Monday 31 May 2010



david ellis

MANY of us tend to categorise Australia's regions and wine varieties without too much thought to the possibilities of those regions throwing up a few surprises with varietals out of the norm.

And a surprise out of the norm is exactly what Evans & Tate have achieved with their Redbrook Shiraz 2007: this one's from Western Australia's Margaret River – a region  long renowned for Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay – and when their winemaker, Matthew Byrne decided to look outside the square, he came up with a winner with this Shiraz.

First made in 2004, this label took just a year to stamp its mark on our wine scene, with the 2005 taking out no fewer than six trophies at the 2008 Sydney Royal Wine Show.

And the just-released 2007 has already garnered four Gold Medals, which is little wonder: this is a wine of wonderfully-balanced  Shiraz fruit intensity with aromas of mulberry, plum fruits and black pepper that surge out of the glass, and follow through beautifully on the palate.

At $39.95 this is one to offer guests with a juicy sirloin steak and oven-baked smashed garlic potatoes.

ONE FOR LUNCH: Cumulus Estate's Rolling label is making an enviable name for itself with wines from NSW's Central Ranges, and created by a team led by Senior Winemaker, Debbie Lauritz.

Their 2009 Rolling Sauvignon Blanc Semillon is one such drop for those who like this popular blending: the two varietals were picked and cool-temperature fermented separately, and after fermentation blended 70-30 to get the best of fruit flavour, freshness and mouth feel. Pay $17.95 and enjoy with pan-fried crumbed whiting fillets, chunky wedges and salad.



[] OUT of the norm: a winning Shiraz from the Margaret River.

[] ON a roll: tempting Sauvignon Blanc Semillon to enjoy with pan-fried crumbed whiting fillets.

Monday 24 May 2010



david ellis

HOLLER "Mary!" in Hunter Valley winemaker Bob Lusby's household and you'll be answered by either his wife, his mother, his aunt or his sister – because they're all named Mary.

Now to add another layer to the cake, Bob's named one of his Tintilla Estate wines after this foursome, his 2007 Tintilla Estate Four Marys Pinot Noir.

Not generally recognised as a Pinot Noir region, the Hunter Valley can in fact produce some excellent examples of this variety, and Bob and his son James have done just that with their Four Marys label.

The low yielding and early ripening Pinot Noir vines – descendants of cuttings brought from Burgundy in the 1930s – gave Bob and James fruit of wonderfully full-bodied flavour, and with a long, silky finish.

Concentrating on mainly red wines – Tintilla itself is an old-world name for red wine – Bob says the 2007 Four Marys Pinot Noir has a varietal profile similar to the regional style the Hunter Valley delivers so well with Shiraz.

So holler "Four Marys" in your liquor store, pay $30 and enjoy this one at home with a lamb roast and all the trimmings.

ONE FOR LUNCH: New Zealand winemaker Matua Valley has released a Sauvignon Blanc that's got just 9-per cent alcohol compared with around 14-per cent for the norm – yet its full-flavoured with loads of typical lychee, gooseberry and passionfruit flavours.

Labelled Matua Valley First Frost, this 2009 vintage is an ideal drop to offer with a seafood and salad brunch, or maybe even yum cha when you want to enjoy a few accompanying glasses without the full alcohol (and therefore also the full calorie content,) and good buying at $20.99.



[] NO confusion when choosing this one with road lamb and the works.

[] LOWER alcohol – and lower calories – to go with seafood or yum cha.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Mercure Hotels Launches Dedicated Queensland Wine List

Mercure gives visitors to Queensland a true taste of the 'Sunshine State'

19 May 2010: The Mercure hotel group is the first major hotel group in Queensland to take the State's local wines seriously, with the launch of the 2010 "Grands Vins Mercure", a wine list dedicated to showcasing Queensland's increasingly attractive wines.

The new Queensland Grands Vins selection is available at Mercure hotels in Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns, giving visitors a true taste of the Sunshine State. The wine list is changed twice yearly.

Wines come from a number of boutique wineries in the Stanthorpe region, recognised as Queensland's premier wine area, as well as from emerging wine regions such as South Burnett, the Darling Downs and the Gold Coast Hinterlands.

