Tuesday, 29 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 27

I was down to the last bottle of wine brought from home for our holiday, so took a risk and decided to see what the wine list would be like at See Salt, where were going for a dinner of tapas.  The risk paid off.  

I couldn't help but select a tempranillo as a classic match for our tapas.  The Radio Boka 2012 Tempranillo from Valencia was juicy and succulent and kept me coming back for more.  The name relates to the fact that the makers claim the wine will 'have you talking non-stop'. We enjoyed the wine with chick pea salad, duck san choy bow, bacon croquettas and arancini balls.

And to top off an excellent night, we were serenadaded by an excellent guitarist. 
Exmouth:  I am impressed!

Spanish tapas and Tempranillo - a classic combination

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 28

With one last night in Exmouth, we had one last bottle of wine. So it was back to the BYO Italian restaurant Pinnochio. We ordered an interesting entre of Gnocchi Fritti with Cacciatore.

Our wine was a Campbell's 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherglen. We had picked this up on our trip to this renowned sticky wine region a few years' earlier.

I detected a little too much residual sweetness in the wine for my liking, meaning that it was slightly overripe and lacking in acidity. That aside, we toasted to a wonderful holiday, despite some awkward weather events!

Monday, 28 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 26

The day after the deluge in Exmouth, there were clear blue skies but damaged, flooded roads. We had booked accommodation in Coral Bay for the next few days, but could not drive there, as the roads were flooded. We were stranded!

Luckily, we managed to find some alternative accommodation and made the most of the situation by heading up to Vlamingh Headland to watch the sunset. 

We enjoyed the stunning 360 degree views with a bottle of Stefano Lubiana Pinot Gris 2012.

Stefano Lubiana is one of my favourite Tasmanian wineries. I had previously enjoyed their Pinot Grigio, however in 2012 they decided upon a style that was more similar to the French Pinot Gris, hence the name change. This didn't bother me at all - the wine was crunchy and delightful. I just loved the royal gala apple scent and the golden, almost olive-oil colour. As the wine washed through my mouth there was that hint of greasiness that draws me to this style of wine, and this was well balanced by some crisp acidity. Yum.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 25

Italian food and red wine. Just saying it sounds comforting. And that was just what was needed after being stuck in one room for an entire day, dive trip cancelled, due to the unexpected deluge that hit Exmouth on Saturday.

Luckily, we had managed to secure a car, so we had a means to get to the Italian restaurant without swimming!

As Pinnochio's is BYO, we brought along a bottle of Upper Reach 2005 Reserve Shiraz, which we had been saving for a special occasion. Our wedding was at Upper Reach, so their wines have a special way of bringing back fond memories.

As the wine was opened, I could just smell the opulent plum aromas wafting out. Drinking it was like coating your tongue in a silky smooth layer of melted chocolate. But then there was also a subtle pepperiness that lingered on to complement our delicious meal. 

HUGE Foccacia Bianca
I wouldn't always choose a Shiraz to accompany Italian food, but in this case it worked well with our Foccacia Bianca entre and Maccharoni mains, primarily due to its age, meaning that it had spent time mellowing out somewhat.


Saturday, 26 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 24

My next adventure at Exmouth was diving the Navy Pier. This dive is rated very highly on an international scale, and it definitely lived up to expectations. We saw so many octopus, lionfish, reef sharks, wobbegong and other underwater species that I lost count. Plus, I managed to give a 1.8m grouper a tickle under the chin! 

When we arrived back at our hotel all wet and parched, we found that our BYO dinner booking had been cancelled. The only remaining option was a pub feed, so I had to make do with the pub wine list, which was actually not too bad, considering.

I noticed there were a few wines from the Devil's Corner range on offer and I had never tried this label from Brown Brothers' Tasmanian Vineyards, so I thought I would give them a whirl. I started with the NV Sparkling (Pinot and Chardonnay), which was an unpretentious bubbly with a sweet cherry twist. I found it slightly tart but fairly refreshing.  Next, I moved into the 2012 Pinot Grigio which was another straightforward drop. Without any hints of  oiliness, those who prefer a fresher wine of this style with steely acidity would enjoy this as a casual afternoon drink.

Finally, with my meal of Crispy-Skinned duck with Asian Salad I had a glass of the Devil's Corner 2012 Pinot Noir. I couldn't find much of the fruity fragrance I usually look for in a Pinot, but the peppery tannins and mouth-coating spiciness partly made up for this. It went well with what I would call one of the best pub feeds I have ever had. 

