Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sergio Bi-O Cardinia Ranges Pinot Noir 2003

This wine is still quite racy for something that has been sitting around for a while. Very translucent in the glass with layers of mashed strawberry and oak. The palate is very Burgundy, with a great mix of spice, tomato leaf, beetroot and rhubarb – a lot going on I’d say. I had this wine in a decanter for about three hours and it didn’t miss a beat with the acid still shining through right to the last drop. Really enjoyed this one. Oh yeah, it’s a Serge Carlei wine - the biodynamic pioneer in Victoria - so it's bio-organic, which is effectively biodynamic, so everyone can enjoy this one, even those odd people at ‘Le Cru’ in Albert Park.

Drink till 2012
Drink with duck pie bought from La Parisienne Pates in Carlton
Cork 13%v/v $30

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mount Gisborne Macedon Ranges Florina Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Australian Sauvignon Blanc is back! Not that it went anywhere, but with the Kiwi Savvy B’s monstering the local market for the last decade, Australian producers are showing our cousins across the ditch that we can hold our own.

One of the reasons for this is that Savvy B is being propagated in the right viticulture areas. Sauvignon needs a cool growing season and conditions that are not susceptible to disease in the later stages of the growing season. This means areas such as the Swan Valley, Barossa, McLaren Vale, Hunter Valley and the Riverina should stick to varieties that relish the hot steamy weather that these areas through up and leave it to the cooler districts such as Tasmania, Gippsland and the Macedon Ranges.

And it is the Macedon Ranges where we find David Ell and Mount Gisborne wines. In one of my earlier posts I spoke about David’s enthusiasm when it comes to the Ranges and to his wine. Now I have known for a while, and I must say it is always good to have a catch up with David, and the last time was in my kitchen about three weeks ago when he was good enough to drop off his current batch of wines for me to have a look at with some food – you gotta love that! Over the space of about 45 minutes David and I chatted about numerous topics, his wine obviously, but also on issues such as restaurant mark-up’s, wine media in Australia and possible remedies to get my son Henry to sleep – unfortunately this has not worked, Sigh!! But I digress.

We were talking Savvy B I recall, so here is David’s offering, Mount Gisborne Florina Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2009. The Florina vineyard is about 500 metres from David’s own vineyard, and is situated on the western aspect of Mount Gisborne. This is the third Sauvignon offering from David, and he pretty much follows the normal routine when it comes to Sauvignon production; no wood with a tank fermentation. Where it differs is David does plenty of lee’s stirring to bring a bit of softness to the wine and also does not fine or filter the wine which gives it a bit of a hazy look to it with potassium bitartrate crystals (below picture) evident in the wine, but don’t fuss, they are harmless. The wine has a real softness to it without the sappy tropical feel that we get from Marlborough. The 2009 offers a lovely white floral aroma with subtle grassy notes coming through also. A very well made wine indeed.

The Mount Gisborne 2009 Sauvignon will be released from October, so be on the lookout for it at Independent wine outlets, good restaurants or direct at http://www.mountgisbornewines.com.au/

Drink till 2011
Drink with pea and goats cheese salad
Screwcap 14%v/v

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My World Famous Potato Salad

The siren has sounded on yet another AFL season with Geelong getting over St. Kilda in an absolute classic game; I hope you are alright today Kate!

Yesterday I took my daughter Imogen over to my old friend Snowy’s house for the second year in a row so that our kids (minus Henry who was with his mum) could run amuck and the grown up’s could watch the game! It wasn’t the greatest day weather wise with rain, wind the cold being a constant factor. But the one factor of this day, and other BBQ’s that have either been attended at my place of theirs was My World Famous Potato Salad; at 4% fat free, this bad boy will clog your arteries by just being in the same room as it. When it comes to my potato salad, I have to admit that I am not very modest – It is the greatest potato salad ever, and I have the testimonials to prove it:

I thought mine was good, but this is the best I have ever had!!!’ – Serin
chew chew slurp slurp swallow – translation, ‘I’m so glad you made this today’ – Ange
Why won’t anyone eat my Jamie Oliver moorish salad?’ – Snowy

There you have it. So for all of you BBQers out there, here are the ingredients:

