Sunday, November 28, 2010

Spaghetti Frisinsal & Seppelt Jaluka 2005 chardonnay

A Jewish-Italian dish from the Venice Ghetto, courtesy of Claudia Roden's outstanding The Book of Jewish Food, frisinsal is usually served with tagliatelle, but spaghetti also works. The dish manages to deliver against cravings for pasta and roast chicken, at the same time. It is also an excellent match for white wine with a bit of weight and drive: in this case served with an excellent bottle of Seppelt's 2005 Jaluka chardonnay from Henty.

To start, roast a whole chicken. While it is still quite hot, take the meat and skin off the bone and cut or shred into small pieces. Keep covered and warm. Take between 50 and 100g of sultanas and soak them in water for about half an hour (start this in the last 20 minutes or so of the roasting time). As a variation, use half dry marsala and half water.

Put on a big pot of water for the pasta. Toast in a pan about 100g of pine nuts and let cool on a plate. At about the same time you put the pasta (about 500g for six people) into the water, drain the juices and fat from the chicken roasting tray into a small saucepan. Combine that with 2-3 sprigs of finely chopped fresh rosemary, the soaked and drained sultanas and the toasted pinenuts. Gently simmer the sauce while the pasta cooks. You can add some fresh sage with the rosemary if you wish.

When the pasta is cooked, combine it with the warm chicken and the simmering sauce. Stretch with a little pasta water if needed and check seasoning. It often needs salt.

Enjoy with a good white wine, such as a chardonnay or perhaps a falanghina or viognier.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Importer profile - Trembath and Taylor

This is the fourth in a series of profiles of importers of Italian wines into Australia. Today we have Trembath & Taylor, with answers from Matt Paul. Trembath & Taylor also have the Sotto La Pergola blog I have written about back on October 12.

Q1 What is your business?

- Importers and distributors of Italian wine.

Q2 How long have you been importing Italian wines into Australia?

- The company was established in 1994 by Michael Trembath and Virginia Taylor.

Q3 How did your interest in Italian wines start?

- David Chapman, then sommelier at the Melbourne Wine Room, served me a glass of 1994 Brancaia Il Blu and I never looked back.

Q4 What kind of Italian wines do you focus on in your portfolio and why?

- We do business with a handshake, the old fashioned way. The wine has to be good, of course, but most important is the relationship between us and the grower. The fact that our portfolio is more central and northern concentrated reflects our preferred styles.

Q5 What Italian wines sell well out of your portfolio at the moment?

- Chianti Classico and Nebbiolo, with customers frequently asking for both wines with some age. Pinot Grigio is on the move, although I don’t think New Zealand Sauvignon need worry just yet.

Q6 What Italian wines do you find hardest to sell in Australia?

- Lambrusco is a challenge, but we sell Lambrusco. Real Lambrusco is dry, refreshing, great in summer and it’s place in Italian wine deserves representation. Its image has been ruined by the lolly water stuff that, unfortunately, is still available. But when people try real Lambrusco, they like it.

Q7 What do you think is the place of Italian wines in Australia, and is this changing?

- It’s always changing. Italy is an old wine producing country with the benefit of centuries of localised cultivation of specific grapes. But then much of the production is recent history: quality Chianti only began in the 1980’s. In Australia, it’s about adding another layer of diversity to our industry.

Q8 Recent years have seen significant increases in the number and diversity of Australian wines made from Italian grape varieties. What are your thoughts on Australian wines made from Italian varieties?

- The short answer: it’s in-fashion to plant varieties like Nebbiolo, but Australia is much better suited to exploring the potential of Montepulciano, Nero d’Avola and Negroamaro (to name a few).

Q9 Greatest Italian wine moment?

- Any dinner with the Colla family (preferably during truffle season!). Bruna is a great cook and the cellar is full of gems back to the 50’s. Wonderful family and an incredible history of classic Piedmontese winemaking.

Q10 What Italian wines are you most likely to drink at home?

- Nebbiolo is my favourite grape but I could drink Sangiovese everyday. Great with just about anything I like to cook.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chrismont La Zona NV Prosecco (King Valley)

Prosecco, like cava, often seems to have no desire to thrill, but is built for easy pleasure. There are worse things for wines to try.

Chrismont, in Victoria's King Valley, have invested significant time and effort in Italian grape varieties. On a recent trip to their cellar door, the 2009 barbera was the standout wine for me, eclipsing the sangiovese and other Italians, though I also bought the marzemino frizzante and this prosecco.

