Archive for category ‘Wine’

Top shelf drinking

Posted by Martin Field on 17 August 2012 in Wine Tasting

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Brut 2010 – $18 – 88/100. Pinot noir and chardonnay blend. Bright gold in the glass with a medium leisurely bead. Its nose shows floral notes and a hint of lemon. Flavours on the lively palate reminded me of strawberry shortcake, the fruitiness offset by clean acidity. A medium dry finish suggests entrée accompaniment.

Waipara Hills Riesling 2011 – $21 – 88/100. Waipara Valley, New Zealand. Greeny gold hues in the glass. Aromatic, with a hint of lime marmalade on the nose, which reminded me of “Noble” styles. The lime theme continues on the palate along with aspects of dried apples. A smooth version of the varietal that sits somewhere between medium dry and not quite sweet. Try with a cheese platter.

Tyrrell’s Moon Mountain Chardonnay 2011 – $18 – 91/100. Hunter Valley, New South Wales. This wine has an immediately attractive bouquet of new season apricots over a background of toasty French oak. The palate is full and flavoursome with suggestions of nectarine and Granny Smith apple. Careful oak influence supports rather than dominates the wine. A style for lighter main courses. Read the rest of this entry

Beyond natural wines: Domaine Lisson in Languedoc. Help!

Posted by Mike Tommasi on 27 June 2012 in Wine

About 10 years ago I brought winemaker and blogger Iris Rutz of Domaine Lisson from the wild hills of the Languedoc to the Slow Food fair in Turin, where I presented a workshop on what I then called “wild wines” from France. It sounds better in French: vins sauvages. I wanted to convey that these were indeed natural wines, while avoiding the pitfalls of the “natural wine movement”: the sectarian connotations of this fractured movement, the frequent correlation of “natural” with “drink young”, and the strange tastes of many natural wines.

lisson

The vines of Domaine Lisson, Languedoc

Iris Rutz makes impeccably clean long aging complex wines using traditional methods in the vineyard, with sulfur and, in very difficult years, some copper. In the cellar she uses minimum sulfite levels (these are marked exactly on the labels), with no filtering or fining and 18 months of barrel aging. Another winery that works its wines with a light hand, and yet the wines age beautifully, is Dupéré Barrera in the hills of coastal Provence. They also participated in the Turin workshop.

Iris Rutz adds two other aspects to her winemaking that, in my judgment, truly qualify her for the “wild” label.

Read the rest of this entry

An Australian fondue dinner party – 1963

Posted by Martin Field on 8 June 2012 in Food and Wine

I came across this charming picture in a book I bought for two dollars at an opshop. The book, Australia, was published in 1964, so I assume that the pics date from the previous year.

A feast in 1963

Note the guests swanky clothes. And awaiting them on the table is a fondue pot, bread and cheese and a crayfish. To accompany, two bottles of Penfolds sherry, and one each of Penfolds Dalwood Claret, Dalwood “Burgundy” and Dalwood Riesling. Needless to say the glasses are crystal.

The fondue evening and the dinner party are both on the endangered species list nowadays but they were great fun in their heyday.

Australia, published 1964, by Oswald Ziegler Publications, Pty. Ltd. Sydney Australia.

Penfolds Koonunga Hill – An historical perspective

Posted by Martin Field on 17 May 2012 in Wine

This article is by occasional contributor Geoff Parker – Geoff looks at the history of a well-known Australian wine and seeks the origin of the name on the label.

A value for money, commemorative release

Some years ago, the local bottle shop in Blackburn had on sale a magnum of Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet 2004, for the good price of $21. It was called Koonunga Hill (Special Reserve) Claret. The entire bottle was covered in red, and the distinctive appearance commemorated the passing of thirty years of the line. The first release was the 1976 vintage which was released in 1978. I bought the magnum and reflected, “Where have the thirty years gone?”

There was a bottle of the ‘76 in my cellar at this time, but somehow it got included in a parcel for auction at Langton’s and ultimately realized $25. I should have kept it. With the magnum in my hand and thinking back to the label of the ‘76, it struck me that I’d purchased every vintage in between, and for good reason.

Penfolds Koonunga Cabernet 2010

Koonunga Hill was always a reliable, very affordable, quality red that you could freely splash about after a game of golf, or when neighbours dropped in, or when a pizza at the local Italian was a good idea. But treating it in this way was probably a little too casual, particularly during the early years, for as Len Evans said of the first release in the Wine and Spirit Buying Guide of June 1978:

“Koonunga Hill is “…very big on the palate (with) an underlying complexity which I find most appealing…reminiscent of the big Penfolds reds of the 1960s.”

