Monday, 21 December 2015

Festive Fizz

It is fortunate I am not superstitious, as my first wine tasting event hosted under the Vine to Vintage business was held on Friday 13th November. The delay in recounting the event for you is two fold: firstly, the following week I was off to New Zealand on another wine adventure and secondly, I thought the week leading into Christmas would be good timing to talk about all things bubbly.

The objectives of the sparkling wine tasting evening, which I coined Festive Fizz, were pretty straightforward:
  • sample sparkling wines from Australia and Europe
  • enjoy wines with paired canapes
  • learn how to pick real champagne
  • share tips for puchasing quality sparkling wine on a budget
  • prepare for the party season!
Sparkling wine is just so versatile with food, so it was a delight to work with the venue's chef on the selection of canapés. We tried to select options that were likely to be enjoyed as delicacies at Christmas and New Years. This then guided the format for the evening.  We had two light, crisp wines paired with Entree style finger food, then the richer styles with mini samples of mains and finally some dessert options. 


1. Cherubino Wines, Ad Hoc The Riddler NV Brut, Western Australia

Pairing: Oysters ponzu
Tasting Notes: Clean and crisp, fruit and yeast on the nose, creamy lemon sherbert flavours.

Whilst pouring this classic example of everyday Australian sparkling, I explained that NV means 'Non-Vintage' which indicates that the grapes were not necessarily all harvested in the same year. I also pointed out that this wine showed a typical blend of pinot noir and chardonnay (sometimes pinot meunièr is included too). I also explained that, in traditional sparkling wine production, 'The Riddler' is the person who shakes, tilts and turns the bottles in preparation for disgorging.

2. Canella, Prosecco di Conegliano, Veneto Italy

Pairing: Prosciutto-wrapped melon
Tasting Notes: Fine mousse, subtle melon.

I love prosecco. Perhaps I'm slightly biased due to the fact that my mother is descended from inhabitants of the Veneto region, where the best prosecco is made. It also helps that this wine is never too expensive as it is made in tank under pressure, which decreases production costs due to lower labour overheads. 

I advised the guests to look for DOCG on the label, to ensure they were buying from a quality producer. Alternatively, Australia is doing some excellent prosecco in the King Valley, with my favourites being Dal Zotta and Pizzini.


1. Veuve Ambal, Cremant de Bourgogne, Burgundy, France

Pairing: Seared scallops
Tasting Notes: Pale yellow colour, fine mousse, stone fruits, butterscotch and almond.

This wine was selected to show people that there are other areas in France besides Champagne that make decent sparkling wine (without the price tag). I selected one from Burgundy to highlight the Blanc de Blancs style, where the primary grape variety is Chardonnay. 

I gave everyone a brief rundown on Methode Traditionelle (the traditional method) of sparkling wine production. If you enjoy more complex sparkling wines with the characteristics associated with lees contact (nutty, biscuity, creamy), then it's advisable to check the label to ensure the wine has been made using this traditional method.

If you are interested to find out more about the different production methods for sparkling wine, my article Why is champagne so expensive? has all the details.

2. Louis Roederer, Reims Brut Premier, Champagne, France

Pairing: Glazed duck shank
Tasting Notes: Luxurious mousse, zinging acid (like sour lollies), complex butteriness.

Louis Roederer is one of the few remaining independent family run maisons (7th generation) in Champagne. 

The particular NV style we tasted contained: 56% pinot noir, 34% chardonnay, 10% pinot meunier. This included 10% of aged wines from oak casks (2-6yrs), an average of 3 years on lees and 6 months in bottle after disgorging. 

The result? A complex and luxurious wine destined for a special occasion.


1. Bird in Hand, Sparkling Pinot Noir Rose, Adelaide Hills, Australia

Pairing: Brie and quince paste
Tasting Notes: Salmon colour, floral (lavender, rose blossom), sour cherry.

I just love the beautiful pink colour that can be achieved from skin contact, in this case with pinot noir. 

5. Seaview NV Sparkling Shiraz, South Eastern Australia

Pairing: Chocolate fondant Christmas pudding

Sparkling Shiraz truly is an iconic Australian invention. In 1894 Great Western winery in Victoria started a trend that has now extended to over 60 different producers in Australia, including pioneers Rumball and Seppelt. I had originally selected the 2012 Seppelt Original Sparkling Shiraz  for the tasting, but we had an issue on the supplier's end (tends to happen when you live remote).

Notwithstanding, the 'stand in' option still allowed me to showcase this sparkling style in is typical festive format. It was the perfect way to finish off the evening, served with the added excitement of a chocolate fountain.

Wrap Up 

I feel that the quality of food and wine on offer at Festive Fizz was enough to speak for itself. Therefore, I limited my wine dialogue to when I was pouring each wine, focussing on explaining why the particular pairing had been selected and a snippet of general knowledge about each style, as I have described above.

