Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Riddoch 2006 Coonawarra Chardonnay

Friday, 7 May, 2010

Riddoch 2006 Coonawarra Chardonnay
This is the second of two half-bottles we got in a wine club dozen through my work. We had the first at a local seafood restaurant some weeks ago, and we went back there tonight armed with this one. The first time I wasn’t too impressed – Chardonnay just seems too strong for me with its heavy oaky flavours. I tried hard to recognise anything else in this the first time,and failed.

This time, however, some of its subtleties started to make an impression on me. The back label claimed aromas of peaches and melons. Frankly, the first aroma that hit me was that typical oakiness. But after a few sniffs, I detected hints of rockmelon. I couldn’t get peach out of it though.

The flavour develops rapidly in the mouth. The initial taste is melony fruitiness, quickly giving way to that oak flavour, with a touch of smokiness. But then a tang comes out, like what I imagine gooseberries must be like (I’ve never actually had gooseberries, but I think I have a fair idea of what they must be like, given application of the term to other things I’ve tried.)

So I was unimpressed the first time around, but this time I could appreciate some of the different flavours, and that made it more enjoyable. I had it with a meal of soft-shell crab, served with a spicy Asian sauce and some steamed green vegetables. All very nice.

Purple Hen 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

Sunday, 25 April, 2010

Purple Hen 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
I got this bottle as a birthday gift. It’s from Phillip Island – I didn’t even know they made wine there! I like the label. It reminds me of a purple swamphen – in fact looking at it now, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what it’s meant to be.

Anyway, there was no difficulty in picking the dominant aroma with this one. One big sniff and my wife immediately declared “blackcurrant!” It was like taking a big whiff of Ribena. After a bit more analysis and thought, I also came up with cut grass, which my wife gave a thoughtful nod to.

In the mouth, the first thing that hits you is the oak. I’m not a big fan of oak, and this was pretty strong. Then there was the inevitable fruity flavour, with perhaps a hint of smokiness. And bringing up the rear a slight tang of herbs. I’ve had a Cabernet or two before, but this one was beefy and powerful, a bit too strong and “raw” for my taste. At this point I really don’t know exactly how aging changes the character of a wine, but I get the impression that it can take the hard edge off the strong flavours and give a more rounded mellowness to the result. I think that’s what this needed. Not bad… just a bit too strong, particularly the oak.

During the night after drinking this, I had a strange dream, in which I was examining the bottle, and noticed that it had come in a champagne closure (in reality it was a screwcap), and the bottle bore signs of having been previously used. Removing the Purple Hen label revealed that it was an old Bollinger champagne bottle, apparently recycled. I have no idea what that means, except that I have strange dreams sometimes!

Bernard Metrat Chiroubles 2004 Beaujolais

Tuesday, 13 April, 2010

Bernard Metrat Chiroubles 2004 Beaujolais
French wine is, as I’ve learnt, labelled very differently to Australian wine. In particular, the labels don’t tell you what grape varieties are in the wine. What they have instead is a geographic region of origin, with an appellation name indicating a specific sub-style of wine from that region. The reasoning apparently goes that if you know anything about wine, then you know what sort of wine style each region/appellation makes, and don’t need to be told trivial things like what grapes they actually use.

For my first venture into this mysterious world, I decided to try some Beaujolais, from the Beaujolais region of France, naturally. This region is famous for making light, fruity red wines – so light they are typically served chilled like a white or rosé – out of gamay grapes. This sounded like a good way to expand my experience with different wine styles.

I visited a wine shop a few suburbs away for the first time, since it looked like it would have a better selection and more expert staff than anything local. This indeed turned out to be the case, with the guy behind the counter very enthusiastic and helpful, and as big a selection of Australian and foreign wines as I’ve seen. There were a few choices from Beaujolais, and I selected this mid-priced one pretty much randomly.

