Thursday, 22 December 2016

Au naturel.

Natural. No sulphur. No filtration. No test-tube yeasts or additives. Just pure ‘natural wine’. They’re everywhere. But is there really such a thing?

And if so, what does it even look like? Forget your clean, crisp and refreshing Riesling and your luscious blockbuster Shiraz. A lot of these ‘natural’ wines are cloudy. They're grubby. In fact, sometimes they're so dirty you can literally see the particles floating about in the bottle.

So what makes a wine natural? First we need to actually consider what defines ‘natural’. I asked Google (because let’s be honest, if Google knows your location and the day you’re going to cark it, it definitely knows what ‘natural’ is). According to Googz, ‘natural’ is an adjective used to describe ‘existing in or derived from nature; not made or caused by humankind’.

‘NOT MADE OR CAUSED BY HUMANKIND’. Soz winemakers, but you’ve been fluffing this whole time. All wine is to some degree made by humans. The yeasts, wild or artificial, were put into the grape juice to convert the sugars into alcohol – the crucial step in making wine. God didn’t fly down, walk into the local Ag store, make some measurements and throw it in the mix – a good ol’ fashioned human did.

Sure, that’s a pretty matter-of-fact way of viewing it – but it’s as black and white as that. There’s no such thing as natural wine.

What’s more likely is that many wines marketed as ‘natural’ have been made with minimal intervention. This simply means less human interference, fewer chemicals (if any), wild yeasts (that is, those found naturally in the environment) and maybe a vineyard that hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals.

Which, for the record, is great. Many of these wines are divine to drink, not to mention sustainable. What’s also great is wines made with minimal intervention are more likely to exhibit flavours that are a true reflection of the terroir in which they were grown.

But in marketing speak, is it better to brand these wines as ‘natural’, however loose the term? Does it matter? And do people really care?

Probs not. And, if it’s for the sake of diversifying winemaking in a manner that doesn’t hurt the environment, I say ‘go nuts’.

 So, is there really such a thing as natural wine? Technically, no dice. Wines made with nature in mind and gentle intervention? Absolutely. Call it what you will, just enjoy.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

A Red Zeppelin Eve

"And baby, baby, baby do you like it?"

As a matter of fact, I really very truly do.

S.C. Pannell 2013 Grenache Shiraz Touriga. A dreamboat of sweet cherry goodness that with lamb, lemon, rosemary and a light rocket salad make for a delight. Esp. in the sun with Zeppelin playing.

I came across it yesterday in McLaren Vale while on a wine day out with these dolls:

Babes, huh?

We indulged in a picnic at Alpha Box and Dice, and then visited Samuel's Gorge and the newly opened cellar door of S.C. Pannell. As for Mr Pannell, he's a very great winemaker with a high rep to match. Is little wonder. His wines are made with the utmost of care: mostly free run juice and gently handled to extract the purity of fruit and freshness that seriously reflects the best of what the McLaren Vale region has to offer.

"I try to create wines that suit our climate and way of life - wines to drink with the food we grow, make and eat in Australia," - Pannell.

Ditto to that.

S.C. Pannell.

The blend consists of 69% Grenache, 18% Shiraz, 8% Touriga and 5% Mataro - varieties of which all thrive in the region's Mediterranean climate. The lesser known variety, Touriga, is actually a Portugese variety which adds a kick of plum pudding, dried spices and floral notes. These traits, combined with the medium weight and confectionery notes from the Grenache, make this wine the perfect red wine to enjoy over the warm Australian Christmas.

On another note, I can't seem to get Jingle Bells out of my head. With that in mind...

Happy drinking and Merry Christmas x

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Belissimo Cassiano

Today is my last day in Italy. I have spent the past three and a bit weeks exploring this bella country, from Sicily to the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany, Venice, Rome, and a handful of smaller treasure troves in between.

There has been much to see, taste and absorb. Among the better are the wine, pasta, seafood, scenery and shopping - I bought a smashing vintage leather bag in Florence. It's very sexy and I'm pretty sure it knows it.

I have tasted a bunch of great wines, from Sicilian Nero d'Avola, to Campanian Aglianico to some stunning Chianti from, well, Chianti. A big favourite, however, was this bad boy: San Cassiano - Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2009.

So, what is this wine and what does it look like in words? If you can imagine a mini Morrissey dancing and jovially singing 'The last of the famous international playboys' on your tongue - mic, band and all - I'd say you're probably onto something.

This drop is made by San Cassiano - a wine and olive oil producer based in the Mezzano Valley, near Verona, Italy. The Valpolicella Ripasso is made up of 70% Corvina, 15% Molinara and 15% Rondinella and is grown south west of Monte Paradiso.

