Saturday, 31 January 2015

Catalunya (Catalonia) Tasting

The other night The Oak Barrel in Sydney put on a tasting of wines from the Catalunya Region of Spain. I've been to a wine tasting there a while back and rather enjoyed myself so thought why not go along again and check out a region that I'm not very familiar with at all.

Catalunya, or Catalonia is in the north east of Spain, sharing a border with France and the Mediterranean sea. Catalunya has a warm Mediterranean climate with dry hot summers and mild winters with moderate rainfall.
There were a decent amount of people in attendance and everyone eager to get started on what would be a delicious, and somewhat unusual night. There were ten wines on show, separated into four tasting brackets:

Bracket 1: Cava Suriol Brut Nature 2012

Bracket 2: Espelt 'Quinze Roures' 2013 - Garnacha Blanca, Gris
                  Portal del Priorat 'Trossos' 2008 - Garnacha Blanc
                  Escoda-Sanahuja 'Els Bassots' 2011 - Chenin Blanc

Bracket 3: Espelt 'Saulo' 2011 - Garnacha, Carignan
                  Cellar Pinol 'Portal' Red 2011 - Garnacha, Carignan
                  Escoda-Sanahuja 'Nas del Gagent' Red 2012 - Cabernet franc, Carignan, Garnacha, Merlot

Bracket 4: Torres 'Mas La Plana' 2010 - Cabernet Sauvignon
                  Clos Figueras Priorat Clos Figueres 2004 - Garnacha
                  Portal del Priorat 'Torros' 2008 Garnacha and Carignan

The evening started with a tasting of Cava; Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine made from the Macabeo, Xarello, Parellada grapes using the traditional Champagne method, 95% of the Cava produced is from the Catalunya region. With a nose of honeydew, white peach and citrus, this wine was crisp and zesty with a dry finish, proving to be a nice aperitif.

The second tasting bracket introduced three distinct whites. First up was the Quinze Roures, a blend of garnacha grey and white, this was a balanced wine displaying a nose of orange, vanilla and spice, with an oily mouthfeel and palette of almonds and honey.
The second wine , the 'Trossos' was quite interesting as everyone in the room sensed difference aromas; the common ones were tangerine, lemon with hints of vanilla, while myself and others detected the scent of over ripe bananas, vegemite and almond oil. It was quite a nice full bodied wine with butter and vanilla on the palette and a long.

The final wine of the bracket, the 'Els Bassots' was something completely different, a biodynamic "orange wine", with a lot of minerality, almost tasting like acetone, the mouth was flabby and personally I found it rather unpleasant. Looking this wine up, it actually received 92 points from Parker, so proof that peoples taste and preferences do differ dramatically.

The third bracket in the tasting introduced us to wines from Terra Alta, the highest wine region in Catalunya. the first wine was a crowd favourite however I thought it to be more of a quaffing table wine. The 'Saulo' a light bodied wine displayed flavours of red fruits, cherry ripe and confectionery. It was definitely easy to drink, but far from memorable.  

The second wine, the 'Portal' was deep magenta in colour, with a nose of cedar and bacon, it was earthy on the palette with puckery tannins, rather lovely I thought. 

The final wine in this bracket was another interesting wine, with a nose of kalamata olives and greasy sausages, I felt more like I was at a barbecue than a wine shop in the inner city. The 'Nas del Gegant' was light bodied with a short finish, the palette was earthy and rather tannic and gritty in the mouth. 

We were now at the final bracket of tastings and I was expecting a nice big finish to the evening however that's not entirely what I received. The first wine, the 'Mas La Plana'  was the only Cabernet Sauvignon of the night, it displayed typical characteristics of red fruit, and jammy currents, aged in french oak it was a pleasant wine however I felt it was lacking in body and complexity. 

My favourite wine of the night was undoubtedly the second of the final bracket. the Figueras displayed all my preferred red wine characteristics; the smell of tobacco, cedar and wet leather danced in my nose, while the chewy tannins lashed my mouth with the luscious taste of dark berries and violets. It was delish, but retailing at $140 a bottle, of course it was going to be!
The final wine of the night, the 'Trossos' appeared to turn my entire day upside down; with yeast and gravox notes, it felt more like a savoury breakfast than the way to wrap up and evening. I didn't enjoy it at all, but thankfully I still had plenty of the Figueras left in my glass to swap the order and instead finish with that.   

