Friday, January 24, 2014

Grove Estate 'The Italian' Nebbiolo Primitivo 2010 (Hilltops)

Hilltops (draw a circle around Young in New South Wales) is a good region for a range of Italian red grapes. As the cherry and prune plum orchards in both regions indicate, there is a fair fit between Hilltops and the landscapes that produce Valpolicella and other good things from the Veneto.

Grove Estate are one of the more established Hilltops vignerons and labels, growing sangiovese and barbera as well as the grapes in this bottling. 2010 was a challenging Hilltops vintage, being the year the drought broke, with the rains coming part way through the red vintage. This wine, well-packaged in a Lean & Green lightweight burgundy bottle, shows little sign of washing out or warm-year over-ripeness.

The nebbiolo dominates the nose and starts into the palate, carrying along cherried and cherry pit notes. Light, bright, direct acid then gives way to a rounder, plum-flavoured finish, showing the primitivo (zinfandel) influence. While a bit of a wine-in-two-acts, there is still good drinking to be had here, especially with food that has a similar balance of acid and richer finishing flavours. I had it with a pasta dish using coppa, broad beans and a little fresh tomato.

$20, screwcap, 14%, purchase, website here.

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Nocino is one of my favourite things to drink after dinner. Gentle, complex, faintly herbal, more cola-like flavour than anything particularly nutty; my first batch is three year old and drinking well.

Nocino, or its French walnut-liqueur relations, is an easy thing to make. A delivery of a couple of kilograms of green walnuts turned up on the doorstep yesterday, so it was time today to put down another Nocino batch.

Pick at least 24 green walnuts before the inner shells develop (test this with a skewer, which should be an easy push-through). Halve them and pack into a clean glass jar of about two litres in capacity. As you fill the jar, add in 8 cloves, a cinnamon stick, one whole nutmeg, the zest of a large lemon and a vanilla pod. Fill the jar with vodka or other neutral spirit (I used a one litre bottle of Absolut this time) to cover the walnuts, spices and lemon zest completely.

Leave the jar in a sunny spot for 40 days. Then strain the infused spirit through fine muslin or coffee filter paper. Make a sugar syrup, cool it, and add the syrup to the strained spirit base until you reach the level of strength and sweetness you like.

Add to clean bottles and store for at least a month before sampling. For my tastes, this is best left for a year to mellow and smooth out, then drink neat as a digestivo. It will keep for years.