Thanks to Potshot Hotel for an enjoyable, albeit unplanned, evening of wining and dining.

Friday, 25 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 23

Yesterday I experienced one of the most amazing wildlife encounters of my life, swimming with whale sharks on the Ningaloo Reef.  This was all thanks to a most generous gift from my bridal party last year. 

After such a huge day, I was keen for some good seafood and a fresh, simple and straightforward wine to match.

Ad Hoc 2012 Nitty Gritty Pinot Grigio from one of Larry Cherubino's labels was our drink of choice. We enjoyed this clean, crisp, mine rally wine with a Seafood Extravaganza platter. Anytime you are looking for a well-priced white for seafood on a hot day, I would recommend this wine.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 22

I would like to apologise in advance for the fact that my blog posts may not be as 'pretty' for the next week. I'm on holidays at Exmouth on the central coast of WA without my computer. So really, I'm not actually sorry, but I will still try my best to post each day to keep you up to date with my wine challenge.

We arrived into the humidity of Exmouth at 7.30am yesterday and could not check into our accommodation until 2pm, so had to make the most of the morning. We ended up trekking about 10km in our thongs, with a swim in the beautiful Indian Ocean to take the edge off the 35 degree heat. Of course all this exertion meant we were just crying out for a drink, so we stumbled in to a nearby bar all hot and sweaty.

Thank goodness they had a decent wine list (although predominantly WA wines). I ordered the Paul Conti 2011 Chardonnay. After my first sniff, I was slightly worried that my choice was probably not ideal for my parched situation - it was nutty, full of dense lees and I thought this would lead to a full-bodied, creamy vanilla flavour in my mouth. It was a pleasant surprise when the wine actually displayed a zingy acidity with fresh honeydew flavours and only an elegant undertone of the oak. I think I would enjoy this wine even more if put away for a few years.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 21

Most of the wines purchased on my recent trip to the Margaret River region have been safely stashed away in the wine fridge.  However, there were one or two sneaky back-vintage purchases thrown in between these so that there was something that could be enjoyed in the meantime.  

One of these was from Pierro winery.  Recently, whilst conducting a stocktake and clean out of their cellars, they found some 2001 Shiraz from the Fire Gully property in Wilyabrup that had been laid away and forgotten.  Despite the label claiming the wine would start to be at its best in 2003 and for a further four years after this, it was still holding its own a further seven years later!

After decanting the wine and leaving it for a few hours, we sat down to a meal of penne arrabiata.  The smooth mocha notes of the wine, with its gritty, earthy tannins made for an enjoyable pasta meal.  I savoured this aged wine, which still held some dark berry characteristics, but would suggest that it won't last much longer before all the fruitiness has disappeared.

home made penne arrabiata with 2001 Fire Gully Shiraz

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 20

I have an Aunt and Uncle who have played an important part in my developing a keen interest in wine and who started me on my journey to learn about different wine styles. Whilst I was studying at university, they would have me over for dinner and one of my fondest memories was when they opened a bottle of aged red. For the first time, I appreciated the luscious, silky-smooth texture and oaked aromas of a long lasting red.

Visiting my Aunt and Uncle yesterday, I knew that, as always, they would have an interesting wine that they were just waiting to share. This time, fittingly, it was a Pinot Grigio from the Veneto region (see my post on prosecco). We were having a simple meal of roast chicken and salad, and the wine in question was Torresella 2013 Pinot Grigio.

The crisp aroma and minerality of the style was perfect, both as an aperitif whilst we sat on the verandah and watched the beautiful autumn day draw to a close and also with the meal, where the fragrant, citrus flavours tied together the roasted white meat and greek salad.

Monday, 21 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 19

My brother has lived in Hobart for the past four years and I have had the opportunity to visit him a number of times over this period.  On each visit, I have always managed to drop in to a few cellar doors to try the local wines.  Due to the outstanding quality of Tasmanian wine, this has usually resulted in a struggle to limit my choice to only one or two bottles to take back home with me.

gift from my brother in Tasmania

It was a nice gesture of my brother to bring me home a bottle of Tasmanian Riesling at Easter.  I always enjoy sharing a bottle of wine with the gift-giver if possible, so decided to open it whilst we were both home.  My brother had enjoyed the visit to the Observatory Hill Vineyard, which is only 10 minutes out of Hobart on the way to the Coal River Valley.  The winery is appointment only and he told me that he ended up just relaxing on the verandah with the owners and enjoying a few glasses of wine with some of his friends.

