All posts filed under: Australia

The Best Wine with Seafood

Thank god for social media because that’s how I recognised the Thomas “Braemore” Semillon on the menu at North Bondi Fish. This is the best wine with seafood I’ve had for a while. For people who know the usual drum beat of Australian wine, this particular Hunter Valley Semillon may be unrecognisable. The delicate and clean flavours can seem barely perceptible; but, this is what makes it work so well with the silky flesh of wood-fired Yamba prawns, creamy Moreton Bay bugs, fresh scallops or lobster linguine. The texture is a like for like. It’s as essential as a lemon cheek for seafood, and as decadent as stolen lunch hour at the beach. Taste it once and you want it again. In fact, we returned to the restaurant the next day to do just that. Brilliant. * Clever marketing can make you buy the first time but not the second time. Australian wine marketing has worked very well at the cheaper end of the wine market for a long time. Perhaps because it’s a land of long distances where messages …

Barossa Soul

Jet lag happens because a jet moves faster than the soul, said William Gibson in Pattern Recognition, “Souls can’t move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.” One of the first things I do when I arrive in Australia is hit the local wine shops. Not only because I am looking for a distraction for my jet-lag, or perhaps, more accurately, a cure for it, but because I am always so happy to see a much bigger range of wines and styles than we see over here in the UK. Australian Savagnin, anyone? There were three – three! – in our local independent wine shop. Perhaps there is not a huge market here in the UK, but this grape from Jura must have seemed like a good idea when they planted the vines at least 10 years ago. It’s an exciting time here for new varieties. Tscharke Wines have an interesting Savagnin, called “Girl Talk” (more grrrl than girl), but it was their 2012 Tscharke Gnadenfrei Grenache that dropped us directly to our …

How to Fly First Class at Home

Tasting Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay 2008 is a bright blast of sunshine much like sitting on a tarmac anywhere after arriving from gloomy Gatwick. So, it does not surprise me this wine is on Qantas First Class. Even on the ground, this wine is a journey in itself. This is a complex and big wine, bright and juicy, with crystalline ginger and honey notes lapping up on the shore of your tongue like tropical waves. This is exactly what you want when flying (especially a 24 hour flight to Australia): at 36,000 feet flavours pale and diminish due to cabin pressure and air quality (as I found out when tasting for Skyscanner). Plus, you know exactly where you are with this wine. It is THE taste of Margaret River. There is no mucking about trying to be a Corton Charlemagne here. On the ground, at home, it is very dense and compact, almost monolithic… yet, yet… it is a true joy. One of those wines you where you lift your glass up to the light …

Oh! Ochota

“And if by chance you surf….. you would understand what a great barrel is.” After a pure two-tone fruity-vanilla start reminiscent of tasting straight from the barrel in a cold cellar*, it found a balance point exactly where satsuma, lemon curd and Comte cheese meet. In the current trend for leaner Chardonnay but more balanced on the side of sweet fruit and oak, it is happily supple (and definitely not fat). Made by Taras and Amber Ochota, and you can find their story here, this couple is a talented and well-traveled lot, who chose to dig at a hard spot for Australian Chardonnay (this is a difficult price point in the UK) and hit upon gold in the Adelaide hills. The wine did not reveal itself fully until the next day, which reminded me not to drink big white wines under screw cap without at least a good swirl in a decanter first (a decanter is not just for red wines).   Bottle number 9! The back label details:       *After being immersed in months of Burgundy …

Australia Despatch: Notes from Sydney

Before I left London everyone warned me about the cost of a lime in Australia. What was everyone talking about? After the third person had mentioned it I found the story on the BBC website about the outrageous cost of the £1.50 lime (usually about 30p in London). Luckily for me the taste of lime is THE taste of Australia – I have never tasted lime in wines from anywhere else – it is in the Riesling but also in some other varieties I did not expect… Lime is a very cooling taste, so it works well for early evening drinks on hot days. When I visit Australia I like to try wines from regions that I do not see often in the UK. I often despair at the selection in the UK; as relevant to me as Paul Hogan or a Walkabout pub. It’s a formula that works but like any formula it is a bit dull. What is going on in Geelong or King Valley or Tasmania? That is what I was eager …

The Truth About Mac Forbes

Let’s try to forget Mac Forbes is rather attractive. I don’t want this to influence my perception of the wine in any way. Of course. That’d be completely unprofessional. Hands up – I had written about his wine before I met him: “Supersonic”. But, for the sake of objectivity, let’s get this out of the way… and he is married. So, I said it. There. What about the wine? Mac was in London between visiting Austria and Portugal. In itself, this is a very Australian idea of Europe and her wine. The island of Australia covers from St Petersburg to Dublin. Yet this is the key to understanding it. Let me explain.

