Friday 29 July 2011

Five stars for three Mudgee wineries

DARREN SNYDER | Mudgee Guardian

Mudgee was crowned with three five-star wineries for
the second consecutive year when James Halliday’s
2012 Australian Wine Companion was released on Wednesday.
Mudgee was crowned with three five-star wineries for the second consecutive year when James Halliday’s 2012 Australian Wine Companion was released on Wednesday.

Two wineries have gone back-to-back with top rating in Halliday’s companion and a new addition completes the trio.

About five years since their previous top rating, Huntington Estate now joins Robert Stein Vineyard and Robert Oatley Vineyards as Mudgee’s premium wineries.

Read Full Story

Thursday 28 July 2011


The Coonawarra Cabernet Celebrations. Spanning the weekend of 14 – 16 October, this celebration of Coonawarra Cabernet showcases and celebrates the quality of Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon and the skill and dedication of the region's winemaking community.  The weekend includes Coonawarra 's most prestigious event, the 14th Annual Barrel Series Auction where the finest barriques of Coonawarra Cabernet from the 2010 vintage will go under the hammer!
This three day festival is filled with tastings, masterclasses, tutorials, live music, entertainment, gourmet food and of course, fantastic Coonawarra wines. Events include:

Retrospective Barrel Series Tasting – Zema Estate
Friday, 14 October: 4pm – 6pm ($25)
Find out how past Barrel Series wines have matured. This year we will taste the exceptional 2001 vintage from Barrel Series 6.
Coonawarra Masterclass – Wynns Coonawarra Estate
Saturday, 15 October: 10am – 12pm ($250)
A selection of 6 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignons from the highly regarded 2008 vintage will be compared with Cabernets from around the world. Event chaired by Master of Wine and Madame Lily Bollinger Medalist Toni Patterson.
Barrel Series 14 Tasting – Katnook Estate
Saturday, 15 October: 6pm – 7pm ($25)
This is your last chance to taste this year's Barrel Series wines before they go up for auction!
Barrel Series 14 Dinner & Auction – Katnook Estate
Saturday, 15 October: 7pm - 12am ($130)
Join the Vignerons for a night of fantastic Coonawarra wines, fine fare, dancing and of course the chance to bid on the best Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra 's 2010 vintage.
Coonawarra Tutorial – Brand's Laira Coonawarra
Sunday 16 October: 11am – 1pm ($45)
This tutorial is for the novice wine lover. Join Qwoff Boys, Andre Eikmeier and Justin Dry, in a fun and informal setting to learn about wine tasting and the magnificent array of Coonawarra wine varietals.
To purchase tickets or to download a Program of Events visit or call the Coonawarra Vignerons Association on 08 8737 2392.

Monday 25 July 2011


NICE one with pan-fried veal chops
topped with winter vegies.


David Ellis

THE Hunter Valley's First Creek has come up with a couple of interesting wines for those into an organic-food lifestyle: a 2010 Organic Bianco Puro (Pure White) and a 2010 Organic Rosso Puro (Pure Red.)

And while production was around 4000 cases you might have to be quick to grab your choice – already 1500 cases are on their way to Sweden where there's a big market for organic wine.

We were particularly taken by the First Creek 2010 Organic Bianco Puro, and probably with good reason: winemaker was this year's Hunter Valley Wine Society Winemaker of the Year, Liz Jackson who was Young Winemaker of the Year 2007, and made the 2010 NSW Wine Awards' Wine of the Year.

The Bianco Puro is a blend of Verdelho, Chardonnay and Semillon from vineyards that engaged in minimal chemical use, while in the winemaking process there was equally minimal intervention – allowing First Creek to be granted the status of Australian Certified Organic.
COOL winner: try this award-winner
with sweet and spicy pork spareribs.

The wine has nice lime/lemongrass aromas and these characteristics follow-through on the palate, making it an ideal partner with pan-fried or grilled fish, or white meats such as pan-fried veal chops topped with winter vegetables.

Pay $25; check-out if you can't find it.

ONE FOR LUNCH: CUMULUS Estate Wines have just released the 2008 Cumulus Shiraz from their cool-climate, high-altitude vineyards at Orange in the NSW Central West, a Gold Medal and Top Ten winner at this year's France Syrah du Monde Awards.