Made in the charmat method as with the vast bulk of Italian prosecco, there are several apple characters apparent on the nose and palate. Red-skinned apple is the most apparent, with a bit of Granny Smith at the edges. There is a slightly tired, oxidative, old apple skin character that comes and goes, giving me the impression that this is an ASAP drinker (but no harm in that). The bead persists, and neither it nor the acid are harsh or grating, just refreshing. Don't look for mousse, or depth: it's not that kind of wine. But as a relaxed pre-dinner drink, a bottle of this won't last long at all.

Great to see this under a crown seal, dressed up in a decent hood. Given the perception issues crown seals on sparklers have for some market segments, this approach seems sensible, compared to a naked seal or pass-over paper strap.

Continuing my recent Italy & the Middle East theme, this was tasted with flathead fried in sumac, carrots with mustard seed and a green salad. Would also work well with mezze.

Source: Milawa cellar door purchase. Alcohol: 12%. Price: $22 rrp. Closure: Crown seal, under hood.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Importer profile - Negociants Australia

This is the third in a series of profiles of Italian wine importers. Today we have Negociants Australia, with answers provided by Tim Evans.

Q1 What is your business?

- Negociants Australia is a fine wine distributor representing the finest wines of the world. That we are passionate and knowledgeable about fine wine is no accident. It is compulsory - as is our commitment to professional representation of the finest wines from family owned wineries who craft the wines we love. Our outstanding portfolio and people, make Negociants Australia one of the leading fine wine merchants in Australia.

Q2 How long have you been importing Italian wines into Australia?

- Since 1984.

Q3 How did your interest in Italian wines start?

- I guess I have been very lucky from my humble beginnings and being exposed to such a fantastic portfolio of wines and as I have grown and travelled it is the people, regions and food that really gets you hooked.

Q4 What kind of Italian wines do you focus on in your portfolio and why?

- Quality established wines from key producing regions such as Piedmont, Tuscany, Puglia, Veneto and Alto Adige to name a few.

Q5 What Italian wines sell well out of your portfolio at the moment?

- They all have their moments and is getting a little harder to read patterns but the following producers are performing well; Antinori, Allegrini, Isole e Olena, Tenuta San Guido (Sassicaia), Tenuta dell Ornellaia, Prunotto, Gaja, Cantine Pra, and Argiano are doing well and a few others.

Q6 What Italian wines do you find hardest to sell in Australia?

- Sparkling wines are certainly difficult as they compete with Champagne and our home grown Sparkling’s out of Tassie which are certainly delivering great value and quality.

Q7 What do you think is the place of Italian wines in Australia, and is this changing?

- Imports have been a positive thing for Australian consumers. Encouraging them to try and experience more varieties and styles. Italian wines go very well with our multicultural cuisine and we find a healthy percentage of our sales are sold through the on-trade.

Q8 Recent years have seen significant increases in the number and diversity of Australian wines made from Italian grape varieties. What are your thoughts on Australian wines made from Italian varieties?

- It is good to see Australian winemakers/viticulturists experimenting with Italian varieties and styles, but we have to be careful to have a focussed approach on planting these varities in the appropriate regions and sites.

Q9 Greatest Italian wine moment?

- There are numerous moments, but one that certainly will never be forgotten is hosting Angelo Gaja at Perugino Restaurant, Perth a few years back now! All 60 + guests were mesmerozied by Angelo with his stories well crafted wines and amazingly matched food. The other moment nearly ended in tears as we were travelling back from Ornellaia in 2003 after an amazing visit (and arriving in Italy from Australia 5 hours earlier) and wondering what these little pots on fire on the side of the road and then suddenly working out how to stop in a few metres travelling at a great speed…..they were meant to warn us of an accident which wasn’t meant to be our’s!!! but I think everyone has great travelling moments and places that they have visited.

Q10 What Italian wines are you most likely to drink at home?

- A couple of favourites are Isole E Olena Chianti Classico, Cantine Pra Soave and a little Dolcetto from Poedri Aldo Conterno.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What's wrong with 'All For One Wine'

Aside from the irony of an anti-import, 'Buy Australian' wine campaign being promoted with a slogan derived from a French novel, there is plenty wrong about 'All For One Wine'.

