QUARTZ HILL Viognier 2014
Pyrenees, Central Victoria
“Oh my, that’s delicious!” exclaimed my sister-in-law at dinner.
I had just poured her a glass of the Quartz Hill Viognier and she had sampled it before I even had the chance to. I hastily grabbed my glass to see what all the fuss was about. Normally I am a little suspect of the Viognier grape, only because of how infrequently I get to try it. Not being that familiar with the Quartz Hill winery from central Victoria, I decided to see what this one had to offer.
This wine was made from low-yielding grapes by two winemakers, Darrin Gaffy of the Principia wines and John Durham of Del Rios. They opted for a pristine, high-flavoured wine that was matured in aged French oak on lees for 16 months to give the wine great mouthfeel. The palate says hello with fresh, zingy acidity that is quickly followed up by full texture, thick lanolin notes and fancy French oak. Think flavours of paw paw with a hint of butter. The overall palate was smooth and beautifully balanced with cool-climate Chardonnay-like characters. Suffice to say that our little dinner party was impressed and we finished the bottle off all too quickly alongside a Moroccan chicken tagine.
Stockist: Direct from the Quartz Hill website
TORO ALBALÁ Marqués de Poley Cream Pedro Ximénez NV
RRP $26 for 500ml
If you had told me ten years ago that I would one day write about a cream sherry, I would have immediately conjured up images of the Australian McWilliams version in my head – the one that I used to sip in the summer sunshine with my Nonna on a special occasion. Fast forward to today and I am writing about a very different wine made in a very different style.
Toro Albala have been making wine in the Montilla region of southern Spain for quite some time. In fact, they are sort of renowned as experts in the matter. This example is made entirely from Pedro Ximenez grapes that were made into Oloroso sherry and blended over ten years in a solera system, a method that adds fresh wine to old wine and builds complexity in flavour and aroma. Add a dash of their famous Don PX Gran Reserva and the result is exquisite.
Pale amber in colour you are immediately drawn into the glass by aromas of toasted walnuts, vanilla, salted caramel and dried apricots. On the palate you would not call it very sweet, so for those expecting a viscous style of PX, look elsewhere. The overall effect is delicate with the subtle salted caramel and nut flavours carrying it far. Sip it slowly and enjoy the walnut skin-like texture at the finish with ice-cream, fruits and citrus-based desserts.
Stockist: Try Prince Wine Store in South Melbourne
GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS Riesling 2015
Look closely at this label. Amongst the delicate sketches of snakes, animal skulls, snails, funghi and leaf matter, there lies the unmistakable form of the Michelin Man… Why on earth is the Michelin Man present on a wine made in the Heathcote region, you ask? Adam Foster, is your answer.
Adam Foster was a chef in a former life. Coming from a background of high-end food, there is no question as to how his path crossed with the Michelin Man. Today, Foster has carved a formidable path in the wine world under his labels Foster E Rocco and Syrahmi and is all about creating his own garden of earthly delights. He moved with fiancé Pip a couple of years ago to the central Victorian town of Tooboorac to start the country dream and aims to set up his own vineyard on the property amongst the stunning granite landscape.
This Riesling is not yet from estate-grown fruit, but hails from a 19-year old vineyard belonging to his nearby friends of the Shelmerdine family. The warmer climate of Heathcote has created a full fleshed and rounded style of Riesling, with all the curves of the Michelin Man form. You will be tantalised by flavours of musk and candied banana cuddled by a mellow and gentle acidity and a dry finish. Foster would probably have a fancy meal in mind to accompany this with, but we found it a delightful accompaniment to fresh bruschetta on a warm summers day.
Stockists: Banks Fine Wine, Macedon, or ask at your local independent wine store
UNICO ZELO Chopsticks ‘Spice Blend’ 2015
Riverland & Adelaide Hills
It was only back in Autumn that I reviewed a different Unico Zelo wine. What can I say, the winemaking team of Brendan and Laura offer wines that are so varied, yet delicious and extremely well-priced. Allow me to introduce you to Chopsticks – their ‘spice blend’ made using a unique blend of white grapes such as Moscato d’Alessandria, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Fiano. Haven’t heard of all of them? Don’t worry. Let the wine do the talking.
You will find that a mixture of winemaking techniques, including oxidation, the use of flor yeast and maderisation have given the wine a rich golden colour and an equally rich nose and palate. Over lunch my family and I discovered aromas of jasmine, honeysuckle and glacé ginger followed by a palate with flavours of candied citron and that beautiful jasmine again. There are plenty of phenolics that give it a grippy and textured mouthfeel and bright acidity so it sort of sparkles in your mouth. Quite the awesome effect when you drink it, really.
This playful wine should be had with Unico Zelo’s suggestion of ‘eating with chopsticks’ or any dish that packs a punch with flavour to match.
Stockists: Available in the city at Cutler & Co., Supernormal, Neighbourhood Wine and Persillade or direct from Unico Zelo.