Loaded with dark cherry, red berry, licorice and spice flavours, it's good-value at $30 to share with sweet and spicy BBQ pork spareribs. Or think about the cellar: this one's got a good 15 years in it.


Friday 22 July 2011

Forklift Accident Destroys $1M in Premium Wine

Source: ABC

A top drop has come to grief when more than $1 million of premium wine fell from a forklift during loading in Adelaide.

A McLaren Vale winemaker whose hard work went down the drain in the accident says there was only one undamaged carton out of 462.

The cases of Velvet Glove premium 2010 shiraz, at $185 per bottle, fell more than six metres when the forklift malfunctioned while loading the container for export at the Port Adelaide wharf on Thursday.

Mollydooker winemaker Sparky Marquis says his staff are still sorting through the mess a bottle at a time.

"All of the bottles are in the cool store and we're just having to go through every single bottle, check it first of all to see if it has any cap seal damage to it, in which case it just gets immediately discarded," he said.

Thursday 21 July 2011

September Taste Sensation at Mudgee Wine and Food Festival

The Mudgee Region is thriving as a food and wine hub and the best time to taste its delights is the Mudgee Wine and Food Festival, in proud association with Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa, from 9-25 September 2011. Meet the winemakers, producers and locals at over 60 events in one of Australia's oldest and most diverse wine districts.
New this year is a week of foodie activities from 9 September with a daily agenda for gourmands - a bubbly breakfast, alfresco lunch in the vineyard, wagyu BBQ, degustation dinner and a farmers market. Also new is the Mudgee Wine Tweet at 'Go Tasting' on 10 September where people can tweet their tasting views on over 400 different wines online at Twitter.
Hot tickets include 'Vine, Swine and Dine' through Mudgee's Eastern wine trail (10 Sept), Robert Stein's 'Two Four Six Ate' dinner (14 Sept), 'Go Grazing' (24 Sept), 'Logan Wines Dinner with Pendolino' (17 Sept), 'Mudgee in a Hut at Rosby Wines' (14 Sept) and Gooree Park's 'Bubbly Breakfast at the Track' (10 and 17 Sept). Meet the winemakers at Lowe Wines 'Winemakers Table' every Saturday in September and 'The Winemakers Table Dinner 'at Blue Wren (15 Sept).
The Festival features the 40th Mudgee Wine Show with judging in a range of categories. Visitors can learn about the range of winemaking styles at the 'Wine Show Dinner' on 9 September and then sample to their palates content at 'Go Tasting' on 10 September.
Events will showcase how Mudgee's wine styles have changed and diversified from big, bold reds to new styles of white such as lighter versions of Chardonnay, Riesling, Sparkling and Spanish and Italian varietals. Meet the young winemakers who are driving some of this change, and taste why Mudgee's organic wines are winning such acclaim.
"For more than 35 years the Festival has attracted visitors from far and wide, and the quality of events in this year's program is better than ever. The town will have a fabulous festival vibe and be buzzing with locals sharing their passion for food and wine." said Lucy White, CEO of Mudgee Region Tourism Inc.
As well as food and wine the Festival features other sensory experiences - an Indigenous art exhibition, live music at the Mudgee Brewery and Roths Wine Bar, a golf tournament, a barefoot bowls event and an antiques auction.
There are around 40 cellar doors to visit from traditional favourites to newer openings at Mongrel Vineyard, Optimiste, Skimstone, Bunnamagoo Estate Wines and Rosby Wines. Also new in town is Botobolar Wine & Things Organic, Market Street Café featuring local produce and Kids Cooking Classes at the Farmers Market, to name a few.
The Mudgee Region is a 3.5hour drive from Sydney in Central NSW or a 40-minute flight with Aeropelican. A food and wine lover's paradise, it is the third largest grape-growing region in NSW, with a range of arts, culture, history, outlying villages and towns including Gulgong and Rylstone, and nature and adventure experiences.
The Mudgee Wine and Food Festival are in proud association with Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa.  
For more information on the Mudgee Wine and Food Festival, the program and to buy tickets contact the Mudgee Region Visitor Information Centre on (02) 6372 1020 or go to

Monday 18 July 2011


SOMETHING new to enjoy with
pan-fried whiting – and just $12.99.