Reflecting Queensland wineries' experimentation with grape varieties and styles, the list includes varietals such as sylvaner and verdelho amongst the whites, along with more traditional chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and semillon selections. The reds include straight tempranillo and cabernet franc wines as well as merlot, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon.

Accor Regional General Manager Queensland, Neil Scanlan, said that the launch of the new Queensland wine list was not only a vote of confidence in the Queensland wine industry, but also for Queensland tourism.

"Queensland wines have improved dramatically in recent years – and we have had a great reaction from guests since introducing the Queensland Grands Vins wine list a few years ago – but there is still reluctance by most hotels and restaurants to fully represent the State's wine produce," he said.

"When visitors come to Queensland they want to get an appreciation of the destination in many ways, and wine and food is very much part of the travel experience. While Queensland doesn't have the size of wine industry as its southern counterparts, it is really working hard to bring the wine and tourism experience together, as can be seen by the creation of the Strange Bird wine trail up to the Granite Belt. Even if visitors can't get to these wine areas, they can at least try them at a Mercure hotel.

"What is really important with the Grands Vins wine list 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, by both the glass and by the bottle."

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 bodies – to help guests choose the most suitable wine for every occasion and for every dish, while introducing wines from a range of distinctive wineries that guests might not otherwise have a chance to experience.

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.

The Mercure Grands Vins regional lists complement each hotel's standard wine list, which together provide a comprehensive range of Australian and international wines.

The launch of the Queensland Grands Vins list is part of a national roll-out of the concept, with State-based lists prepared for NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. Internationally, Mercure has been offering Grands Vins selections in Europe since 1983.

Monday 17 May 2010


david ellis

THE NSW Southern Highlands – just 1.5hrs south of Sydney – is not one of those regions that spring quickly to front of mind when the talk turns to wine, yet the first wines (mainly fortifieds) were made there as far back as the 1820s, and "modern day" wineries began to flourish in the 1980s and 1990s.

One of the largest today is Southern Highland Wines that has a compact portfolio of premium reds, whites and sparklings made from its own and contract-grower cool climate vineyards at close to 700m above sea-level.

Lovers of increasingly-popular Merlot will find their 2007 a stand-out: pour  into a glass and it almost flashes seductively while at the same time releasing delightful aromas of black cherry, fruitcake, leather, cassis and earthy cedar wood. Taste it and you'll want to keep the bottle to yourself as these characteristics come through wonderfully on the palate as well.

This Southern Highland Wines' Merlot is a gem made from fruit that proves just how magical cool climate wines can be with their cycle of cold winters, cool springs, never-too-hot summers and cool autumns.

For Merlot buffs this one's also well priced at $19 to enjoy with a winter's beef pot roast and steamed kipfler potatoes, or for a bit of adventure, wild pork.

ONE FOR LUNCH: Long Flats' Pink Moscato at just $9.90 is amongst the best-value you'll find in wines with a little fizz to them – plus it's only around half the normal alcohol level of most "fizzies."

Italian Moscato wines are made from Muscat of Alexandria fruit that we know as Gordo Blanco, and this Long Flat Pink Moscato from the Murray Darling has lovely apple and musk flavours with a touch of raspberry from a small blend of Shiraz; an excellent value inclusion at that next party – or enjoy it at lunch with easy chilli and lime prawns on the barbecue.



[] COOL idea: a stand-out Merlot from NSW's Southern Highland Wines.

[] VALUE party "fizz" at just $9.90 – or enjoy with BBQ'd chilli and lime prawns.


Mark Chipperfield asks:


You walk into a quaint-looking country pub. Inside there’s a handsome wooden bar, with a vase of fresh cut flowers at one end. “What’ll you have?” says the friendly barman, reaching for a glass so clean that it glitters in the later afternoon sunlight. “How about trying our local brew – they do a very nice pale ale?”

This story may sound like the ravings of cretin, but the pub is real (details later) and the beer was as good as the barman promised it would be. But this experience is, as most serious beer fanciers know, atypical in modern Australia.