· Two kg’s of Desiree potatoes, peeled
· 250 grams of quality French butter (or the Farmers Direct stuff Erin orders)
· 200 grams quality bacon, fat left on
· Two tbsp Dijon mustard
· Three tbsp seeded mustard five tbsp of sour cream
· One tbsp of red wine vinegar
· White wine for cooking
· Three cloves of garlic
· Chives
· Salt

Now if you are going to attempt this one you are going to have to start the bacon at least 24 hours before the BBQ. Melt some of the butter in an oven proof pan on the stove with the crushed garlic on low heat so the garlic does not change colour. Once the butter has been well and truly coated on the pan, add bacon and resume the low heat for about 10 minutes. Add the remainder of butter and white wine to cover the bacon.
bacon mix before

...and after

After you drag yourself out of bed, have your coffee and read the paper, peel the spuds and cut them into whatever size you want and boil in salted water. Once cooked, drain off and let them cool off a bit. Once you have sampled the bacon mix at least nine times, add both mustards, sour cream, red wine vinegar and give it a good stir and then add to potatoes. This may look like a Cameron Ling centerfold, but who cares! Garnish with chives and ta da, my world famous potato salad – sexy stuff this one.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tinpot Hut Hawkes Bay Syrah 2007

I so want to have a set of master keys for ‘Blackheart & Sparrows’; they are getting in such good wine. And the latest treat to come out of the Lygon Street shop is Tinpot Hut Hawkes Bay Syrah 2007. White pepper over black pepper up front on the nose with subtle hints of red liquorice after a bit in the decanter. The mouth is very syrupy up front, and this hangs around for a while and slides in to chocolate rum raisin layered with firm savoury tannins. Such a nice wine.

Drink till 2012
Drink with Gumbo
Screwcap 13%v/v $29

Thursday, September 24, 2009

South Pack tasting @ Transit Lounge Fed Sqaure, August 2009

With so many producers out there trying to sell you their product, these tastings were not only important for them, but also for the trade in knowing the product you were selling. But us sommeliers are a busy lot, so you sort of have to pick and choose the tastings that are not only going to interest you, but tastings of wines that have a realistic shot of getting on to your list.
But as I said, for four months now it has been nappies and walks and 3am feeds. So it was a quick yes that James and Claire Lance from ‘Punch’ wines got from an invite I received from them for a tasting at Transit Lounge in Federation Square put together by South Pack, a wine group repersenting new Victorian winemakers.

So on a rainy Monday afternoon I toddled off to Fed Square and to probably one of the best ‘independent’ tastings I have been to. ‘... a fiercely independent collection of likeminded souls.’, read the handout as I entered the room filled with sommeliers, restaurant managers, wine retailers and wine writers, and on show were some of the brightest and hippest producers from Victoria; Barney and David from Allies, Timo Mayer, Luke Lambert, Lincoln Riley and Adam Foster of Foster e Rocco and Syrahmi.

What made this group of winemakers ‘likeminded’, was that all of them were singing the praises of low alcohol wine. This is not to be mistaken with ‘low carb’ or ‘diet wine’, but wine that is driven by savoury tannins and piercing acid made for drinking with food, and wine not driven by massive oak, ripe fruit and seem splitting alcohol; I reckon the highest volume was about 13.5%v/v shared by a few of the bigger reds on show.

As I said, it had been a while since I have done something like this, so it was good to see my own likeminded people as well and swap the obligatory story of horror diners and more to the point, horror nappies. But back to the wine.
With glass in hand, I tried to start with whites first, but the first stop was Luke Lambert with some really sexy Nebbiolo, my favourite wine – a 2008 and 2007 release with the 2007 being the standout with great early characteristics of Nebbiolo coming through. On to Foster e Rocco and then to Punch for a catch up with Claire and James and a chat on how everything is going out at the property since the February 7 bushfires; and things are looking good with minimal damage to the vines, but not so lucky with the winery however.

On the other side of the room were Barney and David from Allies, two of the nicest blokes in the industry I reckon. On heading over there I was pleasantly greeted by David with a warm ‘Hello Tim’ – do I know this bloke from somewhere I thought, which was also very easy to read from my expression when he then politely said, ‘that’s what your name tag says’ – I told you it had been a while. So for the next 20 odd minutes I learnt a lot more about these two, and more particular their wines and vineyards, which were all dynamite and very affordable also.

