Monday 16 December 2013


USEFUL gift idea for wine novice or expert alike.


David Ellis

A GREAT Christmas gift idea for those hard-to-buy-for relatives or mates who are maybe just taking their first steps along the fascinating road of wine, or are already somewhat of experts on the subject, is Jeremy Oliver's Australian Wine Annual 2014.

For here is a handy-sized guide for pocket, purse, glove-box or home bar or cellar, that details wines from over 300 Australian wineries, has invaluable tasting notes on some 1,400 current releases, and more than 14,000 ratings of back vintages. And it's also packed with loads of useful advice on what to drink, what to cellar (and what not to cellar) – and Jeremy's always highly-anticipated opinion on what are our Top 100 Aussie-made wines, and his equally-anticipated best buys for under $20.

You'll also find plenty of interesting observations on how we're over-supplied with local product yet at the same time saturated with cheap imports, Australia's ever-evolving diversity of blends, local wineries to keep an eye on, and why Jeremy considers the best wine released this year was Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon 2010.

This 17th edition of The Australian Wine Annual is available from most book stores, select fine wine outlets and cellar doors, and at $32.95 great as a gift – or for yourself.

SCREW-CAP bubbly sure to
be a hit over the festive season.
ONE TO NOTE: WHILE the traditionalists will doubtless look down their noses – as many did both here and overseas when Australian winemakers starting putting their wines under screw-caps – we think one of the best ideas to hit the market in 2013 is the just-released Yellowglen Yellow Brut Cuvée that's got a resealable screw cap.  

It means no more wrestling with stubborn corks or losing some of your bubbly when it fizzes up and overflows with the release of the exploding cork – and best of all if you enjoy just a glass or two with dinner at night, simply screw the cap back on to keep the remainder fresh and full of fizz for subsequent evenings.

And it's just $14.99… while for those who can't bear to break with tradition, yes, Yellow Brut Cuvée will continue to still be available with a cork seal.

NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out We're also on Australian Good Food Guide  in main blog.

Monday 9 December 2013

Chardonnay and Voigner, a blend like Simon and Garfunkel. Well, sort of.

UNUSUAL blend and a
nicely rewarding one.

David Ellis

CHARDONNAY and Viognier aren't something you see as a blend too often on bottle-shop shelves, so when Yarra Valley growers Garry and Julie Hounsell used these two from their low-cropping and somewhat exceptional Dixon's Creek vineyard in a 2013 Toolangi label Emanai, it had us asking: just what is Emanai?

And we got an interesting answer, for Emanai has nothing whatsoever to do with oenology, and is not even in the dictionary: it was purely created by Garry and Julie from the first two letters of the names of their children Emma, Andrew and Aimee.

As well it's an equally interesting wine, made for the Hounsell's by Franco D'Anna at Hoddles Creek Estate, with white peach and apricot suggestions to the front on the taste buds, hints of citrus, and is quite crisp and lively with somewhat tart acidity.

We found it both enjoyable on its own for a bit of imbibing in the shade on a hot summer's day, and for enjoying with (at Julie's suggestion) grilled whiting. And its nicely priced at around $20; with just 230 cases produced, if you can't find it in your local outlet give Garry or Julie a ring on 03 9827 9977, or order at
NICE match with duck, turkey,
lamb and gamey meats.

ONE TO NOTE: WHEN the Clare Valley's Tim Adams and wife Pam Goldsak visited Spain in 2002 and saw how well Tempranillo flourished there in the Rioja region, they were convinced it could do equally well back home in the Clare.

So they planted their first Tempranillo on their return, and now have some 16ha under the vine, saying their confidence has been entirely justified by the straight Tempranillo wines they make under their Tim Adams and Mr Mick labels, and a blend with Grenache under their Tim Adams The Fergus label.

"The Fergus is primarily Grenache and Tempranillo, with smaller contributions from Mataro and Shiraz," Tim says. "Our latest Fergus from the 2009 vintage has lifted red berry flavours and is a mouth filling wine that can be kept for up to 10 years, or enjoyed now with duck, turkey, lamb and gamey meats… and it's our best yet." RRP is $23.

NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out We're also on Australian Good Food Guide in main blog.

Thursday 5 December 2013

Sydney International Wine Competition

Media Release

Australia's International Wine Show. Founded 1982. European Union Accredited.
Only Major International Wine Show to Judge Finalists Alongside Appropriate Food


·        Elegant Chardonnays make their mark in the 2014 Sydney International Wine Competition

·        Aussie Sauvignon Blancs starting a comeback against Kiwi dominance.

·        Diverse grape varieties add great interest to the reds

The 2014 Sydney International Wine Competition has produced the most diverse range of TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold award winners in its 33 year history.

2000 wines were assessed by six Australian and seven international judges, with the 400 highest pointed wines re-judged with food, making it the most consumer friendly wine competition in Australia.

Trophy winners will be announced at the Presentation Banquet in Sydney next March.

Highlights from the Competition's TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold Award winners include:

·         Tasmania starred alongside Champagne in the white and rosé sparkling wines category.

·         Australian and Alsace wines were the success story of the Aromatics category.