He also said in this publication that the first Koonunga Hill was crafted from fruit from the Koonunga Hill vineyard in the Barossa Valley, and from fruit sourced from Coonawarra and Magill. Read the rest of this entry

Top shelf drinking

Posted by Martin Field on 10 May 2012 in Wine Tasting

Campbells Classic Rutherglen Muscat – 500ml $44 – 92/100. Shows clear golden syrup hues – a quick swirl in the glass leaves lovely ‘legs’. Bouquet of aged alcohol, raisins and ‘roll your own’ tobacco. Goluptious palate of dark fruitcake, leather, and aged wood. A superb after dinner treat.

d’Arenberg Dadd Sparkling – $28 – 87/100. Adelaide Hills, South Australia. Chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier blend. Pale lemon colour, small slow bead. Light bouquet of warm bread rolls and lemon peel. Dry in the mouth, medium bodied with toasty aspects, dried pears and a crisp citric finish.

Juniper Crossing Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – $20 – 86/100. Margaret River, Western Australia. Nose of lemon grass and tomato leaf. Fresh vigorous palate, with a lychee character that reminds me more of sauvignon than semillon fruit.

The Lane Gathering Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2009 – $35 – 89/100. Adelaide Hills, South Australia. Herbal nose of lime and a hint of green apple. Smooth, mouth-filling palate with some more of the Granny Smith apple, supported by firm, lemon acidity.

Penfolds Bin 51 Riesling 2011 – $33 – 91/100. Eden Valley, South Australia. Mineral nose with delicate citrus blossoms. Classic varietal palate somehow reminds me of Rose’s Lime Marmalade – without the sugar. This white has a long aftertaste with beautifully balanced, lip-smacking acidity.

Shaw + Smith Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2010 – $48 – 90/100. Pale crimson. Heady rose water and strawberry conserve nose. The light colour belies a solid palate stacked with red berry flavours, subdued oak and subtle tannins. Illusions of sweetness from the fruit taper off into a satisfying firm and dry finish.

Angove McClaren Vale Shiraz 2010 – $18 – 87/100. Deep red hues. Warm (14.5% alcohol) and ripe blackberries on the nose. Generous palate of plums, summer berries and mild vanilla oak. Main course style for sure.

Blackjack Major’s Line Shiraz 2009 – $25 – 90/100. Bendigo, Victoria. Peppery fruity nose with a hint of anise. Pleasing intensity of flavours on the palate with sub-strata of liquorice and a hint of dark chocolate.

Zema Estate Cluny Cabernet Merlot 2008 – $26 – 89/100. Coonawarra, South Australia. Dark ruby colour. Lifted nose of mulberries and blueberries. Chewy, dry palate shows more concentrated blueberry character, along with an olive savouriness, the whole ably supported by balanced oak.

Sierra Nevada Stout 355ml stubbie – 6-pack $24 plus – 90/100. California, USA. Delicious roast coffee hints on the nose. Silky smooth and thick in the mouth, showing earthy mocha character and mild bitterness towards the finish. Though a little sweeter, this is right up there with my favourite, Coopers Stout.

Ratings

95+ – Trophy

90+ – Outstanding

85+ – Fine drinking

80+ – Good stuff

75+ – Commercial drop

Prices in Australian dollars.

Vietnam travels – Hanoi

Posted by Martin Field on 10 May 2012 in Wine Travel

Old Quarter – Hanoi

A short flight with Vietnam Airlines takes us from Hue to Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam.

Compared to hot and steamy Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi in mid-February is cold, overcast and drizzly – one morning it gets down to 11 degrees C and we’re still cold, even wearing four layers of clothing. Other Australians in the Hanoi cold are identifiable by their outfits of shorts, T-shirts and thongs.

Our hotel is in the Old Quarter and the surrounding area is more crowded and has more dangerous traffic than Ho Chi Minh City – which is saying something. It is impossible to walk directly along any footpath or roadside due to myriad motorcycles and motor scooters.

Sweatshop counterfeits?

Wall-to-wall tiny shops line the footpaths, selling clothes, footwear, camping gear, electronics – you name it. There is no noticeable copyright law in Vietnam so many of them stock well-known brand name products, cheap. A local tells us the goods are often sourced from the same sweatshops that the big brand names use.

And there is even a relic of French colonialism as on the street corners old ladies sell baguettes by the dozen.

Fresh baguettes

In the shopping areas, it is surprising to see that Australia’s ANZ Bank supplies most of the ATMs. Read the rest of this entry

USA Holiday Food Report – another view

Posted by Martin Field on 18 March 2012 in Food and Wine

Joe Fogarty, writing from Chicago. takes exception to Peter Howard’s USA Holiday Report.

I’m sorry – but only a little – to read of Chef Peter Howard‘s disappointment with the food in the U.S. Bad flavour combinations in Italian dishes? Dumping on Rachael Ray? Either he’s not telling us about the very wonderful meals he had during FIVE weeks of travel here, or he wasn’t trying very hard to find them.

No doubt, I could spend five weeks in Australia and find disappointment with the food. Are there no popular food show personalities on TV in Australia offering their twist on the vegemite sandwich?

