Spitbucket drinking

Posted by Martin Field on 6 July 2006 in Wine Tasting

by Martin Field

Stone’s Premium Ginger Beer. 4.8% alcohol. Six pack of 330ml bottles $15 – Rating: \_/\_/\_/
Pale, white and slightly cloudy. Appetising tangy fresh ginger nose. Faintly sweet in the mouth with pleasant root ginger zinginess.

Mountain Goat Surefoot Stout 5% alcohol. 330ml bottle – I paid $3.95 – Rating: \_/\_/\_/
Ruddy, unmilked black coffee hues. Malteser nose. Smooth and malty in the mouth with fine dark chocolate and an attractive bitterness at the finish.

Trevor Jones Reserve Riesling 2005 - $25 cellar door – Rating: \_/\_/\_/
Barossa and Eden Valleys, South Australia. Pale with a greenish edge. Lime apple and minerally nose. Delicate and elegant on the palate with tangy lime zest and Granny Smith apple acidity.

Ten Minutes by Tractor Wallis Vineyard Chardonnay 2004 - $52 – Rating: \_/\_/\_/
Mornington Peninsula, Victoria. Light straw appearance. Flowers and apricots on the nose. Peach and apricot flavours enhance the palate assisted by notes of vanillin oak and butterscotch. A crisp acid finish completes the wine.

Clonale by Kooyong Chardonnay 2005 – up to $25 – Rating: \_/\_/\_/
Mornington Peninsula, Victoria. A nose of spicy apples, melons and toast. The palate is smooth and luscious and reminded me of apricot conserve on buttered toast, The finish shows medium acidity.

M. Chapoutier La Ciboise 2004 – I paid $14.90 – Rating: \_/\_/\_/
Appellation Coteaux du Tricastin, Rhone, France. A blend of grenache, shiraz, carignan and mourvèdre. Mid to light rosy red colour. Savoury nose with ripe cherry notes. Mid-weighted dryish palate shows ripe berries, a hint of leather and a noticeably firm finish. Suit dishes like a substantial main course pasta.

Jean-Paul’s Shiraz 2004 - $20 cellar door- Rating: \_/\_/\_/\_/\_/*
Yea, Victoria. Certified organic production, low preservatives. Deep crimson to purple. Inviting fragrance of blackberry and mint. Beautifully constructed, youthful, berry-packed wine. Spicy fruit, oak, and integrated tannins interact harmoniously leaving an impression of a superb, artisan-crafted, modern era red. Truly delicious. Order by email, jeanpauls.vineyard@ycs.com.au.

Moondah Brook Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 – I paid $10.90 – Rating: \_/\_/\_/ *
Western Australia. Ruby to purple hued. Dusty blackcurrant nose. Redcurrant, blackcurrant and plummy flavours mix well on the palate to produce a likeable, ‘Let’s have another bottle of that.’ effect. The well-priced shiraz and cabernet marketed under this label are consistently enjoyable, year in, year out. We buy some annually for a few year’s rewarding cellaring.

Wyndham Estate Bin 555 Sparkling Shiraz NV up t to $14 – Rating: \_/\_/\_/
Ripe, almost porty nose. Mellow, sweetish style with stacks of blackberry conserve flavour.

The Spitbucket Rating System
Five spitbuckets: \_/\_/\_/\_/\_/ – brilliant
Four: \_/\_/\_/\_/ – classy
Three: \_/\_/\_/ – good drinking
Two: \_/\_/ everyday drinking
One: \_/ – spit it!
An asterisk * denotes excellent value for money

Note: Prices in Australian dollars

When the shiraz hit the fan

Posted by Martin Field on 6 July 2006 in Wine

by Martin Field

The good, the greedy, and the glut-tonous
Over a glass of good red we were talking a couple of weeks back about the Australian wine glut. Who in the wine industry wasn’t? The particular topic was news that wine industry lobbyists wanted taxpayers to fund a lazy $60 million bail out fund.

