Star drinking

Martin Field 2009-04-13T05:48:31+00:000000003130200904 Wine Tasting

by Martin Field
Ardbeg Single Malt Scotch Whisky 10 Years Old – seen for $80 and more – *****
Isle of Islay, Scotland. In his book, Whisky, James Ross relates that as an advertising gimmick in the late 19th century, the Pattison Brothers trained “hundreds of parrots…to cry out ‘Drink Pattison’s whisky.’” Apparently with great success. Jump to the early 21st century, where the blurb on the packaging of the Ardbeg, modestly quotes whisky expert Jim Murray: “Unquestionably the greatest distillery to be found on earth…” With a rave like that, you don’t need parrots.
The whisky is pale in colour, intensely smoky and malty on the nose. The palate hits you (to paraphrase a well-used cliché) like a diamond claymore in a silken scabbard. Flavours are peaty, complex, and full, with seaweed, iodine, a smidgin of sweetness, and smoky, mocha-like edges. Alcoholic warmth (46%) is upfront – a splash of water will soften that a little and also bring out phenolic, estery aromatics.
Malamatina Retsina – non-vintage – I paid $12.99 for a two litre bottle – **$
Thessaloniki, Greece. Retsina has had a bit of bad press over the years in Australia. Admittedly, some of the Oz produced versions smelt a tad of the turps bottle, but times have changed. This one is a delightful dry white, displaying a grapey bouquet with the faintest fragrance of Aleppo pine resin. The palate is light, fresh, and nicely balanced, with medium acidity. Drink well chilled with starters. I decant the two-litre bottle into recycled screwtopped bottles. Top value for money – equal to approximately $4.88 the 750ml bottle.
Hungerford Hill Hunter Valley Semillon 2008 – up to $25 – ***
Fruity nose with hints of lemon. The palate is quite dry, fresh, and tangy, with plenty of mouth-watering, food suiting acidity. Will do well as an aperitif.

Hanging Rock the Jim Jim RS 50 Riesling 2008 – around $25 – ***
Macedon, Victoria. The RS in the name indicates that this light (9.5% alcohol) white retains 50 grams per litre of residual sugar. The nose is fragrant and grapey with elements of apple pie. Expected sweetness on the palate is not overwhelming, supported as it is by well-balanced crispness at the finish. Serve with an aged cheddar.
Delatite Catherine Gewürztraminer 2008 375ml – up to $22 – ***
Mansfield, Victoria. A late picked sweet white with 95 grams per litre residual sugar. It shows a perfume of rose petals and honey in the bouquet. The palate displays sweet apple and Turkish Delight, finishing with acidity reminiscent of lime marmalade.
Hardys The Gamble Chardonnay/Pinot Gris 2008 – up to $17 – **
South Australia. Dried pears and tropical fruits are evident in the bouquet. The palate is full-bodied, displaying ripe peaches and medium acidity. Serve with entrées.
Gapsted King Valley Ballerina Canopy Durif 2006 – up to $30 – ***
Deep crimson. Heady aromas of blackberry conserve, blood plums and a hint of vanilla. A substantial style, showing medium tannic astringency with stacks of ripe fruit and spicy dark fruitcake flavours.
Fox Creek Vixen Sparkling– up to $22 – ***
A blend of shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. Dark red with a thick purple foam. Fruits of the forest nose shows a touch of oakiness. Delicious ripe berries are supported by a mouthfeel that is rich and creamy, leading to a not quite dry finish.
Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet/Shiraz 2006 – up to $60 – ****
Year in, year out, this wine remains one of my all-time favourite Australian reds – this vintage maintains the quality. Dense to opaque in appearance. The nose is complex, with blueberries, tobacco, cherry liqueur, and leather. The palate is solid, savoury, and chewy, with hints of plums, blackcurrants, liquorice allsorts, and a slight earthiness. Will cellar happily to at least 2020.
Rating system
***** – outstanding
**** – classy
*** – first-rate
** – good stuff
* – commercial
$ – value for money
Prices in Australian dollars

: Wine