The Observatory Hill Vintner's Reserve Riesling 2010 is Tasmania in a glass.  Cool, crisp and with a slight bite at the edges, just like their weather.  The wine has developed a straw-yellow colour with age and yeast flavours hiding below lemon/lime acidity.  I would suggest the wine could last at least another five years and my brother my brother was talking about going back to Observatory Hill Vineyard to grab a few more bottles!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 18

My brother was working at a bottle shop last year and had been particularly pleased with himself when he managed to secure a Cabernet Sauvignon with a shelf price of $60 for $15.  At the time, he had contacted me to find out whether he had, in fact, scored a bargain or not.  I had never heard of Punters Corner, but I did advise him that Coonawarra was a region that is renowned for producing world class Cabernet Sauvignon.

The wine in question was the Punters Corner 'Sovereign' 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  After conducting some further research, I discovered that Punters Corner had, in fact, won the Jimmy Watson trophy in 2000 for their 'Spartacus' Shiraz. In regards to the 'Sovereign' series, these wines are produced from the best Cabernet Sauvignon parcels of their Coonawarra vineyards.

Easter dinner seemed like a good enough celebration to try out my brother's bargain.  I had prepared a meal of slow-cooked lamb shoulder with roasted Mediterranean vegetables.  The food/wine match was spot on, due to the finely structured tannins in the wine, which enhanced the delicate, melt-in-your-mouth meat.  The acidity level also complemented the crisp capsicum and red onion in the roast vegetable medley.  I probably would not have paid $60 for the wine, but I definitely think it was undervalued at $15.

Unfortunately, I was not quick enough to get a photo of our dinner.  This was all that was left...
hungry brothers

Saturday, 19 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 17

preparing for a toast
On my mother's side, my family background is Italian.  In December of 2010, I accompanied my parents and my five siblings on a trip to Italy to learn about our heritage.  My mother's family name was Bazzo and her ancestors were from a small farming town called Codogne, which is situated in the Veneto region of Italy.  We visited the area for a week, and during this time, I fell in love with the wine that is synonymous with this region: Prosecco.

King Valley Prosecco
It is now somewhat of a tradition that we drink Prosecco as a celebratory drink at home on special occasions.  So, when all of my family arrived home yesterday afternoon for Easter, it was time to pop some prosecco.  By chance, I stumbled upon a bottle of Carpene Malvolti Cuvee Oro that my sister had purchased during our 2010 trip from the cellar door.  We also had a Santaro Prosecco from the King Valley close at hand, so it was a good opportunity to make a comparison.

First off the mark was the Cuvee Oro.  Generally, prosecco should be consumed within three years of bottling and this one, having being bought in 2010, was probably nearing the end of its ideal life span.  There was quite a yellow colour to the wine and the bubbles were more sparse than I am used to.  However, the aromas and flavours were quite enjoyable; tropical fruits such as pineapple, peach and passionfruit abounded.

Looking back, we probably should have started off with the Santaro Prosecco: being younger, it was fresh, vibrant and full of sparkling zest.  Green apple was the stand out aroma and the style was uncomplicated, perfect for an aperitif or celebratory toast.

If you have never tried Prosecco as a fresh and inexpensive alternative to Champagne, I would strongly recommend having a dabble.  Most bottle shops stock at least a few versions, both from Australia and Italy. 

Friday, 18 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 16

My challenge for today was to find a wine from my parent's cellar that would match the Thai Green Curry that I was cooking for dinner.  Finding a wine to match a curry is often a difficult proposition, but I was erring on the milder side, to keep everyone happy.  With the coconut cream and eggplant components to mellow things out, I thought it might be worth giving a fruit-forward Chardonnay a try. 

I ended up with two wines to choose from, and selected the Iron Hill 2013 Chardonnay.  The Iron Hill range are named in honour of wine industry pioneer William Salter, who established his first vineyard at the base of Iron Hill.  Considering the wine is in the under $10 category, with the fruit source being undisclosed, I thought the result was quite acceptable.