David Ellis

THE Hunter Valley's Neil McGuigan is without doubt Australia's master-craftsman when it comes to Semillon, and he's now both surprised and delighted his legions of fans by coming up with a virtually total new style that he's labelled The Semillon Blanc.

Because while it's got Semillon's forward lemony/lime flavours, Neil's actually enhanced those vibrant citrus characters, and also coaxed out some wonderfully delicious tropical fruit flavours as well by blending-in fruit from the Murray and Barossa Valleys as well as his home-town Hunter.

It's resulted in an aromatic, flavoursome and crisp wine that could almost be likened to Australian White Burgundy, and which at just 11.5% alcohol is perfect with seafoods such as pan-fried whiting, or to purely enjoy on its own.

GREAT Australian sparkler for
when its time to party.
Neil came up with the McGuigan Wines' 2011 The Semillon Blanc after a UK wine writer asked him "What's the next big thing to come out of the Australian wine industry?" Not having an answer, he invited his winemaking team to join him in creating that "next big thing."

It's a super result, but we have one misgiving: while the $12.99 price tag is great for consumers, does it under-value this wine's uniqueness and quality?

ONE FOR LUNCH: VICTORIA's Domaine Chandon Sparkling Winemaker, Glenn Thompson drew on fruit from no less than eight cool-climate areas in Victoria and South Australia to achieve exactly what he set out to do with the just-released Chandon Vintage Brut Rosé 2008.

A blend of 45% Chardonnay and 55% Pinot Noir, that included a small percentage of Pinot Noir fermented on skins to give the wine its distinct colour, this is a real party-food drop with mouth-filling berry flavours, toasty characters, some savoury spice and a fine creaminess. Good value at $39.95.


Thursday 14 July 2011

Australian winemakers may be the losers from decision to cut New Zealand show entries

New Zealand winemakers have reacted to their exclusion from the Royal Perth, Royal Hobart and Canberra National wine shows with a mixture of disappointment and we-were-just-too-good-for-them chest thumping.

"I can understand both those reactions and, in a way, I can understand the decisions of the Australian show organisers too," said Warren Mason, Director of the Sydney International Wine Competition.

"The state-capital wine shows were set up many years ago by Royal Agricultural Societies as a means of helping primary producers improve their produce by exposing it to a panel of their peers. The Canberra show came later as a sort of ultimate assessment of the best from the state shows' award winners.  Interestingly, for some time now, most of these wine shows have been inviting a token imported judge to offer an international perspective on their results.

"They invited entries from New Zealand when that country's wine industry was still fledgling and needed a leg-up in terms of exposure. That's completely changed now and the Kiwis are picking up trophies wherever their entries are welcome.

"And, of course, there's also the tit-for-tat argument that New Zealand's national wine show doesn't accept entries from Australia."

But Mason points out that the Australian industry may also suffer from the decision to quarantine our shows from New Zealand competition.

"The achievements of New Zealand wines in international markets might suggest our judges and winemakers have a bit to learn from what's happening across the Tasman and would benefit from more exposure to their wines rather than less." he said.

"The New Zealanders are generally making food-friendly wines, and consumers, not only in Australia but around the world, are responding very favourably."

Mason has no intention of curbing New Zealand entries into the Sydney International Wine Competition, which, apart from one or two varietally or style specific shows, appears to now be the only major Australian based show that invites entries from New Zealand.

"After all, ours is an international competition.  We invite entries from all wine producing countries. What is more, Australian judges are often in the minority on our judging panels,"  he said.

"Combined with our unique system of judging wines alongside appropriately weighted food, it has made our show much more focused on the needs of the consumer."

Another reason for Australian shows blocking entries from New Zealand may be the need to restrain total numbers and make the procedure more manageable for organisers and judges.

"At the Sydney International we do that by limiting total entries to 2000 on a first-in basis," said Mason.

"We only started accepting entries for our thirty-first Competition on June 6. In the first nine days we've already received 223 entries from 51 wineries, including 18 NZ wineries and, as usual, we'll reach the 2000 cap well before the September 16 cut-off date."

