Sunday, April 30, 2006

Is 2005 the Perfect Vintage?

A friend recently sent me an email that contained Robert Parker's comments about the 2005 Bordeaux vintage that is being raved about the world over. All of this 'raving' increases the hype and the prices. However I do like his comment that it is premature to say that this vintage will rival some of the others. Here is the full text of his comments.

"There is a man going around taking names, and he decides who to free and who to blame, everybody won't be treated all the same, when the man comes around" ... Johnny Cash

This may be the shortest introduction I have ever written to a Bordeaux vintage report. Virtually everybody has already described the nearly ideal weather conditions, and the fact that Bordeaux has produced something very special in 2005. At present, comparisons with other vintages are cheap talk designed to inflate prices, especially comparisons of 2005 to 1949, 1959, 1982, and 1990.

One thing I am sure of after twenty-eight years of tasting Bordeaux wines every March is that 2005 can not be compared to any previous vintage in my experience. Why?

One can safely generalize that many 2005 red Bordeaux possess (1) the highest tannin levels ever measured, (2) the highest dry extracts and concentration ever measured, (3) the highest natural alcohol levels ever measured, and, an anomaly, (4) surprisingly fresh, lively acid levels and reasonably modest pH's. What does all this mean, and how did it happen?

The short answer is that the growing season was extraordinarily dry. It was also warm, but unlike most summers, scorching heat waves never occurred. Consequently, the vineyards, if slightly stressed from the drought-like conditions, were never brutalized by torrid heat. There was some rain in August. About an inch fell in Pomerol, St.-Emilion, and Graves on August 17th, and there was a light rainfall in the Médoc on August 25th. September was not quite as perfect as the pundits claimed, but it was close to ideal, and, by Bordeaux standards, very dry. Some showers arrived on September 8th, and heavier rain moved through the region on the 25th. Following that date there was a window of extraordinary weather that lasted until October 12th. Even after that date, the weather remained balmy and reasonably dry. All of this meant no one was in a hurry to harvest. The cool nights and warm days preserved unprecedented levels of acidity in the finest wines of the vintage, which are characterized by massive richness and structure.

During my March tasting trip, there were days when I had the same excitement/jubilation that I remember experiencing when I tasted the 1982s in March, 1983. On several days tasting the northern Médocs, I was less enthusiastic and wondered if 2005 was even the equal of 2003 or 2000? Of course, this vintage is completely different in style from 1982, perhaps less so on the right bank, where so many incredibly sumptuous, ripe, intense, heady wines were produced. In the Médoc, 1982's weakness was the appellation of Margaux, which, ironically, is one of the greatest strengths of 2005.

In fact, I have never tasted better Margauxs than the 2005s. Overall, 2005 is unquestionably a remarkable as well as consistent vintage. However, there are several sobering issues with some 2005s.

The incredibly high tannin levels, especially noticeable in the northern Médoc communes of St.-Julien, Pauillac, and St.-Estèphe, appear to be adequately balanced by massive concentration and fruit. That's a good sign. But I remain convinced that the northern Médocs will shut down after bottling, and will require many years of cellaring until everything comes back into focus and harmony. While these wines will possess 30-50 years of longevity, they will not have the early appeal possessed by the 1982s and 1990s.

Do not let anyone suggest that many of the renowned northern Médoc classified growths will be drinkable in the next decade, unless you are a masochist with an addiction for tannin. Moreover, I prefer numerous 2003 northern Médocs over their 2005 counterparts. And of course, let's not forget the brilliance of 2000 in the northern Médoc, or for that matter, 1996. Elsewhere, the sweetness of the tannins counterbalanced by the fruit's extraordinary opulence and richness will make the wines more accessible, and their evolution should follow a faster timetable than the northern Médocs. In short, for Margaux, Graves, Pomerol, and St.-Emilion, this is a singular vintage of compelling greatness. Moreover, most of these wines will also possess 25-30 years of longevity.

It is no easy task to give readers a point of reference for this vintage. To reiterate, I have never tasted so many extraordinarily rich, concentrated, massive wines so high in tannin and extract, yet with such precision, definition, and freshness. It is clearly a singular vintage that should evolve into one of the great vintages of Bordeaux. However, it seems premature and risky to conclude so soon that the finest wines of 2005 are superior to the best of 2003, especially the northern Médocs, or the best wines of 2000, 1998 (for Pomerol and St.-Emilion), 1990, or the most profound 1989s and 1982s. Only time will prove the true quality of 2005 but it is beginning life as an extraordinary as well as remarkably consistent vintage. If there is any year even remotely similar, it is 2000 because of the overall consistency, the high number of superb offerings, and the fact that there are so many good minor wines. My instincts suggest the greatest 2005s of Pomerol, St.-Emilion, Graves, and Margaux are marginally superior to 2000, yet I remain cautious about the northern Médocs, which should turn out beautifully, but require enormous patience and be very long lived.

Astonishingly, 2005 is also a terrific vintage for Bordeaux's dry whites. They are powerful, with good acidity as well as superb concentration and depth. Additionally, from my limited tastings of the Barsac/Sauternes, it appears those regions have enjoyed another extraordinary vintage. The wines I tasted were not far off the magical 2001s.

Given the unprecedented degree of hype surrounding 2005, everyone is concerned about prices. It is safe to assume that the first growths, super-seconds, and a few other limited production cuvées that are in great demand will be priced in the stratosphere, yet as Bordeaux history has demonstrated, those prices will appear inexpensive 10-20 years from now. However, there is so much good wine in 2005, even from less than prestigious châteaux that are not exactly the darlings of speculators, that there will be an ocean of very high quality wine available at reasonable prices. As long as readers/consumers do not chase the points or labels, they will have plenty of impeccably high quality wine to drink from this vintage. Readers should not forget that an acclaimed vintage such as 2005, especially one receiving the kind of attention we have seen, creates fabulous buying opportunities from other vintages that must be displaced by the wine trade to raise sufficient funds to pay for the 2005s. In fact, there has never been a better time to buy Bordeaux with the 2004s getting ready to be bottled, the 2003s, and plenty of 2002s and 2001s remaining in the marketplace. Despite the doom and gloom cynics who would like to see Bordeaux prices return to those of the late sixties, the world has changed, and Bordeaux remains the most cherished and respected wine in the world for longevity and elegance. This is not the worst of all times to buy Bordeaux, but quite the contrary ... it is the best of times to be purchasing Bordeaux and to be a wine lover.

I tasted the wines between March 16 - 26. With the exception of the first growths and a handful of others, most were tasted 2, 3, sometimes 4 separate times. I should point out that malolactics for some of the St.-Emilions were relatively late, and some of those wines were just at the end of their malolactic fermentations. Given how well they performed, that is a positive sign since I would expect the wines to flesh out even more after the completion of their malolactic fermentations. None of my tastings were done blind.

- Robert Parker Jr. 24th April, 2006

McLaren Vale, how do I love thee?

Let me count the ways! I always seem to ‘wax lyrical’ the morning after a good evening. 'Fantastic wine and fantastic food' encapsulates it but, does not do it justice. It is always difficult to translate to translate your feelings and sensations into written word without it losing some of its power and meaning. We had four wines last night, three from McLaren Vale. Those three were definitely all winners!

McLaren Vale, what a sensational wine region. (For those who have read
Mclaren Vale Shiraz and my other posts, you will realize that I am partial to the odd drop of Shiraz from that wonderful region.) McLaren Vale featured last night but allow me to attempt to build a little suspense and get some saliva production happening first.

As mentioned yesterday I had promised the Leader of the Opposition a lamb meal last night and I had decided on lamb backstraps (because they were less fatty).
Edward helpfully suggested in his comment to Dinner on Saturday? to try a Sangiovese with the lamb as the relatively high tannins would help cut through the ‘fattiness’ of lamb.

I decided, after seeing a veal liver and bacon on roesti potatoes recipe in our weekend magazine, to use the potato idea for my meal. This is because the roesti potato has white vinegar in it and I thought this would also help to cut through any fattiness of the lamb and complement the various flavours well.