·         For the first time in recent years, NZ Sauvignon Blancs did not enjoy a clean sweep in the Sauvignon Blanc wines category.

·         Outstanding Australian Chardonnays highlighted the revival of the variety in Australia.

·         Tasmania defied the recent dominance of New Zealand Pinot Noirs.

·         Shiraz from Australia/Syrah from New Zealand was again the most awarded red variety with a great diversity of styles from both classic and emerging regions.

·         Lesser recognised grape varieties continued to grow their influence in the marketplace.

Chairman of Judges Kym Milne MW said

 "It is pleasing to see not just style diversity between the classes, but also within the classes, providing the consumer with some really interesting options.

"The huge improvement in the style and quality of Australian Chardonnay is a story that needs to be told at every opportunity.  I strongly recommend consumers to try these new style Chardonnays, especially those consumers who moved away from Chardonnay a number of years ago.  You will be amazed by the complexity, elegance and diversity that now exists in Australian Chardonnays.

"Shiraz/Syrah was the most awarded red variety, with a wide range of styles coming from a spread of both warm and cooler climates within Australia and from Hawkes Bay in New Zealand.

"An increasing number of awarded wines were made from the lesser-known Barbera, Nebbiolo, Malbec, Rondinella Corvina and Montepulciano grapes, showing that wineries are responding to the interests of more adventurous wine consumers."

SIWC Convener, Warren Mason, said the competition is still the only international 'major' where its judges divide its finalists into 'Style' categories of similar palate weight, and judge these 'Style' categories alongside appropriate food – with the key objective of making the results more relevant to consumers.

"A wine that is successful in traditional wine shows might taste quite different when tasted with food.  By singling out these Award winners, the main aim of the Competition is to help consumers confidently select wines that are more appropriate to every day dining." he said.

"Wines that make the cut in the SIWC Awards are tasted and re-tasted  by the judges on four separate occasions, the last of which is with appropriate food. This final assessment enables the judges to assess the wine the way consumers will see it.  Wines that stand out initially don't always perform as well with food and the reverse is also true."

"The judging is held over five days and is a demanding exercise but it has always attracted highly qualified judges – both local and international – who endorse our approach.  The judging panel for the 2014 Competition was no exception."

The Awards/Trophies Presentation Banquet for the Sydney International Wine Competition will be held on Saturday, 8 March 2014 (from 12pm – 4pm), Grand Ballroom, Shangri-La Sydney.

In a practical demonstration of the symbiotic relationship between wine and food, the seven dégustation food dishes will be complemented by the appropriate Trophy winning wines.  The Banquet is preceded by the premier tasting of the TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold Award Winners, (10.00 am to Noon) ,each in their thirteen separate Style categories.  Tickets $230.00 p/p. Tables 8-10 $210.00 p/p.

Exhibitions: TOP 1OO and Blue-Gold Award Winners, Saturday, 22 March 2014, The Menzies Ballroom, Sydney.  Session 1: 10.00 -12.00. White Awards $35.00.   Session 2: 2.00 - 5.00. Red Awards $50.00.  Both Sessions: $75.00.

For bookings along with full details of the Competition and its background:



Monday 2 December 2013

Some ideal wine selections for your Christmas table

WORTHY of a drumroll: Yellowglen's
resealable bubbly is a ripper idea.

This Goes With That On Festive Table              

David Ellis

OFFERING the right wine in the glass on Christmas Day is just as important as putting out the right sauces or gravies, and the right mix in the salad bowl.

If you've doubtless bubblies in mind for greeting Festive lunch or dinner guests, a ripper new idea is Yellowglen's screwcap Yellow Brut Cuvee – which means you can reseal for dinner any left in the bottle from lunchtime, and you'll have no fizzy overflow (and thus wastage) from popping the cork. RRP is just $14.99.

EVER-reliable at just $12 and worthy of
thinking about with Christmas seafood.
Try also Chandon Australia's creamy 2010 Vintage Brut at $41, Yarra Burn's Premium Cuvee Brut at $20, Bay of Fires' Tasmanian Cuvee Rosé at $30, or the world's biggest selling bubbly, Spain's Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut at just $15. 

If seafood's your choice consider ever-reliable Jacobs Creek 2012 Riesling at $12, New Zealand's Giesen 2012 Organic Sauvignon Blanc at $20, 2013 Howard Vineyard Clover Pinot Gris $22, or on a bit of a different tack Margan 2013 Shiraz Saignee Rosé at $18.

AN ideal partner with traditional
Festive Season turkey.
For roast chicken either continue with the bubbles or go for a 2012 Chain of Ponds The Lady Sauvignon Blanc at $30, Tim Adams' 2013 Pinot Gris at $20 or a Logan Weemala 2013 Riesling at $19.

And for traditional Christmas turkey Rymill's 2012 Shiraz at $15.95 or Toolangi's unusual Chardonnay/Viognier blend at $20, or if you'd prefer a white, Jacob's Creek 2012 Barossa Reserve Riesling at $17.

