cool, high-altitude vineyards at Orange in NSW for this wine that has lifted berry fruit charters and Shiraz spiciness, without too much tannin. At $17.95 take a couple along to your local Indian restaurant for a most-memorable evening.



[] THINK by the case: half for now, half for five years down the track

[] ROLL-up the fruit-forwardness of this Rosé with the flavours of India