In the end we had slow roasted lamb backstraps topped with wilted baby spinach leaves and served on roesti potatoes. The backstraps were roasted at 60C for 1.5 hours in a small amount of olive oil and 1 diced clove of garlic. When removed from the oven they were well seasoned with salt and pepper and then seared in a hot pan for about two minutes per side and then set aside to rest for ten minutes or so.

I grated the potato and then wrapped it in a tea towel and squeezed out as much water as I could. Season with salt and pepper and put a couple of table spoons of white vinegar and ¼ cup of melted butter and mix together. Make separate ‘patties’ of the potato and fry in frypan with a generous amount of vegetable oil (not deep fry). Use spatula to push down reasonably flat. As the potato browns the ‘pancakes’ will firm and be easily flipped over.

The spinach is just wilted in a hot frypan with some olive oil and garlic and then toweled to remove as much moisture as possible. The jus was made from veal stock with balsamic vinegar and red wine. I must say that the food was great - one of my better efforts.
TWC - sorry mate we had to eat your share.

Before the meal, during ‘nibblies’, Rob and I (and our good wives) compared the Koonunga Hill (one of Rob’s favourite guzzlers) with the Oomoo Shiraz (one of my favourites although I don't mind the old Koonunga). I have to say the Oomoo came out way ahead and I think Rob will admit to it. The Koonunga was a Siraz Cab Sav blend but just didn’t have the power, nose or intense flavours that the Oomoo exhibited.

With the meal we had the two showcase wines of the evening. A Coriole McLaren Vale 2004 Sangiovese (based solely on Edward’s earlier suggestion – I had to go out and purchase a bottle as I didn’t have any in the ‘cellar’) and a Wolf Blass 1996 Brown Label Shiraz.

McLaren Vale, how do I love thee? Oh, I have said that before haven’t I? The memory of these two wines is making me almost burst into song or poetry.

I don’t know whether it was the fact that it was surrounded by big McLaren Vale Shiraz but the Coriole’s nose was strikingly similar to a McLaren Vale shiraz. So much so that if I had been blind tasting I would have guessed a McLaren Vale shiraz. I read Halliday’s notes on the 2003 and he talks about ‘light in colour …….. savoury rose petals’. I got none of this. This wine was definitely NOT light in colour it was a dark deep red bordering on purple (although that could have had something to do with the light on the deck). Maybe someone more experienced than I could have smelled the ‘savoury rose petals’ but all I could get was ripe red berries. Being the first bottle of Sangiovese I have ever bought or drunk, I enjoyed it immensely. It was slightly tanniny but somehow more ‘elegant’ (if that is the right word) than some of the bigger bolder shiraz’. It was well worth the money and I will be buying some more.

The best wine of the night goes to Robbie’s contribution the Wolf Blass 1996 Brown Label Classic Shiraz. It was a true McLaren Vale shiraz. It was still big and bold and with still a hint of oakiness about it. As I sat there sniffing it I was amazed at the variety of aromas you could get. Definitely a variety of berries and later on some ‘crushed ants’. The word that Rob and I (being amateurs) both thought of immediately was ‘fresh’. I don’t know where this fits into the wine lexicon but the wine was fresh and alive. It was incredible and reminded me yet again of why I love the shiraz from this region. This wine typified all that is great about the grape! Unfortunately I think it was Robbie’s last bottle. Such sadness to end a night of joy!

Thanks Rob for the wine and thanks Edward for the tip on the Sangiovese.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

More Grange Hermitage information!! Update #4

I was complaining recently that I had not heard much about the forthcoming 2001 Penfold's Grange Hermitage Release. Silly me!! I am now being innundated with information and reviews etc. This article appeared in the Advertiser

New Grange to cost $600

THE eagerly awaited release of the 2001 Penfolds Grange on May 1 is expected to go down as one of the greatest vintages of Australia's most famous wine.The 50th commercial vintage of the wine is also expected to be one of the most sought after Granges.

It is also likely to be the most expensive Grange with a price tag of up to $600 a bottle in some stores.

While few have yet tasted the precious wine, it already has a reputation among some connoisseurs as one of the great Granges.

Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago said because the company did not enter it in wine shows, it was happy to let others determine the merits of Grange.

Its panel of wine connoisseurs described the 2001 Grange as "almost certainly a great Grange" and "an immaculately balanced wine".

While Mr Gago says it has evolved considerably in the 30 months since then, those who have tasted it have little doubt about its quality.

Melbourne Street Fine Wine Cellars proprietor John Swanson said the 2001 Grange is a great wine and plans to stock it at $495 a bottle.

Spittoon (a UK Wine Blog) writes "The 50th commercial vintage of the wine is also expected to be one of the most sought after Granges.... It is also likely to be the most expensive Grange with a price tag of up to $600 a bottle in some stores."

Here are some tasting notes on various vintages of Grange (including the 1952, 1990, 1998 and 2001).

AND here is a forum with what some consumers are saying.

All of this adds to the hype of course. Every year we hear from somewhere that this looks like being one of the greatest vintages ever. This may be true this year however, I will be surprised if the 2001 Grange will be retailed at $600 per bottle. If it does, I am very happy with mine at $450! Thanks Robbie!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Dinner on Saturday??

Well, Saturday is fast approaching and I need to work out what I am preparing for dinner and what wines to drink with it.

The Leader of the Opposition has requested lamb. She loves it! I like it too, but sometimes I find it a bit too fatty (
Edward if you read this, is this a sure sign of age and a weakened gall bladder?). However, being the loving and attentive bloke that I am I will acquiesce to the wishes of "SHE, who must be obeyed" and prepare a lamb dish.

Any suggestions anyone? I am thinking of preparing a dish using lamb backstraps (less fat). Maybe slow-roasted (about an hour at 65-70C) and then 10 minutes at 220C? Or slow-roasted and then seared in a pan and then 5-8 minutes at 200C? Served with fresh veggies and potato gratin (my wife loves this when I make it).

However, my wife has been watching a show on Lifestyle Food called "
Great British Menu" where "Some of the UK's top chefs defend their local patch and battle it out with their regional rival to wow the judges and win the ultimate accolade - to cook a dish for the Queen's 80th birthday" (per their website). The dish that took her fancy the other night was prepared by one of the Northern Ireland chefs - New season lamb with a herb and mustard crust and scallion crushed potatoes. I must say the recipe (check out the link) looks fantastic! However, I reckon the Venison Wellington with pickled cabbage looked great too!

I did promise my wife lamb! Whilst the herb and mustard crust looks good I have recently prepared two similar type dishes -
Breadcrumb and pine-nut encrusted rack of lamb to go with a 2001 Evans Tate Margaret River Shiraz and Lamb with mustard which we ate with a Brayduns Hill 2003 McLaren Vale Shiraz, a 2002 Jacobs Creek (why couldn't they leave it as Orlando) St Hugo's Cab Sav and my last bottle of 1994 Limestone Ridge Cab Sav.

Therefore I think I will have to go with the slow pan roasted lamb backstraps with potato gratin. I might serve the young lamb with a young wine and go for the
Hardy's Oomoo 2004 McLaren Vale Shiraz (see Guzzler Update #2 and 7 Effective habits of Highly Successful Guzzler locaters) or maybe a Penfolds 1998 Bin 407?. Do you have any suggestions? I can try to buy one and let you know how it goes.

The Wine Commonsewer) asked if he could come over for dinner. You had better get your skates on if you want to make it in time!

Grange Update #3

Even though the 2001 vintage Grange is not supposed to be on sale until Monday, my brother-in-law (Rob)was able to buy 8 bottles yesterday afternoon.

Also, it is already appearing on
EBAY where you can bid either on a single bottle (in its own wooden case) or a full case.

As Professor Julius Sumner Miller once asked (well, not just once but on every show - you have to be old enough to remember) "Why is it so?"

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Rob - The Grange Hunter!!

You met Rob in my last post as the originator of Robbie's Rule of Thumb. I can't speak too badly of Rob, as I have just received a phone call from him. He is on the hunt for the stellar wine - Grange Hermitage.

He read my post and didn't want to wait until Monday 1st May, having lived through the awful time at the release of the 1998 Grange when you just couldn't get any, so he went 'on the hunt'.