With white pepper and delicate aromatics on the nose, and a medium body that bursts red fruit with a kick of spice on the front palate, this wine is an explosion of all good Christmases at once. 

I enjoyed this wine with linguine with lobster, cherry tomatoes and basil at a great little restaurant in Venice along the canal. As Larry David would say: pretty, pretty, pretty good.

After a quick Google search, I couldn't find any Australian distributors, but I do hope I am wrong because this wine is a knockout.

"We seek harmony with nature, balance between tradition and modernity: 'cultivation' and 'culture' in wine and olive growing" - Mirko Seller, winemaker.

Find out more about the history and offerings of San Cassiano here.

The green Mezzano Valley vineyards of San Cassiano.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Ain't that a kick in the head

Remember in July when I said stay tuned for more Come Wine With Me blog posts capturing my travels and wine experiences as I make my way throughout Europe? Well, unfortunately that plan has come to a halt on two occasions.

The first was in Berlin where my friend and I were pickpocketed at the train station somewhere between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. My camera, phone and wallet - gone like the wind. The second occasion was in Palermo, Sicily, where two guys mugged me, running away with my bag containing my second phone and second bank card. Joy.

That's not to say I haven't had wonderful experiences - I'm not even being sarcastic. But what is a blog without pictures? Dull as gherkins on toast, that's what. Nevertheless, I will post as soon as I can (i.e. when I have access to my photos; i.e. when I have a phone). Hoping this is sooner than later. In the meantime, here is a quick summary of what it's like to travel without access to your bank account or phone (this post is coming to you from my Kindle using free WiFi in a hotel in Maiori, Amalfi).

In short, it sucks. I'm not going to sugarcoat it by saying it's empowering or whatever hippy bollocks only Gwyneth Paltrow would say. No offence Gwynnie.

Fact is, it ain't fun. For the most part, I don't have access to the internet. No access to my money. No ability to buy a phone. No ability to phone bank. No ability to photograph travel adventures. Worst of all, no idea of when, how or if I will have a new bank card in time to make further plans before my cash runs out. Worst of all worsts, running out of my cash. Oh, Madonn' - what would happen then? Not to be dramatic, but this is a serious question that does my head in. Alas.

I am, despite everything, optimistic and having a great time. In super short, Amalfi is its own paradise with wonderful ruggered smells of the fresh sea, Italian sun and scooter engines running left, right and centre. The landscape is beautiful with views of colourful sunbeds along the shoreline, hidden cobblestone streets lined with authentic Neapolitan restaurants and quaint architecture that progresses into the green hills surrounding the coast. Ultra bliss with a genuine sense of peace.

My travels: Maiori, Amalfi Coast. 

Next stop, Florence. Hopefully with a phone ;)

Friday, 25 July 2014

(Just like) starting over

It's been exactly one year, 12 weeks and two days since my last blog post, according to my calculations (which by the way should be taken with a grain of salt).

The past year has zoomed by, but here's a quick cut and paste of what's happened:

- I got a job at Bethany Wines and moved to the Barossa
- I took up watching the ABC's quiz show Eggheads while simultaneously eating eggs on toast
- I started my Masters of Wine Business at Adelaide Uni
- I accidentally drove to work with my dress on inside out
- I went one month without drinking wine (only slightly)
- I accumulated more speeding fines in the Barossa than I have over the past five years
- Ditto, I drank a lot of wine.

On a serious and frankly shitful note, I can't go without mentioning the loss of someone very close to me. I don't think this is the right platform to go into the details, so I will redirect you to my Aunt Donna's blog, Those Blasted Cells, where she documents a journey no one should ever have to bear.

I also decided I will travel across Europe from next month for five months to explore the winescape, and drink and eat myself silly. The itinerary is rough but goes: Berlin, Sicily, Amalfi Coast, Naples, Rome, Venice, Tuscany, Paris, Bordeaux, Loire Valley and UK, if cash allows. As part of my travels, I plan to share my food and wine experiences with ya'll over here. So stay tuned.

Did I mention today is my last day at Bethany?


In about 32 minutes I will leave this beautiful place but with a very heavy heart. The Schrapel family is as lovely, thoughtful, funny and caring as they come. These traits don't make leaving an easy decision. But alas, there's always the wines.

With that, excuse me while I take off my PR/marketing hat.