From here I ventured over to ‘macforbes’ followed by Jamsheed and finally with the very affable German, Timo Mayer. Having made wine with Gembrook and now Tibooburra, Timo has firmly entrenched himself as one of the Valleys more astute, and busiest, winemakers. And his current selection under his very Chambertin label, together with Bloody Hill and Big Betty labels, puts Timo in almost every corner of the Yarra Valley.

After having a wee chat with Timo, it was time to go. A quick beer with Claire Lance and I was off to Rockpool where I was meeting some of the aforementioned likeminded heads for some ‘witty’ banter, burgers, wine and more beer as well as a debate that is still going on now – Is Twin Peaks a child of the 80’s or the 90’s? My money is in the 90’s.

Here are the highlights of a fantastic line up:

Foster e Rocco Sangiovese Rosé 2009 - a fantastic pink number for the upcoming Spring Carnival; soft in colour with fragrant palate that is both dry and refreshing.

Punch Berry’s Creek Vineyard 2008 Noble Riesling – low alcohol makes this wine not only a great drop with season tropical fruit, but also as an aperitif with heaps of zingy acid.

Luke Lambert Heathcote Reserve Nebbiolo 2007 – a super drop with gorgeous notes of Nebbiolo characteristics coming through and at Barolo alcohol levels – 13.5%v/v, not the Australian levels.

Luke Lambert Heathcote Reserve Syrah 2007 – layered with liquorice and super firm tannins, this wine will definitely demand time and a decanter when you open her up (12.5%v/v).

Syrahmi ‘Maelstrom’ Heathcote Shiraz 2008 – ripe red fruit alongside a whack of pepper and perfume; a great follow up to the 2007 ‘Don’.

Allies Tuerong Viognier Saone 2008 – a wine that is definitely a personal style rather than the big oily imitators of the Northern Rhone. There is still apricot, but with a more balanced palate with soft acid and lowish alcohol – 13.5%v/v.

Allies Heathcote Stone Axe Shiraz 2008 – an immense wine this, with deep garnet red and no over ripe fruit make this one of the standouts of the tasting. This spent 19 days on skin which ended up extracting a perfect amount of tannin to balance a very savoury palate.

Mayer Yarra Valley ‘The Doktor’ Pinot Noir 2008 – the standout wine for me; 100% whole bunch pressed wine displaying a very complex nose and palate with savoury spice and game already noticeable. And you know what Timo said about the wine, ‘...it works!!’ Yes it does!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Domaine René Engel Grands-Échezeaux Grand Cru 1996

A camel is a horse designed by committee’
Alec Issigonis

I know this probably doesn’t make sense, but I think it is apt, because this is not just a Pinot Noir; it is a Grand Cru from a stellar vintage that just happened to find its way in to my glass.

A magic wine! The Domaine René Engel Grands-Échezeaux Grand Cru 1996 colour is still hanging around with a bit of dirtiness about it. Toffee and caramel are all over the nose suggesting that the wine has long said goodbye to its primary fruit stage. The palate shows plenty of development with cedar, cinnamon, tart cranberry and morello cherry, almost like a fruit tart actually.

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

Drink till 2012
Drink with grilled quail
Cork $$$$ 13%v/v

Monday, September 21, 2009

Georg Breuer Terra Montosa Rheinghau Riesling 2007

Plenty to like about this wine. Straw appearance with river stones coming through on the nose – very mineral. The longer in the glass a faint hint of lime cordial was also noticed. The palate is very lean and dry with acid being the dominant attribute with lime again being noticed at the end.

We had this with some pan seared Rockling over dinner, but I opened this at lunch and had a wee glass with some twice cooked eggs, or slow cooked eggs and it was a dead-set Susan match.

Great balance, super length with layers of complexity.

Drink till 2014
Drink with slow cooked eggs or sushi
Quality cork $35 12%v/v

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Season of Soup - Broccoli soup with Torrent Bay Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2008

All you need to do is boil the broccoli, strain out to another pot. Add the water the broccoli was cooked in while blitzing. Make sure you don’t have it too thick – you don’t want to be chewing it now do you! Add salt to taste. Simple hey?

Now the wine. A lot of people say that you cannot match wine to food that is high in sulphur. These are probably the same people who also say you cannot match food with Sauvignon Blanc. These two points may hold merit, but I am going to rock the boat and say that two wrongs make a right with this one! Broccoli soup with Torrent Bay Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2008.