He called me because he had just located some at had already purchased 4 bottles for me and 4 bottles for himself. His call has prompted this impromptu post! I hope none of you miss out!!

By all accounts this Grange is supposed to be one of the better vintages of this superb wine and it just so happesn that 2001 was the year in which the Leader of the Opposition and my eldest son was born.

Go out and get 'em!!! Thanks Robbie - Grange Hunter!!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Robbie’s Rule of Thumb

I can’t believe I am actually writing this article! Most of you will think it is stupid, especially those with more than some basic wine knowledge. Oh well, I am the Wine AMATEUR after all! I think it is about time to show how amateur I really am.

My brother-in –law, Rob (aka ‘Robbie’, aka ‘Girlie Man’, wine buddy and keen golfer) has evolved a simple, but quite elegant theory. We call it Robbie’s Rule of Thumb. I have to admit that, as stupid as it sounds, there is a little (I really mean LITTLE) merit in it and it becomes seductive in and by itself. So if you don’t want to change the way you appraise wines at the store, go no further. Take one of the links to the right and flee, as fast as you can.




So you have decided to read on – poor fool! Just remember you have been warned, and once tainted there is no going back!

Robbie postulated the theory that there was a significant and measurable positive correlation (within a 95% confidence level – ie a 5% risk of overstatement – is that an alpha error or beta error, I can’t recall?) between the depth of a bottle’s punt and the quality of the wine.

He first posed the null hypothesis back in around 1999 and every time you either go wine shopping, or drink wine, with him it gets another run. It is so seductive that you find yourself at the store glancing around to see if anyone is noticing you placing your thumb inside the punt of the bottle you just picked up. It is almost Hopoate-esk! (those Rugby League followers from the Eastern States who know who John Hopoate is will know what I am talking about).

That is bad enough, but the worst thing to happen is when Rob notices you doing it. It is all over then because he knows he has another one.

In all seriousness though, I guess there can be a correlation between the quality of the wine and the depth of the punt. It is good only as a generalization. The reason for this, I am told (by persons far more expert than I), is that the bottles with the deeper punt are actually a fair bit more expensive than the other bottles. Therefore, it makes sense that a wine maker, when choosing a vessel for a quality wine will choose a quality bottle. The reverse would also generally be true, that a producer when choosing a bottle for a wine that will be priced at the ‘guzzler’ end of the market will choose a cheaper bottle.

It must be remembered that this is only a GENERALISATION and it will not work all the time. For example I have a number of bottles of Tyrrell’s Vat 9 Shiraz and the bottle does not have much of a punt, yet the wine could hardly be called a guzzler or not a quality wine.

So next time you are at the store and wondering if you should try the wine you have just picked up, take a quick glance around to make sure no-one is watching and then insert your thumb into the punt. If Robbie’s Rule of Thumb leads you astray..................... blame Rob!

Guzzler Update #2

I received the Vintage Cellars monthly newsletter “Cellar Press” two days ago. A few offers really stood out.

Hardys 2004 Oomoo McLaren Vale Shiraz at 3 for $33. Just $11 each if you buy three! Can I afford not to buy three? Halliday rated the 2002 at 94/100 (I think) and the 2003 at 92/100. What a great guzzler for a great price! (Robbie – it isn’t for you – Rob does not like the Oomoo, poor bloke).

Wynns 2004 Coonawarra Estate Shiraz at 2 for $22. Again, just $11 each. Last year rated 90/100, and are fairly consistent performers. I just can’t believe what you can buy for $11.

Penfolds Rawsons Retreat Shiraz Cabernet at 3 for $20 – about $6.70 each. It won’t rate as highly, but for those who have read one of my first blogs In the Beginning! will realize I have a soft spot for the old Ronnies.

The Cellar Press is really talking to me! It now includes 2 pages of wine and meal suggestions - yeeeaahhh!

First Grange Sighting!

I mentioned in my last blog I recently received the monthly Vintage Cellars newsletter called Cellar Press. On the front cover was a photograph of a bottle of Grange. Hallelujah! My first Grange sighting for the season!!

Vintage Cellars will have it on sale from 1 May at $499 per bottle or $899 for two with a limit of two per customer. I can hardly wait!! (see my post of 2001 Grange is almost here)

I am perplexed at how Vintage Cellars can have it on their newsletter saying it will be in all their stores when other stores have not even heard of their allocation. How is this possible? Does Vintage Cellars get an inside running? Or have they just taken a punt that they will receive enough to do it?

Has anyone seen it cheaper? Please comment and tell me whether you have.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Great Links!

A little bit of a different slant today! Much of the attractiveness of blogging is its interactivity between bloggers and their readers (via comments etc), but an intereactivity between the blogger and other bloggers (via links to different web or blogsites).

My aim is to try and keep the links that appear on my site relevant, useful and up to date. I link to the sites in the hope that my readers will find them interesting also. The links are found over to the right (just under the subscription box).

The links I currently show are:

The Wine Emporium
Oz Wine Show

The Wine Emporium is linked simply because I believe they are the best truly independent wine store around (at least in Brisbane).

Vinography is a site based out of San Francisco and has some really good articles, like this one (Do Many 2005 Bordeaux Wines Suck?) as a counterpoint to the 2005 Bordeaux Vintage that is being raved about by everyone else. It also has a large number of links to various other wine blogs.

If you have been reading this blog long enough you will know I like the odd drop of shiraz. Shirazshiraz was included almost solely because of its name. Not really! This would be a disservice to the site, as it contains some excellent blogs and information for the grossly undertalented wine amateurs, such as myself.

I love Winetastic for its tasting and reviewing of Australia Wines - many of which I have not tried yet but intend to do so, partly based on some of their recommendations.

One of my favourites is Oz Wine Show. I have listened to their latest podcast and was extremely interested to hear what Matthew Jukes (head wine judge at the Sydney Royal Wine Show) had to say about Australian Wines. This is the sort of stuff you never get to hear unless you are in the industry. Thanks guys!!

I will try to add more interesting links as I find them.



Sunday, April 23, 2006

What Joy!

What Joy! What Rapture! No I am not writing a hymn, but it is Sunday morning and, coincidentally, those are the words that come to mind in attempting to describe the wines that we had last night. Have I ever mentioned that I really love wine, and good food?!

It looked like we would have a quiet night however one phone call changed all that. We have been trying to catch up with good friends (Lynton is one of my ‘wine-buddies’ as discussed in 7 Effective Habits of Highly Successful Guzzler locaters) for months but for one reason or another it just wasn’t happening. On a whim I decided to call them at around lunchtime and they were free for dinner and kindly agreed to allow me to experiment on them.

I served eye fillet wrapped in pancetta (roasted) on a parmesan potato cake base with enoki and shitaki mushrooms, a veal jus and a spinach puree. (I forgot to take a photo of the finished item with the mushrooms, but recreated it without - so please forgive this small omission).

As I was cooking Lynton and I polished off (half a glass each) a wine that he did not finish the night before and he had recorked. He brought it over because he knew I would be interested in it. It was a Rockford 2001 Rod & Spur (a blend of 66% cabernet sauvignon and 34% shiraz from the Barossa). It was fantastic! The aromas very much reminded me of a Bordeaux. I looked up Halliday’s 2006 Wine Companion and saw that these wines rarely make it to the East Coast as they are mainly sold via the winery and Adelaide retailers. Halliday rated the 2001 at 92/100 and said “an elegant, understated style; a gently ripe array of red and black berry fruits; fine ripe tannins”. If this retails at $30 per bottle, it is well worth it.

Next up we opened a bottle of Lynton’s 1996 Rosemount Mountain Blue Mudgee Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon blend. I must admit that I was not ready for the wine that I received. Halliday rates the 2001 at a 92/100 and calls it “full bodied”. This wine, although ten years old, had really big fruit flavours but with gentle tannins. It was complex with a long finish. In my opinion, this was the wine of the night and we still had a few good ones to go. You can read about this wine at the Wine House.