The campaign, launched by South Australian winemaker Stephen Pannell, asks Australians to stop buying imported wines from 1 January through until Australia Day on January 26. Instead, consumers who sign up on the pledge site will drink only Australian wine for those 26 days. The campaign seems to be addressed to the wine trade (winemakers, wine show judges, retailers, reviewers) and to the general consumer (at home or out at a pub, cafe, bar or restaurant).

Stephen Pannell's open letter explains the reasons why the campaign has been launched (I wouldn't say 'developed' as that could imply a depth of research and thinking):

'Have a look at your local wine-bar or favourite restaurant: imported wines are everywhere.

I appreciate the importance of benchmarking with European wines, and admit I have been an enthusiastic consumer of imports over the years. But I think we have all gone too far. Just think about our wine shows, where foreign judges are plastered with Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone every night. What does this say about how we regard our own wines?'

He goes on to describe as a 'cultural cringe' the drinking of imported wines with local foods. The answer is not a ban on imported wines, but asking 'ourselves' (the Australian wine industry) if 'we couldn't do a better job'? This better job would involve making more Australian wines that were more like imported wines, something that should not be too hard:

"Imagine if we couldn’t import any wines at all. If the wines we like to drink weren’t available, then we could easily make them. So why don’t we?"

So why do I think this is a bad idea?

First, I have 'skin in the game'. I help out in an Australian wine business in the Canberra District that grows grapes from mainstream (shiraz, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc) and 'alternative' varieties (such as savagnin, sangiovese, sagrantino and tempranillo). I also have a blog site that has a focus on Italian grapes and wines in Australia. Both of these are volunteer efforts that provide me with no income. I do them because I can and because the doing is challenging and worthwhile.

That aside, here are my top reasons for why 'All For One Wine' is a bad idea:

- The chief proponents come across as 'reformed sinners' regretting how their past consumption of imported wines has possibly been at the expense of Australian wine, and wish to perform their acts of contrition in public. As powerful a motivator as guilt can be, people feeling like they have created a problem does not neccessarily position them well to provide solutions.

- The proponents of the campaign do not seem to understand that there are many people active across Australian wine who have invested a lot of time and effort in understanding and promoting the regional and varietal diversity and distinctiveness of domestic wines, including those made along food friendly lines and from grapes suited to our climates. The guilt of the reformed sinners is not collective guilt, shared by all.

- There is very little evidence of evidence, or of research effort, behind the idea. Contrast this to the effort behind the First Families of Australian Wine initiative, where significant amounts of research and consultation happened before any public launch of the concept. It comes across more like an after-dinner idea, sparked off by a parade of Mo'vember 'taches.

- The idea that we can make domestic versions of any imported wine here easily, with similar quality and distinctiveness, directly contradicts the idea of terroir that many campaign advocates use to sell their wines. If we can make anything 'they' can make, just the same and just as good, then what is special about particular wines?

- The very exposure of Australian consumers to imported wines helps broaden wine knowledge and makes market opportunities for domestic producers making wine in different styles or from 'foreign' grape varieties. Competitive pressures work for good and ill.

- Australian wine history already includes many wines that are lighter, lower in alcohol and more food-friendly. This campaign ignores this history: of grenache, semillon, riesling and other wines. It is a history available as a starting point for consumer education and awareness.

- All For One Wine is anti-import before it is pro-Australian. The last thing the Australian wine industry needs is to seek refuge in the negative, to stigmatise imported wines as tastes for the cringing. The website did not come wrapped in a flag, but would be something Pauline Hansen would endorse at speed and without equivocation. Just that thought-experiment should have given pause.

- An export-dependant industry should not advocate a campaign in their domestic markets they would not wish to see happen in countries they export to. How would Victorian wine exporters to China feel about a buy-local campaign in that market?

- The time of the year chosen is spectacularly poor. If you wanted to promote to Australian consumers the idea of drinking exclusively Australian wine, much of it likely to be red, and shiraz, perhaps the height of summer is not the best time to choose? If you want to eat local and seasonal, the wine should not need air-conditioning. A whole bunch of 2008 South Australian shirazes, drunk at room temperature in mid-summer will do wonders for bringing consumers back to Australian wine.

So what might have been better?

To start with, use the evidence. Make fact-based cases that put real information in front of consumers about Australian wines, including export volumes, average prices of exports and what makes up the import story. People drink New Zealand sauvignon blanc for a whole host of reasons that make sense to them, which makes them 'good' reasons, not ignorant mistakes, or a lack of Australian sauvignon blanc.