Located on the northern tip of the south island just west of the capital of Sauvignon, Marlborough. This wine has a very light colour to it, bone straw will do. The nose has very definite hay aromas followed by stone fruits – nectarine. The mouth is similar with grassy flavours, big acid then more stone fruit to follow. After about ten minutes a sweeter feel of passionfruit coming through.

This match is a no-brainer, but not a Susan people!

Torrent Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Drink now
Screwcap $18 12% v/v

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yarra Burn Yarra Valley Pinot Noir Chardonnay Rosé 2004

Spring Carnival is in the air here in Melbourne so it is the time of the year to think about accessories; comfy shoes for the girls so they are easy to carry at day’s end, new pick up lines for the boys and pink stuff in the way of refreshments. I know that Crown Lager is the preferred choice amongst most men, but Sparkling wine or Champagne is a dead-set must for this time of year, and the Yarra Burn Pinot Noir Chardonnay Rosé 2004 from the Yarra Valley is as good a wine for $20 you will get right now.

Combining two of my favourite things, Sparkling wine and Rosé, the 2004 Yarra Burn has a very peachy pink colour to it with not the best bead, but a bead that hangs in there for a while. There is strawberry straight away with a bit of funk the longer in the glass. In the mouth is very simple, strawberry up front and strawberry at the end, but hey, this wine is what it is, and at this time of the year will be a definite crowd pleaser.

Drink now
Drink with strawberries and cream and a form guide
Diam $20 (Dan’s) 12.5% a/v

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

By Farr Geelong Shiraz 2007

‘I pictured a rainbow
You held in your hands
I had flashes, but you saw the plan
I wandered out in the world for years
While you just stayed in your room
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon!
The whole of the moon!’
'The Whole of the Moon’ – The Waterboys

There, that’s done with then hey. But enough about silver plates, let’s talk about something that doesn’t need a free ride; By Farr Geelong Shiraz 2007.

A deep garnet red with an almost inky purple hue – this wine spent heaps on skins I reckon. The nose has plenty going on; red liquorice and sour cherry, very redolent to an Antinori Tignanello, and plenty of spice, pepper and minerality, typical of cool climate Shiraz. In the mouth there is more sour cherry with a great layered fleshy finish of chocolate cherry ripe, but not ripe ripe. Super firm tannins and great acid length make this wine a monty for the cellar. On a side note this wine has 2% Viognier - slightly less than previous vintages.

Brilliant balance, brilliant length and super complexity. There is nothing about this wine being too high, too far, too soon – By Farr Shiraz 2007 is the Whole of the Moon!! And yes I still think this is Australia’s best Shiraz – Mucho fantastico!

Drink till 2020
Drink with Beef Bourguignon
Quality cork $55 (mailing list) 14% a/v

Monday, September 14, 2009

Raven Park Grampians Shiraz 2006

It was a pretty large weekend let me tell you, which pretty much revolved around High Street Northcote watching the Adelaide Crows capitulate against the ‘every-other-Tuesday’ Magpies from the Carringbush. Yes it was mighty large with my old mate Snowy on Saturday night, but much larger when I woke up yesterday morning with my head still thumping like Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tusk’.

All this thumping in my head reminded me of the last time I woke up with this ailment, yet it was not due to copious amounts of Cascade Pale Ale, but by one bottle of wine shared with Erin - the Raven Park Grampians Shiraz 2006.

Now I know that ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’, but in all due respect, the Raven Park Shiraz is not flash. From the very first whiff of this wine I knew that there had been quite a lot of tinkering to it with vanilla, coconut, charcoal, preserved meat and stewed fruit coming through.

The 2006 vintage in the Grampians was a hot one, which pretty much was the theme for much of Victoria. I have done a bit of research on the 2006 vintage and have not been able to come across any records of smoke taint to fruit, yet in mid February, fires spread from Halls Gap in western Victoria to Anaki just west of Geelong. I am not sure if Raven Park usually use American oak with their Shiraz, but what I do know is that American oak can be used to mask smoke taint.
The organic compound Vanillin is found in American oak and is sometimes used as a flavouring agent in foods, beverages and pharmaceuticals. I am not saying this was the culprit to my headache, just stating a fact. What probably caused my headache were the additions of acids, SO2, and other preservatives to get this wine up to scratch. The palate was very similar to the nose with more vanilla and a real smack of sweet coconut.