Both red and white go well with roast pork: for reds consider a 2011 Capel Vale Merlot at $14 or a 2011 Lerida Lake George Pinot Noir $26.50, for whites a 2013 Serafino Bellissimo Fiano at $18 or Brown Bros 2012 Chenin Blanc at $12.

SWEET ending to a perfect meal:
just the drop with the Christmas pudd.
If you're doing roast beef or lamb think either a $19.95 2011 Angus the Bull Cabernet Sauvignon or 2010 Mandala The Butterfly Cabernet Sauvignon at $50, or a 2011 Logan Ridge of Tears Shiraz $45 or 2012 Fifth Leg Shiraz at $18.

And for Christmas pudd don't look past a Margan 2010 Botrytis Semillon $20 or Lillypilly Estate 2011 Noble Blend at $27.50 - a perfect end to a perfect meal.

NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out We're also on Australian Good Food Guide  in main blog.

Tuesday 26 November 2013

2013 International Sweet Wine Challenge


The line up of wines at this year's 2013 International Sweet Wine Challenge was anything but short with entries up on last year, proving that this show is fast becoming one of the leading global wine shows dedicated to the delights of non-fortified sweet wines.


A panel of expert judges, including Chief of Judges Ben Edwards (President of Sommeliers Australia and contributor to Australia's best selling wine guide, the Australian Wine Companion), and International Guest Judge Madeleine Stenwreth MW (Master of Wine), judged the wines and have announced the results in plenty of time for the festive period, when many of us get to enjoy more of the sweeter side of life and cuisine.


Amongst the bronze, silver and gold medals awarded, five wineries from three countries experienced the ultimate sweet taste of success, taking home an International Sweet Wine Challenge Trophy.




   Best Young Sweet, Floral styles ~

2012 Forrest Wines Botrytised Riesling (Marlborough, New Zealand)


   Best Young Sweet, Other Varieties & Blends ~

2012 Nederberg Noble Late Harvest (Paarl, South Africa)


   Best Mature Sweet, Floral styles ~

2010 Blue Pyrenees Cellar Door Botrytis Riesling (Pyrenees, Australia)


   Best Mature Sweet, Semillon predominant ~

2011 Gramps Botrytis Semillon (Riverina, Australia)


   Best Sweet Wine from the Museum Class ~

2002 Lillypilly Noble Blend Family Reserve (Riverina, Australia)


And the wine that has claimed the top title of 2013 International Sweet Wine of the Year was the … 2010 Blue Pyrenees Cellar Door Botrytis Riesling.


Judge Madeleine Strenwreth MW said, "I was very pleased with the high overall quality of the entries across such a wide spectrum of sweet wine styles.


The best examples and Trophy winners were bursting with personality, intensity and class while bright and lively acidity balanced the sweetness in a delightfully refreshing way. Once again it reminded me that these wines deserve so much more attention.


As the global consumer undoubtedly feels lost among this complex and diverse category, a medal on the bottle can give the guidance needed to inspire to enter the world of natural and beautiful sweetness. This international challenge is also an excellent benchmarking exercise for sweet wine producers of the world and entries should rightfully grow even further in the years to come".

The Riverina Winemakers Association created the International Sweet Wine Challenge nine years ago to showcase the quality of sweet wines around the world and allow Australian sweet wines to be judged alongside their international counterparts.

Monday 25 November 2013


LAMB shanks, osso bucco or roast
beef perfect partners with this one.



David Ellis

HAVING enjoyed a vintage in 2012 that most Coonawarra growers and winemakers agree was excellent, Rymill have released a Shiraz under their The Yearling label that certainly backs-up what all have had to say of that year.

Rymill's Senior Winemaker, Sandrine Gimon says the ideal fruit from the vintage was perfect for The Yearling reds, the label named after one-year-old thoroughbreds as it's designed to be enjoyed young… or as Sandrine says "hot out of the starting gates."

"2012 gave us low yields and smaller berries with lots of concentration of flavour, for those who can remember, it was very reminiscent of the exceptional 2004 vintage in Coonawarra," she said. "It's meant that the 2012 The Yearling Shiraz shows lots of dark red fruit character complexity, while also offering caramel, vanilla, cedar box and liquorice as well."

"FRUIT salad wine" to go with mildly-spiced
Asian dishes or seafood salads or platters.
This is a very generous wine with quickly recognisable plum, dark cherry and blackberry to the fore, nice soft tannins and a subtle Shiraz spiciness on the finish. Pay just $15.95 and enjoy with baked lamb shanks, osso bucco or roast beef.

ONE TO NOTE: CHENIN Blanc is often dubbed a "fruit salad" wine for its fruitiness and sweetness, and while vineyard areas in Australia planted to the variety have actually diminished in size in recent years, it's still a popular wine to put on the table with mildly-spiced Asian dishes – and equally with summery seafood salads or platters.

Western Australia's Voyager Estate has an exceptional 2013 Chenin Blanc that truly suits those suggested food matches above, the company having some of the oldest Chenin Blanc vines in the Margaret River region dating back to the late 1970s.

