Friday, June 24, 2011

A Glass of Garden Tea Party

Black Chook VMR (Viognier Marsanne Roussane) 2008

This wine was enjoyed in the company of some fine ladies, watching a royal wedding, eating scones and jam, and talking about lady-like topics, as befitting the occasion. It's a Marsanne and Roussanne harvested, crushed and fermented together, blended with a separately fermented Viognier.

On first sniff, there’s a fresh, clean, and sweet aroma of stonefruits and apple, and understated violet blossoms - rather like the aromas of a garden teaparty. Put the wine to the light, and you’ll look through a light gold liquid. On first sip, one experiences a clean, green, organic feel. Interestingly, the wine skips over the middle palate (there’s not much to it there) and touches the back with more blossom flavours, and a hint of citrus and acid. Slosh it around, and there’s a mineral sensation. It’s not overly sweet – nor long, in the taste experience, but pleasant enough.

Set the table under a tree, with a cheese platter, scones and jam, and enjoy the winter sun with a glass of this.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Gris and Grigio: Checking out the grey

Folks, no specific wines are reviewed in today’s entry, rather, here’s when I admit that I’m having a little love affair with pinot grapes. I’m tantalized by Pinot Noir, enamoured by Pinot Gris, oh-so-intrigued by Pinot Grigio, and quite partial to a Sparkling Pinot Chardonnay. I can’t wait to try the variety of non-Australian wines with a Pinot label.

Gris is French for grey, and the Pinot Gris grape which bears this colour is an old mutation of the Pinot Noir variety, named as the grapes wear a greyish hue. The Pinot part of the name refers to the pine cone shape the berry clusters form. These grapes grow throughout central Europe; but typically make their home in the Alcase region of France and Germany; and Northern Italy; and are fast becoming a popular variety in the cooler climates of Australia, being happily grown in the Mornington Peninsula, Adelaide Hills, Yarra Valley and Tasmanian wine regions

Looking at the Pinot white wines – Grigio, Gris – what’s the difference? According to the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) PinotG group, it’s where the wine sits on a “crisp” to “luscious” spectrum. Traditionally, the Alsatian and Northern Italian styles differ. Pinot Grigio (Italian) has tended to be lean, crisp, zesty and light, while the Pinot Gris (Alsatian) is known for having a rich, voluptuous texture. This difference has been scientifically measured by the AWRI using spectral analysis (shining lights through the fluid) to determine the constituents of the wines (the main components being alcohols, acids, sugars and phenolic compounds, which are mostly tannins). To check the results, human tasting panels were called in to conduct a simple blind tasting of six pinot gris and grigios. Each wine was placed on a nine-point continuum, from crisp at one end to luscious at the other. The professional tasters clustered the grigios (3.5-4.5 / 9) at the crisp end, and the gris (6.5-7.5/9) at the luscious end. There was a distinct gap between the groups. The human tasting results were in close agreement with the spectral analysis, and the ensuing PinotG Spectrum has proved to be a reliable way of determining how “Grigio” or “Gris” the wine is. (Check out for the PinotG graphic and more information.)

For now, I’m armed with a bunch of wines falling on either end of the PinotG spectrum. I suspect that, like all love affairs, I have to be in the mood and in a suitable context for carrying on with either party.

Monday, March 21, 2011

So. Uh.

It’s hard for me to talk about an uninspiring wine because it is.........uninspiring. A few days ago, I tasted one which left me at a loss for words, and not in a good way. Angst-ridden about the challenge of not waxing lyrical about said wine; I worried about whether it was my palate, my inexperience, or my lack of ability to put words together. Later, after a night of theatre, turkish food, chardonnay and wafting apple hookah smells, it didn’t matter; if I didn’t like the wine, I should just say so.

Wolf Blass, Yellow Label Shiraz Viognier, 2008. South Australia.


I won’t talk about Viognier, Shiraz, how fabulous they are as separate wine entities, and the amazing result when put together. I didn't find this wine to be a fine example of that.
Upon the first sniff, the Viognier asserted itself with a floral and berry sweetness. On first taste, I could sense a silky softness, which slightly lifted a medium-bodied lost ghost of a wine, a gently insipid form of its ideal self.