Then pitch a pro-Australian initiative that is positive from the beginning, not predicated on stigmatising imports. If you want to influence the opinion-makers in Australian wine, then why not a campaign (pledge or otherwise) where Australian winemakers, wine show judges and the like drink widely across the diversity of Australian wine (including the diverse pricepoints) and tell the stories of their discoveries back to the industry and to consumers? Perhaps do it through the month of November (alongside Australian Music Month) and covering the National Wine Show? National Wine Show dinners with all-Australian wine lineups, perhaps?

Or skip the problem of picking a month in mid-Summer or elsewhere by having Australian wine show judges and other leading lights commit to 12 months of drinking only Australian wine, rather than 26 days of riesling and heat.

Or avoid choosing between Australian wine and imports completely. Try a pledge campaign where for a month people drink only wines that are not chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, whichever country they come from. Or pledge to only drink wines from regions, varieties, blends and makers you do not normally try?

Instead of assuming that there are gaps in the market for food-friendly domestic wines and that new wines need to be produced once the market is better educated (educated by not drinking these wines from other places?), you could run a campaign that highlights wines already being made along these lines in Australia. Writers like Max Allen have spent years advocating and publicising these wines, grapes and producers. Efforts like those should be a recognised starting point for a new, pro-diversity campaign.

There are all kinds of options for encouraging positive investigations of the diversity of Australian wine without starting in guilt and pandering to protectionism. Australian wine, and the consumers of Australian wine, deserve campaigns more positive and less hypocritical than All For One Wine. 'We' can do better.

Duck and barbera - Chrismont La Zona Barbera 2009 (King Valley)

Italian grapes and wines work well beyond the edges of the Italian table. A case in point - many Italian grapes or wines sit comfortably with many dishes from Middle Eastern cuisines. I cook a fair bit of food that is loosely 'Middle Eastern', courtesy of prods from books like Claudia Roden's excellent New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

There is a Persian dish called fesenjan that is usually a stew of chicken with pomegranate juice and walnuts. Variants of this combination exist in other parts of the Middle East, but the balance of nuts, poultry and fruit-sharp acid are common. Crossing over to Italy, agrodolce sauces and stews, cooking down vinegar in the presence of sugar, courtesy of Arab influences through Sicily, have something in common with the balance of fesenjan type dishes, especially when pine nuts or almonds feature.

So barbera and a fast version of fesenjan-ish flavours makes some sense. The juicy fruit and acid of the barbera (this time a Chrismont La Zona barbera from 2009 and the King Valley) balance the fruit and acid aspects of the sauce, with the tannins playing off against the nuts and meat.

Take two duck breasts and fry them off, skin side down, in a moderately hot pan until fat renders and the skin is crisp. Drain the rendered duck fat, give the meat a touch of the pan on the flesh side, then off to a warm oven to finish and rest. Sprinkle sugar in the pan, let go to light caramel, then deglaze with the juice of a pomegranate, some sherry vinegar, and let the caramel dissolve. Finish with some toasted and chopped (rough or fine) hazelnuts, salt, pepper and a knob of butter. The sauce should be sharp, sweet, nutty and deep. Serve with the rested duck and some steamed vegetables (and barbera).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Vigna Cantina 2010 Trebbiano (Barossa Valley)

This Torzi Matthews trebbiano comes from vineyards dating back to 1905 at bookends of the Barossa (Altona in the south and Koonunga in the north). I like it a lot, and much more than the Vigna Cantina sangiovese recently tasted. Only 200 cases made, the wine has partial wild yeast ferment in seasoned French oak for three weeks, plus lees aging for three months. The intention is to build texture without oak character and they have succeeded.

It has some things in common with the 1919 vines dry trebbiano from Booths Taminick cellars, but is a more intriguing and accomplished wine. Where the Booths wine had a single pulse of waxy texture through the mid-palate, the structure of this wine has several curves along its line. The nose shows bright, citrus elements, with a hint of something floral. The palate is full of surprises: starting out fine and drying, then a curve of waxy texture with lemon rind, then more more acid, back to wax, then the drying acid length again. As you taste, there is almost a sleight of hand game going on between drying acid and what you realise are phenolic, lightly grippy characters. The integration of acid and phenolics is excellent, and in alternation with fruit characters makes for a whole wine of genuine interest.