On top of that, the soft fruit flavours complemented the fragrance of the dish, whilst the acidity level was enough to counteract the coconut cream.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 15

Whilst at home in Toowoomba for Easter, I thought it would be a good opportunity to try some local wines. Preston Peak Winery is located on the outskirts of Toowoomba and produces quite a large range of wines, with grapes primarily sourced from the Granite Belt region.  The cellar door and cafe are set atop an outcrop which provides stunning views to the surrounding valleys.  
View from Preston Peak Winery
Upon arrival at the cellar door with my family, I noted that there were quite a range of wine styles on offer, and was especially interested to find some uncommon grape varieties such as Mataro and Sagrantino.  Unfortunately, my excitement waned with the long wait we experienced prior to any service and when I discovered that the free tastings at the bar were primarily sweet wines from their Wildflower label.

An Enomatic Wine Tasting System was in use for the flagship label wines.  This involved purchasing a tasting card and then selecting each wine as you wanted to try it.  You could select a tasting size ($1), half glass (all around $4) or a full glass (all around $8). Unfortunately, although most of the reds exhibited fresh fruit and spicy aromas, none had any length or significant body on the palate.  Disappointingly, two of the wines that I tried were affected by vinegar taint.

The redeeming wine was the 2010 Gewurztraminer, which was beautifully aromatic, displaying rosewater and lavender notes which followed through to delicate stone fruit flavours dancing across my tongue.  I decided I would have a glass of this with my lunch, but unfortunately the Enomatic Wine Tasting System would not provide a full glass, so I had to settle for a half glass.

Despite being unable to find some wines to take home, we did enjoy a relaxing lunch in the picturesque surroundings.

Preston Peak Winery Cellar Door

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 14

Yesterday, I embarked upon the long trip from Perth back to my home town of Toowoomba in South Eastern Queensland.  After a sleep-deprived night on the plane, followed by trains and buses, I was delighted to find that my sister was cooking up a lovely, homely Beef Bourguignon for dinner. 

Such a traditional dinner called for a red wine that could stand up to the rich, meaty flavours.  To keep everyone happy, I selected an old classic:  Wirra Wirra Church Block.  2012 is the 40th vintage of this well-recognised Australian wine, and in my opinion, it is still as reliable a drop as ever.  

My first impression of the wine was of rich chocolate/mocha aromas and ripe plums.  The tannins were bold and structured and the fruity acidity did well to cut through the fatty/meaty aspects of the dish.  Sometimes, it is so nice to revisit an old favourite!

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 13

 Margaret River Weekend (Day 3)

With a few final wineries to tick off our list, we set out on a third day of ridiculously stunning weather in the Margaret River Region.   

a quick stop at Sugarloaf Rock, Dunsborough
One of the wineries was a last minute addition to our list, based on a recommendation from other wineries in the area.  We had been told that Clairault - Streiker Wines were doing some great work with their Chardonnays and we were interested to form our own opinions.
A beautiful cellar door and exceptionally friendly staff kicked off the visit well.  Clairault-Streicker is a joint cellar door due to the Streicker family having bought Clairault a few years ago, but opting to keep the two labels as separate entities.  This fact actually made the tasting quite fun, as each label had similar varieties and there was a little bit of disparity between who liked which one best (which made it difficult when deciding what to buy!).

My personal favourite was the Streicker 2010 Ironstone Cabernet Sauvignon.  An elegant expression of the variety, with fine tannins and opulent fig and prune flavours, I probably should have saved this one for a cold winter night, but just could not help myself!

Honourable mention must also go to the Clairault 2011 Estate Chardonnay which had aromas of cashews and toasted brioche followed by a surprisingly taught acidity which suggests the wine will do well with a few years in our fridge.

Monday, 14 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 12

Margaret River Weekend (Day 2)

Waking up in the Margaret River region is always a lovely experience.  The scenery is just stunning, no matter where you stay, and I made the most of the amazing autumn weather with a jog down to the beach.  The other purpose of this morning exercise was to clear my head ready for the vertical tasting we had booked at Voyager Estate.

the beautiful Cape Naturaliste coastline
In honour of founder Michael Wright, the Michael's Room tastings are designed to be an intimate experience (max. 8 people), hosted by Sommelier Claire Tonon.  We chose to attend the "Cellaring Styles Vertical:  Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot" and were very lucky to be the only two participants.  Basically, the tasting consists of the current vintage of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, as well as two back-vintages of each.

