Posts Tagged ‘Wine’

Vinography in Australia

One of my favourite wine bloggers, Alder Yarrow, is currently in Australia checking out a few of our wine regions (the trip is sponsored by Wine Australia and Tourism Australia). I’ve long been a fan of his writing, the focus on people and place is something I believe is sorely missing in the traditional wine media and I’m really excited that it is Australia’s turn. From his Twitter account and inital post, it seems he started in the Yarra Valley, has been to Heathcote, Beechworth, King Valley, Mclaren Vale and is now in the Barossa Valley.

If you are interested in his adventures in Australian wine, I will keep the following list up to date.

Confused Governor General doesn’t know what to do with Wine

Update: I have just published the full list of wine in the Governor General’s wine cellar.

An article in The Age today discusses the problem that Governor General Quentin Bryce (who doesn’t drink often) and her teetotalling husband have with their inheritance of a pretty amazing wine cellar. The article suggests that they are thinking about selling it, donating some of it to charity or something else. They also don’t want to serve it to guests because they don’t want to be seen to be extravagant.

Personally, I don’t see the problem here. Let me put it this way. Wine is meant to be drunk. If you don’t want to serve a nice bottle of wine to your guests then don’t. You are only going to come across looking cheap and promoting the idea to your international guests that Australian wine is cheap and shit. Doesn’t sound like something most people would do, given the choice.

This wine isn’t going to go bad, in fact it’s only going to get better. It’s not yours to sell, but it is yours to drink. Stop whinging like a kid that can’t spend your inheritance fast enough. Either enjoy it, or leave it for the next person.

Wine Tasting – By Farr Wines

Recently I attended a wine masterclass with Nick Farr of By Farr and Farr Rising (hosted by Randalls Cellar.) This is the sort of event that I, as someone with more than a passing interest in wine, absolutely love. A chance to talk to winemakers about how they make the wine, what they intend for it and where it will go in the future. I hate it when you go to a cellar door and you are told what is written on the tasting notes of the wine and not about what was involved in making it. Thankfully the focus of these sessions is very rarely about the wine itself and more so about the wine as a journey.

Nick was going to be a sports teacher until his father Gary sent him to an industry wine tasting before he started university. He cites the unlimited supply of oysters, beer and wine as what turned him onto the track of winemaker. Gary was the perfect mentor for a young winemaker, sending him straight to the United States and Burgundy to be taught in what he considered to be the wineries of the best Pinot Noir producers in the world. You get the impression that after countless vintages around the world and his own label from the Geelong area, Gary has finally handed over some semblance of control to Nick. He has headed overseas for a holiday and has only called to have more money put in the account.

Nick’s passion for wine is captivating. He has a great grounding in the new and old worlds of winemaking and shares his knowledge of wine and his own vineyards with ease. So much of the focus on wine today is on terroir and this case is no different. The sites for the vineyards have been carefully selected for their soil, aspect and locations and it wouldn’t surprise me if Nick has walked every inch. The particular site that Nick was most excited about was their “Tout Pres” vineyard. This site has 3 types of soil and 3 different slopes each with different facings.

The By Farr winemaking style is particularly standoffish, with the least interaction from the winemaker. Pinot Noir grapes are fragile and overworking them will make the wine tired. Instead, the winemaking is done in the vineyard tending the vines. The hand picked grapes are whole bunched pressed, and very little is done after the wine is barrelled. The whole bunches add tannins (hopefully not too much herbaceousness) creating a wine with great structure and funkiness (sic).

This structure, perfume and funk is evident in the flavours of all of the wines. The Pinot Noirs are rich and complex with great tobacco flavours throughout. The “Tout Pres” is particularly interesting with the quartz in the soil bringing through a minerality rarely tasted in Pinot Noir. My choice however was the “Farrago” Chardonnay/Viognier. This white has exceptional mineral flavours and an oily but not overdone mouthfeel. Interestingly, the blend is 50/50 but the apricot flavours of the Viognier are surprisingly subdued.

This introduction to the By Farr winery has me really interested in Geelong Pinot Noir and anything that Nick Farr is involved with. The prices on this label ($50-$90 a bottle) are sadly well out of my price range and having this opportunity to taste them was amazing; given the chance I would love to buy a case or 2.

MxMo: Hard Drinks for Hard Times – Cheap wine cocktails

The theme for this month’s Mixology Monday is “Hard Drinks for Hard Times” hosted over at the recently laid off Matthew Rowley’s blog. His thinking is, that in the current economic climate a lot of us are having trouble drinking well – actually, he says he is drinking better than ever due to having stockpiled huge amounts of booze over a long period of time. This is pretty much the complete opposite to me, I’ve been a student for just about as long as I can remember and drinking cheap is something I’ve become pretty accustomed to.

I’ve got a heap of tricks for getting on the booze cheap, but thinking about how to make some cheap cocktails got me thinking back to drinks 2 of my friends have told me about. Both of them involve mixing wine (generally very cheap wine) with something to make it slightly bearable. The beauty of this is that wine here in Australia seems to be getting cheaper and cheaper due to the rise of cleanskins. What can be better, grabbing a $5 bottle of wine that wasn’t too bad to begin with and making it better.

The first is known as Calimocho, Jameses assures me that when he was in Spain he used to buy a 2 litre bottle of red wine and mix it about 50/50 with red wine. Cheap, nasty but tasty. The second drink was recently introduced to me by my French housemates, known as “Kir“, it is a dry white wine mixed with creme de cassis, peach liqueur or blackberry liqueur. This is really quite tastey and can just top off a ridiculously cheap bottle of Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. The other option is to use sparkling wine instead.