This wine has tropical papaya and melon to the fore, with suggestions of citrus and red apple giving it that typical Chenin Blanc "fruit salad" flavour. Pay $20 and enjoy with those mildly-spiced Asian dishes or summer-time seafood salads or platters.

NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out We're also on Australian Good Food Guide  in main blog.

Monday 18 November 2013


IF you're planning a game dish for
Christmas Day, this could be the perfect partner.


David Ellis

ADELAIDE HILLS maker Chain of Ponds has released a very-moreish 2012 Shiraz under its unusually-named Grave's Gate label that's well worth keeping in mind if you've thoughts of a game dish on the table for Christmas Day.

For not only has this got great flavours that will go really well with that Christmas lunch or dinner game, at $22 it makes for excellent buying for the Festive table as well.

Greg Clack who worked under the renowned Neville Falkenberg at Chain of Ponds from 2005 until Neville moved on to other things a couple of years later (thus allowing Greg to step up as Chain of Ponds' Chief Winemaker,) blended fruit from both the southern and northern parts of the Adelaide Hills. The result's a beautifully full-bodied wine with nicely balanced dark cherry, blackcurrant and juicy plum flavours, backed-up with secondary suggestions of black olives, dried herbs and fresh-ground black pepper.

GREET Christmas Day lunch or dinner
guests with this flirtatious drop.
There's also a nice subtle oak spiciness, silky tannins and balanced acidity. And while suggesting it could have Christmas Day game written all over it, if you're not into game, it's a great one to consider for the table with many red meat dishes as well.  (The quirky label refers to a new gate at the hamlet cemetery of those buried from 1940-1970.)

ONE TO NOTE: WHILE our thoughts are with Christmas, a bubbly worth having a look at is Hungerford Hill's just-released 2008 Dalliance Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir, made from fruit the super-premium cool climate region of Tumbarumba in southern New South Wales.

Dalliance as a word has, of course, connotations of flirting, and despite being firmly Hunter Valley-entrenched, Hungerford Hill have long 'flirted' with fruit out of Tumbarumba as part of their philosophy of using the best fruit from NSW's best growing regions for both their still and sparkling wine production; and this bubbly's a real ripper.

Full of fresh fruit flavours – think honeydew melon to the forefront – and a crisp natural palate-cleansing acidity, at $30 it's well worth thinking about a few on ice for Christmas Day.

NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out We're also on Australian Good Food Guide  in main blog.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Balgownie Estate's Gourmet Summer Sunset Package

Inline images 1

There's no better a place to spend a warm, summer's night than in the picturesque surrounds of Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort and Spa in the heart of Victoria's Yarra Valley – where warm summer breezes and gourmet food go hand in hand!

The Yarra Valley resort has just released a special Summer Sunset Package from $390.00 per night (twin share) and you can stay in a Standard Queen Room, receive a bottle of Black Label Balgownie Estate Wine (red or white), a Sunset Cheese Platter for two, a two course dinner each and a gourmet buffet breakfast the following morning.

This luxurious package is perfect for a summer gourmet getaway – only an hour's drive from Melbourne.  Imagine checking in to your room and taking your bottle of wine, cheese plate and picnic rug out into the lawns surrounding Balgownie in the warm afternoon air – or sipping a fine Balgownie Estate wine on your private balcony!

As the only resort in the Yarra Valley that is a working vineyard, spa retreat and restaurant – there is plenty to keep you occupied in one prime location – from trekking the nearby walking tracks to a glass of bubbles by the fire - plus plenty of staff available to relieve your every whim.  The onsite Natskin Spa Retreat can also design a special treatment or spa package to suit your personal preference – offering the ultimate in skin care and pampering– you can indulge yourself with beauty, spa and massage treatments.

This package is all about relaxation and letting the stunning - money can't buy views - over the rolling hills of the Yarra Valley and Dandenongs lull you into contentment.

Or start your day with a hot air balloon ride over the rolling, luscious green hills of the valley, prices start at $315.00 per person.

So, whether it is a girlie getaway you are after, a romantic retreat or just an excuse to get away and clear your mind over the Summer Holidays, then look no further than Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort & Spa – your one stop vacation spot this Spring.

Monday 11 November 2013


WONDERFULLY food-friendly
and a pedigree to go with it.


David Ellis

NAME-DROP to family or friends that you're inviting them around to Sunday brunch accompanied by a Trophy winner from this year's Melbourne Wine Show, and then surprise them by revealing that your trophy-winning Best Riesling of Show cost you all of a recommended $11.99.

We're talking about the Jacob's Creek 2012 Riesling, a wine that impressed the judges with its sweet floral and citrus flavours, framed by a soft acid backbone. "Our classic Riesling has always punched above its weight in terms of quality, and there's a real passion for it among our winemaking team," said Jacob's Creek Chief Winemaker, Bernard Hickin.

"We had some exceptional fruit from the 2012 vintage in Langhorne Creek, and the Barossa and Clare Valleys," Mr Hickin added, saying: "And already the 2013 vintage is also looking good too."

ONE worth searching out
for special occasion dining.
Always a wonderfully versatile food-friendly wine, Riesling matches a whole diversity of dishes at the table, so match this with brunch-time seafood entrees, mains based on simple barbecued pork chops with apple sauce to spicy Thai, Middle Eastern and Mexican cuisines, and desserts such as apple and lime zest tarts or fruit flans.

