Monday 28 April 2014


LONG-TIME favourite goes hand-in-hand with seafood
risotto, or chicken or pork dishes in creamy sauces.


David Ellis

WE confess to being unabashed Chardonnay lovers, and put those who moan "Not Another Chardonnay" straight into the category of wine-snobs – seeing themselves above the myriad crowds of us who make this varietal one of Australia's biggest sellers.

Match a seafood lunch or dinner and a good Charddy and we're, well, we're yours: just recently we shared with friends a lunch of seafood risotto with that great stand-by, Rosemount Estate's Diamond Label Chardonnay. Not only was it a perfect pairing, this wine from the 2013 vintage was just $16 from our local bottle shop.

Made from fruit drawn from Rosemount's vineyards across that great sprawl dubbed "South Eastern Australia," and in this case much of it South Australia's McLaren Vale, this is a wine that's full of juicy, ripe peach, nectarine and melon flavours, a lemony zest and rich creamy almonds.

Diamond Label Chardonnay is up there amongst Australia's top-selling wines, and is a great match not just with seafood but with a whole host of other choices as well – from chicken or pork in creamy sauces to ham- or cheese-based salads.
GETTING it right – perfect match with oysters
or caviar to kick-start that next dinner party.

ONE TO NOTE: PETER Logan is pretty blunt when it comes to self-analysis of his Logan Vintage 'M' Cuvee, putting it straight on the line with the comment: "After 16 years, I think we're getting there."

And he adds of that first 'M' Cuvee back in 1998: "Looking back I was pretty naïve, thinking the cold climate was all that was needed to get the right acid to make good fizz. But cold was just one piece of the puzzle – and we've become much better at it now."

It certainly appears so, with his 2010 Logan Vintage 'M' Cuvee – named after his Champers-loving dad, Malcolm – a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from NSW's Central Ranges that's got savoury complex characters, a creamier mousse than earlier vintages, and a long finish. Pay $35 to kick-start that next dinner party with perhaps oysters, caviar or mixed nuts before the main course.

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

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Historic Muratie Wine Estate a vintage tale

RIJK and Kim Melck and family consider themselves
"custodians of Muratie Wine Estate's rich heritage."
PORTION of today's Muratie vineyards.

David Ellis

FEW industries attract tales, histories, myths and legends around themselves as does the wine industry.

And in South Africa there's one winery that dates back to the 1600s, and whose yarn about its founders appears an almost fairy-tale of instant lovers, of secret meetings, an ultimate marriage, and seemingly living happily ever after…

Except that for this tale, its initial course ran anything but fairy-tale – because Laurens Campher was a white German soldier with the Dutch East India Company in Cape Town, and his lover, Ansela van de Caab was one of the company's black slaves. And when Laurens quit and moved 64km away to become a farmer in 1685, his appeals to authorities to allow him to marry his lover and release her from her squalor were rebuffed on the grounds she was "a heathen slave."

THE original house that ex-soldier Laurens Campher
built for his wife and former slave, Ansela van de Caab
on what is now Muratie Wine Estate
at Stellenbosch in South Africa.
So bizarrely, once a month for fourteen unbroken years, Laurens walked the 64km from his farm at Stellenbosch to Cape Town to spend a night or two with Ansela in her grim slave's quarters, and then trekked the 64km back to his farm. In that time he fathered three children to her.

And equally bizarrely when an influential Dutch woman in Cape Town heard of their amazing tale in the mid-1690s, she had Ansela tutored in the Bible and eventually baptised into the Lutheran Church – so as a now-Christian she could be freed from slavery and able to marry Laurens.

That marriage took place in 1699 and with their three children, aged 9, 5 and 3, they then walked the 64km to the farm at Stellenbosch on which Laurens had built them a modest stone house. They also planted the first-ever wine-grapes in the Stellenbosch area, and on Lauren's death in 1729 were making 600 litres of wine a year for commercial sale.

Today the Campher's De Driesprong farm is Muratie Wine Estate, one of the most respected names in this prestigious winemaking region, and one of the oldest in South Africa. After Lauren's death, Ansela and their son Cornelius ran the farm and winery for five more years, and in the 1760s it was bought by a Martin Melck for his daughter Anna Catharina (Beyers,) it remaining in the Melck-Beyers family for over a century.

MURATIE'S Ansela van de Caab
blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and
Cabernet Franc is one of the many
wines named after those who've played
a role in the company's rich history.
Others dabbled with it after that, and eventually renowned artist, George Paul Canitz and his wife stumbled upon it empty and in somewhat sad state in the mid-1920s. They fell in love with what they saw, bought it and not being winemakers brought-in experts to guide them – including planting South Africa's first-ever Pinot Noir vines to extraordinary success.

They stayed-on for 30+ years… on their deaths, their daughter Annemarie taking-over the running of Muratie, and remaining there for over three decades more.

And amazingly after the Melck family had owned and run the place for over a century from 1763 until the late 1800s, another Melck – this time Ronnie – appeared on the scene in 1987, to buy and fold the property once again back into the Melck clan.

