Archive for category ‘Wine’

Wine in Vietnam

Posted by Martin Field on 16 March 2012 in Wine Travel

On a visit to Vietnam in February 2012, a superficial look at wine lists shows wines from Australia, Argentina, South Africa, Chile, France, Italy and the US fairly well represented. Of the Australian labels, De Bortoli and Jacobs Creek are ubiquitous.

Prices I thought were uppish, which for a relatively poor country means that sales would mainly be to ex-pats and tourists.

I wonder about cellaring and the consequent condition of wine in a country of extreme temperature and tropical monsoons.

One young Argentinean cabernet we try is oxidised. A cheap Vietnamese white – Dalat – made from the cardinal grape is average to quaffable. I didn’t try the Dalat red, made from the same grape, with strawberries added.


Star Drinking

Posted by Martin Field on 16 March 2012 in Wine Tasting

Clover Hill Methode Traditionelle 2007 – up to $47 – 89/100. Tasmania. Chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier blend; three years on lees. Pale lemon hues, tiny bead. Nose of croissants and dried pears. Light dry palate shows limes and biscuity yeast, leading to a firm crisp finish.

Hickinbotham Pinot Gris 2011 – $18 – 86/100. Mornington Peninsula, Victoria. Generously fruity nose with white blossoms and Nashi pears. Initially soft in the mouth but with a backbone of sherbert-like acid and layers of autumnal apples.

Bleasdale Potts’ Catch Verdelho 2011 – $18 – 85/100. Langhorne Creek, South Australia. Lychees and fruit compote bouquet. Fruit salad verging on the tropical in the mouth with mild acidity at the finish.

Moss Wood Semillon 2011 – $30-ish – 90/100. Margaret River, Western Australia. Where Hunter Valley semillon can be steely and acid, this style is straight luscious. Rich and mouth-filling, it has a complexity of flavours ranging from lime pie to fresh picked dates – over a subtly integrated acid infrastructure.

De Bortoli Pinot Noir Rosé 2011 – $22 – 88/100. Yarra Valley, Victoria. Very pale russet hues. Pleasant nose of cranberries and cherries. Fresh and lively in the mouth with tangy strawberry notes and a light tannin texture. Excellent with a picnic lunch.

Whiz Bang Barossa Shiraz 2010 – $16 – 86/100. Ripe, warm (14.5% alcohol) summer berry nose. Plentiful sweet fruit in the mouth with softish tannins. A definite main course style.

Mount Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge Shiraz 2008 – $30 – 92/100. Grampians, Victoria. Upfront aromatics of mulberries and blackberries. Palate offers concentrated varietal fruit with a hint of eucalypt and clove-like spice. Finishes long and moreish.

Henry Weston’s Vintage Cider 2009 – 500ml – $7. Alcohol 8.2%. Golden hued, hint of onion-skin, slow persistent bubbles. Dry style with chewy texture and robust flavours of ripe Winesap apples. Great main course cider.

Brisbane Bitter – 375ml can – $2.50 and up. Retro (circa 1979 labelling) CUB release in bright red and yellow can. Alcohol 4.9%. A likeable and easily quaffable commercial beer with a nice hint of bitterness at the finish.


95-100 – Trophy

90+ – Outstanding

85+ – Fine drinking

80+ – Good stuff

75+ – Commercial drop

Prices in Australian dollars

USA Holiday Report

Posted by Martin Field on 6 January 2012 in Food and Wine

Peter Howard reports on his recent trip to the USA

Hi Martin. We are back from the land of oversized portions of mostly confused flavour combinations in dishes. God, have they put a whole new spin on traditional Italian dishes.

Oh well, we got back home and fell on a lamb and shiraz dinner, boy was that good, oh, and a cup of tea, a little luxury that they simply do not get.

I loved your vivid description of working in a restaurant, boy, did you nail it, and what a shame more people in our position don’t do it. I once heard a well known person who was of influence during the ‘80s and ‘90s describing to a novice how a restaurant kitchen worked.

She said that the chefs all stopped to work on one table. When I explained to her how wrong she was, she got herself into a real bind. I do not miss people like her at all.

As one person we met in America said – when talking about food writers, “What gives them the right to talk to us like we know nothing when they evidently know less, and talk down to us?”

I watched Rachael Ray (hottest food TV person in the USA) and co-host show us how to make a proper peanut butter, tomato and bacon sandwich – no wonder it doesn’t get any better.

We had two memorable meals in the five week holiday. One of them being the home cooked Christmas lunch by an old school mate of mine (we went to school together 53 years ago). Roasted whole organic turkey and the trimmings…wonderful.

PS What was startling in America was the diminished amount of Australian wines on shelves and wine lists – brand loyalty? And Californian wines…so expensive, but must say very good, by and large.