There is a lot to be said for the wines from the Bethany Estate. I can sit here for hours talking about the terroir and minimal intervention jibber jabber that everyone goes on about (not that that's not important, it's completely valid). But if there's one thing that sets Bethany Wines apart, it's the way the wines are a true reflection of the people: honest, approachable, warming and sophisticated.

I have a few favourites, including but not limited to the '08 and '12 LE Reserve Shiraz, the GR6 and GR9 Shiraz, and the 2013 Eden Valley Riesling.

Bethany 2012 LE Reserve Shiraz

A medium bodied Shiraz that boasts powerful, vibrant red fruit and blackcurrant flavours, soft tannins and great length. Awesome acidity. Soft as silk. And, like all of Bethany wines, great with food. Especially something hearty. Enjoy with ugg boots and John Lennon. Drink to 2032. RRP $48. Buy online here.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Keep calm and drink wine

If I was a wine, I wouldn't be caught dead in this label.

Forgive me, but if this isn't one of the most unappealing labels I have ever seen then I don't know what.

Please don't throw stones just yet! Let me explain!

I'm not usually one to judge a book by its cover. The same goes for wine labels. In fact, when choosing a wine, I like to think I'm objective (ha!). 

Even so, there are certain cues I look for: variety, vintage, region, producer and price point (that's in no particular order).

But on this very occasion, I did the dirty thing. 

I judged the wine by its label.

But! Lesson learnt...

Turns out the wine - a 2009 Shiraz from Western Australia - is damn delicious. Medium in body, ripe with raspberries, plentiful spice and soft tannins. This is a moreish wine that boasts far more potential than to be called a 'picnic wine', as the label suggests.

Not that there's anything wrong with picnics, of course -  I'd be very happy to down this wine at a picnic in the summer time, perhaps some Sandie Shaw singing her way in the background. Come to think of it, that sounds somewhat perfect.

The wine is made by Whitfield Estate - a winery in Denmark, Western Australia. You can stock up on your winter reds and other vinous delights at their website, here. Another bonus is that all wines are relatively cheap. Lovely.

Happy drinking.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Harvest moon

Wine and music. It’s a damn fine fit, especially when compared with skinny black jeans on hips after a very indulgent winter. 

I’ve always wondered about pairing wine with music; is Pinot Noir better suited to Neil Young on a cold rainy day or ... there's really no comparison.

Nevertheless, when pairing wine and music I can’t help but think of the specifics: the weather, the emotion, the company (or lack thereof) and the colours outside the window. And, of course, why you’ve decided to crack open a bottle of vino; the reason beyond curiosity and enjoyment.

Seems I’m not the only one to have such thoughts. Three young female musos, with lives now in Europe, have travelled back to their home country, Australia, to present their show, Oz Cabaret, as part of Adelaide’s Fringe Festival.

The trio – Sarah, Katrina and Jessie – draw on their experiences of tried relationships, family turmoil and warm nostalgic memories to present an interactive show brought to life as they turn their stories into live music and match their songs with different wines.

Pianist Sarah Regan, violinist Katrina Kirkwood and accordionist Jessie Jean.

“It’s an honest account of our lives with wine and how wine has impacted us,” says Katrina.

It gets better – they’re also working to take the snobbery out of wine tasting.

“We’re not experts and we don’t claim to be. It’s about offering a bit of education with a personal approach to make for an experience that everyone can relate to.”

One of the best parts is the engagement with the audience; everyone is provided with a tasting sheet with questions. Not questions about aroma or texture, but rather personal questions that make you reflect on your past and relate specific experiences to your vino.

Cool beans, indeed. And it is – the wine is terrif, representing different flavours from the Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and the Barossa (though I did wish there was more of le vino). It's also a top performance by the girls; they can all sing above their weight and know how to belt the heart out of their instruments.

This is a show I’d take a spunky girl or boy to see on an innocent Tuesday evening.

For more on the girls, visit their site here.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Moon over la Gabriella

One, two, three, four. That's how many grey hairs I pulled out of my 25-year-old head this morning in the workplace bathroom. Three to be exact; I had to ask the sales manager to pluck the fourth one out because it was too short. If that's not the lamest thing then I don't know what!

It's been somewhat of a while since I bashed out some words on my latest wine tasting extravaganza. But since you're busting to go to the toilet I'll keep my answer as short as I feel like.

I've tasted a lot of different wines over the past month or so. Some good, some mediocre. But, alas, I haven't tasted a wine that makes me want to ...

Then one day I was browsing through the various wines at the bottle-o when I saw a familiar face. A wine I once had and enjoyed. A goodie.

Not just any goodie, of course. I’m thinking the kind of wine that leaves an impression; the vino that takes you back to the moment you first tasted it, to the vivid memories of the time, place, company, the smell and the rain.