So. The wine was red with purplish hues, and though it was written on the label, I couldn’t find the Shiraz. Was it wrong to expect more? More cherry, more spice, more……flavour? I wanted a melding of sweet viognier with a spicy berry shiraz on a soft bed of aromatic flowers – but I tasted something that reminded me of vegetable stock. There, I’ve said it. I’m sorry W.B., I don’t mean to be rude. I’m willing to grant that my tastebuds were having an off day (though I generally love shiraz viognier - those buds should've been jumping for joy). An hour and several waters later, I tried another glass, ever hopeful of change. Alas, none.

Quite frankly, I'm a little surprised. There are a few trophies on this wine. When you see gold stickers on a bottle, you're mentally gearing up for a nice tasting experience. As I've already said, I expected more.

Please, courageous wine-loving friends, try this one out, and tell me how wrong I am. Send me another perspective. I even ventured a semi-sip today, and still no joy. Perhaps I can cook with it, given it’s stock like properties – it may redeem itself in a fantastic red wine beef casserole.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Viva la Vino Verdelho

It’s a breezy autumn afternoon, and I’m sitting at my friend’s kitchen counter. We are undertaking serious girly chat and she suddenly stops, an AHA! moment clearly etched onto her face. My friend takes out two glasses and a bottle of opened white vino. Efficiently manouevering her kitchen like a bee collecting pollen, various yummy things are extrapolated from cupboards. A rustic baguette sourdough style, Tintilla Estate Caramelised Red Wine Vinegar, Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Vintage Cheddar Cheese, Blueberries, Rockmelon (aka Canteloupe), Olive oil and butter. The olive oil and vinegar mix into our makeshift dipping bowl (3 parts vinegar to one part olive oil). After pouring two glasses of wine, “Try this” she says. My palate experiences the Tempus Two Verdelho 2010. Oh.So.Very.Nice.

Let’s talk briefly about Verdelho. Native to Portugal and with a famous, and colourful Madeiran wine making history, Australia has adopted this variety as one of it’s own. Particularly suited to the Aussie climate, this thick skinned, high yielding grape variety loves heat, retains it’s acidity when ripe, and is disease and drought resistant. It produces a variety of very drinkable wines from early picked herbaceous styles, to later harvest tropical fruity beauties.

Tempus Two Verdelho, Hunter Valley 2010

“Charming upon meeting, then recedes with grace, like a gentleman, who takes you to your picnic seat.”

Upon first waft, I’m sniffing hints of tropical fruits and aromatic sweet grass. Looking at it, the wine is elegantly ghostly pale gold in the glass. Think platinum blonde with riding boots, and a bit of leg showing.

The first swishy mouthful had front palette pear, and back palette guava. Tangy and fresh, the wine made a mellow and easy journey down the throat. It doesn’t linger, rather, it flits like butterflies over the tongue. It is disgustingly drinkable. Evocative of crisp autumn picnics, Jane Austen, wicker baskets, green grassy fields, dappled light, a gentle breeze, fruit flans and freshly squeezed juice. It pairs fantastically with rockmelon and blueberry; it carries the sharp vintage cheddar with ease and grace, and “Hello Balsamic and Olive oil on Rustic Bread! Where have you been hiding lately? It’s so NICE to taste you with this wine!”

Enjoy Tempus Two’s Verdelho as an early autumn picnic drink; serve it chilled with the above menu items, or with spring rolls, chicken drumsticks, fruit flans, light white cheeses and crackers. This Verdelho is mellow enough to carry autumn inwards, and fruity enough to be reminiscent of summer. It wears it’s circa $25 price bracket per bottle well.

(Photo courtesy

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Do you like Moscato dear? Would you like it now, and here?

The inaugural “Girly Wine, Cheese and Chat” tasting night for The Free Run had us considering the wine of choice: Moscato. I'll come out with it – I’m not a Moscato drinker. Some time prior, I found myself enjoying a glass – but wondered whether it was because of the company I kept, or truly the wine itself. Time to find out.

“Moscatos? Uh, I can’t really tell you what they’re like ‘cos I’m not into sweet wines,“ admitted the local bottle shop attendant. There were few refrigerated choices. Quick decisions were needed. The event had already begun; and I, the wines, and cheese were MIA. I grabbed the nearest two: Banrock Station Moscato 2010 and Shadowcape Moscato 2009. The local grocery store (and a generous girlfriend) provided our cheese selections: Southcape Cheeses - Camembert, Gouda, Tasty cheddar, Cream Cheese with chives; plus a Fromager D’Affinoise, and a Windsor Blue from Otago, New Zealand. Paired with Strawberries, cherries, crimson seedless grapes, and wafer thin crackers, we were set.