Star Drinking

Posted by Martin Field on 6 December 2011 in Wine Tasting

Angullong Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – $17 ˜˜- **.  Orange, New South Wales. Pungent lychee and kiwifruit nose. A fuller-flavoured style on the palate showing juicy fruitiness, a hint of fruit salad and dried pears with light citric acidity at the finish.

Scarborough Semillon 2011 – $20 ˜˜˜- ***. Pokolbin, New South Wales. Aromatic nose of hay and young melon along with a hint of lemon oil. Dry, tangy, citric palate with a lip-smacking finish. Fine aperitif. .

Frogmore Creek Fumé Blanc 2011 – $28 ˜˜˜- ***. Tasmanian sauvignon blanc. Herbal-edged nose with a hint of tomato leaf and passionfruit, underscored by biscuity notes from new and aged French oak. The palate is fresh and very dry with a good length of flavour leading to a tangy, sherbert-like finish.

Hugh Hamilton The Floozie Sangiovese Rosé 2011 – $22.50 ˜˜- **. McLaren Vale, South Australia. Pale rosy pink. Sweet fruit nose hinting at new season cherries. Lively palate shows summer berries and finishes just off-dry. Try with a picnic lunch by the river.

Campbells Sparkling Shiraz – $30 ˜˜˜- ***. Rutherglen, Victoria. Foamy purple to black in the glass. Lovely blackberry nose. Full on palate of dark berries and dark chocolate that finishes firm enough to accompany a Christmas roast.

Cooks Lot Pinot Noir 2009 – $20 ˜˜˜- ***. Mudgee and Orange, New South Wales. Hues of cherry skin in the glass. Strawberries and light smoky notes on the nose. The strawberry character continues on the palate above a sub-structure of integrated tannins – these lead to a dry and persistent finish.

Raidis Estate Billy Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon $23 ˜˜˜- ***. Dense crimson hues. True varietal notes of black currant on the nose along with a hint of smoky oak. The palate reminds me of those black currant pastilles you used to get, the intensity not the sweetness that is. Tannins are nicely incorporated and the wine leaves an overall impression of smoothness.

Turners Crossing Shiraz Viognier 2008 – $25 ˜˜˜˜- ****. Bendigo, Victoria. Black with a purple edge in the glass. Dusty nose with notes of Black Forest cake and a suggestion of liquorice allsorts. A complex and substantial wine in the mouth with an attack of assertive yet integrated tannins supporting flavours of blackberry conserve, cocoa powder, allspice and leather.

Yanjing Beer – about $3 per stubbie. From Beijing, China. Made from malted barley, hops, spring water and rice. Full strength – 4.5% alcohol. A light refreshing style with nice hoppy aromatics. The palate has sweet edges with a background of malt and finishes with mild hops bitterness.

Two Elk Apple Cider – 330ml 4-pack $16. Sweden, 4.5% alcohol. For some reason this made me think of elks acting out the old two dogs joke. A delicate light style. Pleasant autumnal apple aromatics with a palate that will suit drinkers who like cider at the sweeter end of the spectrum.


*****˜˜˜˜˜ – outstanding

****˜˜˜˜ – classy

***˜˜˜ – first-rate

**˜˜ – fine drinking

– commercial


Swiss Army Waiters’ Friend – upgrade

Posted by Martin Field on 18 November 2011 in Wine

At long last, and in time for the Christmas market, I can announce, exclusively, an upgrade to that popular and essential multifunctional tool, the Swiss Army Waiters’ Friend, (SAWF – AKA Waiters’ Knife).

This is a major step forward in the evolution of the simple corkscrew and blade we know so well. Previously famous only for chocolate, cuckoo clocks, yodelling, holey cheese and secret bank accounts, the ingenious Swiss have come up with a new twist on the historic gadget that is sure to rival the Swatch in sales volume.

Designed by a committee comprising one Swiss watchmaker, two Masters of Wine, and a drunk chosen at random from a local wine bar, the Swiss Army Waiters’ Friend provides a number of traditional functions along with a wealth of breathtaking innovations. All made possible by recent advances in the fields of nano-technology and artificial intelligence.


I will list just a few of this indispensable tool’s major features.

New: a round grippy thing for loosening screwcaps on wine bottles, also serves as a tourniquet. A blade that doubles as an Android/iPad compatible micro SD card for handy data storage. A toothpick that also serves as a GPS. Read the rest of this entry

Waiting for a Table

Posted by Martin Field on 13 November 2011 in Food and Wine

They also serve who only stand and wait.” John Milton said that.

Well, I was serving and waiting but as I quickly discovered I was in a definite no standing zone.

Of the many jobs I’ve had, waiting in a restaurant wasn’t one of them. How hard could it be? I asked myself.