Tasted with a souffle of globe artichoke, parmesan and ricotta, which was a very good pairing.

Source: sample. Alcohol: 12.5%. Price: $22 rrp. Closure: Screwcap.

Winery website here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Importer profile - Global Fine Wines

This is the second in a series of profiles of Italian wine importers. Today, we have Global Fine Wines, with answers supplied by Robert Zalums. You can find out more about them, including their Italian wine portfolio by going here. The photograph is Rob (l) talking and tasting Italian wines with Nicolas Belfrage (r) MW and author of excellent books on Italian wine, including Barolo to Valpolicella: The Wines of Northern Italy.

Q1 What is your business?
- We import and wholesale distribute premium wines from Italy and other regions (including Australia) to fine wine retailers, top restaurants and cafes.

Q2 How long have you been importing Italian wines into Australia?
- 5 Years.

Q3 How did your interest in Italian wines start?
- Before I got into importing and wholesale distribution of wine, I was in IT and mad keen about all things wine. First positive Italian experience was attending an Antanori tasting that John Osbeston organised a very long time ago. I bought a bunch of wine for my private cellar and quickly acquired a taste. Initially I only drank Tuscan red wine, until I discovered Gaja Barbaresco wines and realised there was much more to Italy than Tuscan (e.g. Chianti) reds. Then working in Europe for three years massively broadened my appreciation of the vast range of exciting Italian taste sensations. I was hooked! I loved the diversity and uniqueness of Italian wine. Especially when combined with food where magically the food would taste better and indeed the wine would taste better still.

Q4 What kind of Italian wines do you focus on in your portfolio and why?
- None especially, we enjoy the range and diversity. Having said that, all but one of our wines are from Central and Northern Italy.

Q5 What Italian wines sell well out of your portfolio at the moment?
- The Pinot Grigio wines are the hottest closely followed by the Soave.

Q6 What Italian wines do you find hardest to sell in Australia?
- The most expensive ones. This may be partly due to economic factors.

Q7 What do you think is the place of Italian wines in Australia, and is this changing?
- Italian wines, perhaps more than any other, broaden the minds of Australian wine enthusiasts. This is because they are so much different to Australian wines. If variety is the spice of life, then Italy delivers it in spades to Aussie wine drinkers. They are also helping Aussie’s learn about making (and enjoying) wines with more complexity, new grape varieties and enhance the enjoyment of food. All this without spending much more than on a local product. Is this changing? Not yet. But I think home grown Aussie wines will continue to become ever more enjoyable because of the importing of Italian wines to this country.

Q8 Recent years have seen significant increases in the number and diversity of Australian wines made from Italian grape varieties. What are your thoughts on Australian wines made from Italian varieties?
- Brilliant! The Australian climate is well suited to the Italian varieties and in the right vineyards will produce beautiful wines in years to come. They will naturally be different to the same varietals from Italy, but perhaps one day just as great and offer diversity from the traditional French varieties we have grown for over a century.

Q9 Greatest Italian wine moment?
- Drinking a 1990 Gaja Sori Tilden Barbaresco with my wife in a 2 Michelan Star restaurant in Tuscany. We were long lunching with our two young (non-drinking) sons and were the only people in the restaurant. The magnificent food and the marvellous wine had a multiplying effect on our enjoyment. Never forget it.

Q10 What Italian wines are you most likely to drink at home?
- Reds: Mostly wines from Piemonte. I love the Nebbiolo (including Barbaresco and Barolo), Barbera, and for everyday drinking a Dolcetto. Whites: Probably Soave – love the stuff.

Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico DOCG 2008

Just a quick look at at glass of this yesterday, with lunch at Il Bacaro in Melbourne. I usually enjoy Castellare's wines, including their vin santo. The distinctive labels featuring drawings of bird species local to their vineyard areas are attention-getting and help anchor their wines to place, for me. They have a website (you can find it here) that is packed with useful information about their history and the wines. On of the more useful Italian winery websites I have come across.

There are several tiers of sangiovese based wines, including Chianti, produced by Castellare. This wine is their entry level Chianti Classico, with the range also including a Riserva Chianti and the Il Poggiale Riserva. It is sangiovese with a little canaiolo (one of the traditional Chianti blending partners) added, but none of the 'international' varieties are used. The fruit comes off 20 year old vines grown on calcareous soils, spending seven months in old oak and six in bottle before sale.