Volatile chemicals cause thumping in the head, no doubt about it, and when they come in a 750mL bottle of wine, well like I said, ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’.

Little balance, complexity and length with too much weight from the oak, charcoal and vanilla.

Drink with BBQ sausages
Drink now
Screwcap $10 13.5% a/v

Friday, September 11, 2009

Spirituality and Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier

Spirituality is important in our busy modern world. With over 6 billion people crammed on to this rock, we all need to have our quiet time of peace and reflection. I take my lead from the Wino-sapien and share with you three items that are currently stabilising my inner peace.

How to see yourself as you really are – His Holiness, Dalai Lama; this is something I picked up last year when my career was heading south, with one passage having very real meaning:
‘A person whose mind is distracted dwells between the fangs of afflictive emotions.’

This is a nice segue for Hurry up and Meditate – David Michie; a very user friendly book to the art of blocking out all the shit and focusing on all that is good:
‘Once we accept that body and mind form a systemic whole, the idea of focusing all our attention on only one part of the system - the body – while excluding the other – the mind - seems more than just a little crazy.’

This leads us to my Clonakilla allocation that arrived yesterday – peace and harmony people!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Season of Stout - Mountain Goat 'Surefoot' Stout

This is a man’s stout baby. Or if you are a woman, knock yourself out too. This is just a brilliant drop.

Definitely one of the leaders of the pack when it comes to independent brewers, Mountain Goat literally started in a back yard back in the grungy early 90’s to now being available all over Oz, and winning heaps of gongs along the way.

The ‘Surefoot’ stout is an ideal winter stout, be it cold or room temperature (the Goat men recommend at about 8°C). In the glass the stout is a very black black, if there can be a black like that, with a smooth caramel head. The nose gives off a crisp coffee caramel whiff with a more toffee whiff when a bit warmer. The mouth is layered with more coffee and toffee, bitter chocolate and liquorice, with the liquorice really coming out as it warms up. Super stuff this one, no doubt about it!!

I would without doubt recommend heading to the ‘Goat Bar’ on a Friday evening or a tour of the brewery on a Wednesday night (bookings required with groups +4). Ya gotta love The Goat.

Drink now
Drink with Beef and Guinness pie - a good one can be found at 'The Spencer Hotel' on Spencer Street, West Melbourne
about $20 a six pack 5% a/v

Mountain Goar Brewery, Corner North and Clark Streets Richmond

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The La Luna e I Falò Barbera D’Asti DOC Superiore 2006, Piedmont Italy

Barbera is not a wine that has neither the consumer’s imagination nor their palate. This wine will go a long way in capturing both I reckon. The La Luna e I Falò Barbera D’Asti DOC Superiore 2006 ,which simply translates to the bonfire under the moon ; yet another mouthful I’m blogging about.

I came across this at Mediterranean Wholesalers on Sydney Road Brunswick a month or so ago and was blown away by its depth, and at only $23, have been blown away by it three times since!

The growing season in the north west of Italy in 2006 was near perfect, with a lot of producers having major expectations on their wines and their cellaring prospects. Outstanding fruit quality was achieved with grapes coming in with optimum ripeness with ideal sugar levels.

The La Luna displays a very deep garnet colour with a pinkish/red hue. The nose has great woven layers of oak (Slovenian oak used for this wine), dark red fruits and a good hit of brambly cherry. In the mouth there is a quick hit of acid that buries much of the primary fruit, so decanting will surely help this one. After a while there is an herbal and floral feel about it, with violets and bay leaf coming through. After three hours morello cherry was the primary flavour, and a flavour that was in gorgeous balance with fine grainy tannins.

Super balance, huge length and great complexity; a really good wine this one.

Drink with Coq au vin pie
Drink till 2015
Quality cork $23 14% a/v

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hellenic Republic 'Mesimeriano', Lygon Street Brunswick

Some of you know that my young son Henry is not sleeping that well right now, so that means his dad doesn’t either. This means we now need a more structured regime when it comes to afternoon naps. We have got in to the habit on a Saturday lately of heading out for a walk at about 4ish so he can nod off for a bit.