So I’d asked Ipazzi restaurateurs Ruby and Fabio if I could observe and help on the restaurant floor for an evening. Foolishly, I thought, they agreed.

First off, I helped set tables and learned the table numbering layout.

Then I thought I’d be a kitchen hand for a bit and hung around backstage as Fabio prepped and created sauces for the evening rush.

The industrial-sized stove radiated what seemed like megawatts of heat, and what with chef Fabio flaming away with juggled frying pans and all, and despite the extractor fans sucking like a reverse steam locomotive, I found it too hot. So, you guessed it, I got out.

Too hot for some

Friday night, about half the tables were booked, and it looked to me disappointingly quiet. Then, over a short space of time, booked guests and walk-ins arrived in a rush and all the tables were full.

Read the rest of this entry

Star Drinking

Posted by Martin Field on 1 November 2011 in Wine Tasting

Taltarni Taché 2010 – RRP $26 – ˜˜˜***. Taché – i.e. stained with red wine. A blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. Pale blush, busy small bead, foamy head. Nose reminds me of strawberries and brioche. Palate is full and fruity; the apparent fruit sweetness ably supported by an undercurrent of firm yet integrated acidity. Pleasing aperitif style yet with a structure to suit entrée accompaniment.

Lock & Key Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – $15 – ˜˜**. Orange, New South Wales. Light in the glass, edge of green. Sauvignon style at the tropical rather than herbal end of the spectrum. Generous fruit salad nose. Soft and full in the mouth, with hints of pineapple and lychee. Medium dry to finish.

Alta Adelaide Hills Pinot Grigio 2011 – $20 – ˜˜˜***. Almost water pale. Limes and white blossoms permeate the bouquet. Clean, dry style with lovely citrus-oriented flavours and an edge of sherbert like tang to close.

Read the rest of this entry


Posted by Martin Field on 1 November 2011 in Wine Travel

Then it’s another relatively short bus ride to Marseille, the second largest city in France.

Our apartment, only a stroll from the Vieux Port, is on the sixth floor. The decor is modern with smart furnishings and looks out over the city roofline. Each morning we watch as a large seagull regurgitates fish for her obese chick nesting just outside the window.

Marseille chick waiting for fishy petit dejeuner

(The apartment is in fact the best accommodation we had on the trip. See details here.)

Nearby is the main commercial thoroughfare, Rue Canebiere, popularly known by English speakers as ‘Can o’ Beer’. The name is derived from long-disappeared hemp farms that provided cordage for sailing ships in the olden days. Read the rest of this entry

Onwards to Aix en Provence

Posted by Martin Field on 1 November 2011 in Wine Travel

Waiting for the bus to Aix en Provence on a gloomy platform. In the middle of the day, it is a vast dark space like a set in search of a horror movie. The waiting room looks slummy, is graffitied and smells like a pissoir. Spooky.

Waiting for a bus


First stop in Aix is for a refreshing drink at a sidewalk bar. Among the thronging crowds in the Cours Mirabeau, we sip a milky, pungent pastis.

Cocktails with Cézanne

That evening, as we take a stroll past the Musee Granet, a departing guest hands us his invitation to cocktails for the opening of the Cézanne exhibition two days later (Collection Planque).

As if we own the place, we walk in among the dignitaries and culturati, me in my cocktail outfit of Dunlop Volleys and frayed Nepalese cut off shorts. Luckily, we have missed the speeches and immediately join the guests tucking in to huge plates of food and generous glasses of red.

Lucy asks what we should say if one of the many security people ask who we are. “I’ll tell them, ‘I’m the cultural attaché from the Orstrylian Ministry of the Yartz!’” I reply. Read the rest of this entry

Riedel Vinum Tasting

Posted by Martin Field on 1 November 2011 in Wine Tasting

Mark Baulderstone, Riedel’s local head honcho, was at Gibson’s in Noosa recently, taking a bunch of tasters through the Riedel Vinum range.

The glasses were the Bordeaux, Burgundy, Sauvignon Blanc and Montrachet models. For comparison, wines were also tasted in stock standard ISO glasses.

Mark made a strong case that the nose of a wine is the main factor in dictating its taste. He then demonstrated quite convincingly how different Riedel shapes enhanced their particular varietal counterparts. With a bit of deft glass-swapping he also showed how an unattuned shape could in fact diminish enjoyment.

The ISO glasses fared quite badly in all cases.

On the evening the standout matching was a Stoniers Reserve 2008 Pinot Noir in the Burgundy stem.

Thinks, I’d like to see a blind tasting exercise to really put the varietal glasses through their paces.

Thinks again, glassware enhancement of nose and taste must always be based on the assumption that the varietal tasted is true to type.