When I got home, I discovered that Chiroubles is one of the ten “Cru Beaujolais” designations, meaning a distinctive recognised sub-style of wine. In particular, Chiroubles is noted for being one of the lighter varieties, with aromas of flowers. Something to look for when tasting.

We took this bottle to a restaurant where I selected a pasta dish with chicken and a light sauce. And now here comes the difficult part. The first impression of the wine from sniffing it was that it smelled very similar to the sangria we sometimes get from a nearby Mexican restaurant. Very fruity – it smelled like red wine mixed with fruit. The problem is, try as hard as I might, I could not identify any particular fruit odour. Possibly raspberries, but equally possibly I was just deluding myself into thinking I could identify something. The first sniff is just not enough for me to really nail an aroma in a wine, and subsequent sniffs just dull the smell receptors in the nose, so that it gets more and more infuriatingly elusive.

The taste? Well, a similar story. Light and fruity at first, and enjoyable. Very much like sangria, in fact. Lots of “fruit”, but I couldn’t tell you what sort of fruit. It was pleasant on a quick swallow, but if you left it swirling in your mouth for a while, some tannin started to assert itself. It got stronger and stronger, until it was really quite strong. In fact, just now I’ve realised what it reminded me of – cold rosehip tea, with some extra tannin. Which is nice and refreshing in summer.

The wine was definitely enjoyable on the first glass. But a second glass became… unexciting. I guess that’s the unsophisticated nature of Beaujolais. I can see why it has a reputation as a light “picnic” wine.

Tamburlaine 2008 Noble Chardonnay

Saturday, 3 April, 2010

Tamburlaine 2008 Noble Chardonnay
Tamburlaine is a certified organic winery in the Hunter Valley. On my trip to the Hunter Valley last year, I popped into this winery because they advertised winery tours, and I was interested to see some of the wine-making process. The tour was indeed very interesting, with a guy who was obviously keen on the whole organic side of the process, showing us the water and organic waste recycling processes used in the vineyard. We got to sample some still-fermenting white wine direct form one of the vats – the guide just opened a spigot at the bottom of a huge vat and let the juice pour into our hands. And there was a very cool fully-equipped chemistry lab, where they do all sorts of chemical analysis of the wines.

After the tour, I bought a bottle of this botrytis chardonnay dessert wine from the winery shop.

It’s sweet and jammy, beginning with apricot flavour, with a hint of banana. It develops into an orange taste, with the same bitterness of peel as the Jessica’s botrytis semillon we had last week. I found a good description for it on a wine site: orange marmalade – that mixture of sweet and bitter orange flavours that you get from really good marmalade. This wine also has a bit of that nutty, almost oaky kick that you’d expect from a chardonnay compared to a semillon, so it’s a bit heavier than a botrytis semillon. Very slight prickle of fermentation. Nice, but I think I prefer the semillon style.

Jessica’s Botrytis Semillon 2008, McLeish Estate

Saturday, 27 March, 2010

Wine & Cheese
Last year we went away for a long weekend in the Hunter Valley. It’s one of Australia’s great wine regions, and only a couple of hour’s drive from home. One of the wineries there is McLeish Estate, which is owned by a friend’s uncle. So of course we popped in for a look around and to taste some of the wines. I bought a bottle of shiraz for a gift and a bottle of this – Jessica’s Botrytis Semillon dessert wine.

Sweet dessert wines are one of my favourite things, even before I started this recent discovery of wine. We tasted this one at the end of our trip, after tasting a bunch of other wines – dry and sweet – and I recall being somewhat unimpressed, but perhaps it was just a jaded palate by that stage.

Trying it again now, it’s a delicious syrupy wine, honey sweet with a tang of oranges and a slight prickliness of fermentation. I think I detected a hint of peach in there too. As it swirls in the mouth, a balanced bitterness of orange peel comes out – not a bad thing at all, since it nicely complements the intense beginning sweetness, toning it down. Think the elegant sophistication of dark chocolate as opposed to the simple sweetness of milk chocolate.