The tasting night drew to a close, however we'd gotten the taste for wine and decided we were in fact far from finished, so grabbing our bags we headed off to enjoy the local bars of Surry Hills... however, those adventures were a tad too messy to document any further ;)

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

She works hard for the money (to buy cheap wine)

My posts have been a little lacking since I got started, mainly because I've yet to do anything that exciting to write about. It's been all work, work, work and while I've not neglected to treat myself to the wine, wine, wine; sharing with the world my "moments" sitting in my pajamas on the lounge each night with computer on lap, watching Sex and the City repeats while working and sipping away, hardly seems like an exciting lifestyle. But alas, of late that is my life. So with nothing overly exceptional occurring, I'll simply show you all what it is that has kept me entertained during my 16 hour workdays...

Sneakily taking a break to enjoy some twilight, a cajun chicken salad and a bottle of Pinot Noir:

Souled Out Fulcrum Pinot Noir
Mornington Peninsula, 2012
Under $20

Fruity, minerality, earthy spice, light-bodied  


A weekend escape overlooking suburbia as the storm rolls in

Tahbilk 'The Tower' Chardonnay Viognier 

Central Victoria 2013
Under $20

Light straw, balanced acid, peach, melon, creamy lightly oaked


Craving a steak (with a guest appearance by Moorebank Estate Spicy Grape Sauce)

Cirillo "The Vincent" Grenache

Barossa Valley, 2013
Under $25

old vines, peppery, herbaceous, fruity

Giving Thanks

A day to be thankful for...

Having recently returned from living in New York, one of the US holidays I vowed to loyally observe henceforth was Thanksgiving. It's such a lovely time to spend with friends and think of all the things in your life you are grateful for - friends, family and wine were my three thanks for the day; although I think that may have very well been in the reverse order. 
I had invited a few of my close friends over for a late lunch/early Sunday dinner and after I finished cooking my very first turkey... 

Molasses Glazed Turkey

... we got down to the important things - the wine. The perfect start to the day was a refreshing bottle of Taittinger in all it's crisp and creamy bubbly goodness. Conversation flowing and relaxation settling in, we followed that with the opening of the obligatory work gift I'd recently received; a bottle of Moet & Chandon. Glasses spiked with blushing strawberries to add some sweetness to the occasion, we grazed on a fruit platter awaiting the time to eat. Another bottle depleted and the food ready and laid out, we moved on to a Little Birdwood Semillon Sauvignon Blanc which was an adequate quaffer to throw down while we indulged ourselves in the overconsumption of the turkey and all its accompaniments.  

The meal complete, yet our thirst still unquenched, a quick trip to the fridge produced a chilled Peterson's Fume Blanc; which I had picked up a few years ago in the Hunter Valley and have had resting in my cellar awaiting such an occasion. The Fume Blanc was divine, notes of peach, pear and citrus tantalising our senses. Regrettably, I had only bought one bottle, so at its demise we sent the men in our party off on a mission to secure us ladies more wine... 'something perhaps from Alsace' was our only suggestion. 

After a failed attempt at a closed Dan Murphy's, then a quick reroute to the local Celebrations, they returned with an Alsace 2007 Cave de Beblenheim Au Chateau Pinot Blanc. Being a 2007, the wine was rather aged for teh varietal and almost ready to meet its maker; a thick consistency with the colouring of dehydrated pee. Highly aromatic with toasted honey treacle flavours, it would, in its youth had been a lovely wine, in its maturity however, it was an acquired taste, one of which my friends did not enjoy, and thus I was left to finish the bottle on my own - I didn't complain. 

The Line Up
As a final nightcap, the Glenguin Semillon Botrytis lived up to its Hunter reputation; a lovely syrupy wine, with a perfect balance of acidity and sweetness of fruits. It was the perfect end, to a fabulous friend-filled thankful day, and fortunately there's still some Botyrtis left, so I may just go and pour myself a glass, cheers!

The Wines...

Taittinger Brut Reserve 

Moet & Chandon

Little Birdwood Semillon Sauvignon Blanc

Peterson's Fume Blanc 

Cave de Beblenheim Au Chateau Pinot Blanc 

Glenguin 'The Sticky' Botrytis Semillion

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sunday, bloody Sunday

Sunday, bloody Sunday...

Ever since I was a child Sundays were synonymous with roast dinners. We would spend our Sundays at my grandmothers house; she would cook up the most delicious roast dinners with crispy potatoes and perfectly salted gravy, we'd all sit down to eat. Occasionally I would get to sip some of my parents wine, which was always red for beef and lamb and white for chicken and on the odd occasion pork.