I fully support the cuting of costs in regards to boozing, but remember. Friends don’t let friends drink Grants or Pipers.

Supper Inn, Celestial Ave

There are places in Melbourne that make you feel as though you are in another place, or another time and sometimes you stumble down an alley or a laneway and you could well be in both another place and another time. Walking down Celestial Ave, in the heart of Chinatown at any hour of the night or day is precisely one of those experiences. If it wasn’t for the multi-storey carpark towering over the street you would easily expect to see Woo, of Deadwood fame, sitting down beside of one of the stores with his pigs, and his whores. Yet, he isn’t there and in his place is an overflowing dumpster and an angry asian chef having a sneaky cigarette perhaps a beer.

Who can hold it against him though, when the Supper Inn advertises its opening hours until 2:30am and you would have to think that if there were people there wanting to order at half 2 the kitchen surely wouldn’t be closed. The food is great, it certainly isn’t the cheapest between the red gates of Chinatown but it doesn’t seem as jam packed with artificial flavours as other restaurants. $20 will net you the barbecued suckling pig which was very tastey, but quite a small portion and $18 will get a Szechuan Beef and a Sweet and Sour Pork. Of particular note was the sweet and sour pork which was not only extremely tasty but also a great sized portion. The menu consists of traditional style Chinese food, all sitting around this price range. It’s probably the best food in Australia that money can buy at 2 in the morning.

Working our table was an older chinese man who’s lack of conversation was refreshing, considering our conversation was hilarious to us, but almost certainly less so to him. He was happy to pour our cheap ‘Bulli Bulli’ Shiraz which was quite a surprise but nothing compared to how he wielded the spoons when he served us our special fried rice. This was something that has to be seen to believed, the spoons were snapping faster than a pitbull in a cattle yard and before we could say, “Cheers mate” our bowls were overflowing with rice.

Service with a smile and a nod.

Hawke’s Bay Wine Region, New Zealand

Surrounding the towns of Hastings and Napier Hawke’s Bay is a unique part of New Zealand. Driving through New Zealand you start to grow accustomed to the site of vineyards and wineries on all sides, but you certainly won’t get used to the geometric ornaments and motifs of the Art-Deco style of architecture. Rebuilt almost from scratch after a 1930s earthquake, Napier (and to a lesser extent Hastings) gives you the feeling you are in the Truman Show. This strange feeling continues when you seemingly the majority of restaurants and bars are closed for business.The places that aren’t shut are busy until late at night despite them being expensive, pretentious and in my experience the service being below par.

In stark contrast to the City of Napier, the wineries in the surrounding area all emit a vibe of passion and love of wine. Great red wine is the order of the day in Hawke’s Bay with wineries growing Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah) and the odd Pinot Noir. The region is not without its Whites with award-winning Chardonnay and complex aromatics (Mainly Pinot Gris, Riesling and Viognier). The climate provides great wine-making for the rich flavoured reds with hot summer temperatures, low rainfall and long sunlight hours.

Add to this a large number of micro-regions which provide the wines of this area a great deal of diversity. The most renowned of these micro-regions is the Gimblett Gravels region which has very gravelly soil providing a perfect fast-draining basis for the Bordeaux varieties. A number of wineries in the area own vineyards in this small apellation and produce single vineyard and reserve labels from them with amazing results.

We only spent an afternoon and a morning tasting wines in the area but we left wishing we had a whole lot more time, more space in the luggage and some sort of expense account. The wineries we stopped at were:

  • Elephant Hill
  • Clearview
  • Kim Crawford
  • Craggy Range
  • Te Mata
  • Vidal
  • Matariki
  • Trinity Hill

Having spent a fair bit of time in and around Central Otago wineries and seeing a small part of Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay’s wineries really were something special. Each of the wineries was unique, the staff were passionate, the wines were beautiful and there was a feel of history and of something special in the air. While it may not be the major draw card of New Zealand wine, it for me is what I will remember when thinking of the people and the feel of New Zealand wine.

Marlborough Wine Region, New Zealand

No self-respecting wine lover, or even drinker, who is travelling New Zealand should miss the opportunity to check out the wineries of the Marlborough region. This area is New Zealand’s largest wine growing area and probably it’s most famous. The Sauvignon Blanc’s grown around the Wairau River are becoming known as some of the finest in the world and by visiting any cellar door in the area anybody will see why. Each of the wineries I visited was unique but there was one common theme, the people here love wine and they love to talk about it.

Marlborough is the largest wine growing region in New Zealand with over 11,000 hectares of vineyards growing mainly in the Wairau Valley. The weather is predominantly sunny and dry (when we were there however, there was torrential rain) with hot days and cool nights, this coupled with fast-draining alluvial soils makes this an excellent area to grow aromatic varietals. Sauvignon Blanc is the most respected of these and as Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris are gaining in popularity more of these aromatic styles are being planted and grown.

The majority of wineries are located west of Blenheim around the town of Renwick, there are more cellar doors than you could possibly visit in a day and you would struggle to do it in two. Many of the wineries have restaurants and cafes on site, and you are welcome to picnic on the grounds at others. The whole area is perfectly suited to sitting in the sun (or torrential rain) and enjoying a bottle of the local poison, a few olives and some pancetta amongst the vines. Before you visit it is well worth checking out the Marlborough Winegrowers Association website which has a heap of maps and information about the area.

During our visit we visited 6 and wished we had more time, a driver and a whole lot more money able to spend on sending wine home. The wineries we visited were:

  • Wairau River
  • Hunters
  • Saint Clair
  • Cloudy Bay
  • Mount Riley
  • Montana