Check out:

Sunday 16 May 2010

Daylesford Macedon Produce Harvest 2010

21-30 May

A great time to visit and celebrate the growers, producers, chefs and vignerons of Daylesford and the Macedon Ranges. Taste your way around the region with 20 regional tasting plates and their matched local tipples. Visit farm gates and cellar doors for Harvest 'specials' or shop with the locals at farmers markets. Join us at forums in sustainable agriculture, winemaker's and visiting chef's dinners and classes in everything from composting, and preserving to bread baking and so much more...

For more information visit

Monday 10 May 2010



david ellis

A NEIGHBOUR with a penchant for only the best when it comes to his cellar, was musing the other day that should he suddenly win $10,000 in the lottery (or even less likely on the gee-gees,) he'd go out and buy for six of his closest mates a bottle each of Penfolds' just-released 2010 Luxury and Icon wines.

And another set of the seven wines for himself. "With their longevity, for the next fourteen years, every second Spring we would gather with our partners around a very special dining table, each of us donating one of our bottles to the occasion.… could you imagine a more-heavenly indulgence?"

We quickly of course reminded him of our long years of friendship in the fond hope of becoming one of his beneficiaries – and to our surprise he arrived at our home a few days later for a long-arranged lunch, and armed with one of the Luxury Range: the absolutely awesome 2007 RWT Barossa Valley Shiraz.

It made what was to have been a simple prime rib on the barbecue a meal from that heaven that my neighbour had earlier mused about. Created from a Barossa drought year that gave Chief Winemaker Peter Gago and his team fruit of great flavour intensity, it proved a wine as close in flavour as you could get to the liquid equivalent of a slice of Blackforest fruit cake.

Currently selling for $174.99 it will only increase in value as good drinking is assured over the next twenty years; others, by the way, in the 2010 Penfolds Luxury Range include the 2006 St Henri Shiraz ($89.99,) 2007 Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon ($189.99), 2007 Magill Estate Shiraz ($114.99*) and the 2008 Bin 08A Chardonnay ($89.99.)

If you are serious about wine, do yourself a favour and invest in at least a few of these - and also the 2010 Penfolds Icon 2010 releases as well: the 2005 Grange at $549 and the 2007 Yattarna Chardonnay ($129.99.*)

*These two wines available from Penfolds Cellar Doors only.



[] CLASSIC Penfolds with prime rib steak and red wine jus

[] ICONIC Grange, a snip at $549

Monday 3 May 2010



david ellis

AUSTRALIAN winemaker Ant Moore who now calls New Zealand's Marlborough Region home, has given a new twist to the region's famed Sauvignon Blanc – he's made a sparkling from his 2009 Sauvignon Blanc harvest.

With a dash of sweeter wine and 5 per cent fermented Mendoza Chardonnay blended into it, this is a wonderful party-time wine full of lively ripe-tropical and floral characters, and is slightly lower in alcohol than most sparklings.

Fruit came off Ant Moore's Ant's Nest, Pear Tree and Duck & Pheasant vineyards that have given him an enviable reputation for Sauvignon Blanc in his ten years in this New Zealand home of the stuff, in particular that from his Ant's Nest vineyard that's full of lemon, lime and tropical characters.

Bottled as Ant Moore Kiki Marlborough Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc 2009, it's a rewarding sparkling at $19.95 to enjoy cold, but not too chilled so as to enjoy its full-on fruit flavours. (If you are wondering, Ant is short for Anthony.)

Now all there is to do is to think-up a reason for a party to enjoy it.

ONE FOR LUNCH: West Australian Margaret River maker Brookland Valley has released a 2008 Estate Cabernet Merlot – the first since its exceptional 2004 because winemaker Peter Dillon didn't believe the 2005, 2006 and 2007 vintages had delivered him fruit of high enough quality to bottle under the Brookland Valley label.

It was a decision to be admired, and doubly-rewarding for him is that this 2008 wine has already collected a Trophy and Five Gold Medals at regional and capital city wine shows; fruit came from the Wilyabrup sub-region of Margaret River, giving the Brookland Valley 2008 Estate Cabernet Merlot stand-out cassis, black olive and blackcurrant characters… an ideal wine at $45 to partner-up with rich, saucy Mediterranean pasta dishes.



[] PARTY on with this New Zealand sparkling Sauvignon Blanc

[] PARTNER this one with rich, saucy Mediterranean pasta dishes