ONE TO NOTE: THIS month sees the 30th annual release of Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, this year's wine coming from the 2011vintage and the first to bear a revamped label based on one the company used back in the 1980s.

Available at selected Vintage Cellars and Dan Murphy stores, or online at, this is a wine worth searching out, particularly as it's one of just 38 listed as "Distinguished" in Langton's V Classification of Australian Wine.

From a vintage highlighted by above-average summer rains that called for extra drive in vineyard management and fruit selection, it's a wine generous with fruit flavours, finely grained tannins and underlying mocha notes; worth the $40 for special occasion dining.

NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out We're also on Australian Good Food Guide  in main blog.

Monday 4 November 2013


HERB and garlic lamb loin chops
off the BBQ simply ideal with this.
David Ellis

LATEST Aussie maker to come out with a Tempranillo – that wonderful red whose homeland is the Rioja region of Spain and which is now one of the fastest-growing "new" varietals in Australia – is Logan at Mudgee in the NSW Central Ranges.

Peter Logan's exceptionally-rewarding 2012 Tempranillo under his Logan Weemala label is one he says has been an equally-rewarding journey in the making. "It's a Tempranillo that I think captures the Mudgee terroir to a 'T,' from its savoury varietal characters to flavours of sarsaparilla and earthiness, and even the coal dust of Mudgee," he says.

"It's a rustic beauty that fills a void in our Weemala line-up for a red that is both age-worthy – and steak-worthy."

Well-priced at $19 this is a great drop to enjoy with a steak as Peter suggests, herb and garlic lamb loin chops off the BBQ, or with traditional Spanish cured ham and roasted vegetables.

PEARLER of a come-back idea
when partying is to the fore.

ONE TO NOTE: YELLOWGLEN has enjoyed a well-earned reputation as a maker of Australian sparkling wines for some forty years now, and a re-launch of its Vintage Perle is, well, a pearler of an idea.

Chief Winemaker Trina Smith blended classic sparkling varieties from across our leading sparkling regions to create this 2009 Yellowglen Vintage Perle, a drop that's sure to impress on any occasion when a celebratory bubbly is called for.

Nicely priced at $24.99 it has lovely layers of complex flavours, a delicate bead and a fresh and lingering finish, red-berry fruit flavours reflecting the high Pinot Noir component and its Chardonnay component adding lightness and elegance.

NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out We're also on Australian Good Food Guide in main blog.

Monday 28 October 2013


YOU won't regret trying this for a
first time with seafood, chicken, pork, Asian
or vegetarian cuisines, or creamy cheeses.


David Ellis

THERE'S the possibility you've never heard of Gruner Veltliner, but in fact this is a drop that's hailed as "the world's most food-friendly wine," and while originating in Austria is now being grown with great success in Germany, Italy, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and even the USA and New Zealand.

And more recently in Australia too, where in the Adelaide Hills it's proving particularly at home – the Hills' warm days and cold nights during the growing season, equalling the climate of homeland Austria's very best Gruner wine regions.

One Adelaide Hills maker with an outstanding Gruner Veltliner (pronounced "grooner velt leaner") is Hahndorf Hill Winery, whose just-released 2013 is wowing visitors at the Cellar Door with its citrus and stone-fruit aromatics, and a delightfully smooth palate of nectarine, stone-fruit and grapefruit flavours, a juicy core of citrus, and a long mineral finish with a surprise Gruner Veltliner trade-maker kick of spice and white pepper.

TRY a glass or three of this great
red with a great cut of prime beef.
This is an enjoyably vibrant and zippy wine you can happily put on the table with seafood, chicken, pork, Asian or vegetarian cuisines, or enjoy with soft cheeses, creamy Camembert, Blue Cheese and fresh Ricotta. At $28 it's great value, and if you have trouble locating it get onto , or give them a call on (08) 8388 7512; delivery is $6 for six bottles and $12 for 12 bottles across Australia.

ONE TO NOTE: ANGUS the Bull Cabernet Sauvignon is a drop that winemaker Hamish MacGowan, and his wife and business partner Brigitte conceived to enhance one of life's great joys – a great cut of prime beef with an equally great glass (or three) of a great red.

The 2011 is the 10th vintage of this wine, and if it's not the best Hamish has made, it comes pretty close to it. This is a steak-eater's wine with aromas of ripe black fruits, dark chocolate and vanillan smoky oak, and on the palate powerful dark fruit flavours and nice tannins.  At $19.95 you won't go wrong when you put it on the table with that prime beef dish – now, or anytime as it improves in the bottle over the next 4 to 6 years.

NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out We're also on Australian Good Food Guide  in main blog.

See you on the Pier? Outstanding on the Pier - 2013 Citi NSW Wine Awards Tasting


Taste and critique with some of the State's finest winemakers, the
#topwines of NSW as judged at the 2013 Citi NSW Wine Awards.
From north, south and west, an #outstanding line up of wines on
tasting; the best of our regions.

