Monday, August 30, 2010

2008 Eden Road Barbera Nebbiolo (Hilltops)

A bottle picked up at the Southern Highlands wine centre in Berrima, on the way back from a few days in Sydney. The centre stocks wines from beyond the Southern Highlands, including from Canberra, Tumbarumba and Hilltops. This effort, made in Canberra by the capable crew at Eden Road Wines, is from Hilltops (Young) fruit. Grove Estate, perhaps?

This is a world apart from nebbiolo-dominant barbera blends. Inky, rich, almost tarry fruit offers a profile of smells and tastes more like a GSM blend than anything Italianate. But that is a good thing with this wine. The tannin profile works, the ripeness level works, it is an all-round good drink. Not trying for complexity, this drinks well now, including with aged cheddar and a stew of borlotti beans. Screwcap. $17-$20.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Peter Lehmann turns 80, so I drink Barossa - 2005 Rockford Moppa Springs GMS

I found out last night that yesterday was Peter Lehmann's 80th birthday. The only Barossa reds stored at home were Rockfords and Spinifex, as all my Lehmann gear is out in the cool store at the vineyard. But a 2005 Rockford Moppa Springs grenache mataro shiraz seemed like a good option.

This was under cork, and I got a good one. The barest of soaking and staining. The wine started out a little muted, with mainly inky, verging on tarry characters on the nose and palate, so was left alone in a decanter for two hours while I watched snatches of ABC coverage of the Brisbane 'town hall' meeting and pottered through getting dinner sorted.

After the decant, the fruit really powered through. Rich cherry and ripe bramble fruit, with a good balance of soft and strict in flavours and tannins. The grenache dominates, but the mataro gives interest and a bit of wildness. The last glass was the best by some margin, and I think this wine will flesh out nicely over the next couple of years.

A good match to barbecued organic lamb cutlets marinated in Herbie's bay spice, cabbage panfried in ghee with caraway and mustard seeds, and a couscous with mint and parsley. And maybe a good match to a milestone birthday for an important figure in Australia wine.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Freeman Vineyards 2005 Secco Rondinella Corvina (Hilltops)

The 2005 release of the Freeman Rondinella Corvina blend sports a different label to the earlier vintages I have tried, and a new name: Secco. It certainly is a dry, and drying wine, as much from extract as tannins, with fruit currently in more of a supporting than leading role.

This wine uses a CSIRO built solar/gas dryer at Prunevale to dry a portion of Brian Freeman's fuit, along the lines of an amarone wine. As well as using two of the traditional amarone varieties (rondinella and corvina) that are little planted in Australia, the partial drying of the fruit modifies the tannins, producing a characteristic bittersweet and dark chocolate profile. The drying takes around 30% of the wet-weight out of the fruit, concentrating juice and sugars, as well as affecting the tannins in stalks, stems and skins.

From this tasting, the wine needs a few years to come into itself, but was still an excellent accompaniment to beef cheeks braised in red wine, served with a saffron risotto.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Australian sangiovese and pork neck ragu

The 2009 Coriole sangiovese is a wine I've looked at a few times now. It has the goods: price point, fruit, clarity of expression, tannins... It also managed to look good on night three after opening, tasted with spaghetti and a ragu of pork neck, bay leaves and tomato. Interesting to note, a character of beetroot and earth really showed itself on night three. This release could well have the legs to develop over the next ten years.

Hardly a deathmatch tasteoff, but the last glass of the Coriole was had alongside a 2005 Blue Metal Vineyard sangiovese cabernet sauvignon, from the NSW Southern Highlands. The comparative tasting made the cab sav component very apparent, as you might expect. The blend looked a little oxidised and tired, but with fresher fruit underneath. Outclassed, but not disgraced, and still a good foil for the pasta and ragu.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pork in milk / Maiale al Latte

There are versions of pork cooked in milk in several cuisines I know of, but I tend to think of it as an Italian dish. It is something I have never got around to making before, so when planning to cook a dinner for family in Sydney last night, thought it would be good to try. The objective with the dish is to slowly cook out a piece of pork (often a rolled loin with the rind off, but I used a large piece of pork neck) in a sauce of milk, herbs, garlic, sometimes onion and lemon zest. The length of the cooking both breaks down the meat to a shredding texture and causes curds to form in the reducing milk. The texture of the finished sauce - balancing liquid and creamy-solid textures - is the point of the dish, I think.

Anyway, a quick description:

Take a large piece of pork neck, season and brown in oil in a large pan. You need more than light brown colour, but not too dark. Get the excess oil and dark bits out of the pan after the pork is taken out. Chuck in a half ounce of butter and two chopped onions. When softened a little, add five peeled and halved cloves of garlic plus three fresh bay leaves and cook for one minute. Have 4-6 cups of full cream milk warm while frying and add to the onions and bring to the boil.

Now you have a choice. You can add the pork and juices, plus large pieces of lemon zest (at least 8) to the pan, put a lid on ajar and let it simmer for 3-4 hours. Or, tip the sauce into a good-sized baking dish, add pork and juices, scatter lemon, and cover with foil (leaving a small vent for steam) and cook at 180 degrees C for 2-3 hours (longer OK). If, with either method, the sauce hasn't reduced enough by the end of the cooking time for the pork, transfer to a saucepan and bubble to reduce, stirring as attentively as you would a custard, until you get the volume and thickness you want.

Substituting fresh sage leaves for the bay leaves will give a different riff on the flavours. Don't forget to eat the softened pieces of lemon zest.

And the wines:
- a little Quarry Hill 09 sauvignon blanc to sip while cooking
- then on to a lovely but way-too-young Rockfords 2007 riesling
- and then with dinner, riesling plus a switch to a 2006 Donny Goodmac Pyrenees shiraz.

This would also work well with an honest Chianti Classico, or Australian sangiovese.

The sides were jerusalem artichokes roasted in butter, pork fat and rosemary, a dish of 3step beets, and a green salad. For 3step beets: boil whole beets until just giving through the middle, cool in pan, add sufficient salt and vinegar to form a brine, leave in brine for three days, drain, top, tail, quarter, then roast the wedges in butter and salt (some marjoram is an option too) and serve hot.

Both the riesling and the shiraz matched well with the pork and sauce. The shiraz had an edge with the jerusalem artichokes and the 3step beets.