Inferno Paradiso: Tasting Mount Langi Ghiran 2004 – 2009

Love that is not loved back, pardons the loving. Once a lovesick friend wrote me this on a napkin in a café, a quote from Dante’s second circle of hell (“Amor cha nullo amato amar perdona”). To be honest, it’s the only thing I can quote from Dante’s Inferno, the text studied by winemaker Dan Buckle for his thesis, long before he became the new winemaker at Mount Langi Ghiran. What I do know about Dante’s Inferno is that it is about poetic justice, and there is certainly something poetic about a winemaker who has studied the descent into the flames of hell to be now working in the Grampians in Alpine Victoria, an area almost routinely devastated by bushfire and drought.   Inferno Whether there is justice is another matter – as Dan said at a vertical tasting of his wines from 2004 to 2009, what he has learned during these hard years: “it’s one thing to stress a vine, it’s another to kill it.”

The World Upside Down

Victorian Allsorts Tasting, Wine Australia at 2011 London International Wine Fair hosted by Steve Webber and Kate McIntyre MW, 17 May 2011 The Victorian wines shown today want to break free from the notion that Australian wines are pristine and wholesome, with exciting discordant and dirty notes that urged one not to delay tasting (the forbidden). These wines had pulled a thread in the tightly-knit world of expectation of

Never Tear Us Apart? Wine Australia’s new strategy

Listening to INXS on the way to the Australia Trade tasting, I remembered the moment when Michael Hutchence turned up at a premiere for the first time with Kylie Minogue, who had chopped off her hair in to a pixie cut and looked like she had been doing a lot more than the locomotion. Something had changed, we all whispered, but what??? There is a whiff of the 90s about Wine Australia.

Brave New World: Italian varieties and the future of Australian wine pt2

The image of Australian wine at the moment overseas is supermarket-driven, Chardonnay-championing, industry-driven pah! You’d be forgiven to think Australia is only a vast industrial complex run by blokes in white coats performing Ludovico treatments on unsuspecting international wine writers who are held clockwork-oranged, wires holding their eyes and mouths open to drink high-alcohol wine full of splinters.

Lifting the fog: Pannell, Nebbiolo and the future of Australian wine Pt1

For a brief moment, I did an internship as a curator for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. Like most internships it was unpaid, part of the reason why I started working in wine sales. Apart from that, one of the best things I learned from my time working as an intern curator in an art gallery was learning to ask questions beyond whether I liked or I didn’t like a piece of artwork.

Grey Free State: Mornington Peninsula Pinot Gris

“….(it was) a spectral grey, as if all the colour has been sucked out by the sun.” – Bruce Chatwin in “Anatomy of Restlessness“ There is a concept in philosophy called the grey area which is a concept for which one is unsure which category in which to place it. As it so happens, the development of the Pinot Gris variety in Australia has coincided with my career in wine and I’ve watched it change from being a marginal variety, unsure about what it even should be called in Australia (whether Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio), to now: where the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show stopped accepting Pinot Grigio wine entries as it no longer considered it an alternative variety. Firstly, I have to admit I have never been a fan of the grape, as my post The Problem with Pinot Grigio UK attests. That said, I don’t like to be too black and white in my ideas about anything, especially when I hear Pinot Gris is doing so well in the exciting cool-climate region …

Primal Genius: Protero Adelaide Hils Merlot and S.C.Pannell

This is a story that starts 2.6 billion years ago. When oxygen first gathered in the atmosphere and single-cell mitochondria ruled the planet, the landscape of Gumeracha in the Adelaide Hills was formed. When the volcanoes stopped spewing poisonous gases and the single-cell animals and algae could start to get on with the process of reproduction. Glaciers melted. Fish got legs. Dinosaurs died out. A mere 60 million years ago the Kimmedgian soils of Chablis formed. Humans started fires. It’s been a long way, baby. Until 2000, when the Baldarasso family called in two of Australia’s finest winemakers Paul Drogemuller and S.C.Pannell to see what they could do. The incredible S.C. Pannell What I wanted to taste here on my trip to Australia was a Nebbiolo from Adelaide Hills. If anyone could make a Nebbiolo outside of Piedmonte, which seems almost an impossible feat, then it would have to be S.C.Pannell: his training includes vintages at G.D. Vajra in Barolo, Domaine des Comtes Lafon in Burgundy and Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux. He is also …