My drinking companion, a vigneron who has a small Victorian vineyard, makes his own wine and also sells grapes to big makers, was amazed. ‘Audacious!’ he said. ‘More bleeding snouts trying to get into the trough,’ I added. The government, in a rare stroke of wisdom, knocked back the bail out proposal, pointing out that nobody forced growers to plant their grapes in the first place.

Of course you have to feel sorry for growers forced to let their grapes rot after the suits at the big end of winetown tear up their contracts. And my winemaking friend told me that a well-known company he’d supplied did just that, wanting to take only part of a contracted vintage. He told them to stuff their deals up their de-stemmers and, luckily, found another, honourable, buyer.

The wine business is just a business, but unlike many others it’s seen as glamorous. That’s part of the problem. In the boom cycle it’s a magnet for cashed or borrowed up investors who see an industry offering an attractive lifestyle and a profitable business. Unfortunately they are often poorly advised and know little about winemaking.

And when the big profits do roll in these types swan around in luxury cars, get their buffed heads on TV infotainment shows and generally live the life of egotistical b-grade celebs. But you’ll never hear the wine high rollers say, ‘Thank you consumers for buying shiploads of our temporarily overpriced bottles. Here, take a few million bucks we’ve creamed off the top. Use it wisely to build new schools and hospitals for those less well off than us.’

In the inevitable bust cycle however, they immediately plunge into whinge mode and expect taxpayers to subsidise their losses, which often result from greed, bad planning, and even worse management.

The disastrous wine glut has been on the horizon for years, not least of all because companies, whose only business plan seemed to be chasing the easy dollar, planted grapes or encouraged contractors to plant grapes like there was no tomorrow. And given that situation you didn’t need to be an MBA, a clairvoyant, an economist or an industry analyst to know that the shiraz was going to hit the fan sooner or later.

Nearly six years ago, in September 2000, I wrote in a wine column, ‘My belief is that over the next few years we will see a glut of wine grapes with a consequent stabilisation, if not a fall, in wine prices. This can’t be good for winemakers but will undoubtedly please consumers. As for investing in a small vineyard to fund my retirement, I’d rather take up yachting. The latter pursuit has been likened to standing on one leg under a cold shower while tearing up $100 bills. It sounds like a far better investment than planting vines.’

The good life

Posted by Martin Field on 3 June 2006 in Food and Wine

by Martin Field

Sub-urban self-sufficiency
Fans of British TV comedy will fondly remember that BBC classic The Good Life, where a comfortable suburban couple attempted to turn their backyard into a self-sufficient small holding. I was reminded of the show when, after having pizza for dinner one night, Lucy remarked on the home-grown, home-produced ingredients that went into its construction.

The dough was kneaded in the bread making machine and topped with home-made habanera sauce, then we added hand-picked (at Red Hill) pickled pine mushrooms, and then came pickled jalapenos, herbed olives in oil, and a sprinkling of rosemary and oregano and basil – all grown in our garden. Field mushrooms, flour and mozzarella and yeast came from the supermarket and the pizza was cooked in our Pizza Chef pizza machine. We washed it down with home-made cider – made from bought apples and apple juice.

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Oz TNs

Posted by Martin Field on 3 June 2006 in Wine Tasting

by Martin Field

Picks of the bunch
Cascade First Harvest 2006 – $17-ish the four-pack
Tasmanian ale made using Ember, Galaxy and Nova hops. Mid-amber. Aromatic with tobacco leaf and floral notes. Mellow palate shows malty chocolate and a faintly bitter finish. Eminently drinkable.

Red Hill Brewery Hop Harvest Ale – $5.50 the 330ml bottle
Ruddy unmilked tea hues. Fresh nose of light maltiness and an edge of citrus. Refreshing palate shows fruitiness and a fine bitter tang. Use as an aperitif or would suit light main course tucker. Served on tap at the brewery.

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Oz tasting notes

Posted by Martin Field on 4 May 2006 in Wine Tasting

by Martin Field

James Squire Hop Thief Ale – up to $18 the six-pack of stubbies
Hue of weak black tea. Sweetish nose of hops and malt. A mellow, full-flavoured hoppy mouthful with a firm, not too bitter, pour-me-another-as-soon-as-you-like, finish.