For further information on the Sydney International Wine Competition, please contact Warren Mason on +62 (0)2 4757 4400 or visit

Novotel and Penfolds Team Up for the Ultimate Barossa Blend

Penfolds 'Make Your Own Blend' tour and stay at Novotel from $249 per night

Novotel Barossa Valley Resort and Penfolds have blended together to indulge guests in the ultimate sensory experience this winter.

The 'Make Your Own Blend package'* allows frustrated vignerons to create their very own blend in the winemakers laboratory on the Penfolds Wines 'Make Your Own Blend' tour with overnight accommodation in a superb studio room at the Novotel Barossa Valley Resort including breakfast for two in Harry's Restaurant from just $249 per couple. *

For bookings contact the Novotel Barossa Valley Resort on toll free 1300 657 697 or 08 8524 0000 or visit

The first of its kind in the Barossa, the Penfolds Make Your Own Blend tour is a fun, interactive experience for anyone who has wanted to be a winemaker for a day. Following a walking tour of the winery and cellars, guests are taken through a structured tasting of a range of Penfolds wine styles and varietals, before donning lab coats and trying their hand at blending their own version of the Penfolds Bin 138 from Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre.

The Penfolds Make Your Own Blend tour is both an educational and enjoyable experience, blending to suit your own personal taste. Plus you can to take your wine with you in a personalised bottle to enjoy back at the Resort to accompany the delicious menu at Harry's Restaurant featuring all local produce including the superb Waechters Dux prepared in a traditional French style.

The Novotel's studio rooms provide a tranquil place to rest and relax, overlooking the spectacular surrounds of the Barossa. Enjoy a glass of wine on your balcony and listen to relaxing tunes from your Ipod through the newly installed docking stations. Or curl up in the evening with a bold Barossa Shiraz and enjoy a night in after a day of pampering at the on-site endota day spa.

This is the Barossa in winter…

* Subject to availability. Conditions apply. Rate is per night single, twin or double occupancy in a standard room.

Monday 11 July 2011


IDEAL at the table from entrees
through to decadent desserts.

David Ellis

IT'S best-known throughout Europe and the UK simply as "Bordeaux Red," a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc that's sold by the millions of bottles annually because of its affinity with a huge diversity of dining ideas from the more-casual starters to the most-decadent of desserts.

And now French born and trained Sandrine Gimon is enticing us with an "Australian Bordeaux Red" that she's created as Senior Winemaker at Rymill Coonawarra, a drop from the 2009 vintage labelled simply as 2009 MC2 (Merlot+CabernetSauvignon+CabernetFranc.)

As in France, this blend goes ideally with almost anything on the table, be it an oyster platter at Sunday brunch or an Asian duck and orange salad starter,  mains of roast lamb, chicken cacciatore or a creamy mushroom risotto, or  poached pears and decadent chocolate-dipped strawberries to end.

"As in Bordeaux, there is a wonderful affinity in Coonawarra between the three wine varieties, with the Cabernet Sauvignon providing structure, the Merlot softness and fresh berry fruitiness, and the Cabernet Franc delicate spiciness of cloves and thyme," Sandrine says. Pay $19.95 and have a look at for some nice dining ideas, from casual or the more formal.
YOUNG, brash – and ideal with
hearty-flavoured meat dishes.

ONE FOR LUNCH: Ian McKenzie and Ken Pollock are doing wonders with their BlackJack Vineyards in the old apple and pear growing district of the Harcourt Valley just south of Bendigo, and if you're one who likes to put a few bottles away for future enjoyment, look at their 2009 BlackJack Shiraz: with crops down 25% after the horror heatwave 2008 vintage, this wine from flavour-intensive fruit is showing all signs of greatness in years to come.

Ian and Ken jokingly refer to it as being currently "young and brash," but don't be fooled: with lovely aromas of plums and wild mint that follow through on the palate, it's a delight already at $35 with hearty-flavoured meat dishes.


Tuesday 5 July 2011



David Ellis

IRREVERENT – made by a Frenchman to go
with traditional Coq au Vin.
IF you like celebrating all things French, then July's the month to do it, with the Tour de France running to the 24th and Bastille Day on the 14th.