And you know, a peanut butter, bacon and tomato sandwich sounds like something that might be pretty good, at least to an American palate. You know, the palate non-American foodies like to dismiss as unrefined?

And speaking of critics and criticism, I thought you’d find interesting the food blogosphere kerfuffle that happened here last week, since it involves Italian food of the kind that Howard’s description might fit.

Eighty-five year old Marilyn Hagerty writes the “Eat Beat” column for the Grand Forks Herald. Grand Forks is in North Dakota, a windswept town of about 70,000 souls on the prairie of the Upper Midwest. No one would consider it a culinary Mecca.

Recently, an Olive Garden restaurant opened there and Ms. Hagerty offered her impressions in this review: Long-awaited Olive Garden receives warm welcome.

(Background: The Olive Garden is a chain restaurant ubiquitous in the U.S.. For some Americans, especially in small and medium sized cities – and in lots of suburbs – it is the only Italian restaurant choice.)

Hagerty’s very earnest review of the restaurant went viral and lots of snarkologists were quick to make fun of it.

But then some people put Hagerty’s review in context. A fabulous sportswriter, Joe Posnanski, had this beautifully-written take on her review – The Olive Garden – and the discussion it engendered.

Hagerty made the national news. She did TV interviews. She is as delightful and forthright and sweet as you would expect an 85 year old five columns-a-week writer to be. And she’s no rube, either.

The funny thing is, it’s simply a report about the restaurant itself and the experience of eating there – except for the food.

A former editor of hers related that when Hagerty writes about the paint on the wall and the flower arrangements, you know the food isn’t very good.

It’s a subtle approach. Maybe food critics could take a lesson!

I invite Chef Howard to Chicago for a culinary exploration filled with interesting flavours, small portions, no Rachael Ray – and a trip to the Olive Garden, just for fun.

IFAQS – Infrequently asked questions

Posted by Martin Field on 16 March 2012 in Wine

Astrid of Alphington writes, “Dear Martin, My dear old dad in his day had a great fondness for excellent shiraz and blends from the Coonawarra and pinots from the Yarra Valley. He has a huge collection of what was once beautiful wine from some top notch winemakers, including some limited edition magnums.

“The problem is, it has been badly stored in a hot, uninsulated sunroom for 10-20 years, and the time is coming when we are going to have to clear out his house.

“I am pessimistic about the state of the wine and am thinking we will have to give it a decent Christian burial in a skip. What do you think? Is it likely to be drinkable?”

Astrid, I have never thrown out an unopened bottle of wine in my life and nearly had a heart attack at the thought of your dad’s collection ending up in a skip.

Sure, some of the wine may be in poor condition but my bet is that most of it will be eminently drinkable and that a few of the bottles will be absolute gems.

So my advice is, first move the wine to a friendlier environment. Second, sample a bottle whenever the mood takes you and see what each wine has to say to you.

If you really want to bury or dump the wine let me know and I’ll fly down to Melbourne and “dump” it where it will do most good. My atheistic throat comes to mind.

Noshtalgia

Posted by Martin Field on 16 March 2012 in Food and Wine

Bubbles with ‘Pies

Mid-1970s, Geoff Parker and I were in the outer at Victoria Park, watching Collingwood (The ‘Pies) play an inferior team. (That is, most of them.) Footballing legend, Fabulous Phil Carman was, as usual, starring.

In those days, you could bring booze to the games and we did, lots.

This particular Saturday arvo, instead of 6-packs of Coopers Sparkling Ale and sick of the usual footy fare of cold meat pies, we took along an Esky full of goodies.

My memory is that among other delicacies we ate sandwiches of smoked salmon on wholemeal bread whilst sipping Lindemans Imperator Brut 1965, from flutes.

The hardened, beer-swilling denizens of the terraces looked on with amazement, but no blood was shed.

Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi – Part I

Posted by Martin Field on 16 March 2012 in Wine Travel

Early February 2012, we arrive in Ho Chi Minh City, a place we visited briefly in 2008.

Only 36 years have passed since the end of the Vietnam War, and, while we are not there as war tourists, we can’t ignore the evidence of that recent past.

For example, in the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City; in the nearby Cu Chi tunnels; in shops selling reproduction propaganda posters; in reafforestation projects still revegetating land recovering from Agent Orange defoliation.

Against that sombre background, we set out on a 10 day tour from hot and steamy Ho Chi Minh City (AKA Saigon), heading north to Hanoi.

8/2/12 – 9/2/12. Saigon is a mad house of traffic as usual.

At the Cu Chi Tunnels, some 40 km from Saigon, our Intrepid Travel guide, Son Le, (“Call me Sunny.”) tells us that a few of the passageways were widened – so that fat tourists can see where the Viet Cong lived and fought during the war.

Cu Chi tunnel entrance

I venture underground. The tunnel is narrow and as black as night. I have to stoop doubled over to proceed. Not normally claustrophobic, after about 10 metres I’m glad to get out. Read the rest of this entry