Yellow Tail Riesling 2005 – under $10
Rather tropical fruit nose with a hint of lime. Easy to drink style with plenty of ripeness, a touch of lemon sherbet, slight sweetness and mild acidity.

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Cheatin’ in the kitchen

Posted by Martin Field on 4 May 2006 in Food and Wine

by Martin Field

Stilton spread
Take a piece of Stilton, say 300 grams, bring it to room-temperature. Put it in a blender with a squeeze of lemon juice (a teaspoon more or less), 50ml extra virgin olive oil, 50 grams softened (but not melted) unsalted butter and 50ml of thick (not thickened) sour cream. Blend until just combined but not to the mushy stage. Refrigerate. Delicious on toast, in canapes etc. Keeps well in the fridge. Use same proportions for larger or smaller amounts of cheese.

Fridge inverter
The good lady wife wanted to lash out on a new fridge, one of those newfangled setups that have the freezer at the bottom instead of on top.

I countered with a brilliant, money-saving idea; suggesting that we could achieve the same effect by turning the old fridge upside down.

As the atmosphere between us suddenly turned frigid, I knew I was onto something.

Fifty-five million bottles down the drain

Posted by Martin Field on 4 May 2006 in Wine

by Martin Field

According to reports emanating from the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation, some 60,000 tonnes of wine grapes from Australia’s 2006 vintage will be left to rot in the vineyards. That’s the equivalent of 55 million bottles of wine down the gurgler, enough to provide for the average annual consumption of one and a half million Australian adults.

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VVV: a Very Vinous Vaucluse evening

Posted by Mike Tommasi on 4 April 2006 in Wine Tasting

A few weeks my friend Jean Philippe Héaumé had mentioned an evening with a few friends and winemakers, tasting good wine. This sort of get-together had already happened a year ago, again instigated by Jean Philippe, the pretext being to taste a bottle of 1955 Château Rayas white sweet wine; at least 20 wines were served as “apéritif ” back then… Jean Philippe is an online French wine merchant who… delivers!, each stop in his regular Tour de France becomes a “happening”. His site is Absoluvins (in french).

Lucien Biolatto contemplates his Clos du Mont Olivet Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Add to this the fact that the event is to be held at La Martelière, the wonderful bed and breakfast of our friends Patrick et Annick Laget, at Le Thor in the beautiful Provençal countryside of Vaucluse; impossible to resist, I reserved without hesitating.

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Desert Island Wines

Posted by Martin Field on 31 March 2006 in Food and Wine, Wine Tasting

by Martin Field

Len Evans is reported to have once said that he’d hate to be marooned on a desert island with nothing but goats’ cheese to eat and sauvignon blanc to drink. With that in mind I conducted a straw poll of Australian wine writers (and one cheesemaker), based on the premise used by the BBC’s Radio 4 show, Desert Island Discs. That’s the long-running program where celebrities are invited to choose music to take with them in the event that they are about to be marooned on a desert island.

The hypothetical situation set for the writers was that they were about to be stranded on a desert island and they could only take with them two currently available Australian wines, a dozen of any one red and a dozen of one white (including bubbly).

Here’s what they said.

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Picks of the mostly Oz bunch

Posted by Martin Field on 31 March 2006 in Food and Wine, Wine Tasting

by Martin Field

Caves de Beblenheim Pinot Blanc 2004 – Around $17 to $18
Appellation Alsace Contrôlée. Juicy aromas of ripe pears. Lovely mouth-filling style with flavours of pears and Granny Smith apples leading to a firm zesty finish. Excellent aperitif and solid entrée accompaniment.

Brown Brothers Vermentino 2005 (cellar door release) – $16-ish
Very pale, edge of green. Distinct citrussy fragrances on the nose. Quite a dry style with lots of mouth-watering, acid tang and noticeable alcohol (14.5%) warmth. Flavours are of citrus and maybe hay – not unlike a good semillon.

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