Vote for the "People's Choice" Award of 2013 for a chance to win
a #topwines package, whilst enjoying the best of NSW Wine in a
unique landmark Sydney location.

When: Thursday 31st October 2013, 5.30 - 8.30pm

Where: Pier 2, 13 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay - View Map

Cost: $40
(Includes a premium souvenir tasting glass, NSW Regional produce and
tastings with the best of NSW Wine Industry for 2013.)

Don't miss out on this #outstanding event - Purchase your tickets online here.

Monday 21 October 2013


SPLASH into the glass with lamb
chops or cutlets off the barbie, or indoors
with roast lamb or osso bucco.

David Ellis

WESTERN Australia maker Devil's Lair continue to enjoy great success with their quirkily-named Fifth Leg label Margaret River Shiraz, a wine that's almost tailor-made for when you're chucking lamb chops or cutlets on the barbecue during our upcoming warmer and hotter months.

As with previous vintages the 2012 Fifth Leg Shiraz is what the company likes to sum up as a "refined larrikin," one that can be enjoyed equally splashed into the glass around that barbie, or poured more graciously indoors with a roast lamb dinner, lamb shanks or perhaps osso bucco.

Fruit for this wine was sourced from an array of Western Australian vineyards, all of which enjoyed a great vintage for Shiraz in 2012, with very hot days tempered by cool nights and below-average rainfall. The result is a wine with delicious concentrated dark berry flavours and a little hint of spiciness.

Pay $17.99 – and when you are around that barbie ponder just how the fossilised remains of what appeared to have been a Tasmanian Devil were found in a cave on the Devil's Lair property some years ago… with the remains including a mysterious fifth leg.

NORMALLY considered a dessert wine,
this Moscato also great with Indian curries. 
ONE TO NOTE:  MOSCATO is generally considered a wine to share with dessert, but Peter Logan and his wife Hannah like to take a bottle or two of their Logan Moscato along to their local Indian restaurant where Peter says the variety with its sugar and fruitiness proves a great foil to the heat, spice and strong flavours of Indian curries.

The 2013 Logan Moscato was actually made from Gewurztraminer fruit off the family vineyards in the Central Ranges of NSW, interestingly a very good vintage after the failure of the 2012 to give enough fruit to make a 2012 Moscato. There are loads of fruit salad, ginger and floral flavours in this 2013, that with its light spritz and balance of freshness and sweetness makes it ideal with desserts – or as Peter and Hannah do, as a delightful foil with Indian dishes. Pay $20 for a 375ml bottle.

NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out We're also on Australian Good Food Guide  in main blog.

Monday 14 October 2013


TOP guide into how best to buy,
cellar, serve and enjoy wine.

David Ellis

MANY books about wine have come our way over the years, their publishers all assuring us that each is the absolute ultimate guide to understanding wine.

But amongst the best we’ve seen yet is the just-released A Top Drop – and not only because of the huge field it covers, but because it is written in an easy to understand style to help everyone from the novice wine enthusiast, to the more-seasoned buyer, to get the most enjoyment and value out of buying, cellaring and sharing wine.

In some 239 pages authors Ian Bailey (a wine teacher and lecturer) and Ian Powrie (a major wine industry investor) have covered an astonishing 400 topics ranging from wine varieties grown in Australia, what flavours to expect in those varieties and thus what wines best match what foods, how best to cellar and store your wines, why some wines should be decanted, the reasoning behind different glassware for different wines, to what to expect when a wine is described as ‘zingy,’ ‘corky,’ ‘charry’ or ‘creamy.’

And they talk about temperatures at which different varietals should be served for best flavour enjoyment – including some reds that can come out of the fridge – and to assist the very novices and those who are not regular wine imbibers, a section recommends a selection of different brands of major varieties across different price brackets.

Published by New Holland Publishing, A Top Drop is just $19.95 and an excellent thought for Christmas for family or friends keen to broaden their wine knowledge.

RIPPER red to enjoy with
lamb shanks or osso bucco.
ONE TO NOTE: LOCAL Liquor Stores have a ripper Barking Tree Shiraz from Western Australia’s Margaret River that at just $14.99 is wonderfully spicy, has a typical Shiraz peppery edge and by contrast nice soft cherry fruit on the palate. With these beautifully forward flavours this wine is an ideal match with lamb shanks or osso bucco. Local Liquor Stores have some 250 members throughout Eastern Australia; to find your nearest:

NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out We’re also on Australian Good Food Guide in main blog.

Monday 7 October 2013


THE big from Spain: the world's biggest-selling
sparkling wine – great value partying at $15.


David Ellis

PROBABLY fewer things go more hand-in-glove than the Melbourne Cup, Champagne and Aussie sparkling wines – and whether you win or lose come the big day, raise a glass of the bubbly stuff about which Madame Lilly Bollinger of the famed French House once said of Champagne, "I drink it when I'm happy, and when I am sad… "

THE small from this boutique Adelaide Hills maker,
and a pleasant surprise at $20 when you pop th
cork Melbourne Cup day.
Here we look at some Champagnes and sparkling wines for your Melbourne Cup celebrations, all chosen as great matches with a whole range of canapés and light finger food, and whether in the party-room or outdoors on the picnic-blanket.