1. Chardonnay

Prior to jumping in to our sensory analysis, Claire provided some background on the use of different Chardonnay clones at Voyager Estate.  Originally, all Chardonnay was sourced from the Gin Gin Clone.  Interestingly, this clone (discovered in Gin Gin, Western Australia) resulted from a genetic mutation during fruit set.  Some of the fruit berries are very large and juicy with low acidity, and other berries are very small with high acidity.  When combined at harvest, the result is a powerful wine with significant fruit weight. 

For more recent vintages, an almost 50:50 blend between the 'bolder' Gin Gin Clone and a French Clone with 'flinty minerality' is utilised.  This allows for a more complex and refined wine to be produced, which really showed through when comparing the current release 2010 Chardonnay to the big, bold 2007 Chardonnay.  

It was also insightful to compare the 2007 and 2006 Chardonnays.  Despite the fact that the winemaking regime was almost identical between years, the climatic differences resulted in a stark contrast in characteristics.  The warm, sunny 2007 spring resulted in a weighty wine with a lemon butter cake aroma and texture.  On the other hand, the cool, wet 2006 season produced a wine with delicate acidity, which was both perfumed and floral.  Both were amazing wines - it really comes down to personal preference.

2. Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot

Fruit from three different vineyards is utilised in the production of Voyager Estate's flagship wine - the Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot. Each year, small additions of some 'Bordeaux blend' varieties such as petit verdot and malbec are used to enhance the texture of the wine.  

2009 is the current release and shows great length and balance.  Claire explained that the second oldest of the vineyard sites has started to demonstrate exceptional quality fruit in the past few vintages, with the result that this wine is actually 94% Cabernet Sauvignon (so technically 'Merlot' does not need to be included on the label).  

In contrast, the 2003 and 2002 had 79% and 85% Cabernet Sauvignon respectively.  Being from a warmer year, the 2003 displayed juicy prune and Christmas pudding aromas with chunky tannins.  The 2002 was from a much cooler year, and the result was a pine forest aroma and savoury, herbaceous tones.

this booklet accompanied our private tasting, providing a handy reference guide
Claire was an amazing host.  With her passionate commentary and patient answers to my barrage of questions, the session ended up going for two hours instead of one!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 11

Margaret River Weekend (Day 1)

This weekend, my husband suggested we spend a few days down in the Margaret River region, as he will be working away over Easter.  It was all very last minute, but sometimes those unplanned adventures turn out to be the most enjoyable and memorable.  I will not go into the details of all the wineries we visited and all the wines we tasted over the three days due to my current focus on one wine per day, but I might revisit some parts of the trip at a later date.

Our highlight for the Friday was our appointment at Fraser Gallop Estate.  Phil Callaghan was our host and he facilitated a very relaxed hour of tasting, sitting out in the beautiful grounds whilst slowly mulling over each of the six wines currently on offer.  It was our second visit to the establishment, the quality of the wine having drawn us back for round two.  Phil's approach to the tasting is both unique and refreshing, as it allows time to fully appreciate the aromas and tastes of each wine, as well as facilitating comparison between them.

Most interesting of the wines is the newest addition to the range: the 2013 Ice Pressed Chardonnay.  Inspired by the famed ice wines of Canada and Germany, this lovely dessert number has all the fruit aromas of a chardonnay but with a delicate, refreshing sweetness.

After a busy day of winery visiting, we relaxed at our hotel with a bottle of the Fraser Gallop 2011 Parterre Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine gives you some of the eucalypt notes typical of Margaret River wines, but not overpowering.  There were beautiful, ripe berry notes layered over by spicy vanilla.  The wine has a tight structure (which I like) and will definitely hold its own over a number of years.  We will definitely be trying to hide a second bottle of this wine somewhere at the back of our wine fridge in an attempt to drink it at a later date!

enjoying some Cabernet Sauvignon with pre-dinner goodies

Friday, 11 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 10

Lalla Rookh has a reputation for being one of the more adventurous wine bars in Perth.  As I was in the CBD yesterday, I thought it was a good excuse to drop in to their Wine Store, out the back of the main bar facility.  

Being a little peckish, I quickly scanned the menu and my eyes were drawn to the beef bone marrow dish.  I figured a matching wine would require a bit of 'bite' to cut through the rich, creamy/meaty texture of the marrow, but I really was not sure whether to lean to white or red.  Furthermore, there were a few wines by the glass that I had never heard of before.  In this situation, time to put pride aside and ask the sommelier. 