It was a group of very 'bubbly' people who bade farewell at the end of the evening, but not before they had kindly completed a small survey for me. This greatly assisted me in understanding the demographic I am catering to and will allow me to make future events even better. Some of the interesting results were:

  • Over 70% of the people who attended drink wine once or more per week 
  • The style of wine most people like is full bodied red 
  • Every aspect of the event was rated highly (food, wine, service, presentation)
  • Most respondents preferred the format with canapés to a sit down meal or no food
  • Over 80% of people were interested in a regular wine appreciation group
So basically, people are already drinking wine regularly (tick) and I need to hurry up and get a Wine Appreciation group going! Oh, and obviously my next tasting event will have to include some red wine.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Women in Business

Sometimes, amidst the chaos of life, things fall into place. And so it was with the Groote Women in Business Expo last weekend. Having spent any spare time in the past 3 months setting up my wine appreciation and education business on Groote Eylandt, the timing could not have been better. 

A drink on arrival
I am about to host my first tasting evening at the local recreational club this coming weekend, so it was a perfect opportunity for me to talk to people about what Vine to Vintage is all about and what they could expect if they signed up for my tasting evening.

To get people in the mood, I had decided to run a blind tasting competition. Keeping it simple, there were two mystery white wines ready to taste and punters had to guess the grape variety and region of each wine. The best guess would win a bottle of Prosecco.

The first wine served was the Shaw + Smith 2015 Sauvignon Blanc from the Adelaide Hills. This is currently my go-to wine for the humid 'build-up' weather we are currently experiencing on the island leading into the summer monsoon. I was impressed that most people correctly identified the wine as being a Sauvignon Blanc, because I find the fruit profile to be quite different to the commonly guzzled Marlborough specimens (think more citrus and less herbs). There was only one person who correctly guessed the region as Adelaide Hills, but it was a good opportunity to raise people's awareness that Sauvignon Blanc doesn't only grow well in Marlborough.

Plumm glassware for sale
Up second for tasting was a nostalgic wine for me - Brown Brothers Crouchen Riesling. This sweeter style wine was one of the first white wines I can recall drinking and enjoying. Brown Brothers is such an industry stalwart and this particular wine is a great way to gently introduce people to the enjoyment of white wine, without scaring them off due to high acidity. Again, only one person was on the money with this wine, commenting that they enjoyed drinking it regularly. Many people mistook it for a moscato, which was a fair guess, considering the sugar content.

My stand at the expo also included a display of the Outdoors range from Plumm glassware. This proved very popular, as there are many boating and camping enthusiasts within the local population. (For details on the Plumm range, see my recent post on the importance of quality glassware here).

I am most grateful to Michelle King and Rachael Kleinschmidt who voluntarily organised the Groote Women in Business Expo and to the Groote Eylandt CWA who sponsored the event. What a wonderful opportunity for people such as myself with fledgling businesses!

I'm just in the process of finalising my tasting notes for my inaugural tasting event. I look forward to sharing how it went with you. Sorry I can't spill the beans on the wines we will be tasting, but I can give you a clue:

The event is entitled Festive Fizz!

Friday, 6 November 2015

A Matter of Taste

It's easy to question why it's worth bothering with decent wine glasses. If you're anything like me, no doubt you've experienced the frustration of chipping your nice glass on the sink tap whilst washing it up and - Crack! - that's that (or maybe you have more exciting reasons for smashing your wine glasses).  

In recent years, I have been introduced to a wonderful range of wine glasses which take away the pretension (and expense) that can be associated with glassware. They cut to the chase of simply ensuring your wine tastes at its best. Even better, the range is Australian designed and owned and is reasonably priced to boot.

Being Australian themselves, the designers were obviously in tune with our inherent love of the outdoors. So besides their vintage and handmade vintage ranges of beautiful European crystal glassware, they also have an outdoor range. These unbreakable polycarbonate glasses are perfect for picnics, fishing trips and backyard barbecues. You can check out their range of glassware here.

Plumm's philosophy is based around the principle that:

'Using the right wine glass can mean the difference between a good glass of wine and a great one'

So if you've just splashed out on a decent Champagne for the festive season or there's a bottle of red you've been saving for a few years just asking to be opened, no doubt you want to ensure you can maximise the enjoyment when you do open it.

Did you know that properly designed wine glasses enhance the taste and smell of a wine by ensuring the volatile compounds are directed to the back of your nose, where you sense them as various flavours? 

I'm excited to announce that I am now selling Plumm glassware through my business. Come along to one of my upcoming events to see what all the fuss is about (event details on my social media pages).


Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Exciting News

It's been a long 10 months, but I am very excited to announce that Vine to Vintage is back and better than ever!

For those who thought I had given up on wine, never fear, I have been quietly sipping away in the background whist working towards the launch of my new business.

I can't give too much away quite yet, but let's just say that the venture involves tasting heaps of new wines and spreading the word on which ones are great to drink, whatever the occasion.

Watch this space...

I'd love to hear what you think of my new logo!