A wine which doesn’t incite much conversation or speculation, Moscato seems to hold a reputation amongst common drinkers as the first step up from pre-mixes; a teen's initiation into wine (every 16 year old’s starting point); a wine too sweet to be taken seriously. Made from the Muscat grape, popularly grown and drunk in Italy and Chile, the fermented juice of this grape transforms into a sweet and low-alcoholic wine (in the Asti regional style of Italy); into sweet dessert wines (late harvest and noble rot); and drinks like sherry.

The Shadowcape Moscato 2009, Berton Vineyards (South Eastern Australia):

A pleasantly waifish chick of a wine which said “hello – see you later!” as it walked past.

Pale, greeny gold in colour with a few playful bubbles dancing in the glass. Upon first sniff, wafts of grape, kiwi and passionfruit fragrances float up, all light and sweet. Frizzante carries the liquid like an soft arrow down the throat. At the front of the palate, there’s a bit of bite and honey, with honeydew melon towards back. It’s cider-ish without the cider; not quite lollywater – slightly more sophisticated. Body-wise, there’s not a lot to this wine, but it’s pleasantly drinkable if one likes fairy floss all the way through and no lingering flavor. It’s elusive and ephemeral, like a sweet thirteen year old waif sauntering quickly down a runway, blowing air kisses.

Shadowcape paired nicely with soft white cheeses – Camembert, Fromager D’Affinoise – with the creaminess and wine spotlighting each other nicely. It savvily held it’s own with the Windsor Blue cheese (which isn't overwhelmingly blue), and was happy with fruit. If you want this wine to have an identity crisis and disappear, pair it with a tasty cheddar – all bang and frizz is lost, and it limps away sadly. We tried it with Cream cheese and Chives and felt that the wine was having an amusing argument with the cheese, not your conventional pairing, more like the Odd Couple.

This wine was surprisingly good, given the price point. It gave us the impression of being a more expensive wine, at roughly $6 bottle.

Banrock Station Moscato 2010 (South Eastern Australia)

An elegantly dressed lady of a wine wearing lightly floral perfume, enjoying the breeze on a crisp, springtime morning.

Pale gold in the glass. A light honeysuckle, jasmine and musk floral fragrance wafts into the olfactory system, and promises a complex experience. On first taste, this lightly bubbled Moscato touches the top palate with stonefruit flavours – like white nectarines. The flavour lingers gently on the tongue – the middle palate fills with pear, and towards the back, pineapple, and citrus blossoms. It’s really much like drinking gorgeous perfume on a summer’s afternoon. Very pleasant.

Where this wine starts giving your taste buds a stellar experience is when it's paired with other creamy white cheeses. There's a stunning monogamous pairing with the Fromager D'Affinoise, but Brie and Camembert will also suffice. We found it tempestuous on the taste buds when consumed with the Tasty cheddar. It fared better with Gouda - the cheese's creamy texture gave a solid base and depth to the wine, rather like a solid support cast in this Moscato's movie.

Banrock Station Moscato was quite elegant, stood on it's own securely and beautifully, and went beyond expectations at approximately $18 per bottle.

For now? My opinions on Moscato have shifted. I think I like it Sam-I-Am. Drink it chilled, on a summer or spring day, on it's own, or with a cheese and fruit platter; or with some Thai food. Enjoy the lightness and bubble. We may need to try this variety out again.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

the Press release

The Free Run: the juice that runs off the vat without any machine pressing, obtained by the sheer weight of the grapes pushing on each other. An apt name for a new blog about Australian wine from an amateur's experience. I love wine, am curious enough to explore, and then write about it (no pressure!).

So I don't get caught up in a narrow experience of wine consumption, the challenge is to expose my palette to the variety and the personalities of different Australian wines. Every project should have objectives, so let's start with 1) to sample 2) to learn more about making wine, it's history etc; 3) to get to know the people and the industry.

Righty-o. Business over. Let the fun begin. Cheers!