The helpful Sommelier agreed that there was an appropriate white and red option, however I was intrigued by the Italian red he pointed out which was called Elisabetta Foradori Vigneti Delle Dolomiti. This wine is made from the native Italian Teroldego grape variety.  When I conducted some further research, I discovered that Elisabetta Foradori has been lauded as "Italy's finest producer of wines made from the Teroldego grape" (Polaner Selections).  The grape is related to Shiraz and is grown in the northern Trentino region.  

This wine was the darkest wine I have ever seen, having an illusion of being highly viscous and with a purple rim.  The smell was similar to the famed Nebbiolo 'tar and roses' aroma, despite the fact that the wine is still relatively young (2011).  My first taste impression was a sweet/sour cherry burst underlined by licorice or aniseed and a hint of inkiness.  I have to say, this is definitely my favourite wine of April to date, perhaps partly due to the novelty of discovering a new grape variety.

beef bone marrow was a perfect match with my Teroldego
Moral of the story?  If in doubt, always ask the Sommelier.  This is what they are paid for and they should have tasted every wine on the list (at least those offered by the glass), so it is worth getting their opinion, even if you decide to be stubborn once you have heard their suggestion.  It is quite possible you could end up discovering a new grape variety or food match that you would never have tried without a little coercion.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 9

Last night was one of my most enjoyable and educational wine tasting experiences to date.  I attended the Charles Heidsieck Champagne Tasting at Must Wine Bar, hosted by Master of Wine (MW) Ned Goodwin.  The context was the latest release from this renowned Champagne house and their recent success in Fine Champagne Magazine's "100 best Champagnes for 2013". 

My major incentive for attending was to expand my knowledge and understanding of Champagne, as this intriguing wine style is not one that I have often had the opportunity to indulge in.  So, I thought, why not start with some of the best to set myself a benchmark for comparisons.

Charles Heidsieck has a relatively small production in comparison to many of the other Grandes Marques.  Besides discussing the production methodology, strategy and characteristics behind each of the five champages, Ned also described the philosophy of the Charles Heidsieck house and how this sets it apart from other houses in the Union de Maisons de Champagne (UMC):
1. An unsurpassed period of ageing
   (almost one third of their wine is currently held as reserve stock)
2. No use of oak
3. Long periods of lees ageing 
   (to create complexity and autolytic characters)

To save you from a boring garble of wine-speak, I have used the table below to summarise the critical statistics for each Champagne, along with my tasting notes from the evening.


I was very lucky to be seated next to a gentleman who has previously won Australia's coveted Vin de Champagne Award.  This bi-annual award involves accurately answering a series of essay questions and, if selected as a finalist, undertaking an interview and blind tasting before a panel of judges.  I learnt so much about champagne simply by discussing each wine with him after tasting.  He also shared his comparisons with other champagne houses, based upon his extensive knowledge of the region and its wines.  I hope he was not too overwhelmed by my ongoing barrage of questions throughout the evening!

For me, the epiphany for the evening was experiencing autolytic character at its best.  This characteristic defines premium champagnes, being a vital component in both flavour and mouth feel.  When a wine is left for an extended period of time in contact with the lees (dead yeast cells), many chemical reactions take place, resulting in an amazing level of complexity.  Having an appreciation for the distinctive, pungent aromas of lees in wine tanks and barrels after working Vintage 2014, I found it much easier to recognise these characteristics than previously.  So I guess getting covered in lees on a number of occasions over the past few months has paid off!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 8

Yesterday I wanted a casual, easy-going wine to drink, but I also wanted something that would get me in the mood for an exciting Champagne tasting event I am attending tonight (watch my blog tomorrow to hear all about the experience). 

My drink of choice was Spain's answer to French Champagne - Cava.  This wine style is known to be much simpler and leans on the crisp side, as opposed to the creamier Champagne.  

The Segura Viudas Brut Vintage Cava that I enjoyed is a well-known Spanish export, and I just happened to have turned up at the bar during happy hour, so the glass only cost me $5, with a free bowl of nuts as well - bargain!  This classic, reliable Cava exhibits light honeysuckle and melon notes with a cider-like 'pop' as the spritz hits you.  It is a perfect palate cleanser prior to any meal, but especially as an aperitif before tucking into some Spanish tapas.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 7

I would still consider myself a 'fledgling' in the aspects of wine knowledge and sensory analysis.  There is just so much to learn about wine - the terroir, the viticulture, the winemaking process, the multitude of regions around the globe.  It's sometimes difficult to know where to start.  Obviously, starting on home turf is a good idea and I think I am doing pretty well when it comes to understanding Australian grape varietals, wine making practices and identifying typical wine styles.