We then moved onto my offering of a 2002 Calon Segur. A “third growth” Bordeaux from the Saint Estephe region. After the big fruit driven flavours of the Mountain Blue, the Calon Segur was almost lost. I have one of Robert Parker’s books on the Bordeaux but unfortunately it only covers up to the 2001 vintage. In 2001 Calon Segur rated at 88-91(by Parker) and in looking back over the last 5 years or so has been a little inconsistent. I have tasted the 2001 Calon Segur at a Bordeaux wine evening and I enjoyed it but, to me at least, the 2002 is not quite as good and the 2001’s long finish was definitely not there with the 2002 that we drank. But the Wine Journal had this to say "Very intense sweet black fruits on the nose. Quite masculine for Calon-Segur: very dense. The palate is powerful but very well-balanced with an exotic feel. So rich you could drink this now, but this certainly has the tannins and acidity to last 10+ years." Maybe this is why I am the Wine Amateur?

Our final red with dinner was a 1993 Grant Burge Shadrach Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a fairly impressive pedigree and did not disappoint last night. There were spices and berries on the nose and softened but still ripe berry flavours. What a beautiful wine!

We finished off dessert with a Seppelt Tokay. What a great night!

I am kicking myself for not taking a photograph of Lynton, and his beautiful wife Lisa, however I have dug this one up from somewhere. It was during the Olympics in 2004 and we all got together and had an Olympics party. Lynton and his son Nicholas were modeling the latest range of laurel wreath headgear and gold medals (Sorry buddy)!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Oh! What a Beauddy!!

Last night I was late getting home and very late firing up the BBQ for dinner. While the BBQ was warming up I raced down to the wine cellar (for thos not too familiar with my posts so far - the term 'wine cellar' is a technical term, and used extremely loosely in my case). In the cellar I did something that I had not done in a while, something very risky indeed. I went in, without turning on the light, and selected a bottle without knowing what it was. Once up stairs again I was not going to go back down. This is the bottle that we were going to drink with the meal. (I am glad I did not pull out a Grange!! )

The wine I selected was a Yalumba 2000 'The Menzies' Coonoowarra Cabernet Sauvignon - a wine which I had never tasted before. With the first taste you could tell it was a special wine! I won't try to describe it in wine tasting terms as I don't think I could do it justice. I knew it was not a 'guzzler' but a wine to be savoured. It was wonderful - and I turned and said to the Leader of the Opposition - "Oh! What a beauddy!!" (Aussies will understand this use of technical language).

This morning I logged on to see if I could find any reviews on the wine and I found the following reviews:

"The best Menzies that I can remember tasting - I’m not usually a fan. Minerally, gravelly, urranty and long, with a wealth of fine-grained tannins and near-perfect balance. It should cellar terrifically. Drink: 2007-2015." 93 Points; Campbell Mattinson; Winefront Monthly - August 2004

"If you like great Coonawarra cabernet try this. This is the best Menzies I can 2000 it was the star of the show. Medium-bodied and deliciously elegant, it was made by Peter Gambetta, an old Coonawarra hand...This is classic Coonawarra: crammed with gentle blackberry fruit, drying tannins and a long finish. Drinking well now, but one for the cellar too." Jeff Collerson, The Daily Telegraph (AUS), September 1, 2004

Gold - Limestone Coast (Coonawarra) Wine Show 2003
Gold - Sydney Wine Show 2003

on the Wine Star website where you can order it for $33.99 per bottle. Definitely NOT a 'guzzler' then but would be perfect to lay down for a special occasion. The label on the bottle recommended drinking between 2004 and 2016.

Enjoy!! Tell me, what are you going to be drinking over the weekend?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Two blogs ago, in 7 Effective Habits of Highly Successful Guzzler Locaters I wrote about guzzlers. It was serendipitous!!! Yesterday I received a couple of newspaper inserts showing various retailer specials and they have some really great guzzlers!! For those of you in Brisbane you can get these without much effort.

Liquor Savers Superstore have a number of really good buys.

Top of my list is the 2004 Ingoldby Shiraz (from - guess where? – yep, McLaren Vale). It is selling for $11.95 per bottle. It usually sells for around $15-$18 per bottle and consistently rates very highly. Halliday rated the 2002 at 94/100. I have not seen any notes on the 2004 but year in and year out this has been a consistently good wine (since at least 1998).

Also good value is the Wynns 2004 Coonawara Shiraz at $13.95 per bottle and the 2004 Rouge Homme Coonawarra Cab Sav at $9.95 per bottle is a steal. The 2003 was rated at 90/100 and retailed for around $15.

Two of my other favourite guzzlers are Rawson’s Retreat Shiraz Cab $6.95 each and Penfold’s Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cab at $9.99. The Koonunga Hill is available at Mr Corks. These two wines are consistently good guzzlers. Don’t expect the Rawson’s Retreat to shoot out any lights at $6.95 but I have never been disappointed by it. The Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cab consistently rates in the high 80’s and low 90’s and, if you are patient, can almost always pick it up for under $10.

I am feeling thirsty! Gotta go!


2001 Penfolds Grange - ALMOST HERE!!

The release of the 2001 vintage of Penfold’s Grange Hermitage should occur in early May. I can’t believe how little is being said about it!

Have any of you seen or read any reviews or tasting notes? Please let me know so I can link to it or your blog if one is there.

I have talked with Tony Harper and Stewart Plant, resident wine experts at The Wine Emporium, who have both tasted the 2001 vintage. They both tasted it independently of the other and both have told me that, in their opinion, it is one of the best vintages they have tasted. Let’s hope they are right!!

I am just an amateur but I am excited about it as I have a few bottles of Grange. The Leader of the opposition and I try to acquire a number of bottles for the vintage relating to each of our seminal years eg. the year we got married, the year of the birth of our children etc. Our idea is to buy at least 4 bottles, keep two for drinking and sell the other two at some point in time. 2001 marks the year of the birth of our oldest son and we hope to lay or hands on a case – two to keep, two to sell, two to give our son at his 21st. Additionally, we thought that if we ever wanted to drink Grange that we have acquired at release and cellared ourselves, we had better start now seeing as how we will most likely have to lay them down for 20 years or so.

The only question I have with the Grange relates to the price. Whilst it is high it will be great for us as an investment, however I question whether the price has been artificially inflated.

I recall trying to buy the 1998 Grange. Is it just me? I think I recall that it was the night before the release that one of the Penfold’s people (I think it was the winemaker of the Grange) was on the news saying that the 1998 vintage was a small one, and that the release would also be small, and that what was released the next day was all that was going to be released. Subsequently you could not buy some for love nor money and the price shot up to over $400 (way up on the 1997 vintage).

You could not acquire some for a long period of time, however if you go into most wine retailers now there are stocks of the 1998 ranging between $600-$750 per bottle. If all were released at the beginning, where is the current stock all coming from? Can someone please tell me if I am wrong?

Irregardless I will be out there fighting the hordes attempting to secure some Grange to put in the new wine cabinet (when it eventually gets here)! I have been saving all year for it!

Is this ridiculous?? I have only ever tasted two Grange’s in my life (both on the one night) – now mind you they were a 1964 and a 1984 and they were drunk in 2004. On what basis am I about to spend my ‘hard-earned’? On the word of some wine critics who I hardly know? You bet!!

If you cannot afford to buy some, my heartfelt sympathies are with you. However, I sincerely hope you do get a chance to at least taste Grange at some point.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

7 Effective Habits of Highly Successful GUZZLER Locaters

'Guzzler' (pronounced in Australia, the place where a name with two syllables is almost too much trouble, as 'guz-luh') is a term my friends and family use to denote a wine that drinks well but is inexpensive. But where and how can you find such wines? Do they really exist? Yes they do and they are not as hard to find as you might imagine.

One of the greatest thrills you can get is when you find a wine for under $15 that drinks as well as a $30 - $40 bottleof wine. Wine is seductive! Guzzlers, for me, used to be all under $10. Now they are under $15. This is partly because I think my palate is changing the more I am drinking wine, in that it is becoming more ‘educated’ and more selective. It is also somewhat partly due to inflation.

