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.

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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.

A real fisherman’s Bouillabaisse with Loire wines

Posted by Mike Tommasi on 9 October 2011 in Food and Wine

The best Bouillabaisse is served at the house of a fisherman here in coastal Provence, Jean Canale, who lives near the old salt marshes of Hyères. I met Jean through Elisabeth Tempier, a friend who writes on artisan fishing issues.



We got together with 20 friends and had a great bouillabaisse in Jean’s garden, while enjoying the heat of this late Indian summer (the real summer seemed to miss us altogether…). Jean Canale prepares his bouillabaisse in a huge iron pot over a wood fire.

The fish that go into Bouillabaisse vary in species and size, and usually include all kinds of rock fish, plus some larger firm fish like conger eel, angler fish, gurnard, weever, john dory, scorpion fish, etc.. Some of the fish are decidedly weird, like the Uranoscope or white rascasse, with eyes on the top of its head looking upward, and horns.

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How we drank in the ’70s

Posted by Martin Field on 25 September 2011 in Food and Wine

Back in the 1970s, my good friends Geoff and Dot Parker were great diners and entertainers and I dined frequently with them, at home and in many Melbourne restaurants.

Geoff was (and is) an enthusiastic wine collector and, unusually for the times, didn’t only drink fine wine but also kept extensive notes on those he tasted and the various meals they accompanied.

Earlier this year he compiled a selection of these notes (14 November 1974 to 19 July 1977) and was kind enough to send me a copy. I have since told him that he could have had another career as a wine writer.

This excerpt, one of many, is from a meal we shared at Restaurant Chez Bebert on Tuesday 13 January 1976.

With garlic scallops, the McWilliams Mount Pleasant Anne Riesling, 1966. Rich honey-gold colour. The aroma was heavy and musty…good regional character with considerable acidity providing a pleasant balanced feel. Past its peak, but will continue to build great character.

And, Leo Buring Reserve Bin DWC II Barossa Valley Rhine Riesling, 1973. Exceptional quality dry white…delicate varietal expression, balanced, fresh and soft.

With steak, the Leo Buring Claret DR 163, 1964. Soft, broad, slightly earthy nose redolent of Hunter reds. Medium bodied satisfying palate sitting between the lush and the austere. Well balanced with a sharp tannic lift to the finish. Very good wine.

And, the Seppelt Cabernet Sauvignon TTI 47, 1971, Barossa Valley. This won the 1972 Jimmy Watson Trophy for best 1971 dry red. Big cabernet with a great deal of fruit flavor and rather prominent oak on the finish. A low tannin very good, lush wine, but maybe a little soft and fat.

Notes Copyright © 2011 Geoff Parker. 


Travels in France Part II – Avignon

Posted by Martin Field on 21 September 2011 in Wine Travel

Sous le pont d’Avignon

The train from Dijon to Avignon takes us through vineyard country. Signs for M.Chapoutieradorn the hillsides. As you enjoy the scenic vignettes, you pass an ominous brooding nuclear reactor, no doubt waiting for the Rhone to flood and irradiate the already powerful reds.

Rhone reactor

A first impression of Avignon is that it is noticeably more touristy than Dijon and more English language friendly. For example, unlike Dijon, many of the restaurant menus here feature English translations.

Half a bridge too far

A must-see here is the Pont d’Avignon, originating from the 12thcentury and the basis of the famous song. It’s actually less than half a bridge as only four of the original 22 arches remain, so it stops disappointingly half way across the river. They have had many centuries to fix this but so far no action.

Incomplete bridge

And I have it on good authority that the song we learned in execrable French at school is wrong – they didn’t dance “sur la pont”, they actually danced under it, that is, “sous le pont”, in a long gone café. Should I be called upon to sing this song in future it is the correct “sous” version I shall offer.

We have a good look round at the Palais des Papes in the heart of the city. A bunch of popes who battled with Rome for control of the Catholic empire lived here and ruled in the 14th century. Read the rest of this entry


Posted by Martin Field on 15 September 2011 in Food and Wine

Duet for jackhammers, with Cream, 6 pots, steak, eggs and chips ( Warning: no wine mentioned below)

Way, way back, I worked on the soi-disant Kew Navvy Gang (KNG), for the now extinct PMG. The gang was a wild bunch of hippies, musos and dope freaks; labouring was the only work available then for long-haired guys in a very conservative Melbourne.

Mick Elliott (guitarist) and I (both smartly outfitted in blue PMG bib and brace overalls) were using a couple of jackhammers to rip up the footpath in Kew Junction for the laying of telephone cables. Nearby, smartly dressed office workers read their morning papers as they waited for the eight o’clock tram to the city.

KNG, left to right: Plod, Noddy, and Mick (lead Jackhammer)

“Mick,” I said, during a quiet interlude. “Why don’t we play a duet?” (We were sort of avant-garde labourers.) Read the rest of this entry

Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino: of vintages and varietals

Posted by Mike Tommasi on 11 September 2011 in Wine
Brunello DOCG

Brunello DOCG

Following up on my recent noteabout Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino, I would like to add a couple of comments on the two appelations.