The wine has good colour and a directness of sangivese varietal flavours, including cherry and red fruits, a little grilled nuts and dried herbs. Not trying too hard for intensity, impact or length, the wine is all the better for it, and went well with a dish of guinea fowl and vegetables. Was $16 a glass off the Il Bacaro list, but should be found at retail in Australia in the mid-$30s a bottle.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Importer profile - Mondo Imports

This is the first in a series of short profiles of Italian wine importers active in the Australian market. You can find the website for Mondo Imports here. Answers are provided by Anthony D'Anna.

Q1 What is your business?
- Importers of fine wines from Italy.

Q2 How long have you been importing Italian wines into Australia?
- Four years.

Q3 How did your interest in Italian wines start?
- Our family have been in the wine business since 1963 and I think over time your palate evolves. I love Australian wine but my passion for Italian wine has grown over the years. My parents were born in Italy and I travel there every year. We thought could improve the selection available in Australia by bringing is some quite unique producers and increasing the offering currently available in Oz. For example, we have a sparkling from Piero Benevelli in Piemonte called Freisa about to arrive. Over time, there has been only one importer who has imported this variety. These are the sort of wines I love to import.

Q4 What kind of Italian wines do you focus on in your portfolio and why? - We cover most of Italy but with never more than two producers from the same region. A strong focus for us is Southern Italy which offers unique indigenous varieties and fantastic price points.

Q5 What Italian wines sell well out of your portfolio at the moment?
- Most sell through really well. With Hoddles Creek Estate in the family, we have applied the same pricing philosophy so how we import wines. If you had to pick the big mover, it would be Gran Sasso from Abruzzo and Pipoli from Basilicata with sales of these two brands pushing 200,000 bottles imported into Oz a year.

Q6 What Italian wines do you find hardest to sell in Australia?
- Funnily enough, Chianti. Brunello is always hard and sometimes it is hard to see the value in it.

Q7 What do you think is the place of Italian wines in Australia, and is this changing?
- I think Italian wines are forging a fantastic niche market through the importation of indigenous varieties. Up until a couple of years ago, the likes of Chianti and Brunello were getting the airplay. But now it is the likes of Grillo, Nero Mascalese, Aglianico, Greco di Tufo, etc that is turning heads and that is where the interest is. It also pushes Italy out of the mainstream and makes people realise that Italy isn't as straightforward as it might seem.

Q8 Recent years have seen significant increases in the number and diversity of Australian wines made from Italian grape varieties. What are your thoughts on Australian wines made from Italian varieties?
- I think it is a great thing as it creates interest in Italian varietals. I don't think we can replicate the wines of Italy in Australia but we are contributing to the variety by showing the world 'our take' on their wines. Sangiovese in Australia will never be like Chianti but that is not to say that it doesn't have its place as a fantastic wine style in the Australian market.

Q9 Greatest Italian wine moment?
- Taking a bottle of 1958 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco that we brought along to La Libera in Alba last year.

Q10 What Italian wines are you most likely to drink at home?
- Chianti Riserva, Nero Mascalese, Barbaresco and Barolo.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Vigna Cantina 2009 Sangiovese (Barossa Valley)

Vigna Cantina is a label of Torzi Matthews out of the Eden Valley, although this 2009 sangiovese comes from Barossa Valley fruit. I first came across Torzi Matthews through their Frost Dodger shiraz, which draws on some of Domenic Torzi's Italian heritage in its use of amarone-style partial drying techniques for some of the shiraz bunches involved.

Sealed with a Diam cork, the wine contains parcels of fruit from the Gomersal, Moppa and Kalimna subregions of the Barossa. Both the information sheet for the wine and the website provides useful information on vine age (11-13 years), oak (16 months in 'seasoned' French oak), vineyard and winemaking choices (30% whole bunch, wild yeast, small open ferments, basket pressed, bottled unfiltered). Three clones are involved: Gomersal having the 'Brunello' clone; Moppa the 'Piccolo' clone; and a 'Grosso' clone at Koonunga Hill.

The wine itself starts out smelling of cherries and plums, with a touch of something herbal, vegetal and smoky trailing behind. The first taste is all about layered fruit sourness (in a good way), taking me by suprise after the implied richness of the nose. Over time, the fruit comes up a bit in the mix, but the palate mainly tells a story about acid. It's good acid, but in the absence of a solid tannin structure or better fruit weight, the wine looks like it needs better balance. Perhaps a more neutral oak treatment would have given the fruit more room to show through, or a touch more fruit intensity.