Nowadays, it seems that I can appreciate the differences between wines of various values, more than I used to be able to. At least this is the case with Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. When I first started drinking I couldn’t tell, or more accurately appreciate, any difference between a $10 or $40 bottle of wine. Maybe you have felt the same way?

In many ways I am still like that with white wines. I am hopeless with them and maybe this is why I stick to reds. I don’t mind Chardonnay and love a good Semillon or Riesling. Sauvignon Blanc is OK and a Gewürztraminer is not bad as well. I can tell a bad Chardonnay or Semillon but I couldn’t appreciate the difference between a $20 bottle of Chardonnay and a $50 bottle.

Much of the reason I stick to reds is because as I said in In the Beginning is that I believe there are basically two types of wine – ones you like and ones you don’t. I REALLY like reds so I tend to stick to them.

Does any of this sound familiar to you??

So how can we find guzzlers – red or white – that we can enjoy. Here are some of the ways that I use.

1. Wine Companion or other wine publications
Just because I am an amateur doesn’t mean that I don’t value the opinion of experts. In fact the reverse is true. I have mentioned Australian Wine Companion 2006 (by James Halliday) in several earlier blogs (Halliday J., 2005 ‘Australian Wine Companion : Bestselling Guide to Australian Wines’, HarperCollins, Sydney) Dymocks Books

There are other wine guides besides the Australian Wine Companion however I have only ever really used this one. It, and the others, is updated annually to incorporate new wineries and wines tasted and bring in new tasting notes on recently released vintages.

I find the Companion an invaluable guide to the wines and wineries and the various wine regions, however it does have its limitations. You will often purchase a bottle of wine and look for it in the guide only to find that the vintage you have hasn’t been tasted or there are no notes for it. However, if the book contained notes on every vintage on every wine it would be too big and never ready for print.

The 2006 Australian Wine Companion rates 5957 wines and also gives great guzzler hints. On pages 35 and 36 it lists Ten of the Best Value Whites and Reds under $10 and the same for between $10 - $15. It provides a guide to their price and Halliday’s rating (out of 100). In his systems his top two rankings are as follows:

94-100 = Outstanding: Wines of the highest quality; usually with a distinguished pedigree.
90-93 = Highly recommended. Wines of great quality, style and character, worthy of a place in any cellar.

Even if we look at these top two rankings he gives a good number of wines to choose from, which in Halliday’s view are great ‘Guzzlers’:

Whites ranking at 90/100 or more and less than $15:
90/100 = 2004 Dominion Vinus Sauvignon Blanc Semillon $8.95
90/100 = 2004 Angove’s Long Row Sauvignon Blanc $9.99
90/100 = 2004 Zilzie Buloke Reserve Chardonnay $9.99
91/100 = 2004 Yalumba Y Series Viognier $11.95
92/100 = 2002 Byrne & Smith Ardent Estates Margaret River Chardonnay $12
93/100 = 2003 Allison Valley Semillon Sauvignon Blanc $10
93/100 = 2004 Willow Bridge Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon $14.50
93/100 = 2004 Mount Trio Vineyard Great Southern Sauvignon Blanc $14.90
93/100 = 2004 Sticks Chardonnay $14.99
93/100 = 2004 Marribrook Frankland River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc $15
94/100 = 2004 Braydon Estate Home Paddock Hunter Valley Semillon $12.50
94/100 = 2002 Cleveland Macedon Chardonnay $15
94/100 = 2003 Patrick T The Caves Vineyard Riesling $15

Reds ranking at 90/100 or more and less than $15:
90/100 = 2003 Water Wheel Memsie Shiraz Cabernet Malbec $12
90/100 = 2003 Red Hill Estate Bimaris Pinot Noir $14
90/100 = 2002 Trentham Estate Merlot $14.50
90/100 = 2003 Rouge Homme Cabernet Sauvignon $14.99
90/100 = 2003 Judds Warby Range Estate Durif $15
91/100 = 2001 Moondah Brook Cabernet Sauvignon $13
91/100 = 2004 Yarra Brook Estate Yarra Valley Shiraz $13.75
91/100 = 2003 Cuttaway Hill Estate Southern Highlands Merlot $15
91/100 = 2003 McCrae Mist Mornington Peninsula Shiraz $15
92/100 = 2002 Casella Yellow Tail cabernet Sauvignon $9.99
92/100 = 2003 The Long Flat Wine Co Yarra Valley Pinot Noir $9.99
92/100 = 2003 Hardy’s Oomoo McLaren Vale Shiraz $13

As you can see there is significant variety at the highest quality under $15. The wines listed above are a great starting point for ‘guzzlers’

Additionally, there are a myriad of other wine commentators, reviewers, magazines, Wine Societies, newsletters etc that are out there on the internet and are found by simple searches. The best ones cost money to subscribe to and using one quite comprehensive guide like the Companion is a simple and good –place to begin.

2. Subscribe to email and snail mail wine retailer newsletters.
Subscribing to various wine retailers monthly newsletters is a great way to find ‘guzzlers’. I get regular monthly newsletters from Vintage Cellars, The Grape and Quinns just to name three. It is the only junk mail I enjoy getting and makes great loo-time reading.

I tend to read the snail mail brochures more than the emailed ones. I usually only seem to get the chance to skim the first one or two wines in the email before I get distracted by something else, however I will always take a quick peek as it can really be worth it.

I recently was able to snaffle up two cases of 2004 Maglieri McLaren Vale Shiraz at $10 per bottle. The 2002 Maglieri was rated by Halliday at 90/100. The 2004 is not quite as good but still well worth more than $10 per bottle. The special only lasted one day and despite ordering straight away (within minutes of receiving the email) it had already sold out in NSW. Luckily I come from Queensland!

Another good approach is to join a Wine Society. I joined the Wine Society a few years ago. Why? I can’t recall! I think it may have been while I was scouring the net and I sent a question to the Wine Society and they answered it and then offered me a membership at special rates. The Wine Society often has their own special wines made for them by producers and is occasionally able to obtain wines at special prices. It is also good value for being adventurous! See 6. below. The Wine Society also runs courses and events and provides some recipes to try with certain wines. Check them out at Wine Society

3. Scan specials in newspapers and internet
Keep your eye on weekend newspapers for large liquor stores advertising specials. Regularly scan internet sites of retailers for specials eg:

Dan Murphy’s,
Vintage Cellars,
Wine Society,
The Grape,
Liqour Superstore,

4. Browse the specials aisles
While you’re out picking up your beer or wine always scan the specials aisle for anything that takes your interest. You may see nothing you know but there may be one or two that spark your interest.

This is probably the least successful of the 7 tips but sometimes the most enjoyable and you get to browse. As a bloke, most of the time I hate shopping but I can spend hours in a good wine store.

5. Don’t knock back cleanskins
Try the odd cleanskin – you will be glad you did! Make sure when you buy a cleanskin you try it that night or next day (ie ASAP), so that if you really like it you can return quickly and buy more before it is sold out or is moved from where you last found it. See my blog on Cleanskins

Cleanskins come about from a variety of sources. For many reasons a producer or retailer may need to liquidate some stock to reduce overheads or just to ‘clear the channels’. These are often sold as ‘cleanskins’. These cleanskins are usually sold at a generous reduction in retail price. Oftentimes you cannot find out what the particular wine is other than its region and it variety. This is so that the same wine that may also be on the shelves at full retail isn’t disadvantaged or the reputation of the wine or winemaker diminished by the great reduction in price.

6. Be adventurous
Don’t just keep on buying the wines you know and like. Try new ones regularly. You don’t have to buy dozens, just buy one and try it. Try creating a new meal to go with it and have some fun - see my blog on Lamb & Wine

There are also various wine clubs or groups you can join eg. NSW Wine Society, Vintage Cellars, as well as ones attached to the Qantas Club, various credit cards, and other membership rewards groups. These provide a great way of forcing you to become adventurous and try new wines. I have a small standing order with the NSW Wine Society. Every six months they send me a mixed dozen of red wines. They choose them and average them to a certain value. Every six months I receive a little surprise at the office when the case turns up. Most of the wines they choose I have never tried before. Whilst I have had one or two ‘duds’, most are perfectly acceptable and I have even had more than a few ‘crackers’.