Now at this time of the day it is too late for a coffee, so we keep walking past ‘A Minor Place’ on Albion Street. On the other hand it is too early for a glass of something something at ‘Mr. Wilkinson’, ‘The Alderman’ or next door to the new 'Bar Idda'.

So it is off to ‘Hellenic Republic’ at the northern end of Lygon (which is a handy five minute walk from my place) for the Hellenic Republic 'Mesimeriano'.

As a restaurant, I have visited Hellenic Republic about four times, with mixed opinions being had over theses visits. Yet it is the mid afternoon mezze the Republic offers that has seen me struggle with my son’s pram through those bloody great big heavy front doors – sorry George.

For the last two weekends I have headed down there for a simple and tasty late afternoon sup of Taramasolata and pita, a beer for me, lemonade for Imogen and a sleep for Henry. The menu on offer is small due to preparation and changeover for the dinner service.

The menu comprises about 15 savoury items and six sweet ones, with my favourite sardines not being a part of this – sigh!
What I really like though is the way the staff are comfortable in their surroundings while they are eating their staff dinners, or staffies as it is known in the industry. On my first ‘Mesimeriano’ visit, the staff on their break were dishing up meat and vegetarian lasagne, to which I asked what it was, and was then invited to join them. This is hospitality! I politely refused on the grounds it would bring back bad memories of past ‘staffies’ and resumed chowing down on my Taramasolata and Mythos beer.

I am not going to give out a Birk for the ‘Hellenic Republic Mesimeriano’ because all it is a little respite for me and Henry on a Saturday afternoon where he can sleep and I can gaze out on Lygon sipping my beer. See you on the weekend I guess!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fathers Day

Proverbs, 17:6

Don’t worry, I’m not getting all religious on you now.

Yesterday was father’s day across Australia, with most of us having a sleep in followed by bacon and eggs, paper and strong coffee.

One of my three presents (all being books on food) was ‘Fat’, a great book on that misunderstood ingredient by Jennifer McLagen, where on page three I had my own Jerry McGuire moment with her first three words being, ‘I love Fat...’. What a dame hey!!

With this as ammo, I headed off to the Queen Victoria markets with Henry in tow in search of the biggest Rib eye I could find, and I did.

Dusting off the BBQ, I started slow roasting at about 4.30pm, at which time I also decanted the wine of choice for the night, the Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Hunter Valley Shiraz 2001. What a wine hey!! Massive deep red colour with a pinkish hue. On the nose there was immense cigar box aroma with a little bit of sweet plum and leather after about two hours in the decanter. In the mouth were still very firm tannins and gorgeous acid with savoury herbs and liquorice in the glass – almost Barolo like actually. Absolutely divine! Brilliant balance, huge length and wonderfully complex with super layered structure. Just faultless really with typical Hunter woft. Mucho Fantastico!!

It’s a shame that we didn’t save any wine, cos’ there is still more than half of the Rib eye (cooked rare medium rare)left; looks like beef sandwiches all round for the next week – big sigh!!!

Drink till 2031
Drink with above Rib eye
Quality cork 13.5% $90

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Season of Soup - French Onion and Pichot Domaine Coteau de la Biche Vouvray Moelleux 2002

With each new day dawning to blue sky in cosmopolitan Brunswick, my daughter Imogen asks me if spring is now over and is summer coming sooo quickly. Well my dear, I am sorry to say this is Melbourne, home of the ‘G’, the upside down river and those glorious four seasons in one day....

‘.... lying in the depths of your imagination, Worlds above
and worlds below, the sunshine’s on the black clouds hanging
over the domain.
Even when you’re feeling warm, the temperature could drop away
Like four seasons in one day......’

'Four Seasons In One Day'
Crowded House

So with one eye on a beach towel and the other on an umbrella, we in Melbourne are still in the throes of winter, which brings me to soup. But this is no ordinary ‘Season of Soup’ entry. Today is not only our favourite soup (Erin and me), but a Susan match that I reckon is one of the best!

French Onion Soup with Pichot Domaine Coteau de la Biche Vouvray Moelleux 2002 – a big mouthful, but a good one.

French onion soup is pretty much that, onions and lots of them!!!! This is sort of like risotto; lots of looking and lots of stirring. The key element to a good French Onion soup is making sure the pot and onions brown. So here is my French Onion soup.