Brunello is, with Barolo, the top wine area in Italy. Strangely, despite climate differences, as mentioned in my last post, both wines are defined as single varietal wines, while logically only cooler Barolo should be. This is, arguably, because while Barolo has a very long history, Brunello, though created over a century ago, is a very recent phenomenon – it was almost unknown or unobtainable before the 1970s, when the vines covered barely 50 hectares (today at over 2000 hectares it has surpassed Barolo!). Brunello was recognized as a DOC in 1996 without restrictions to a single grape variety, and subsequently, when it became a DOCG, it became a Sangiovese only wine, probably a whim of the then dominant Biondi-Santi.

The incompatibility of the single varietal restriction at this viticultural latitude is demonstrated by the fact, documented by Jeremy Parzen, that according to the president of the Brunello consortium Ezio Rivella 80% of Brunello is not pure Sangiovese, but nobody says anything and the practice is “tolerated”.

Unfortunately Rivella has been demonized by italian and english journalists as well as blogging taliban meta-journalists as a bad influence on Montalcino, yet they ignore that he has been instrumental in improving Brunello in other much more important aspects. Take the vine yields, these were insanely high until a few months ago (8000 kg per hectare is not conducive to good wine), and Rivella has reduced that limit now to 6000 kg/ha, which should yield about 41 hectolitres per hectare, a respectable figure. Why did this take so long and why had no journalist latched onto this before? Because they were busy with that non-issue, the vote on Rosso di Montalcino, a minor appellation for Brunello makers to fall back on when they need ready cash as opposed to having their wine stuck in the cellar for 5 years (6 for the riserva).

The unreliability of Brunello as a single grape wine might be explained by looking at the rating of recent vintages by the consortium; note that for the last 20 years (1991-2010) only 6 vintages were exceptional and 10 were very good. The language is very interesting, instead of “eccellente” the term used is “eccezionale”, a relatively new word in Italian (one can call it a “francesismo”) that, strictly speaking, means unusual, an exception to the rule; yes, the rule is mediocre Brunello!

That leaves 4 vintages that ranged from so-so to bad – note that no vintage is rated as “insufficient”, but you would not expect a consortium to be that frank… Anyhow 2002 was definitely a very bad year, but this did not significantly reduce the quantity of Brunello or increase the quantity of Rosso; I suppose the thinking is: “the suckers, pardon, the customers are buying a label, so they don’t need to know about bad vintages, they’ll shell out the same high price even for a 2002″. A search on Winesearcher shows 2002 (a disaster vintage) and 2004 (an exceptional one) Col d’Orcia at more or less the same price, even the famed Case Basse is available at well over 150 Euro for a 2002! And please note that each of these wines goes through committee tastings before it gets awarded the DOCG label, and 2002s passed with no problems!

Logically the question should be: is it reasonable to impose 2-5 years aging in barrels, given that not every producer and not every vintage yields wines that have enough “matière”, enough quality to benefit from such aging. It is a pity because many normal vintages, neither exceptionally good nor particularly bad, would be much better with a shorter aging period. The Rosso di Montalcino would allow one to make a better wine in those less than ideal years. But few people do that, because they can get a higher price for a bottle of bad wine marked Brunello!

Since nothing can be done about the greedy nature of most winemakers, the logical thing to do in order to safeguard the quality of Brunello, in order to avoid the current situation where the bottle you buy is statistically more likely to be disappointing than rewarding, is to have the Consorzio declare the Brunello vintages (like in Champagne) and oblige winemakers to make Rosso in the other years.

Despite the unfavourable view of some respected bloggers, regarding the single grape issue, I would prefer to see at least Rosso be given the freedom to use up to 30% of traditional complementary Tuscan grapes in addition to Sangiovese. As for Brunello, instead of tolerating systematic cheating with Cabernet, it would be better to allow up to 10% of other Tuscan grapes.

For further reading I suggest the thoughtful articles by Juancho Asenjo and Eckhard Supp.

Le Petit Nice (Gérard Passédat), Marseille

Posted by Mike Tommasi on 10 September 2011 in Restaurant Reviews

There are few three-star restaurants that have the enchanting location and the splendid views of Gérald Passédat’s Le Petit Nice. More importantly, this is one of the best eateries I have ever experienced; I would put it on a par with El Celler de Can Roca (see review).

Anse de Maldorme

The view from Le Petit Nice - Anse de Maldorme, Marseille

Anchois en Tempura, sable céleri-rave, radicchio poulpe mangue xérès

Apéritif: Anchois en Tempura, sable céleri-rave, radicchio poulpe mangue xérès


Perched high on the rocks overlooking the Mediterranean sea, Passedat towers over any other restaurant on this French coast.
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