7. Find others with similar interests and tastes and compare notes
One of the most helpful things I have found is to have friends around you that have similar tastes and interests to you in wine. You can each try new wines and share your notes with your friends. Over a few short years my wine network has grown, but the core ones remain the same. My key wine-buddies are Rob (brother in law) Phil and Russ (brothers) Lynton (one of my best mates). These are people who often call me when they spot a great special, a good wine auction, or have just tried a new but fantastic wine. I am often doing the same in return. It’s good fun!

These key people are also the ones I share my wine with the most. I have discovered that your best wines you tend to save for the times when you are with the people you value the most. The wine is more enjoyable when you share it with ones you care about! I don’t believe good wine is meant to be drunk alone.

Evans & Tate 2001 Margaret River Shiraz

Once again this wine did not disappoint!! It is not a wine with huge tannins and oak but incredible cherry aromas with a hint of licorice - how good is this? I am really sounding like a wine wanker now!! However I could really smell those things. The difficulty I am having is trying to describe the flavours accurately - this is for any wine.

Maybe I have a sniffing problem?! I could sit and sniff the better wines for 10 minutes between sips. I love the aromas of a good wine. Maybe this is why I can describe the aromas better than the taste. Can someone help or advise????

I will have to try the 2002 and 2003 vintages to see if they are of a similar quality. Halliday rates the vintages in the Margaret River consistently (for reds at least) as virtually the same for 2001, 2002 and 2003. We shall endeavour to find out.

For those food lovers out there I have loaded up a photo of the experimental meal last night. The pine-nut and rosemary encrusted lamb rack. It was fantastic! Although I put too much rosemary into the roasted tomato sauce and it overpowered it a bit - oh well, better luck next time.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Wine or food?

I got a shock this morning when I checked my blog and found the Google ads were food related rather than wine related. Obviously lately I have been writing more on food than on the wine. I apologise!! I guess that the two go hand in hand very well – a love of wine and a love of food. Also, I have been enjoying experimenting in the kitchen lately and have simply been writing about what I have been doing. Well, back to the wine!

Tonight we are going to drink a bottle of Evans & Tate Margaret River 2001 Shiraz. The 2003 version of the wine does not appear in the 2006 Wine Companion, however if I recall correctly Halliday rated the 2001 (or was it the 2000?) 92 or 94 (out of 100) and as one of the best wines under $15 at the time (I think around 2003/04). It must have been a huge vintage because I was buying it for ages after reading that.

I just did a quick search on the internet and found this review written by Halliday (on 8 October 2002) about the 2001 vintage –

"Strong colour; spice, black cherry and licorice aromas lead into a spicy, cedary medium-bodied palate, with considerable elegance; there is just a passing question on the amount of oak."

By the way he did rate it 94 out of 100, which in Halliday’s system means “Outstanding. Wines of the highest quality, usually with a distinguished pedigree”. The price guide given on this review was $25. WOW!! I still have at least a dozen left for which I paid no more than $15.

The price a couple of years ago was at around $14 per bottle and the same wine now retails for around $17-$18. However, I have often found it on special for under $15. At $15 it is hard to go past. The later vintages (2002 and 2003) are, I think, not quite as good as the 2001 however still good value and great drinking.

It will be served with pine-nut and breadcrumb encrusted rack of lamb on a pasta base with a tomato and finely chopped rosemary and olive sauce. That is, if I can summon the energy to cook tonight. Karyn and I took our two boys to Mt Glorious for some bushwalking and a picnic lunch. The walk was only a few kilometers but I feel that I have done it twice running backward and forward with the boys and hiding behind the big buttress roots so we could jump out and scare their mother (aren’t boys great?!)

But again I digress - I love the Evans and Tate Margaret River 2001 Shiraz – and, by the way, so does the leader of the opposition! Have you ever tried this wine? Tell me what you thought of it! Have you tried the later vintages?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The day after the night before

The title sounds worse than it is. It was a good night – food turned out great (except for the carrots that were a little overdone – I put them in too early in the process). The meat was incredibly tender and succulent and very, very tasty – if I do say so myself!

Have a look at some of the photos and then tell me that your mouth is not watering. I looked at the photos again this morning and, despite still feeling quite full from last night, my mouth is watering, but then again I have the luxury of having tasted the meal last night.

I also took a photo of the red wine jus being made but you can mostly just see steam as the jus is reducing, so I didn’t post it. We had so much meat left after last night that we will eat it tonight for dinner and roast up some new veggies and make some new gravy. This means I will have to put off the breadcrumb and pine-nut encrusted lamb racks until Monday night – oh well!

The wine we drank last night was superb – a Heathfield Ridge 2000 Limestone Coast Shiraz. My eldest brother (Phil) gave me a case of these and it is hard not to keep drinking them. The berry aromas and flavours are wonderful and there is a really subtle hint of oak that just adds beautifully to the overall taste. What I really love about this wine is that it stays a long time on the palate – by that I mean that even a couple of minutes after your last sip (providing you have not put anything else into your mouth in the meantime) you can still taste the wine. If you can still find this wine around I can recommend it.

To think that these grapes were grown in South Australia in 1999/2000 and have been cellared in oak barrels for a couple of years (?) and then into a bottle and now some 6 years after being picked they taste incredibly fresh. Wine is amazing.

The best experience I had with this type of thing was when a friend turned 40 (in 2004) and he generously provided a bottle of 1964 Chateau Mouton Rothschild for his own birthday dinner. I can honestly say it is the best wine I have ever had the pleasure of drinking and I was amazed at how wonderfully fresh and alive it seemed to be after 40 years. The competing and different flavours that were coming through in the wine were sensational. I guess this is what the experts mean when they talk about ‘complexity’, but I am not sure.

What is the best wine you have drunk? Please tell me about it and what it was that you liked about it.



Saturday, April 15, 2006

Today’s Tasks

As mentioned the other day we are having guests for dinner and they (together with the leader of the opposition) have chosen what they want. Apparently I get no say in the matter but must simply plan the meal, acquire the produce, prepare, cook and serve the meal – oh, and PICK THE WINE (at least they can’t take that choice away from me!)

I will be heading off to Rode Road Meats in a few minutes for a whole Rib Fillet. We will do, what is fast becoming, the usual dance. They will ask if I want that sliced, to which I will reply “No, of course not. Don’t you realize who I am? I am the Wine Amateur!!” They will tell me to “P… off you idiot”.

Not really, but once I tell them I do not want it sliced they do often ask how I am going to cook it. That is the opening I am waiting for! I can then regale them with tales of valour and heroism in the kitchen – well I can at least share my recipe, cant I?

After the rib fillet it is off to Zone Fresh on Newmarket Rd for veggies etc. Zone Fresh is not cheap but I have never seen better quality fruit and vegetables anywhere. When I am preparing for a dinner party I always shop for produce there. They also have a huge range of pancetta, prosciutto, other continental meats and cuts of meat, cheeses, gourmet gelati etc. It is easy to spend a lot of money there.

I need to buy semi dried tomatoes, potato (for the potato au gratin that has been requested using some lactose-free cream), golden eschallots, carrots, corn, mushrooms etc. We have plenty of garlic already and I need to set aside a bottle of the Rochford 2003 Shiraz to make the red wine jus that has also been requested.

I still haven’t made up my mind about the wine but, like I said the other day, it will have to come from the cellar as I have spent too much on wine recently.

I will try to remember to take photos of the meal as it is being prepared and as it is served.

I hope you have a good day too!! Go out and MAKE it a good one. Tell me, what do you have planned?

Another night, another red or two!

We had a wonderful Good Friday. Went down to another wine amateur’s place (Rob, my brother in law) and he cooked a sensational brunch on the BBQ. All washed down with ………….. wait for it ……………… orange juice. Come on now, you didn’t expect red wine at 10.00am did you? I may be mad but not quite that bad.

Whilst at brunch we decided on a BBQ dinner at our place last night. Obviously, being Good Friday, there were no stores open so we both contributed what we had and ended up with more than enough and a good range of foods. For mains we had a choice of grain-fed rump (from Rode Road Meats) and some large Barramundi fillets that Rob picked up from the new Coles at Newmarket (I must say it is the best Coles store I have ever been in).

