by Martin Field
Murray’s Nirvana Pale Ale – about $3 the 330ml bottle – ***
Golden syrup hued ale. Hoppy, spicy nose. The palate is full and smooth with hints of cardamom and lime and a firm bitter finish. Moreish.
Veuve Amiot Brut – $12.30 – **
AOC Saumur, Loire Valley. Methode traditionelle. Chenin blanc and chardonnay. Refreshing bubbly with a nose of dried pears. On the palate, it shows almonds and apple pie along with mild acidity and a good length of palate.
Tyrrell’s Stevens Hunter Semillon 2005 – up to $32 – ****
Very pale. Fresh as a newly bloomed daisy – you wouldn’t know it was over four years old. Aromatic, showing citrus fruits and freshly baled hay. Light lime marmalade flavours are supported by brisk lemon peel edged acidity. Tasty.
Scarborough Chardonnay 2006 – $21-ish – ***
Hunter Valley, New South Wales. A nose of new white peaches and biscuity French wood. Well-structured in the mouth with flavours of stone fruits, subtle toasted oak and a lively acid finish.
Cascade First Harvest 2009 – around $24-ish the six-pack of stubbies – ***
A seasonal beer brewed using fresh green hops. Mid-amber in hue, it starts with a hop-laden nose and develops on the palate into a lightly malted style. A slightly sweet edge leads to a lovely sharp bitterness at the finish.
Monteiths Doppelbock Winter Ale – $16 plus the six pack of stubbies – ***
Another seasonal brew, this one from New Zealand. The colour is a deep russet. Blended from six different malts, it has a lovely rich malty nose. The mouthfeel is velvety and the flavours reminded me of a chocolate malted spiced with a dash of Kahlua. Delicious.
Yellow Tail Moscato 2008 – around $10 – **
A light (7.5% alcohol) spritzig white. Slightly sweet, with a tropical fruit salad nose which continues on to the palate. Soft fruity finish.
Tulloch Verscato NV – up to $16 – **
Hunter Valley, New South Wales. Verdelho, shiraz blend. Rose petal pink. Light (7.5% alcohol) sparkling style. Fruity nose, refreshing in the mouth. Sweetish at the front of the palate with a little tart apple acidity to balance. An easy drinking lunch accompaniment.
In these recessionary times, punters are always on the lookout for a cheap drink. With their interests in mind, I wandered down to the local bottle shop and bought some casks, a slab of imported beer and a case of el cheapo reds and whites.
The Oettinger Pils – at only $30 the slab of 24 – was a great bargain – that’s only $1.25 per stubbie. Brewed under the ancient German purity laws of yore, the beer is hoppily aromatic with stacks of flavour on the palate – a hint of sweet malt and a bitter tang to the finish.
I tasted three two litre casks: the Banrock Station Shiraz Cabernet – $13; the Yalumba Cabernet Sauvignon – $12; and the De Bortoli Premium Merlot – $11. The Banrock Station was easily the most appealing to my palate – a good balance of fruit, dryness and acidity – I looked forward to the next glass. The other two wines each had a certain soft sweetness that did not grab me at all.
Next in the glass was a Berberana Marino El Vino del Mediterráneo at $4.60. A Spanish number that I thought was no better than it ought to be at the price.
A bottle of J.P. Chenet Sauvignon Blanc 2008 at $8 showed as good value. Totally unlike Oz and NZ styles, it has no asparagus grassy notes, but rather secondary wine flavours with a hint of dried pears and almonds.
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.
by Martin Field
Veuve Clicquot Rosé Brut NV – seen for $78 – ****
Reims, France. A classic blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier, and chardonnay along with a percentage of red wine to give its delicate salmon-flesh colour. The nose shows complex aromas of strawberry shortcake and a hint of Turkish Delight. In the mouth, we find more flavours of strawberry along with fresh brioche and a refreshing touch of acidity at the finish.
Tyrrell’s Pinot Noir Chardonnay Brut 2005 – up to $27 – ***
Hunter Valley, New South Wales. This wine had two years on yeast lees before disgorgement. Pale lemon in colour. Nose of sweet biscuit and citrus blossom. The palate is dry and full with a pleasant beady tingle, and a tangy finish reminiscent of a squeeze of lemon over a wedge of Granny Smith apple pie.
Angove Butterfly Ridge Riesling Traminer 2008 – up to $7 – **
Generous tropical fruit aromatics. The palate in this quaffable white is soft, stone-fruity and off dry. Good value for a drink any time style.
by Martin Field
Penfolds Koonunga Hill Autumn Riesling 2008 – $18 and around $35 on premise ****
From the Barossa Valley comes this pale-hued wine showing greenish edges. The nose is fragrant with distinct lemon zestiness. Tangy lemon flavours continue in the mouth along with a hint of rose water. Will serve very well with entrée courses.