As the years have passed, the tradition of a Sunday roast has always held, although these days I tend to be flying solo when sitting down to eat it. Sunday roasts make me happy, they're my comfort at the end of each week. Besides, the actual cooking and eating of the roast, one of the main joys is the selection of the accompanying wine. Unlike my nan, I'm not really set on the white for white, red for red food/wine matching, I'm more of a "what will I fancy drinking after the meal is over?" kind of girl, afterall the meal is gone in a few minutes, while the bottle of wine can stretch through the evening.

Tonight was a roast beef night, and with the change in the weather from a scorching 40 degrees celcius to a dreary rain spattered afternoon, the thought of cosying up on the couch with a movie and my blog would go great with a Shiraz. I had a bottle of red I'd bought earlier in the week on hand, a 2011 French Syrah - that would do the job perfectly. Pouring myself a hefty  serve, I set the wine aside to breathe while I prepared my dinner. With my beef happily roasting away, the time had come to snuff the wine of its breathing and get to the important task of drinking. 

As I swirl the glass the of inky goodness, the wines luscious legs dance down the glass. Aromas of berries and spice unleash. My first taste shows this not to be a big bold red but rather uncomplicated yet completely satisfying. The mouthfeel is full and lingering, soft tannins allowing for a little chew. An all together pleasurable wine, nothing fancy, but simply a perfect companion to my roast and my evening for < $20.  

Les Jamelles Syrah 2011

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Wine, Art, Banking & Finance... huh?!

'Art & Wine - A Perfect Match'

Last night I attended the ABF Wine tasting night at the Charles Billich Gallery in The Rocks, it was a new event for me that I came across on the wine calender website and as it was only happening down the road from where I was working, I bought myself a ticket and at 6pm arrived ready to taste.

To quote their website "ABF Wines is a specialist Online retailer of great value limited release, crafted wines" focusing on a mid- to-upper quality range of wines from selected boutique wineries around Australia and New Zealand. Representatives from each winery are there to talk about the wines while you taste and then you can purchase the wines direct from the wineries at ABF discounted prices; which knocks between $3 - $20 off the bottle price, depending on the quality and RRP of the wine.

There were approximately 45 different wines on show from the following wineries:
  • Maverick Wines - Barossa Valley, SA
  • The Judge Rock - Central Otago, New Zealand
  • Terrace Edge Wines - Wapara Valley, New Zealand
  • Lisa McGuigan Wines - Hunter Valley, NSW, Barossa Valley, SA
  • Mute Vintners Round 2 - Barossa Valley, SA
  • Teusner Wines - Barossa Valley, SA
  • Margan Wines - hunter Valley, NSW
  • The Lane Vineyard - Adelaide Hill, SA
  • Fraser Gallop Wines - Margaret River, WA
I managed to get around to tasting all of them, in fact quite a few of them I tasted twice - just to be sure! However as is usual at these types of events, the more you taste, then more you forget to actually takes notes of what you are tasting and you just begin to enjoy the night.

The event spanned two floors of the gallery and while the purpose of the night was the wine on the tables, it was hard to ignore the beautiful works of art adorning the walls and easel stands. The crowd were mostly suits; men and woman coming to enjoy a glass of wine after a long day in the office. Very few seemed like they actually cared about the wines themselves, they were knocking them back without discrimination and the volume in the room increased tenfold.

In typical tasting style, I started off with the whites, moving around the room to each table to try their wares and make my notes. Margan were showing their white label range; all single vineyard, older parcel vines. They presented 5 wine varietals; a Chardonnay, Semillon, Verdelho, Barbera and an Aged Semillon, the Verdelho was a standout of the lot, with fresh fruit salad and stone fruit characteristics, it made for a lovely start to the evening.

Anyone who knows me, knows I despise New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, as far as I'm concerned you may as well just suck the life out of a passionfruit; they are so tart and acidic, however as was proved this evening, I was very much wrong. Juicy, mouth-filling and vivacious with perfectly balanced acidity and a palette of green apples and lime, this Sauvignon Blanc jumped straight to the top of my favourite wines list. They also had a beautiful Pinot Noir on show, that was rich, earthy, gamey and delicious, I'll definitely be paying a visit to the Terrace Edge next time I'm in New Zealand.

As just mentioned above, I've never been a Sauvignon Blanc fan, so when I saw that Fraser Gallop were showing a 2013 Semillon (64%) Sauvignon blanc (36%), I was curious. Of all the Sauvignon Blanc's I've tried, I am partial to ones from the Margaret River region, and must admit I was pleased at what was presented. The Semillon dominated the wine, with sweet citrus flavours complimenting the tart passionfruit, grassy notes, creating a lovely balance of acid. With a normal retail price < $20 this is definitely a wine I would try again.