We had it with a selection of cheeses, crackers, and sliced pear. Yum!

Ripe, Fruity, with a Hint of Carbon-14

Tuesday, 23 March, 2010

A story combining wine and nuclear physics… How could I not mention it here?

A group from the University of Adelaide have examined the carbon-14 content of Barossa Valley wines of authenticated vintages ranging from 1958 to 1997. They find a significant correlation between the vintage and the carbon-14 count, strong enough to allow them to date an unknown vintage correctly in a blind test to within a year.

The C-14 levels vary over the timespan tested because of relic atmospheric radiation from open-air atomic testing in the post-WWII years. The proportion of C-14 gets absorbed by the grapes and ends up in the wine. This “bomb pulse” dating technique has been known for some time, but it’s the first time it’s been applied to dating wine vintages.

Lest this be considered a trivial application of science, remember that top end vintage wines are big business. There is concern over forgery or adulteration of expensive wines, and this technique can be used on very small samples to either verify a wine’s vintage or detect tampering. Science to the rescue!

A reference to the original research publication can be found here. Apparently it was published in 2004, so I don’t know why the SMH decided to pick this up and run it as a story today.

Evans & Tate 2007 Margaret River Merlot

Sunday, 21 March, 2010

Evans & Tate 2007 Margaret River Merlot
We wanted to try a merlot from Chile, and the local wine shop has a selection of imported wines in a nook at the back, including some from Chile. Unfortunately, when we went in and had a look, everything from Chile was either malbec or carménère. I didn’t remember anything about these varietals from my reading, so we asked the woman at the counter what they were like. I figured she’d have a good idea, but alas she had no experience with these wines and could only give us an, “I think they’re a bit like cab sav.”

I thought this was a bit disappointing for someone working in a specialty wine shop (as opposed to a more generic liquor shop, this place doesn’t sell beer or spirits, just wines). The upshot was we decided not to risk it this time and went for a merlot from Western Australia instead. There’s a lot of choice if you stick within Australia, so we semi-randomly grabbed this one, sitting in the middle of the price range.

Evans & Tate is a fairly big name brand in wines, and a gold medal – albeit as specialised as “best dry merlot” in the Royal Queensland Wine Show – promised it should be reasonable. We had it with a meal from a local Indian restaurant, with which it went reasonably well.

I have to say I’m finding it difficult to pull specific taste notes out of red wines in isolation – without contrasting styles of wine to compare against. I sniff, and then swill it around in my mouth, searching for a name to assign to the flavour, and I have trouble getting past “fruit” to anything more specific. I think this one had an aroma of cherries mixed in there, and honestly the only flavour note I got out of it apart from “fruity red wine” was a hint of liquorice at the end. It was pleasant, but nothing astounding.

More practice needed!

Wild Oats 2006 Shiraz/Viognier

Sunday, 14 March, 2010

Wild Oats 2006 Shiraz/Viognier
We went out to Hugo’s at Manly (flash website) for dinner last night for my nephew’s birthday. My sister- and brother-in-law like shiraz, so this ended up being chosen from the wine list. The Wild Oats winery (more flash) is apparently run by the same people behind the Wild Oats yacht racing syndicate, which famously contests the Sydney to Hobart every year.

I was surprised to see a blend of shiraz and viognier. From my rudimentary experience, shiraz is a powerful, full-bodied, and very spicy red, while viognier produces tangy and florally aromatic whites. Of course mixing opposites sometimes produces amazing results. I don’t know if this was truly amazing, but a gold medal at a London wine show can’t be all that bad.

The spicy aroma of shiraz was muted and there was something else elusive and unidentifiable there. Complex and interesting, at any rate. The initial taste was of tart green fruitiness, slightly reminiscent of the sauvignon blanc I had a few weeks ago, and which was very surprising coming from a deep purple-red wine like this. The spiciness of the shiraz kicked in after a while, but it was restrained in strength, and always mixed with that surprising tartness. The typical peppery flavour was either absent or only at a very low level. There was a hint of dark plum.