Try with roast meat, or something richly sauced but lowish acid, such as veal in marsala. Tasted with roast lamb rack, portobello mushrooms and braised globe artichoke hearts.

Source: sample. Alcohol: 13.5% (bottle), 13% (information sheet). Price: $20 rrp. Closure: Diam.

Winery website.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Western Australia trialling alternative varieties

Courtesy of @Good_Drop, I noticed a new project in Western Australia to trial alternative grape varieties for warmer climates. There are 20 varieties in scope for the trials, with WA Government funding, and management by students from the WA College of Agriculture at Harvey.

Media release follows:

Fri 05 November, 2010
Warmer testing ground for alternative wine grapes
Portfolio: Agriculture and Food
Vignerons of the present and future have come together to trial new wine grape varieties for Western Australia.

Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman said the trial of about 20 varieties was being planted and managed by the students at the WA College of Agriculture in Harvey.

The plantings will be under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture and Food, on behalf of the WA Vine Improvement Association.

Mr Redman said the trial would examine how both new and existing wine grape varieties performed in warmer growing areas.

“The grapes being planted include new varieties from southern Europe suited to warmer Mediterranean climates,” he said.

These include Savagnin blanc, Durif, Tannat, Lagrein, Pinot Gris, Fer and Alicante Bouschet (France); Arneis, Brachetto, Fiano, Dolcetto and Pignoletto (Italy); Vermentino (Sardinia); Harslevelu and Kadarka (Hungary ); Sciacarello (Corsica); Graciano (Spain); Saperavi (Georgia); Scheurebe (Germany); and Chambourcin (French-American).

“The information about performance and management gained from this trial will also be relevant to similar warmer growing areas in WA, like the Geographe and Peel regions, as well as the Swan Valley and Gingin,” the Minister said.

The trial builds on the significant gains made by the long-standing alternative wine grape variety trial at the Manjimup Horticulture Research Institute, which evaluates cultivars suited to cool climates.

The WA Vine Improvement Association initiated the idea of the Harvey trial which will eventually provide for a source block of grapevine material available for industry.

Mr Redman said it was important for industry to continue exploring, adopting and adapting new wine grape varieties for WA to provide for a sustainable future.

“Traditional French varieties such as Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc remain the mainstay of our industry but consumers are always looking for something new,” he said.

“New wine styles, blends and varieties can provide an edge in the market.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sangiovese and Australian climates

An observation from Italian Winegrape Varieties in Australia (McKay, Crittendon, Dry & Hardie, 1999, Winetitles, p79):

"The climate of Tuscany is most broadly similar to selected locations on the western approaches of the Great Dividing Range in Victoria (e.g., Beechworth), NSW (the Canberra region, Young) and Queensland (Stanthorpe). These regions have in common with Chianti similar heat summations, moderately high sunshine hours, a similar degree of continentality and mean temperatures of the ripening month between 19 and 20.5 [degrees] C"

And yet so much of our experience with sangiovese in Australia is in South Australia, the King Valley and regions such as Mudgee. More to learn yet, I suspect.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Australian sagrantino at the 2010 Alternative Varieties Wine Show, Mildura

The results, though not yet judging comments on classes, are out from the 2010 Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show held in Mildura last week. My main memory of Mildura from my last visit is a very large speeding fine copped while running late for a dinner at Stefano De Pieri's restaurant. I didn't make it to the show or the seminars and other events that coincide with it this year, but the results provide plenty to chew over about where Italian varieties, blends and styles are at in Australia.

This is the first year sagrantino and sagrantino blends had a class of their own. It is also the year pinot grigio/gris 'graduated' to mainstream status and out of the show. But that's another story.

The sagrantino inaugural class had nine entries, from a spread of regions. Five bronze and one silver medal were awarded across those nine wines, making for a pretty high hit-rate by my books. Five bronzes and two silvers were awarded across 26 presented wines in the 2009/2010 sangiovese class, by way of comparison.

