Posts Tagged ‘Wine’

Back on the blog – CHEERS!


OK, so I realise Gosstronomy has been all quiet on the gestation front this past year. And I know, I owe everyone an explanation. A blogger can’t just disappear into the ethernet and go without saying a word. I have seen the folly of my ways, and I am back asking for forgiveness.

Right, ready? The sad truth is this – I got a real job.

“No!” you say. “Mon dieu.” “Bastarde.” “Oy gevalt.” Well, my parents said “About time” as I set about helping Lonely Planet transform its famed travel guidebooks and figure out ways to allow people to access the same great information on their mobile phones. Yes, I was a high-priced geek who shrunk guidebooks, but I missed my freedom, I missed writing about food, and I missed people like you reading about it. Yes, dammit, YOU were missed.

So after 14 well-paid months, I chucked it all in and went back to food writing. In the middle of the global financial crisis. And I couldn’t be happier.

Yesterday was my first day of freedom, and it was a whole couple of hours before I got a whiff of a Spanish and Portuguese wine tasting by the Spanish Acquisition, Australia’s top distributor of Iberian drops. The tip-off was thanks for Ryan Andrijich, the former food expert on the Australian version of ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’, who’s  now doing catering and cooking classes in Melbourne. Thanks Ryan, I owe you one.

So on my first afternoon back, I was at North Fitzroy bowls, sampling from a massive variety of sherry, whites, roses, Cavas and reds. Sausages and lamb cutlets were sizzling on the barbie as small village of sommeliers, bottle shop (liquor store) operators and chefs sampled from the extensive line-up. The Spanish Acquisition crew started us off with a chilled glass of Delgado Zuleto ‘La Goya” Manzanilla sherry, which got the palate going before we net dipped into the classic Spanish sparkling: Cava. Amid a sampling of white and rose sparklings, I was particularly drawn to the 2005 Agusti Torello Mata Brut Reserve, a fruity, yeasty and lively bubbly.

Then it was onto the whites, which were in their element on this hot summer’s day. One of my favourite whites in Albarino, and there was a good selection at hand, but I found myself struggling to find a stunner among the 2006 and 2007 vintages. Instead, I was drawn to a grape I had never heard of, godello. The only way to describe it is as a Spanish alternative to sauvignon blanc, but far more interesting. The 2007 Telmo Rodriguez ‘Gabo do Xil’ , a hand-picked godello from Spain’s Valdeorras region, was fruity, citrusy and had hints of honeydew, and is a great example of an easy-to-quoff wine that still has personality. It’ll ruin that next glass of same-o Marlborough sav blanc forever. On the more seriuos wine front, it was hard to go past the 2006 Remelluri Blanco, a white blend from monastrell, tempranillo and syrah that had subtle oak on the nose with lemon/lime notes, lots of minerality and a tinge of pepperiness on the back palate – and from reading the tasting notes, lots of other things I couldn’t pick up, like pickles. Save this one for your wankiest wine friends; they’ll love it.

I took a time out after downing all of those Cavas and whites in the heat, gorging on the juicy lamb to soak up the alcohol. And since I was having so much fun, time flew (as it does), so I found myself doing a speed tasting session before the Spanish Acquisition folks shut down the free-for-all. What I found were two killer tempranillos among the mix, stating with a 2006 Artadi ‘Vinas de Gain’ that to borrow the words of Mitchell Mcloud (because he said it better) – the owner of Northcote’s new Harvest Wine & Liquor boutique bottlo – was a brilliant mix of morello cherris and cola beans, confected but not sweet. Whatever, it was drinking beautifully. And while Mitchell found the 2002 Traslanzas as good but a bit light-on, I found it to be a beautiful red, with the kind of subtlety I’d be happy to find in more tempranillos. Top stuff.

But just as we thought the fun was over, there was one more highlight in store for us – an impromptu performance from the comedic duo Elbowskin, Enrie and Dave, the stars of “Are We Stupid” in the upcoming Melbourne Comedy Festival. The two sang a quirky, acoutic-guitar pisstake on the humble vine, which started off with “We were gonna write a song for the sommeliers, but it was all wine, wine, wine” and then headed straight to the gutter from there. All I can remember is the use of wine varietals to describe a man who meets a woman, only to discover she’s infected with phylloxera. It was a good laugh, so the Elbowskin boys promised that they’ll send over a link to a video they produced of the song, which I’ll happily share as soon as I get it. “This is only the second time we’ve had a chance to sing it,” said Ernie – guess it’s not every day you get knowing chuckles from wineheads. For now, check out their request to move their MySpace users to Facebook. It’s not G-rated, so if the kids are around, maybe use the headset.

Vineyard sprouts in the Sydney CBD

McGuigan vineyard

I had the most interesting lunch today. Across from Circular Quay. In front of Customs House. Dining… amongst the vines? Who’d a thunk.

Yes, one of the most unique wine promotions has come to Sydney, in which McGuigan Wines has set down a massive patch of grassy lawn, which they quickly did on Tuesday, and then ‘planted’ six rows of shiraz vines. The significance of this part of Circular Quay is that this is approximately where the First Fleet first unloaded their cargo, and where the first cuttings came from the Old World, and therefore where the Australian wine industry was born. And, well, it looks pretty damn cool in an area that’s mostly just a concrete pedestrian crossing.

Of course, the underlying excuse is that McGuigan is trying to raise its profile, and its pricing, so thus the high-profile spread to promote the company’s new Discover wine range, which is featuring four varietals: a Victorian pinot gris, Adelaide Hills sauvignon blanc, Limestone Coast rosé (from cabernet grapes) and Langhorne Creek shiraz/viognier. They’re all priced at about the $16 mark, and are aimed at bringing wines with more elegance and finesse to the label as it tries to make people think of it as more than a moniker for cheapie $8 wines. The geographic diversity also aims to reinforce the fact that McGuigan is a lot more than just its Pokolbin headquarters.

“People think of us as the Hunter, but it’s really a small part of our range,” CEO Dean Hudson tells me and other wine journos.

So at a table under umbrellas, I sit down with a number of wine writers, including the Sydney Morning Herald’s Huon Hooke and prolific wine scriber Windsor Dobbin, as well as handful of top brass from McGuigan Simeon, including Neil McGuigan, Hudson and their chief winemakers from the Barossa and Hunter.

Out of the four Discover wines, my favourites are the rosé, which is light and dry yet with just enough residual sugar to keep it interesting, and the sauvignon blanc, whose passionfruit is lower-key than those Marlborough fruit-bombs. For me, that’s a good thing. McGuigan has more brands that just its eponymous one, which includes its acquisition of Nepenthe, best known for its sauvignon blanc in the Adelaide Hills, and the artisan Yaldara label, know for its impressive chateau in the Barossa. To little wonder, I am most excited about the Yaldara shiraz, which goes for some $70 a bottle and is only produced during top vintages. It is complex and has plenty of structure to work wonders in my cellar. If I had one. Might be time to buy a wine fridge.

If all goes well, McGuigan plans to add a higher-level range under its own brand, which I think would do well to better endear enthusiast wine folks to its bottlings. That aside, I’m admittedly more excited about this vineyard in the city. The square in front of Customs House would be a helluva lot more pleasant if we could rip up the pavement, properly plant those vines, and have a wine bar and restaurant along the grassy knoll. Now that Clover Moore has done so well with liquor licensing, maybe we can add that to her to-do list. In the meantime, there’s free grog to be had, so escape the office tomorrow during lunchtime and have a tipple as you skip through the vines. Otherwise, you’ll have to drive up to the Hunter to get similar treatment.