If you want French, pick-up Bollinger's Special Cuvee at around $55 – or go the whole way with their twin-pack Blanc de Noirs that's a snap at Dan Murphy's at $3000.

Closer to home Chandon Australia drew on fruit from Victoria's cool climate Yarra and King Valleys and the Strathbogie Ranges, for their 2010 Vintage Brut that's got a wonderful creamy texture, morello cherry and blood plum fruit flavours and crisp acidity; great buying at $41. Also from Victoria is a well-priced $20 Premium Cuvee Brut from Yarra Burn made from fruit from across a number of their vineyards, and with nice lifted citrus and stone-fruit flavours, coupled with nuances of toast and mushrooms.

And across the border Howard Vineyard in the Adelaide Hills has an excellent Sparkling Brut that's a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with nice elegant citrus and stone-fruit flavours and notes of strawberries and raspberries. $20 a bottle in a 6-bottle pack plus $15 freight; order on – you'll be pleasantly surprised.

With the best of bubblies coming from cool to cold regions don't forget Tasmania; Bay of Fires has several, but we particularly like their Cuvee Rosé made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fruit and with ripe strawberry and wild berry flavours and mushroom undertones. Pay $30 for this one.

And win or lose on Melbourne Cup Day, celebrate or commiserate with the world's biggest-selling sparkling wine, Cordon Negro Brut from the Freixenet Winery in Spain that makes 200-million bottles of sparklings a year. You'll find this a really rewarding party bubbly at just $15 with fresh apple, pear and bright citrus flavours.

NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out We're also on Australian Good Food Guide  in main blog.


Thursday 3 October 2013

Winemaker's Dinner at Amora Hotel Jamison Sydney

Glandore Wines in partnership with Casama will be hosting a Winemaker's dinner at the 5 star Amora Hotel Jamison Sydney. This dinner takes an interesting turn when we pair up New World Wines v's Old World Wines.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

United Cellars Grand Champagne Tastings

Media Release:

This year's Champagne harvest got underway in France last week turning minds and tastebuds towards the upcoming festive period and some of the world's most treasured, celebration wines.

In 2012, Australia once again proved its love of Champagne, importing nearly 5 ½ million bottles, an increase of 11.2% on 2011, with the high quality Vintage Champagne category increasing by a noteworthy 79%!

And what better way to learn about the amazing new wines on offer than to take part in the ultimate Grand Champagne Tasting Series, held for the 3rd consecutive year by award-winning online wine retailer United Cellars.

The Tasting Series will be coming to Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth, and will be a unique opportunity to sample some of France's finest Champagnes, from the boutique producers to the Grande Marques.

Be guided by United Cellars expert wine buyers during a 2 hour walk-about tasting (Sydney) or at a seated masterclass (Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth) and compare styles and vintages, whilst also enjoying beautifully matched canapés.


Champagne Houses to experience will include Krug, Dom Perignon, Billecart-Salmon, Grosset, Louis Roederer and Taittinger.


Full list available at


When & Where: 6-8pm


13 November            Sydney Walkabout Tasting – Wolfies, Harbourview Room, 17-21 Circular Quay West, The Rocks

21 November            Brisbane Seated Masterclass - Bistro One Eleven, 111 Eagle Street, Brisbane CDB

26 November            Melbourne Seated Masterclass – SORRY, SOLD OUT … Comme, Onyx Room, 7 Alfred Place, Melbourne CBD

27 November            Perth Seated Masterclass  -   Heritage Brasserie, The Boardroom, 131 St Georges Terrace, Perth CBD


NOTE: These tastings can sell out very quickly so book now to avoid disappointment


Bookings Essential: $175 per person

United Cellars P: 1300 226 835 E:


Monday 30 September 2013


 INCREASINGLY popular Tempranillo to
share with Spanish homeland seafood


David Ellis

A FEW years ago Tempranillo was little known in Australia, but in just the last few years plantings of the vine have doubled and indications are that they'll double again – not in a few years, but in just the next one or two as we really take to it.

Spain's most famous wine, Tempranillo is an easy drinking red that goes well with warm-weather outdoor dining, so now is the time to start thinking about it for the coming months. The Clare Valley's Tim Adams and his wife Pam Goldsack are amongst our greatest enthusiasts of the variety, Tim pointing out the similarity in climate between the variety's homeland in Rioja and La Mancha, and the Clare.

"They're all Mediterranean in climate, with hot, dry summers and cool-to-cold winters," he says. "And like Rioja and La Mancha, Clare is continental rather than maritime, and we are similarly around 500 metres in elevation."
CLASSIC Hunter Valley Chardonnay
worth considering for a few in the cellar.

His Tim Adams Mr Mick label Tempranillo is an easy-drinking style with juicy, rich cherry, plum and strawberry fruit flavours and a nice velvety finish. At just $15 it's a great-value drop too, especially to pair with (naturally) a Spanish seafood paella outdoors on a sunny day, or with simple ham croquettes. 