A new room in the house: 2007 Coriole Vita Reserve Sangiovese, Mc Laren Vale

Just as the smell of clean sheets on the bed can signal a new start after an old affair, the fruit of the 2007 Coriole Vita Reserve Sangiovese is very pure and fresh like a soft, plumped pillow. Although perhaps it’d be more fun if it smelled a little less clean and a little more dirtier. Cabernet Sauvignon in Tuscany develops the unmistakeable taste of the warm Tuscan earth and the Coriole Sangiovese has developed a taste that is distinctly McLaren Vale: there is breath of iodine particular to wines found in the Seaview region. This is only the second Reserve Sangiovese, and I hope over time, the Sangiovese vines will take more taste from the McLaren Vale land. Right now, the room is aired and the bed is ready to dream and tasting the wine last night at such an early vintage, it is full of promises… McLaren Vale in South Australia is the home to many Italian immigrant families who have been making Shiraz on old vines but whose heart I suspect belongs …

Bang for the Buck?

In the past week, there’s been a regime shift in Wine Australia, the representative body to the UK, with a second major resignation. Paul Schaasfma has jumped into the void, arguing, “it’s not rocket science, after all” and that Australian wine should be about innovation and personality which – he believes – is reflected in the sub-£6 per bottle mark in UK supermarkets. Contrast with Berry Brothers & Rudd recent hypothetical future report on the international wine industry. With a 310 wine merchant history, it makes an educated guess about the international wine market in 2058: In the past year or two, Australia has suffered from severe droughts with water shortages so acute that irrigation of vineyards has been temporarily banned. Droughts devastated the 2008 crop, with spot prices of bulk Australian wine rising from AUS$0.40 in 2006 to over AUS$1 a litre in 2007. If this trend continues, supplies of inexpensive Australian wine may soon be a thing of the past. By 2058, Berrys predicts Australia will be too hot and arid to support …

The Mysterious Lady: Hunter Valley Semillon

Hunter Valley Semillon is the reclusive star in Australian wine. While other Australian wines have been all-singing, all-dancing on the world stage, Hunter Valley Semillon has been elegantly waiting in the wings or outside the theatre smoking a cigarette with an attitude of whatever, so what? I don’t like fashion and I’m not signing autographs. For Hunter Valley is the oldest wine region in Australia, nearly 190 years old, and has seen a few fashions come and go. As a style, it has been seriously unimpressed with the fashions over the past 20 years for high-alcohol, oak bombs despite the rest of the country diving in head first. It could not be a fruit bomb even it if tried; it is inimitable and timeless. That is why Jancis Robinson once described this unoaked white wine as, “Australia’s unique gift to the world”. Despite the fashions, Hunter Valley Semillon has remained slender and elegant: generally 12-12.5% alcohol, mostly boutique production, excellent aging potential and no oak whatsoever. Sounds familiar… The parallels between Hunter Semillon and German …

Piedmont Songs in Australia: La Violetta

It is rare for a Syrah to call Piedmonte its spiritual home, let alone a Syrah from Australia. La Violetta’s Ciornia has the freshness, restrained fruit, a light frame of oak and depth of earth expected from a Barbaresco; yet, this Syrah hails from a vineyard surrounded by virgin forest in Denmark, Western Australia, one of Australia’s most isolated wine regions. Spices, fleshiness, weight and colour suggest Syrah but the elegance, floral notes and restraint in extraction suggest the wine has been treated as gently in the vineyard as if old Nebbiolo vines. Not many new world winemakers would put their wines up against wines from the Old World. But after tasting his wines, the winemaker Andrew Hoadley pulled out a few hidden bottles from his private stash of Piedmonte’s rebel grape, Freisa – also one of my favourite wines in the world. We tasted a vivace and still Freisa (2001 Vajra Kye´) admiring the savoury, non-fruit characters that are so astounding about this wine unique to Piedmonte. Aside from his time spent working in …