· brown onions, plenty of them (14 serves four)
· olive oil
· flour, just a pinch
· Gruyere cheese
· butter, optional though
· salt to taste
· crusty bread
· water
· swimming goggles

After cutting up the multitude of onions, add a good glug of oil to the pot and heat. Add onions and add another glug of oil over the onions. Let it sit for a while on heat with the occasional stir. Once there is an obvious reduction in volume or the pot, add butter and season to taste. Keep stirring!! After a while the pot will start to brown over in the hot spots – this is good. Keep stirring.

Once you have the contents a good brown, add flour and stir for another five minutes. This thickens the contents of the pot so it is easier to reduce evenly. Add water to cover entire volume and add a few small cubes of Gruyere for a creamy edge. Reduce to a good ratio of onion and water. Grate some Gruyere over some bread and grill to your liking.

It is important to let the soup sit for a while so you don’t burn your tongue – this bugger is super hot just out of the pot.

Now the wine. Just to let you know that Vouvray is Chenin Blanc. Now Chenin Blanc in Australia gets a bad rap I reckon. Why you ask? Because we don’t get it; that’s at both levels – producing and drinking.

The very best Chenin Blanc’s come out of the Loire Valley in France. Now before you start thinking that I am banging on about French wines and how they are superior to ours (well yes), I’ll just remind everyone that in France they can only grow certain fruit in certain areas, unlike here where we can bloody grow anything any-bloody-where.

So back to the Loire Valley, and in particular to a little town called Vouvray. You punters out there may know this name from a couple of years ago when a nag by the same name was favourite in a couple of group 1 races. If you are like me and put a few bucks on it and are cursing the sound of the name ‘Vouvray’ (cos’ the mongrel didn’t salute once), I am sorry for bringing back bad memories.

Vouvray is situated on the Loire River just west of Tours in central France where Chenin Blanc is King. Here there are three styles, sec, demi-sec and Moelleux; dry, semi dry and Moelleux which is the sweetest of the three and by far the most sought after.

Moelleux wines can have up to 500 grams/litre of residual sugar in them, making them syrupy sweet and perfect with rich food such as Foire Gras.

This Pichot Moelleux has only 94 grams/litre of residual sugar, but this by no means makes it a light weight in this style. The colour is a beautiful light golden/straw with a yellowish hue coming through. The nose is super sweet with candied orange and saffron. Decanting this wine will benefit. After a while in the glass and decanter, this wine develops richness similar to Sauternes that produces a very warming mouth feel with glycerol, honey and marmalade coming through.

The reason I have given this combo the ‘Susan’ is that I reckon this pairing has got equal measure of richness – both develop a natural viscosity with time – and natural sweetness from the caramelised onions and candied orange in the wine. Ohh I do love it!!

Drink till 2032
Quality cork (blackened at tip is an indication that it spent time in underground cave)
$55 12.5% a/v

Friday, September 4, 2009

De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2006 & 1996, Riverina NSW

Q. what’s brown and sticky?
A. De Bortoli Noble One 1996
Q. what’s pale gold and sticky?
A. De Bortoli Noble One 2006

I really do love Botrytis wine, and De Bortoli knows how to get it right. The 2006 example is the best one I have tasted since the 1996 (still have two bottles left). A seamless example of this style with stewed peach and marmalade primary to the nose and palate. The longer in the mouth comes that glycerol feeling which warms up at the end with honey and a lick of spice for good measure.

The 1996 from my notes from about two months show the nose being a massive hit of honey and molasses with mouth following suit plus a very generous lick of Asian spice

Great balances, wonderful length with heaps of complexity – super stuff these two.

Drink till 2022
Drink with caramelised pear tart
Screwcap $56 (750mL) 10% a/v

Drink now
Drink with warm pecan pie – a Susan no-brainer!
Quality cork $? 11.5% a/v

Fraser Gallop Estate Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2007

I was having coffee this morning with a friend at a local cafe, with the conversation being about this and that; kids and kindy, the weather and whether the celebrity ‘Master Chef’ will work? As per usual, the conversation turned to wine, where my friend noted that I am far too generous with my ratings, especially the mucho fantasticos, and he has a point, I am far too generous.

So, as of today, I will now rate wine out of 100 with the mucho fantastico going to wine 97+. Here we go then.