I was cleaning out the cellar at my old workplace a number of months ago and stumbled upon a gem – an old magazine article wrapped in plastic from The Age published April 13th 1982. The writer is David Dunstan and he recounts his experiences shopping in Melbourne wine stores. If only wine stores had cellars like this nowadays.
BRASH HIGGINS ‘MRLO’ Merlot 2014
McLaren Vale, South Australia
I like that Brad Hickey, an American winemaker, made this Merlot. Why is that, do you ask? Back in 2004 there was an American film about wine called ‘Sideways’, that changed the opinion of many a wine drinker on Merlot when the protagonist angrily shouted, “If anybody orders Merlot I’m leaving! I am not drinking any [insert expletive] Merlot!” Such a statement was enough to dampen sales of Merlot around the United States. It was even felt here. Merlot became daggy to the industry and remained the humble comfort wine for those who chose not to care. So to have Mr Hickey make such a great example of the Merlot grape under his Brash Higgins label and subsequently tear down the daggy barrier sort of makes this come full circle. Merlot is back.
This example was not made just like any other wine. It was fermented in clay amphora vessels for six weeks, spent a little time in seasoned oak and had a wee 10% addition of Nero d’Avola to add acidity, tannin and some exoticness. The result is a wine with a hint of purple fruits but dominated by savoury characteristics such as black tea, marzipan and schist – a similar character that I have found in Brash Higgins’ other wines that were fermented in amphora. You will notice some smokiness to the finish and great balance with a restrained ripeness despite this being 14.5% alcohol.
Only 55 cases were made so keep an eye out for the Brash Higgins effect, which will turn old opinions on their heads.
Stockists: Harry & Frankie, Port Melbourne and The Town Mouse, Carlton
UNICO ZELO Dolcetto ‘Cherry Fields’ 2014
Clare Valley & Adelaide Hills, South Australia
I first came across winemaker Brendan Carter when he was still a student back in 2011. We crossed paths as Italian wine enthusiasts entered into a scholarship for that particular topic. Brendan went on to Dux the course and his prize meant he was able to travel to Italy and explore the exciting varieties the country has to offer. In the following years, Brendan has since put these experiences to their best use with the launch of his own wine label called Unico Zelo run alongside his wife Laura.
Dolcetto is recognized in Italy as a delicious medium-bodied red variety not to be taken too seriously and is suitable for everyday grazing. In fact the back of the label suggests you have this wine when you find yourself ‘eating with your hands’. The Unico Zelo example fits into a similar mould as the Italian verison with a wild ferment and maturation in old oak that optimizes the fruit profile. The nose opens with aromas of fresh black cherries, cola and a hint of vanilla. The palate is a little more liqueured cherries in flavour and shows a delicacy in its texture and balance with its refreshing acidity. My only hesitation with Unico Zelo is that it lacked the tannic presence to slow me down. That bottle disappeared all too quickly.
Stockist: Check Blackhearts & Sparrows stores (all) or be first when the new vintage comes out around October.
FRIENDS OF PUNCH Denton Vineyards Shiraz 2012
Yarra Valley, Victoria
Whoever decided to make a wine label that doesn’t actually tell you very much knew how to attract the curious minded. Case in point with this wine by Punch Vineyards. Only by turning over the figure of a goblin-like creature in a love heart on the front label, would you know that this was crafted out of cool-climate Shiraz fruit from the Denton vineyard in the Yarra Valley by two guys who know what they’re doing, winemakers Behn Payten and Gary Mills. A little further research informs us that is was made using all whole bunches, was foot stomped and then matured in old French barrels for 16 months.
The result for this Shiraz is an explosive aroma bomb showcasing sweet notes of blueberries and blackberries mixed with bitter herbs, some tar and a touch of paprika. It may seem like an odd mix, but it works really well as a medium-bodied offering complemented by a full textured palate and a savoury dryness to the finish. Try it with a simple pizza Magherita or chicken marinated with paprika.
Stockist: Direct from Punch
I have been well aware for some time that my blog has become a bit of a bore. I assume that my long-time subscribers hang on to the now monthly post in the hope for something other than a wine review. The trouble was, and has been, that life just got a little busy. In the last two years there have been several key life-changing events that took over my time: changing jobs, getting engaged, planning a wedding, looking for a house, buying said house with a lot of garden, tending to garden, renovating the house, oh, and getting married.
So to try and appease the situation, I thought I would post something that I do not seem to be doing so well lately: offering a great piece of wine writing by someone else – the talented Ron Saw with his piece called Snore (an apt title for this post too).
SNORE by Ron Saw
Sourced from The Australian Wine Browser, published 1979.
Not long ago I began receiving RSVP’s to my upcoming wedding. One friend commented to me in person that she would be there ‘with bells on’. The phrase got me thinking…what on earth would it look like to attend a party ‘with bells on’?
I decided to resort to my trusty friend, Mr Google. I think I typed in ‘woman with bells on‘ and wadd’ya know, the above video came up. It hasn’t been viewed millions of times, but I thought I should give it a nudge as it is simply ridiculous, not to mention the commentary…