The show would be better served if the results identified wines using actual wine regions, rather than place names many people will not know. That aside the sagrantino roll call, in scoring order (points the last number in each entry, out of 60) is:

Terra Felix (Port Melbourne), Terra Felix Sagrantino 2009, 52.5, Silver.
Oliver's Taranga Vineyards (McLaren Vale), Oliver's Taranga Sagrantino 2009, 49.5, Bronze.
Amadio Wines (Felixstow), Amadio Sagrantino 2009, 48.5, Bronze.
Chalmers Wines (Colbinabbin), Sagrantino 2009, 46.5, Bronze.
Coriole Vineyards (Mclaren Vale), Coriole Sagrantino 2007, 46.5, Bronze.
Preston Peak Wines (Preston), Sagrantino 2008, 46.5, Bronze.
Chalmers Wines (Colbinabbin), Sagrantino 2008 45.0.
Andrew Peace Wines (Piangil), Australia Felix Sagrantino 2007, 40.5.
Gracebrook Vineyards (King Valley), Sagrantino 2008, 40.0.

For the results, see Results.pdf

I'll have to go to the AAVWS next year. In the meantime, I'll pull together as many of these wines as I can and have a good look. I like the looks of how the list covers NSW, Victorian and South Australian regions, across a mix of climates.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Moscato and globe artichokes

A small experiment last night at a dinner. The globe artichoke crop here is large, so I picked 14 and after soaking to evict the earwigs, boiled them up to serve with melted butter, salt and balsamic vinegar dipping. There was a bottle of Kay Brothers 2010 moscato unopened from the dumpling dinner Friday evening, so this was the match-up.

Globe artichokes, particularly if you eat quite a lot and they aren't denatured by preserving, have an interesting impact on sweetness perception. The further you go with eating them, the effect of making subsequent food or liquid seem sweeter heightens. But what about with sweet wine, like moscato?

The effect on sweetness was as expected, but could be partly counteracted by vinegar if used in dipping of leaf bases. But there was also an impact on perceptions of bitterness and astringency which I had not expected. The moscato became sweeter following the artichoke, but an astringency also appeared when tasting the wine that had not been there when having it beforehand. Not something I have a particular explanation for, but a fascinating experiment.

And I still have around 40 artichokes still to pick of the first flush. The dry-land Mediterranean landscaping of the front yard is loving this wet year.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wet Spring in the vineyard

Aside from risks of mildew and soggy boots, a wet start to the vineyard year in Spring can make it tricky for the tractor.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Viticoltori Ponte Prosecco Extra Dry NV

Prosecco, like cava, is the kind of sparkling white wine I most enjoy for casual drinking, or having with food. As good as Champagne is for peak wine experiences, I'd have to admit I've had more pleasure, more often, from cava and prosecco.

Last night, visiting Sydney for work, I ducked in to the Canteen space at Sailors Thai up in the Rocks. A salad of grilled squid with green mango, and a stir-fry of ground pork and green beans were food highlights. But the compatibility of the Ponte Prosecco with food was startling.

Viticoltori Ponte produces several sparkling wines, including this 100% prosecco (glera) from vineyards in Treviso (Piave DOC). The acid is brisk, but not grating. The fruit moved between red-skinned apple, lemon and Granny Smith. In spite of the 'Extra Dry' designation there was enough generosity (even sweetness) to balance the hot/salty/sour/sweet of the dishes. Green mango and prosecco... a new one for me, but it worked, including for a second glass.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Taminick Cellars 1919 Series Trebbiano 2010 (Glenrowan)

Trebbiano is a name common to a group of different, if related, vines, usually sharing a common feature of acid blandness. Often dismissed as a wine-lake grape for jug wines and vermouth makers (ugni blanc is a trebbiano), it can make for honest, even surprising wines.

Booth's at Glenrowan have trebbiano plantings dating from 1919 and currently make three trebbiano-based wines. This wine, retailing for $14 a bottle, is the dry, racy, table wine, sold in a riesling bottle (an accurate signal). There is also a sweet trebbiano and a fortified 'gold' trebbiano made in the mode of a white port.

The 2010 1919 series trebbiano from Taminick Cellars is tight, dry, has racy lemon acid and a bit of length about it. But the best feature is the slightest curve of waxy texture and flavour through the mid-palate. I'm no expert with trebbiano, but the good ones I have had show that waxy hint at richness as the acid races along. While some trebbiano can age with interest (especially when made into vin santo), the vast majority are for quick drinking. This is one of those: grab and enjoy it young, fresh and sharp, perhaps with salt and pepper squid, chicken in a tarragon and cream sauce, or octopus marinated in olive oil. 12.5% alcohol.

The image is of quince blossom.