Fraser Gallop Estate Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2007. A good year out west, with wind during flowering the biggest issue during the growing season I have been told. The colour is very dense with a purplish inky hue. On the nose is a very distinctive cough drop aroma – the old cherry style one. In the mouth there clean acid and good firm tannins up front with cherry and that cough drop flavour coming through at the end. If you have a decanter, use it with this wine cos’ it really does show a hell of lot more after about an hour with a more brambly fruit driven hit.

A good honest wine as Jack Dyer would say. Good balance, nice length and nice complexity

Drink till 2013
Drink with lamb burger
Screwcap $14 14.5% a/v

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Carrick Central Otago Pinot Noir 2005

Yes, I am a Mucho Fantastico slut, yeah but what are you going to do! We have all read the quote about life being too short to drink bad wine*. This is true, and I guess I have followed that mantra with most of my posts so far.

So, we know that I am a Mucho Fantastico slut, and the next wine to gain this moniker is the Carrick Central Otago 2005 Pinot Noir. While working at Vue de monde I reckon I suggested this wine, the 2002 and 2003 vintages, probably every second service. This is always a very well made wine.

To look at it you would not pick it as a Pinot Noir. Very dense red, almost blood red. The nose is very busy with game and funk with a little bit of red fruit, not ripe, but just there tingling the nose. The longer in the decanter a more bacon fat itch comes through. Like the nose, there is a lot happening in the mouth with more secondary flavours coming through. The length is long with firm tannins still hanging around, and those secondary flavours being spice – cassia bark and cinnamon noticeable.

Just a great wine with huge complexity and length. Mucho fantastico again!

Drink with BBQ quail
Drink till 2015
Quality cork $40 (mailing list 2007) 13.5% a/v

*I was having a think about this comment, and have decided to rephrase down here; there is no such thing as a bad wine, but only wine that you like, anyone who says such and such wine is bad, is either too caught up in their lofty opinion or has far too much time on their hands (or drinks Barossa Pinot Noir!).


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Giaconda Warner Vineyard Beechworth Shiraz 2006

Here comes johnny yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And the flesh machineHes gonna do another strip tease.
Hey man, whered ya get that lotion?
Ive been hurting since Ive bought the gimmick
About something called love
Yeah, something called love.
Well, thats like hypnotizing chickens.
Well, Im just a modern guy Of course,
Ive had it in the ear before.
I have a lust for life
cause of a lust for life....’

Iggy Pop – ‘Lust for life’

As if you didn’t know that!

The funny thing is that just as I was serving dinner and having another sip of this fine wine, my iPod shuffle started screaming this little gem out, and I thought ‘yep, spot on’ – who knows. What we do know is that this blog has a new wine of the year. Giaconda Warner Vineyard Beechworth Shiraz 2006. Mucho Fantastico!!!!

When the 2006 vintage mailing list went out on November 1 2006 I was in like a flash nabbing a six pack of both Chardonnay and Shiraz. The worst thing about this is you have to pay right then to wait for your wine to be delivered more than 12 months later – the wait was excruciating I tell ya.

Beechworth in 2006 was a very good year for grape growing with the start of the season being text book stuff. It was only toward the end when January and February heat started messing up the berry development. All in all though, 2006 produced some super stuff up there.

As I said before, the wait for this wine was agonising, so as soon as I got my delivery I opened up the boxes, fawned over the bottles for a few minutes and packed them straight off to the cellar. Boring you say – yep!

Fast forward to two weeks ago and I needed something nice to drink; I wanted something nice to drink. The 2006 Giaconda Shiraz was right there – no brainer.

The colour of this wine is very dense with an almost blackish purple hue to it. As I said, this is the best wine I have had this year (no doubt that will change again!), with the nose being a great mix a graphite and brambly fruit up front, but after about an hour in the decanter was showing more of a cured meat aroma, like a charcuterie plate, with black pepper also bobbing its head up. In the mouth was all elegance with super fine firm tannins and acid that pulls the flavours through the longer in the glass and decanter. With only 13.5% a/v, this wine has plenty of life left in it. Pure joy this one.

If anyone knows what the lyrics mean in the song, let me know. All I know is that I have five bottles left of this bad boy and really don’t know why I shouldn’t have another tonight.
beautiful balance, beautiful length and wonderful complexity – genuine lust!

Drink till 2030
Drink with rare rib eye beef
Screwcap $68 (mailing list two years ago)