Moving to overseas wine regions, I have travelled and tasted in Italy, Spain and Portugal, but have not yet made it to the ultimate wine destination - France.  So what better excuse to commence my learning  than during my April wine challenge.  I noticed that there were some newly released, limited stock White Burgundy varieties advertised at Vintage Cellars, so I decided to grab a few and see what all the fuss is about.

White Burgundy from Domaine des Deux Roches

Domaine des Deux Roches 2012 Macon-Villages Plants du Carre is from the Macon-Villages appellation in Southern Burgundy, which specialises in Chardonnay.  Typically, these wines are lightly floral and warmly fruity but with a hint of nuttiness (I picked up almonds in this example).  The wine paired perfectly with my lunch of home-made salmon quiche and would go well with other fatty fish dishes.  

Location of Macon wine appellation in France

Monday, 7 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 6

With the Jimmy Watson trophy going to a Pinot Noir for the first time in 2013 (Yabby Lake's Block 1), there has been much hype about Australian Pinot.  I think this is great, as it is really an undiscovered wine style for many Australians.  The areas of Mornington Peninsula and Tasmania deserve the praise they are receiving as excellent Pinot regions, however I think that South Western Australia is missing out on some of the glory.  

To be honest, Pinot Noir has never been my red of choice, but I am trying to expand my view of this wine.  On a trip to the Great Southern Region last winter, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a suite of excellent Pinot Noirs (resulting in a significant drop in my bank balance that weekend)!  One of these was the Estate 807 Reserve 2010 Pinot Noir from Denmark. 

This wine was very approachable, with a lighter, slightly pink hue.  It was very aromatic, causing me to conjure up images of a lovely baked raspberry pie.  This 'baked fruit' sensation continued on the palate and was matched with a slight hint of sweetness.  I would recommend this fresh and vibrant wine to match with a spicy meat dish.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 5

Balthazar is rated as one of the top 10 restaurants in Western Australia, so I was very excited when my husband suggested we should try it out for dinner on Saturday night. I will not go into detail about the food, as I would prefer to focus on the wines, but rest assured it was outstanding.  In fact, we both agreed that the two fish entree dishes we had were the best we have eaten in our 2 years residing in Perth.

We selected the Frankland Estate 2013 'Isolation Ridge' Riesling to go with our fish.  It displayed the almost clear colour often seen in these Western, cool-climate Rieslings.  There was a steely acidity about the wine and the aroma that really stood out was of crunchy granny smith apples.  Despite these pungent aromas, the wine was very refreshing.

With our main course meats, we enjoyed Chapman Grove's 2007 Atticus Shiraz.  The Atticus range is only produced in exceptional years, and this wine was just that - exceptional.  Being a very deep, dark, red colour, it was earthy, meaty and altogether luscious.  I will definitely consider trying the Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon that are also in the Atticus range of wines.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 4

I wish more Perth residents realised that the Perth Hills wine region was right on their doorstep, just waiting to be visited.  With four separate wine trails, rustic country pubs, a cider house and gorgeous views down over Perth, it makes for a perfect day trip or weekend away.

Myattsfield Vineyards is situated in the beautiful Bickley Valley area of the hills, and the winemakers at this small winery are pushing the boundaries, enjoying what they call their "oenological independence" to work with lesser-known grape varieties and blend experimentally.

I was excited to try the Myattsfield Vineyards 2010 Mourvedre.  A blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mouvedre (GSM) is commonly encountered in the Barossa and McLaren Vale regions, however I had never tried a straight Mourvedre before.  
As expected, the wine was of a savoury style, reflecting its Mediterranean origins and propensity to match with this style of food.  The colour was youthful, deep and opaque, complementing the aromas of blackberry and mulled wine spices.  Drinking the wine was a pleasure, as it left a consistently smooth feeling across the palate.

Luckily my husband was home to enjoy this wine with me, as I felt better about finishing the bottle in one sitting!