I made some mash potato (don’t forget to use some Parmesan and add a couple of eggs to make it creamy) and Karyn cooked some corn, carrots and broccoli and made a packet gravy (sometimes you go for the easiest option). For a slapped-together meal it was great. The meat was tender and tasty and the fish fantastic on the barby (sic).

Rob brought a Wynns Coonawarra 2004 Shiraz (have I ever mentioned I don’t mind a shiraz – apparently neither does Rob) and I contributed a 1999 Balgownie Estate Shiraz (Bendigo). See photos of bottles.

The Wynns was still young but nice and had peppery aromas. Rob also got some plumy aromas – but I couldn’t – Rob is a shameless show-off!! It was a most enjoyable wine and even though I didn’t ask how much Rob spent I believe it to be around the $17-$18 range.

James Halliday, in his “Australian Wine Companion 2006” rates the 2002 at 90/100. This does not necessarily translate to the 2004, especially seeing as how Halliday also rates the 2004 vintage in Coonawarra only a 7/10 against a 9/10 for the 2002 year.

I have found Halliday’s Wine Companion and other writings quite good and encourage you to consider using a wine guide, like the Wine Companion, to assist in purchasing decisions. At some point in the future I will devote a blog to using outside sources and possibly critique a few. For example, Halliday rates his best reds and whites under $10 and between $10 and $15. I haven’t tried them all but, on past experience, if Halliday rates it highly it usually is quite good. Maybe he knows something about wine??? I think so! His taste buds seem to be similar to mine although there are a few wines that I think could make it into the best under $10 or $10-$15 that he hasn’t put in, but more about that at a later date.

The second wine pictured, the 1999 Balgownie Estate Shiraz (Bendigo), was superb! Halliday rates the 2003 at 93/100 but again that doesn’t necessarily translate to the 1999. It was rich and luxurious and had hints of chocolate and would definitely go a few more years in the bottle. I can’t recall when I bought it or how much I paid for it other than knowing it has been in the cellar (ie cupboard downstairs) for a number of years. The 2003 retails at around $30 but I don’t believe I would have paid that much for it.

In the end it was another night, another red or two - YUM.

If your night was better please tell us all about it and the wine. Really I would love to hear what you have been up to and what wines you are drinking! Just post a comment.

Friday, April 14, 2006


Spoooooky!! I only spoke about cleanskins in a post for the first time yesterday and I haven't had one to drink for quite a while. Imagine my surprise when I arrived home and sitting on the counter is an already opened cleanskin! It is as if my wife (the leader of the opposition) had been reading my blog - heaven forbid!

The 'old sheila' was preparing a delicious beef and bacon casserole and it required some red wine so she had gone to the cellar (I use the term extremely loosely - at the moment a collection of old cupboards under the house) to select an appropriate wine. Unsure of the wines and their relative values, she took the 'safe' option of selecting a cleanskin. I have no problem with that!

You often hear chefs saying that you should never use a cheap wine in cooking. I disagree totally! It is not how much you pay for the wine but the quality of the wine itself. I believe you should never use a wine in cooking that you would not like to drink and enjoy.

The cleanskin selected cost me around $7 and was probably once a $12-$15 bottle of wine. Occasionally, and not as often as I used to do it, I will buy one or two cleanskins as samplers. I will try to drink them straight away and if any good, go back and buy a dozen. Occasionally you come across some real 'crackers' (ie extremely good value for money)! Other times I have had a glass or two and poured the rest of the bottle down the sink (not often though). I once read on a sign hanging above a bloke's wine rack "Life is too short to drink bad wines" - too true!

Try the occasional cleanskin and if you find one you like buy a dozen. It is always good to be able to pull one out for cooking - even better if it is like the ones in one of yesterday's posts and is worth around $80 retail (ie prior to becoming a cleanskin).

Anyway, for dinner last night, we just polished off the opened bottle with our meal. I really enjoyed the wine - good wine for $7 a bottle? Priceless!!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Wine Cabinet - ongoing saga

Around 8 weeks ago I, very excitedly, ordered a new wine cabinet that will hold 252 bottles of wine. One of the el-cheapo wine fridges from Big-W bit the dust after only 6 months. I have been counting down the days until its arrival.

I ordered from Kitchener Wine Cabinets and when I ordered they told me there would be an 8 week lag - I almost cried! Well, I have waited for 8 weeks and when I hadn't heard anything I called Sam (from Kitchener) and he told me it would take another 4 weeks. Apparently they have had a huge backlog of orders to fill and have lost some staff recently, which has put them further behind.

I am not angry at them - I am just a tad melancholy - bordering on sad, depressed, suicidal even. Ah well - if I can't store my good wines I will just have to drink them faster!!! Yee Hah!!

Maglieri 2004 Shiraz

I wonder what is for dinner tonight?? No.......... it is not my turn to cook tonight! What wine to drink? hmmmmmmmm?

Last night we had a bottle of Maglieri 2004 Shiraz - not bad (especially seeing as how it came from the McLaren Vale region - how did you guess that?!). I picked it up on a very short time framed special - online with Vintage Cellars where you got 2 bottles for $20 (ie $10 each) - so I bought 2 dozen!! What a cracker of a price for a good wine!

I will say it again - YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SPEND BIG MONEY TO DRINK NICE WINES. If you are prepared to shop and look for specials - there are some beauties! Most of the time I do not have much time to shop around but this one was emailed to me by Vintage Cellars.

Usually I wait for Rob (brother-in-law) to call with any amazing specials. He is always reading all the wine brochures, mail outs etc. We have had a lot of fun over the years tearing around town picking up specials and hunting for a good wine. There are some tricks to it and I hope, in future blogs, to be sharing some of the things we do to ensure we are buying good wines at good prices.

Once, having sampled a bottle, we drove from central Brisbane to Strathpine just to pick up some cleanskins!! These were no ordinary cleanskins they cost around $20-$30 a bottle (I say that because Rob says we paid $20 but I thought it was closer to $30). I still have a couple of these bottles left. We found out they were part of a liquidators clearance stock and the wine was previously labelled and retailing at around $80 per bottle. When we loaded it into the car we just looked at each other and thought "YUM"!

Have fun looking this weekend!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Wine Course

I have done it!! I have enrolled my wife and I (and a few freinds) into a Wine Basics course with the Wine Emporium. It will run in June over two nights. I am very excited about it.

I love the Wine Emporium and their senior staff. As the store is NOT owned by either Coles-Myer or Woolworths or one of the big wine or beer companies but by the people that rund the stor - IT IS INDEPENDENT!!!!!! The advice they give relates to the wine, as it stands, and is not influenced by any corporation.

After successful completion of my Wine Basics course I will be able to be a tiny bit more knowledgeable about the subject - I hope. If not, who cares - it will be fun!!

I will keep you informed of the progress and what the course is about as it unfolds!

A Decision Has Been Made

A decision on what to serve over Easter has finally been made!! Mind you I did not get to make it - the 'leader of the opposition' actually informed me what the decision was to be regarding the meal she wants me to prepare.

For my part - the fun part (well it's all really fun) - I can now spend the next few days planning what wines will go with what part of the meal etc. Do I need to go and buy something or do I have it in my current collection? I had better find one in my collection after last weeks foray to Vintage Cellars (see the 'Lamb & Wine' post below). Will it be an Australian or French wine? This sounds really snobby I know but I like to brag as I only have Australian and French wines (and I only have around a dozen French wines - currently - 6 more to come in June when the 2003 Bordeaux En-Primeur arrives at the Wine Emporium - can hardly wait).

For dinner with guests on Saturday evening I will prepare a roast from a whole rib fillet, with a slice running the length of the fillet and penetrating about half way. This will enable me to open up the fillet and place spinach leaves, fetta and semi dried tomatoes inside before closing the fillet again and tying with string.