And a couple of French wines to help you along are the irreverently-named Arrogant Frog Ribet Red Cabernet Merlot 2010 and Ribet Rosé 2010 – both made by Jean-Claude Mas, a one-time sports car salesman and racing car driver whose passion for wine saw him ditch these careers in the 1990s and establish Arrogant Frog (that now sells some 10-million bottles annually.)

A limited edition Tour de Frog label for the Ribet Red shows the "Arrogant Frog" riding a bicycle in celebration of the Tour de France; it could well become something of a minor collectors' item, as the Tour will actually pass through Jean-Claude and the Frog's home of Languedoc on July 17TH.

With ripe black currant, plum, herbal and vanilla hints and chocolatey tannins this is a good drop to enjoy while watching the Tour on TV one evening – match it with a tasty traditional French Coq au Vin. The Ribet Rosé has toffee and candied fruit flavours and suggestions of ripe cherries, making it very pleasant match with another French classic, the fish soup, Bouillabaisse.
FROM the best vintages: enjoy with pan-fried
salmon steaks and a buttery sauce.

They're $10.99 each through Dan Murphy's, BWS and Woolworths Liquor.

ONE FOR LUNCH: EVANS and Tate Redbrook Chardonnay is only made from the best of vintages, and the just-released 2009 was one of those with fruit being drawn from three diverse vineyards with vastly differing terroir and microclimates in Western Australia's Margaret River region.

Winemaker Matt Byrne used only hand-picked fruit and from this created a wine that's not overly powerful, but rather beautifully subtle, sublimely balanced and displaying lovely texture. Pay $39.99 and enjoy its stone-fruit and melon flavours with pan-fried salmon steaks and a buttery sauce.


2011 International Sweet Wine of the Year


There is a growing international demand for sweet wines, with many countries producing an array of high-quality sweet wines, in a range of styles and from many different varietals. Here in Australia demand has also increased, lead in part by the popularity of new Italian-esque Moscatos.

So what better wine region to bring all these exciting wines together and showcase the best-of-the-best than the Riverina; a region underpinned by an Italian community with a passion for food and wine, and home to Australia's premium sweet wines, from wineries such as De Bortoli, McWilliams, Nugan Estate and Westend.

Did you know that De Bortoli's Noble One has celebrated 25 vintages and is one of the most awarded wines in history, garnering more than 108 trophies? Or that Nugan Estate's Cookoothama Botrytis Semillon has been the sweet wine of choice in Qantas International Business Class for over 8 years?

With these impressive sweet wine credentials, the Riverina created the International Sweet Wine Challenge six years ago, to highlight the quality of all sweet wines, including their own, and allow Australian dessert wines to be judged alongside their international cousins.

Riverina Winemakers' Association president Les Worland said, "The aim of the International Sweet Wine Challenge is to bring the various styles together to compare and contrast, and to promote greater understanding and awareness of sweet wines, as well as to obviously judge and inform wine-lovers which are the best".

The Challenge is open to any non-fortified sweet wine and the wines are judged in several categories, showcasing the diversity available, including Best Young Sweet: Floral styles, Best Young Sweet: Semillon Predominant, Best Young Sweet: Other Varieties including Moscatos, Best Mature Sweet: Floral styles, Best Mature Sweet: Semillon predominant, Best Mature Sweet: Other Varieties and Best Ice Wine. There is also a separate Museum Class for wines five years or older, with the aim of this class to show unusual or rare styles."

Last year saw the show capture the imagination of winemakers and wine-lovers around the world with over 100 sweet wines entered and judged by some of Australia's most talented palates, including Ben Edwards (co-contributor to James Halliday's Australian Wine Companion and President of Sommeliers Australia) and Lester Jesberg (a prolific wine show judge and author of Winewise). They were joined by International guest judge Simon Nunns (Coopers Creek Vineyards, New Zealand).

This year sees the return of these expert judges and what promises to be an even more hotly contested event, with marketing and media support seeing increased International awareness.

The judging starts on 8th September, with the winners being announced at the presentation luncheon on Saturday 10th September.

In 2010 it was an Australian wine that was victorious and claimed the top Trophy, the 2009 Yalumba Botrytis Viognier. This year, who will be crowned the ultimate title of International Sweet Wine of the Year 2011?

If you are a winemakers wanting to stake your claim to a Trophy you should enter now before the Awards close on 26th August.

Entry forms can be found at