New Wave: Kooyong Estate Farrago Chardonnay

In the same way as the sculptor Constantin Brancusi sculpted this piece in 1910, the Farrago Chardonnay from Kooyong Estate is spectacularly modern. Kooyong Estate winemaker Sandro Mosele has been peacefuly innovating on the Morninton Peninsula near Melbourne under the radar and turning out classic modern masterpieces. To say this wine is defined by its minerality is like saying the above sculpture of Brancusi’s Sleeping Muse is only defined by its smoothness. It has a linear feel like Brancusi’s Bird in Space, yet has layers and texture, “quiet” fruit like pear and grapefruit, with very light touch of French oak (only 30% new). The name “Farrago” comes from the name of the corner of the cool-climate vineyard with motley soil of high sand and clay (farrago means assortment, medley) giving the wine its mineral core. There is nothing else like it and what I like about it is that I find no references to French wines. This is the second time in two weeks I have been jolted out of my complacency. First, Mac Forbes’ …

supersonic: Mac Forbes’ 2006 Woori Yallock Pinot Noir

Terroir A good friend from Australia told me a story. After the Hospice de Beaune Auction in Burgundy he had driven down to the Rhone Valley. While there, he managed to cajole the reluctant Rhone winemakers to take a quick drive with him to Piemonte as it was “only a few hours drive over the mountains”. At first, the idea shocked the Rhone winemakers. Italy?! For my Australian friend, it was nothing, not even the distance from one Australian capital city to the next. They did it; and to this day, the winemakers from Rhone, Piemonte and Australia laugh about it and are all still friends. Like many young Australians living abroad, the winemaker Mac Forbes has effortlessly worked in many countries and cultures: in his case, Burgundy, Gallic, Narbonne, Duoro and Sicily. Recently back in the Yarra Valley from consulting in Austria, he has successfully imported Gruner Veltliner and Blaufrankisch to the cool Yarra Valley (after 3 years in quarantine). In Mac’s own words: “It is important to keep the mind open especially with …

White Grange and Nirvana

2007 Yattarna or 2008 Bin 08A Reserve Chardonnay? Nirvana’s Bleach came out in 1989 on a budget of only $600, a thrilling album-long demo tape for their huge next album, Nevermind. Bleach is sound unpolished to perfection. So why was it this album cover the first image to come to mind when tasting the 2007 Yattarna? There couldn’t be anything more opposite. Yattarna is a wine polished to perfection. On a huge Penfold’s budget. Bleach was the birth of grunge. Bleach is spontaneous combustion, while Yattarna is a concept wine: Penfolds deliberately created a white wine to be the answer to Grange. Overall, you are just left with one question. What makes Grange, Grange? Is it the longevity? Then why choose Chardonnay, why not equally great Australian varieties such as Riesling or Semillon if it is to age as long as the original Grange (for 40+ years)? Or is it about the consistency expected of Grange: yet, every Yattarna I have ever tasted has never tasted the same. In the past 2 years, Yattarna has …

Cinematic Wines – Pt 6: A Space Odyssey via Astralis (and Sun Ra)

The final Cinematic Wine Series ends with a bang, a BIG BANG: Clarendon Hills Astralis 2002. The tagline for the original Kubrick film, 2001: A Space Odyssey can equally apply to this amazing red wine from South Australia, Astralis: Let the Awe and Mystery of a Journey Unlike Any Other Begin Valued at £200 in London, this is an intense drinking experience now until 2050. Yes, you read right. Best drinking around 2025 – 2035, my friends. What were you doing in 1988? Not reading a blog on the internet, I bet. What do you think you will be doing in 2028?? Hopefully drinking Astralis (well, that is my wish for you anyway). Kubrick’s idea of the future in 2001: A Space Odyssey has many hopes and fears about the future, and now, long after 2001, the film is beguiling for its foresight and ability to even imagine such ideas in 1968. The same applies with Astralis. Astralis is a lot more than Science Fiction. Like all the great wines, this is time and space …

Theory of Capacity by Len Evans

The Len Evans THEORY OF CAPACITY 1. There is an awful lot of wine in the world, but there is also a lot of awful wine. 2. No sensible person drinks to excess. Therefore any one person can drink only a certain predictable amount. 3. There are countless flavours, nuances, shades of wine; endless varieties, regions, styles. You have neither the time nor the capacity to drink them all. 4. To make the most of the time left to you, you must start by calculating your future capacity. One bottle of wine a day is 365 bottles a year. If your life expectancy is another thirty years, there are only 10,000-odd bottles ahead of you. 5. People who say, “You can’t drink the good stuff all the time” are talking rubbish. You must drink good stuff all the time. Every time you drink a bottle of inferior wine it’s like smashing a superior bottle against the wall. The pleasure is lost forever. You can’t get the bottle back. 6. There are people who build up …