This is seared (all sides) in a pan on the stove and then placed in a hot oven dish and roasted on 220C for 15 - 20 minutes and then at 180C for another 30 - 40 minutes. Veges are just whole chap potatoes, whole small brown onions (golden eschallots), whole small carrots and 3 -5 whole cloves of garlic all thrown into the pan when the temp is turned to 180C. With about 5 - 10 minutes to go throw in whole mushrooms. If you want to get fancy you can wrap some asparagus spears in pancetta and stuff them with split and deseeded cherry tomatos and chuck them in with the mushrooms - YUM.

Of course you must serve Mal's famous Red Wine Jus - see post below (Red Man! Red Wine Jus) for recipe.

On Sunday evening I will do some breadcrumb and pine nut encrusted lamb racks for just the family. It will be an experiment so I will have to experiment with a new wine that I have not every tried before. This means I will have to go out to look for one - damn!! Any suggestions??

Monday, April 10, 2006

Jacob's Creek 1999 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Just finished dinner - had a nice Jacob's Creek 1999 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon! I must say that I didn't really like the Reserve Cab Sav or the Reserve Shiraz but they have grown on me over the last two years. I bought these for around $12-$13 and they now retail for around $18.

There was a very slight sediment in the bottle but the wine was drinking well fro a guzzler! These are one my brother in law's favourite guzzlers. He has converted me - somewhat. It doesn't come from McLaren Vale though.

Lamb & wine

What another super night!! The experiments continue and there seems to be no end to the volunteers willing to sacrifice their taste buds in my quest for world domination. Yesterday I went to Vintage Cellars at Clayfield, via my favourite butcher at Rode Road Meats, specifically to purchase a couple of bottles of Seppelt 2004 Chalambar (, which was on special at 2 for $40. However it never seems to end there – you know how it goes.

You walk in, as if on a singular mission, and you can’t seem to locate the wine you are looking for as readily as you might have thought. You walk past heaps of wines on special and taste a couples of reds and think “yum”. Starting to feel conflicted, I get directions from the shop assistant, but on the way to the right section I see a wine on special that I have never heard of much less tried before. “Braydun’s Hill 2003 McLaren Vale Shiraz” (®ion=McLarenvale+%28SA%29&part=36394) – for just over $20. I think I have mentioned in the past that I am a sucker for McLaren Vale Shiraz. I picked up two, you know, just to go with my Chalambars so they would not be lonely. I found my two Chalambars and that made four. Being the amateur wine enthusiast that I am I realize that anyone worth their salt in the wine game would always buy at least 6 bottles, so I just happened to pick up two bottles of Wolf Blass 2003 Grey Label (®ion=McLarenvale+%28SA%29&part=32363 - again just over $20). Suspiciously these also seemed to be of a shiraz variety from a very well known region which I just can’t seem to recall right now. In the end I walked out with a dozen bottles of mixed variety– just so that I could get the 10% additional discount on all the bottles and save around $30. The last 6 bottles contained 4 Tahbilk Cab Sav guzzlers ($14) , a Galway Pipe and a Seppelt Tokay – I love the fortifeds in winter!

From Rode Road meats I acquired a leg of lamb, butterflied out. The guys there are getting used to me now and often ask what dinner I am planning this weekend. So I informed them that this is what I was going to do:

Take the butterflied leg of lamb and gently make small cross-hatching slices across the back (not too deep – very shallow). Cut three cloves of garlic into slivers and place the slivers in the small grooves made. Place lamb in large oven tray (with crosshatched side up) and put in oven on 190 C for 10 minutes. Whilst lamb in oven take a small bowl and made a paste by mixing together 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon each of finely chopped parsley and rosemary, and 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs.

After 10 minutes take the lamb out and turn the oven down to 180 C. Rub the mustard paste into the cross-hatched back of the lamb making sure that the roast is entirely covered. Return the roast to the oven for around 40 -45 minutes with any vegetables you want (I had butternut pumpkin and corn as the principal veges).

I also blanched and peeled 4 medium tomatoes and placed them in a small roasting dish and put them into the oven at the same time – to roast. The tomatoes were for a separate sauce or garnish to be poured over some green beans.

Make a basting sauce of half a coup of sour cream and half a cup of dry white wine. This was supposed to be used to baste the roast every ten minutes or so – but I forgot – so with about 5 minutes to go I simply poured the entire cup over the roast and put the roast back into the oven.

When meat is done, remove from oven, remove roast from pan and place somewhere warm to rest and cover. Proceed to make gravy from lamb, mustard, wine and cream juices (I just used a little cornflour – I think my brother in law may have put in a little Gravox – as it was his job to finish off the gravy while I made the tomato garnish for the beans).

The tomatoes were removed from the oven and put in a saucepan (including all the juices) and mashed with a fork. I added finely chopped rosemary and some finely chopped black olives and a little salt and pepper for taste and simmer on the stove for around 5 minutes to reduce. I simply poured the contents over a bowl of green beans.

The butcher had a funny look on his face. I think the look could be attributed to him thinking either (a) how do I get this guy to shutup and leave so I can serve the next person, or (b) why doesn’t my wife cook like that? I prefer to think it was (b) regardless of what you may think!

The evening was perfect on the deck. Shorts and short sleeves. A hint of coolness in the air and the breeze but not cold. It was the perfect evening to follow the perfect weather of yesterday.

The wines we had with the meal was the Braydun’s Hill 2003 Shiraz, a bottle of 2002 St Hugo’s Cabernet Sauvignon ( and my last bottle of 1994 Limestone Ridge Cab Sav. We started with the Shiraz whilst cooking and brought out the cab savs with the lamb.

The tomato garnish on the beans was sensational and the gravy made from the lamb, mustard, wine and cream juices was a clear favourite with everyone. The lamb was tender and delicious. The flavours from the mustard etc really reduced that ‘fattiness’ that is associated with eating lamb.

The Braydun’s Hill was clearly a McLaren Vale Shiraz with the big nose and bold berries on the palate and was good drinking for the price. The St Hugo’s was superb but could still go a few more years in the bottle. The Limestone Ridge was probably a tad past its prime but still delightful. Even though it was my last I am glad we drank it last night.

Now you can see the trouble wine enthusiasts go to to enjoy their wines by making sure they accompany good meals.

This was one of the best so far and at least until next weekend when we try to top it! Easter will give us the opportunity to have a few good meals with family and friends! I hope you have a happy and safe.


Easter is coming up and we are having guests over again. Are you surprised? 'Mmm, what to cook and what wine do I serve with it? These particular guests are expecting red meat - darn it!!

I have been thinking of eyefillet wrapped in pancetta, first seared, then roasted to medium, then sliced and placed on a cake made of mashed potato and parmesan cheese, topped off with some of those cute thin small mushrooms.


Half a rib fillet sliced half way through lengthwise and stuffed with spinach, fetta and semi-drie tomato, tied back together with string, seared and then roasted. All veges are just thrown into the same pan and roasted together with about 5 whole cloves of garlic.

What do you think? Either way I think a nice cabernet sauvignon will go down well - any suggestions? A Penfold's Bin 407??

For just the family (later over the weekend) I am thinking of preparing lamb racks encrusted in breadcrumbs and pine nuts. I have never tried it before but I saw a photo somewhere of it and thought it looked great. I will let you know how I get on. It will have to be a shiraz or a cab sav/shiraz blend. Maybe a Penfolds Bin 28 or 128? Any suggestions are welcome?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Food matching

Some people make a big deal out of matching food with wine or wine with food. I know there is something to it but I can't quite get it all the time. I know that Pinot Noir is supposedly great with duck but after that I am floundering a bit.

It is common to hear that you drink white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat. I guess that is a good rule of thumb, but as mentioned earlier I am a red man. I enjoy drinking red wine with almost anything.

Anyway, recently I have been experimenting with trying to cook special dishes to go with certain wines or finding wines to go with special dishes. As we are moving towards winter I was wanting to attempt to cook Cassoulet (I saw it on Rick Stein's French Odyssey) however I can't find where I can source preserved goose (or duck) in Brisbane or Toulouse sausage either. The other problem I have is what is the perfect wine to drink with a cassoulet? Can anyone help? I am salivating at the thought of the cassoulet - never tried it but know I would love it.


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