ONE TO NOTE: THIRTY year old Hunter Valley vines gave Andrew Margan marvellous fruit for his 2012 White Label Chardonnay, and by picking that fruit while still at lower sugar levels it's given the resultant wines leaner structure and nice citrus overtones.

This is a wine that's all about lovely forward stone-fruit flavours with those citrus overtones and a flint-like complexity to it. Certainly one to enjoy now with barbecued Tasmanian salmon or barbecued pork chops with an apple compote.

And at $35 and showing all the signs of maturing nicely over the next five years, it wouldn't be a bad idea to enjoy a bottle now and put a couple away to enjoy with a bit more maturity to them around 2017/18 – when doubtless you won't find it on the shelves, and even if you did it would certainly be a lot more than the current $35.

NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out We're also on Australian Good Food Guide  in main blog.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Fake judges exposed at NSW Wine Show. Blogger confesses.

Just some of the many wines arrayed for judging at the Citibank NSW Wine Awards
Today I penetrated the hallowed realms of the wine judge, masquerading for a moment, as an arbiter of life or death in the wine industry. Fortunately for the industry, I was discovered before I could do any damage, but not before I learned a few secrets of the trade.

At the forthcoming Citibank New South Wales Wine Awards, varieties from all 14 wine regions of NSW are represented. In 2012, 676 wines were entered and 311 medals awarded including 36 Gold, 75 Silver and 200 Bronze. This year I’m told, there are more exhibitors, but less wines. Either way, it’s a good sign for NSW wine.

My lesson in wine judging came at the hands of NSW Wine president, Tom Ward, and promotional head, Alex Retlief. We (yes, I was aided and abetted in this deception) were presented with a selection of six Semillon and six Shiraz bottles which we judged according to standard rules.

Now, you might say, ‘down the hatch’ is as good a test as any, but in this auspicious company, I had to make some effort at decorum. Next to me was Paul Gardner, the new sommelier at the revamped Park Hyatt Sydney, so I was getting plenty of sideways glances.

Fake: This man is an imposter
I bumbled through the six Semillons first, with scores wildly off target. I’m not a seasoned Semillon drinker, so I was a bit (okay, a lot) out of my depth.

With the Shiraz, however, I was much closer to the mark. I can trace my family line back to the first Barossa settlers, so I should have some inkling at this varietal.

For those who’ve never judged in formal sense, there are three things to take into account: 1) colour, 2) nose, and 3) palate. In other words, sight, smell and taste. Each is weighted 3, 7 and 10 for a total of 20 possible points. 18.5 will get you a gold, 17 a silver and 15.5 will scrape in for a bronze.

Interestingly, I found my scores much closer to Alex’s, while Tom’s varied wildly. In one case, a wine (unnamed, sorry) received 17.5 from Alex and I, while took a flogging from Tom at 13. Forget about me for a minute, how can two experienced palates come to such a variance*. Chairman of judges, and doyen of the wine industry, Huon Hooke, explains.

“Judging is actually a democratic process as there is no perfect way to assess a wine,” says Hooke who has been judging since 1987, “we quite often arrive at a situation where one person’s gold is another’s spitbucket. That’s when we bring more judges in and retaste. You can’t be a stubborn egotist, one judge has to back down, and those that can compromise and accept a majority viewpoint are the ones who get asked back.”

Tom (L) and Alex (R) joust with lush NSW Semillon in the judging room,
while Huon Hooke adjudicates. Who will back down?
I feel much better. The chairman of judges has reinforced the common person’s view (ie mine) that you either like a wine, or you don’t. There is no right or wrong. It’s common, I’m told, for oft-scorned supermarket labels to rate surprisingly highly against icon wines in blind testing. Especially by consumers, who are the ones, let’s remember, who fund the wine industry.

So, dear readers, do not feel put out if you disagree with your dinner guests about any particular wine, because I have it on good authority now, that even the best can have seriously split opinions.

For the sake of interest only, here is my judging of the Shiraz offered.

Five of our six top NSW shiraz as judged by an amateur and imposter

From left to right:
1. Lowe Block 8 2011 (Mudgee) 16; 2. Tulloch Pokolbin 2011 17.5; 3. Collector 2011 Reserve 14;

4. (bottle not shown*) 17.5; 5. Moppity 2012 Hilltops 15; 6. Carillon Feldspar 2010 18.5;

The awards are divided into 16 categories: Best Young Chardonnay, Semillon, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Other single varietals, White Blends, Best Young Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Other single red varietals, and Red blends as well as the Mature Dry Red and Dry White trophies, Sparkling and Sweet wines. The New South Wales Wine of the Year is chosen from one of these categories. There is also an award for the Best Organic Wine of Show.

You can be a fake judge too. Or for real, if you like. Taste the top NSW wines for yourself.

* the wine in question actually contained fault. Brettanomyces (or just Brett ) is a wild or 'feral' yeast compound that can alter the bouquet and palate of a wine. In small quantities it can be favourable, but when it overcomes the natural flavours it can be overwhelming with a so-called 'barnyard' 'hospital' or 'band-aid' aroma.

- Roderick Eime