All together, an eye-opening blend. It was complex with layered flavours and very enjoyable.

Bodegas Faustino 2007 Rioja Faustino VII

Saturday, 6 March, 2010

Bodegas Faustino 2007 Rioja Tempranillo/Mazuelo
Having tried most of the major international grape varieties by now, I thought it was time to try something a little more localised. Since we were planning to go out to a Spanish restaurant for tapas tonight, I decided it would be a good opportunity to try a Spanish wine.

This wine from the Rioja region in northern Spain is made from 90% tempranillo and 10% mazuelo (also known as carignan) grapes, aged for 10 months in American oak. Tempranillo is the signature grape of Spain, so I wanted to find something using it in our local wine shop. They had a 100% tempranillo rosé, but M. expressed a desire for a straight red, so we opted for this blend.

Having recently read up a little on Rioja style wines and tempranillo grapes, I was expecting a juicy, fruity style of wine, fairly light, with notes of strawberries. But immediately upon sniffing my first glass, I knew this was something different. It was pungent with spicy aromas, reminiscent of my experiences so far with shiraz. Despite this, the first taste on the tongue was indeed light and fruity, and that hint of strawberry came through. It wasn’t juicy though, being noticeably dry on the palate – that dryness I think is associated with the wine term “tannin”, but which I’m not yet confident enough to sling around as though I really know what I’m talking about. I’m guessing this came from the oak.

And then after about 5 seconds in the mouth, the flavour exploded in a burst of spices. It was quite something. That aroma of shiraz came back in the flavours which included just a hint of black pepper and other spicy flavours I can’t yet quite assign more specific descriptions to. It felt controlled though – balanced and not overpowering like some of those full-bodied shirazes can feel to me. It was a bit of a shock, but not unpleasant. After a few sips, I really got into it and enjoyed this wine a lot. It complemented my dinner nicely (tapas of fried potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce and fried whitebait, followed by veal in a peppery mushroom sauce). We normally barely manage half a bottle over dinner, but we almost finished this one.

At home now and in range of my wine book and Wikipedia, I see that the 10% mazuelo may be responsible for the stronger, spicier flavours in this blend. I’ll have to try to find a 100% tempranillo red somewhere for comparison. A very interesting and eye opening excursion to Spain!

Mystery Creek 2008 Sauvignon Blanc

Friday, 19 February, 2010

Mystery Creek 2008 Sauvignon Blanc
I swear this isn’t a wine blog – I just happen to have tried another new wine tonight. I was excited about this one because so far I seem to have more of a taste for whites than reds, and I’d read a bit about New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. Apparently they make a top class example of this grape style.

Being a Friday, we went out for dinner up the street at the local restaurant strip. We went to Garfish, which is a moderately upscale seafood place, with fish bought fresh at the market that day. M. had the grilled salmon with chips, while I opted for roasted barramundi with polenta. These seemed to complement the wine very nicely.

It was a pale straw colour, nothing too exciting there, and very fluid in the glass – as opposed to the thick streakiness I’ve seen in some wines. It took a while to identify the aroma, but once nailed down, it was quite definite. Tropical fruit – a hint of pineapple, and a stronger touch of banana. Yes, banana. In the mouth it was very different. It was acidic and citrusy, with a touch of lemon, developing into quite a powerful herby flavour. Nowhere near as strong as a herb-based liqueur like Jagermeister, but certainly heading in that direction.

I really liked it, but M. preferred the Chardonnay we’d had a couple of weeks ago at the same restaurant. That one was a touch oaky, which is still a flavour I’ve not yet grown to appreciate. It seems clear I prefer my whites in this clean, fruity, acidic style. Very nice.