Friday, 4 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 3

What a way to spend my lunch time yesterday - absolutely idyllic!
The location?  A hip new restaurant at Leighton Beach called Bib Tucker.  I was out on a bike ride and thought I would drop in to see what they had on offer.

Unfortunately, I was not particularly impressed by their wine list, as it had a very limited selection of wines by the glass and these were dominated by various Sauvignon Blanc options.  On the other hand, the lunch and tapas menus were making me drool and I eventually settled on the fish tacos (well priced at $15).

To accompany my tacos, I selected a glass of the Swings and Roundabouts 2013 Rose from Margaret River.  It was a very vivid colour that I guess could be described as either peach or even salmon.  The stone fruit option definitely came out in the aromas of the wine and this, along with a hint of sweetness, was offset well by a crisp line of acidity.  This is definitely a perfect wine for a lazy picnic lunch at the beach.

Swings and Roudabouts 2013 Rose

Thursday, 3 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 2

After all that red wine at the Cabernet tasting, it was definitely necessary to mix it up with a white on Day 2 of my epic wine month of April.

I chose one from a winery that is close to my heart:  Hentley Farm.  This was one of the first wineries I ever visited in the beautiful Barossa with my husband a few years ago.  We were so impressed with what was then a fairly new establishment - the cellar door staff were infectiously enthusiastic and the range of wines was stunning (and well-priced).  We actually went back two days later and did a second tasting!

Hentley Farm is located in Eden Valley, which vies with Clare Valley for producing the best Riesling in South Australia, if not all of Australia (although the latter could be debated, as the Great Western region could also stake a claim here).  2012 was a very good year for Riesling in both these regions, so I have a few Hentley Farm 2012 Rieslings stocked up in my wine fridge.  They have the potential to age for up to 20 years (if they last that long)!
The wine was pale gold in colour, with a very slight briny smell.  My tongue picked up a hint of mineral spritz and the wine finished with clean and sharp acidity (just what I like in a young Riesling).  It was a perfect match with my pan-seared yellowfin tuna and salad.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days - DAY 1

The Great Cabernet Tasting

When I signed up to attend The Great Cabernet Tasting at Lamont's Cottesloe wine store, I was not sure exactly what to expect:
Would it be a formal or casual affair?  
Would the demographic be aloof or relaxed?
Would I make a fool of myself as a novice taster?

As you can imagine, when I walked through the door I was a little nervous and uncomfortably aware of the fact that I was attending alone.  But I should not have been concerned - there were many lone attendees interspersed between the couples and work colleagues.  

My first impression was that it would be a fairly formal affair.  There were tables laid out with four wine glasses per setting, complete with wine judge styled tasting sheets. I introduced myself to the winemaker on my left and the fine wine merchant on my right, feeling even more out of my depth as they revealed their wine industry experience.  However, they soon had me feeling much more comfortable when they patiently ran through the conventions of the tasting and asked about my recent vintage experience.

John Jens, who has been described as "Perth's most enthusiastic and energetic wine retailer" by Qantas Magazine, was the host for the night.  He is the husband of chef Kate Lamont and a wine writer for the Western Suburbs Weekly. 

Amidst a regurgitation of impressive statistics about the success of Margaret River cabernets on the world wine stage, John conveyed his excitement for the evening's theme.  His platform for the night was that Margaret River wines only continue to improve, and therefore the selection before us was probably a suite of some of the best ever cabernets produced in the region.

I have included an abridged version of my tasting notes for the 16 wines, in order of preference.  Rather than bore you with detail, I've selected what I felt were the most outstanding/relevant features of each wine.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

30 Wines in 30 Days

Today I start a new challenge in my quest to discover more about the world of wine:

30 Wines in 30 Days

Just for the record, I am not undertaking this adventure in sensory analysis as an excuse to drink more, but as a way to increase my exposure to different wines. 
A number of winemakers have advised me that the best way to develop and improve your palate for wine is simply to keep tasting more wine and discussing it, so that is what I plan to do!

I thought it would be best to kick off my April challenge with a bang, so tonight I am heading along to Lamont's Cottesloe Wine Store, where I will be attending The Great Cabernet Tasting. The evening will involve a comparison of 16 of Australia's greatest cabernets from Margaret River and South Australia (which had a bumper 2010 vintage).

Obviously, each day of my 30 Wines in 30 Days will be offset by 1 day from the date of the tasting, to give me time to write about them. I look forward to sharing all my insights and discoveries with you over the month of April.