Today it is managed by Ronnie Melck's son Rijk (who is also winemaker,) his wife Kim, and his brother, sister and mother who call themselves "custodians of Muratie's rich heritage." They also enjoy enormous success both with their wines and Kim's boutique on-site restaurant – the winery open 7 days a week, and Kim's restaurant for lunch Tuesdays to Saturdays.

They've a range of wines honouring the company's founders, including their Ansela van de Caab label blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and an unusual Laurens Campher label blend of Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Verdelho and Viognier.

DAB hands behind Muratie Wine Estate's renowned
kitchen, Kim Melck (right) and Tanya Pohl.
There's also a Ronnie Melck Shiraz, an Isabella Chardonnay (named after Rijk and Kim's daughter,) a George Paul Canitz Pinot Noir – and a Lady Alice sparkling named after a bubbly 20th century socialite who for a time owned the winery.

All these and others are available for tasting and sales daily and there are twice-daily guided cellar tours. Details

Southern African holiday experts Bench International can prepare a range of holiday packages to Cape Town which can include sightseeing excursions to the nearby Winelands and centres like Stellenbosch and Paarl, as well as the Cape of Good Hope and other centres.

For more details phone 1300AFRICA or visit

(Images Muratie Wine Estate)

Giant Saint-Etienne oak lives on


IN his continuing search for the more weird, whacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says that in France, a winery has already dedicated a plantation of oak trees to be used for the barrels that'll store wines that it won't be making for close-on another two centuries.


And these are obviously not any ordinary oak trees: they've been propagated from acorns dropped by one of the most revered trees in French history – a mighty over-size one that towered above all others, and which itself rose from an acorn at Bourges in the Sancerre wine-growing region in 1560, and was killed 433 years later by lightning during a 1993 thunderstorm.


According to legend, the so-called Saint-Etienne oak gave inspiration to the ministers of French King Henri IV who would gather under its vast branches in search of inspiration, while King Charles VII was also known to have taken his 20-year old mistress, Agnes Sorel there for other forms of enlightenment.


Reaching 37m into the air (as tall as a 10-storey building,) and with a girth of 6m, the dead oak stood as a forlorn-looking skeleton until 1995 when a local winery, Henri Bourgeois engaged a woodcutter and a cooper to cut it down to make staves for barrels to store its legendary Sancerre wines from the 2000 to 2003 vintages.


At the same time, botanists began gathering acorns that by DNA could be traced back to the Saint-Etienne oak, with 1000 of the healthiest planted into a man-made forest. Of these the first will be harvested for making wine barrels for Henri Bourgeois wines 100 years from now, and forty of the mightiest kept by deed for a further 90 years for making wines from the 2200 vintage.


Which is what you might call planning ahead.



HENRI BOURGEOIS winery in France's Bourges village,  rich in history.





Monday 21 April 2014


NSW Southern Highlands wines grabbing increasingly
serious attention – from 700m up, this one's made for seafood.


David Ellis

SMALL though it is as a winemaking region, and small though in turn most of its makers are, the cool-climate NSW Southern Highlands is grabbing increasingly serious attention with wines from fruit that thrives in its clean, cool and elevated environment.

Sauvignon Blanc is one of these varieties, with Bill Hall at Banjo's Run at Exeter recently releasing a 2011 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc that can probably be most-easily summed up in just one word: stunning. For here is one that's got a wonderful generosity of flavour about it, and whose so-forward fresh stone fruit and herb characters, and lively acid finish, make it an ideal partner year-round with so many seafoods.

NICE taste of Italy from the Adelaide Hills:
think tomato-based pasta, pizza or lasagne.
Bill has done absolute wonders with the rundown vineyard he bought some five years ago at Exeter, which is at the very southern end of the Southern Highlands region and some 700+ metres above sea level; if you're visiting the Highlands (Exeter is around just 1.5hrs drive south of Sydney) make a point to drop into his Banjo's Run Cellar Door that's open every weekend, and midweek by appointment, for a tasting of this and Bill's range of other varietals and blends (made for him by premium contract makers.)

The 2011 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc is $22 a bottle and $240 a dozen; give Bill a call on 0408 228 724 to order, or simply go onto Freight $10 dozen to NSW coast, $22 dozen to remainder NSW, ACT, Victoria and southern Queensland.

ONE TO NOTE: IF you're thinking something Italian for the table like a tomato-based pasta or a wood-fired pizza with a hint of basil, think too about a further touch of Italy from the bottle to go with it – Barbera that's one of that country's most-grown varieties.

The Adelaide Hills' Chain of Ponds has an excellent example under its 2010 Stopover label, with full-on juicy red fruits from cherries to plums on the palate, a nice spiciness and balanced oak, and acid that make it a really great match with those tomato-based pasta and pizza options. Or if you prefer, a home-baked lasagne; at $22 excellent value for family entertaining.

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

Monday 14 April 2014


ONE from our islands State to
enjoy with anything from the sea.


David Ellis

EDDYSTONE Point is a new label that debuted last year with an aim to creating cool-climate wines from the rugged and somewhat windy northwest tip of Tasmania that are, in the winemaking team's eyes, drinkable, affordable and representative of the island State's reputation for quality fresh produce.