The who, what, when, where, why and how - all of which can come to life by an individual bottle of wine.

I didn’t think the wine was mind-blowingly run-around-naked fantastic, either. Of course it wasn’t just ordinary. It was just a good drop. A really good drop, of sentiment, if you will. Like An affair to remember.

Talk about a movie you can set your watch to.

St Hallett Barossa Faith Shiraz 2009.

Lively red fruits on the nose and the palate, complemented with the perfect amount of spice and oak, this is a classic Barossa Shiraz, truly representative of the region from which it was grown.

Twenty or so bucks a bottle and easily accessible (at most bottle shops as well as online), this is a wine to live and enjoy.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Summer at Lodge Hill

So there I was, at Dan Murphy's on a late Friday afternoon rushing about to find a bottle of vino for dinner that night. It's that time of the year when my stocks are running low, so Dan seemed like the man to hit up (though, let's be honest, he's not exactly my man of choice. Where there's Dan, there's beef!)

Then it hit me - it's summer! What with all this talk of low-alcohol booze and the world getting super fat, I thought what the hey. Let's try a low-calorie vino.

I asked Mr Dan Murphy employee whether they stocked any of this kind. He asked: "What's low alcohol?" To which I replied: "Well I'm not 100 per cent sure, but I'd say anything below 12%abv for reds, and 10% for whites." He shot me a look that said he had no such kind.

Then it dawned on me. Who needs low-alcohol wine when you can either a) dance the calories off to The Easybeats on Singstar or b) dance the calories off to Devo or c) dance the calories off to Devo.

With that in mind, Jim Barry's The Lodge Hill Riesling was the vino of choice.

I've heard a bucket load of good things about this wine, which has won a plethora of awards. Click here for the specifics.

As for the wine, let's just say it didn't take long for the bottle to run dry. Floral notes on the nose, peach, grapefruit and citrus on the tongue, topped with an exciting minerally texture, this vino is one to toast to on a warm Friday afternoon. Damn fine with a light chicken salad, too.

Also, $22 bucks a bottle. Do it!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Corked wine sucks

There are things in life that suck ... like that unpleasant moment when you sit on a warm toilet seat because the last person to take a leak took their sweet arse time. This sucks a fatty. 

Accidentally tucking your dress into your sad washing-day knickers for all the cool kids to see – also a major fatty sucker. 

Of course such suckers are not limited to toilet time. Saving a cracking bottle of Italian Barbera (or any good wine, for that matter) for a special occasion only to discover it’s corked, is a hideously unfortunate instance, where the only real words left to say are: 

“Dang. This wine sucks a fatty.”

Such was the case about a month ago when a bunch of friends and I drove to Middleton, along the South Australian coast, for a weekend of vino, slow-cooked food, good company and games. 

It was a super sunny day and the first bottle to be enjoyed was Kalleske Wines 2011 Clarry’s GSM - a top drop from the Barossa which was recently awarded three awards at the International Wine Challenge in London.

Then came the moment we had all been waiting for - the time to crack open the Barbera. Off came the cork and there I was, taking a sweet sniff and sip from my glass. 

A sour look took over my face and, along with it, came the dreaded words. Words that no one ever wants to hear...

“Dang, Joe, I hate to break it to you, but this wine’s corked!”

(That is, the wine contained TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole) - a compound that leaches from the cork, into the wine, causing icky odours that often resemble mouldy newspapers or wet dogs).

You should have seen the despair in his eyes.

“Dang nath, girl! I ain’t drinkin’ dis shit!” he said. Not in those exact words but, needless to say, the wine was undrinkable. 

Don't get me wrong. I’m not anti-cork. I have tasted several wines under cork that have turned out to be exceptional. At the same time, when opening a bottle under cork, I can’t help but find myself holding my breath in the hope that the wine won’t be corked.

So it was with great pleasure that, when I opened a 2010 Shiraz, first picking, from Adelaide Hills' producer Main and Cherry, that I was blown away - in the best way possible.

Main and Cherry winemaker Michael Sexton with his wine dog, Charlie.

With raspberry sweetness, and soft and silky tannins, this wine reminded me of the delicious candy my teacher treated me at primary school when I worked well in class. It's certainly not too sweet. Hints of spice and blackberry add to its complexity, making for a lucious, well-balanced and moreish wine. I'd lap this up in a heart-beat.

For more information on Main and Cherry, and the wines, check out their website.

Note: Main and Cherry's 2010 Shiraz, first picking, was kindly supplied to me as a sample.