Tahbilk Marsanne 2008 – $17 ***
Nagambie Lakes, Victoria. The invitingly perfumed nose reminded me somehow of apricot Danish with a touch of clotted cream on the side. The palate, in contrast, is elegant and dry with a touch of honey and a finish of lemon zest. These Tahbilk whites cellar very well – worth putting some aside to try in a few years time.
by Martin Field
Glenmorangie The Original Single Malt Scotch – up to $70 ****
Ten years old, according to the label, and matured in ‘Bourbon oak casks’. And you can detect the oaky vanilla as you first inhale this distinctive Scotch. There is also a faint aroma of smokiness and a hint of lemon. The palate is light and velvet in texture and you’d swear there was honey in there somewhere, along with top notes of lime and lemon. Drink with just a splash of water and leave the ice and mixers for the tourists. Classy stuff indeed.
Appleton Estate Reserve Jamaica Rum – up to $55 ****
‘Aged 8 years.’ Lifted aromatics of Demerara sugar and island spices. Sweet and mellow in the mouth it flows down the throat like molten golden syrup. Definitely a sippin’ rum, drink it from a goldfish bowl as you would a Cognac or malt scotch. I wouldn’t spoil it with mixers; maybe ice or a few drops of water to enhance the esters.
Tulloch Hunter River White 2008 – up to $22 **
A blend of chardonnay, semillon and verdelho from the Hunter. Tropical fruity nose leads to a well-weighted palate, replete with zesty and refreshing elements of passionfruit and pineapple.
Plantagenet Great Southern Riesling 2008 – up to $22 ***
This wine’s bouquet of sweetness and limes reminded me of a wedge of Key Lime Pie I once savoured. Its palate is light, dry and delicate showing some of that lime tartness along with Granny Smith apples. The finish shows a zingy acidity.
Pfeiffer The Carson Gewürztraminer 2008 – $16.50 **$
King Valley, Victoria. Lime blossoms and roses dominate the bouquet. The palate is smooth and softish with some grapey sweetness. Try with entrée dishes.
Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008 – up to $28 ***
Margaret River. Western Australia. The nose shows white flowers, an edge of lime juice and a hint of toasted oak. On the palate we find kiwi fruit, blackcurrant leaf, hay and lime zest. The finish is distinctly crisp and dry. Fine aperitif style.
by Martin Field
Crown Ambassador Reserve Lager 2008 – around $55 * * * * *
A limited 5000 bottle release beer, in individually numbered 750ml bottles, each with a wax seal and a presentation box. The lager is bottle-conditioned, so look for the yeast sediment when pouring. At 9.2 percent alcohol, it is twice as strong as some regular beers.
I tasted bottle number 2465: Dark amber in colour, with a nose of malt and toffee along with hoppy high notes. In the mouth, the high alcohol contributes to a thick, velvety, creamy mouthfeel. The long-lasting, complex flavours of malt, hops and a hint of mocha made me wonder where I could get another bottle. They reckon this lager will cellar for ten years or so and I wouldn’t be surprised. A scrumptious drop, which, despite the price tag, will be snapped up by collectors.
Chandon Vintage Brut 2005 – under $39 – * * *
A blend of chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier, two years on yeast lees. Very pale, tinged with green, persistent bead. Bouquet shows brioche and lime blossoms and praline. The palate is lip-smackingly crisp and dry showing flavours of baked bread, hazel nuts and a zesty Granny Smith apple finish. A first class aperitif style.
by Martin Field
Cascade First Harvest Pure Green Hop Brew– up to $20 the six-pack of 330ml bottles – * * *
Made with from fresh hop flowers. Mid to dark amber. Sweet aromas of toffee like malt and savoury hops. Full-flavoured and malty on the palate with a delicious lasting hop bitterness at the finish. This limited release is worth chasing up.
Temple Bruer Verdelho 2007 – up to $18.50 – * *
Langhorne Creek, South Australia. Certified organic, no preservatives added. Spicy apricot nose. Full-bodied white with overtones of stone fruits on the palate, mild acidity and a quite dry, food suited finish.
Blind Mans Bluff Sophist Red – Cellar door price $18 – * *
Kenilworth, Queensland. I’d call this a sort of shiraz rosé. It’s light in colour – a bit darker than your typical rosé and light in alcohol at 10 per cent. The nose is juicy and plummy and the palate fresh and off-dry with enough grape tannins to offset the sweetness. Serve chilled as you would a rosé.
Reports in the news today suggest that the enjoyment of certain wine varietals can be enhanced while listening to different styles of music. See, for example, Why wine tastes better with music, and, Music can enhance wine taste.
Examples include matches such as cabernet sauvignon with Jimi Hendrix; chardonnay with Blondie; merlot with Otis Redding and music by classical composers such as Orff and Tchaikovsky.
There is of course an enormous cultural bias inherent in this kind of research.
If you are a wine drinker whose tastes run to the blues, rock ‘n roll and bluegrass a glass of good red is hardly going to taste better while listening to Carmina Burana.
Similarly,if you have been acculturated to prefer western classical music or opera, a glass of chablis might taste a tad sharpish while Jimi’s Voodoo Chile is blasting way at volume 11 on the stereo.
One can only imagine what wines you would match with the music of Celine Dion, Ravi Shankar, Karlheinz Stockhausen or ‘J-Lo’.