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