And the just- released 2012 Pinot Gris certainly suggests they're on the right track: this is a wine that came from an outstanding vintage at Eddystone Point, one that began with a cool start to Spring, a slightly warmer than average Summer with just the right rainfall, and which all ran into a perfect growing and ripening period.

And the result is their 2012 Pinot Gris is a wine with a lively palate of melon and sweet pear characteristics, a supple mouth feel, and a bouquet of spicy pear and rosewater... certainly reflective of what the winemaking team said they were after.
SAFE bet to take
along to any barbecue.

Local lass Penny Jones who hails from Hobart, moved to South Australia in 2001 to do a winemaking course at  Adelaide University, graduated as Dux of Oenology in 2004, joined Petaluma in the Adelaide Hills and rose to become a winemaker there, and returned last year to her home-State to join the new Eddystone Point team.

Pay $26 for this one and enjoy with virtually anything from the sea – our suggestion being pasta with a seafood sauce.

ONE TO WATCH: THE Adelaide Hills' Howard Vineyard has put together a nicely balanced 2012 Shiraz/Cabernet under their Picnic label, a wine that's one of those you know you can comfortably take along to any barbecue.

With rich plum, spice and blueberry aromas, on the palate it's got nicely upfront red berries, plums,  toasty oak spice and soft tannins; a generous everyday wine from this family maker, its carefully chosen 62% Shiraz, 33% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon making it an ideal general BBQ wine at just $19, or equally so with Asian-style pork spareribs.

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

Struth! Second chance for disgracefully aged wines.

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says that when wine company Fifth Leg recently offered to swap for absolutely free a fresh new bottle of one of their wines for a bottle of any other label that owner's thought may have been a bit suss, an amazing 3,200 people travelled to bottle shops across Australia to accept their offer.

And many were remarkably frank about "bad wine experiences," including one-in-four admitting that if given what they considered to be a poor bottle of wine as a gift, they would re-wrap and re-gift it to someone else at a later date – while three-in-ten said they'd open and offer it to everyone at their party "for all to suffer."

The West Australian-based Fifth Leg invited people to take a suspect wine to select First Choice liquor stores Australia-wide on what they called Fifth Leg Bad Taste Amnesty Day, taste for free five Fifth Leg wines on offer, and to swap their possibly "crook plonk" for one of those fresh new Fifth Legs.

The amazing 3,212 bottles brought in to swap ranged from some without labels to others with labels Fifth Leg and First Choice staff said they'd never heard of, and with many looking very much like they'd been left to age most-ungracefully in the backs of kitchen cupboards, "under the house," in garages and even garden sheds.

The majority brought in to swap were Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays, with greatest interest in those on free-swap offer being Shiraz, Chardonnay and Fifth Leg's Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Merlot blend.

Fifth Leg is an off-shoot of Margaret River winery Devil's Lair, and is named after the fossilised skeleton of a Tasmanian Tiger found in a cave on the Devil's Lair property, with a mysterious fifth leg amongst those remains…

But that's another story.

PHOTO CAPTION: IN the back of the kitchen cupboard, under the house, even in garden sheds… some wines are left to age most ungracefully. Photo: Catherine Wyatt Bell.


Monday 7 April 2014


WITH its elegance and finesse, this little-known
variety is great with cured kingfish sashimi.


David Ellis

ROUSSANNE is not a widely grown variety in Australia, but if other makers take a leaf out of Campbell's of Rutherglen's book and follow suit with one that they've just released, we could hopefully see a lot more on bottle-shop shelves in years to come.

An almost exotic wine with a nice depth of flavour that's not unlike Chardonnay, Roussane's home is France's Rhone Valley, but it's also grown widely in Italy as well, and to a much lesser degree in California.

Campbell's 2013 Roussanne is an elegant drop with lots of finesse; on the nose it's got nice lime peel, pear and herbal tea aromas, while on the palate it's all about characters of pears, dried herbs, white pepper and even a little spice.

Colin Campbell says this wine is the result of an excellent vintage that gave it its intense varietal fruit flavour and firm acid backbone, but notes that Roussanne is one of those wines that requires a sensitive hand in both the vineyard and winery to capture the best of its subtlety and finesse.

DO yourself a favour and put aside a bottle
a year until the early to mid-2020s.
And he says that while this is a great one to enjoy now, it will improve in bottle over the coming 3-4 years… Colin suggesting enjoying it with cured kingfish sashimi. Priced at $25 a bottle it's available only through the cellar door or

ONE TO NOTE: RYMILL Coonawarra winemaker, Sandrine Gimon has produced a cracker Shiraz from the outstanding vintage enjoyed in the region in 2012, this one being full of sweet red berry and dark fruit flavours, spicy overtones and beautifully savoury notes.

And while great to enjoy now, at $30 a bottle consider doing yourself a favour and buying a few for enjoyment once a year or so until well into the early to mid-2020s. Sandrine recommends this as a wine that will make an ideal partner with rich wintry foods like roasted lamb with spices, crispy pork belly (oh, yeah!) wild duck, or goat's cheese with figs on fruit bread.

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