Teusner's impressed with their "Avatar" GMS (Grenache 40%, Mataro 30%, Shiraz 30% ), although I would have preferred it to have been a little older, it just seemed to be missing that "little something" that I think a bit more age would give it. I also thoroughly enjoyed their "Vin de Plaisir"; a blend of Montepulciano, Carignan, Mataro. From their whites the Eden Valley "Empress" Riesling stood out enough to prompt me noting that "it smells like I imagine the colour purple would taste", figure that one out!

A personal disappointment to the night were the Lisa McGuigan wines, to me they were barely of more than of quaffing quality. Lisa herself was there representing her brand, and it was fantastic to meet her, however her "taste" portions were about the size of a pint glass; which normally I would not object to, except in this case I didn't like the wines at all, so committed the ultimate crime and poured each out into the spittoon.

The night eventually drew to a close, while most glasses were abandoned as people made their merry way home, I may just have sneaked an extra glass in my bag before I myself made my way out - I'll never be one to pass up free Plumm glassware.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

In the beginning

A little bit about Moi

For my first official post I should probably explain why it is that I'm here, why I'm doing this and what I hope to gain from it - maybe then people will understand that just because I can easily polish off a bottle of wine a night by myself, does not mean I have a drinking problem, but rather that I'm merely conducting research - yes researching wine required A LOT of wine tasting drinking.

I was introduced to alcohol at a wee young age, my parents allowed me and my brothers to have a small glass of champagne for our birthday each year (back in the days when you could call anything that was bubbly, champagne); its never too young to celebrate, right?!       

I'm fairly certain that's a glass of Michinbury Brut 
Over my teen years, I experimented with various flavours of UDL cans, West Coast Coolers, Breezers, Cruisers, Illusion jugs and goonbags of all shapes and sizes. But nothing could grab my attention and hold as my staple drink of choice - that is until my first trip to the Hunter Valley.

I was 21, and went to the Hunter for a weekend trip away; staying in the high picturesque hills of Mount View, I arranged a full day winery tour which unbeknownst to me at the time would introduce me to my future love. During that weekend I saw what I deemed a little piece of heaven; the vines imprinted on me, the beauty of their entangled budding limbs beckoned me while the clustered bunches of sweet swollen fruit watered my mouth.... hello my darlings!

As the years past, my interest in wine grew rapidly, I was tasting as many different wines as I could get my hands on. Whenever I travelled I always ensured I did a quick Google search on local wineries, I've had Champagne in Champagne, Chablis in Chablis, and a lovely burgundy just outside Dijon. I've stopped off in Montepulciano to sample some of their finest, then headed north to indulge in a Chianti. I spent a sunny autumns day enjoying some Sonoma Pinot Noir then another sampling the wares in the Finger Lakes. I've covered most of Australia and the north island of New Zealand but I'm nowhere near finished - if there is a winery in this world, then a visit to it is on my bucket list.

From my experiences I've found the smaller boutique wineries to be more appealing, I love visiting them and talking to the families, learning their stories and hearing them describe their wines with unadulterated passion. This passion has led me to start studying wine, learning about the the wine-making process and understanding the effects of the terroir; while purely vocational at present, the intention one day is to work within the industry that now commands my waking interest.

One of my reasons for starting this process of blogging, tweeting and Instagraming is to help emphasise the point that wine does not need to be complicated; while the process to make the wine is complex and time consuming, the finished product needs merely to be enjoyed and appreciated for what it is - a beverage. When I buy a wine it is not to match to food, or because there's a rave review I've read about that particular wine, or because it's a pricey bottle and will hopefully impress the person I'm planning on drinking it with, instead, its because at the time I'm going to drink it, THAT is the wine I feel like drinking. Cold cosy nights by the fire entice a full-bodied red, while a day at the beach with some fish and chips can leave my lips craving an oily Riesling. Life is all about living in the moment, making the best of every situation and enjoying yourself, so why not do this in the best way possible by allowing yourself a moment in wine!

Over the years I've come up with my do's and don't of wine, they're fairly simple rules, but rules I tend to live by.

My rules of wine:
  • Do try as many new varietals as possible, you could find your new favourite wine
  • Do smell the wine before you taste it, have a whiff then give the glass a swirl and have give it a second whiff - you'll smell the wine open up - it's fabulous
  • Do ask how to pronounce a wine if you're unsure, There's nothing worse then hearing someone say how much they enjoyed the glass of chaBLISS or sem-MILLION
  • Do feel confident in selecting wines, even if you know nothing about it, a quick read of the label or a chat with the bartender can tell you the basics you need to know
  • Do think about what it is you're drinking, find the flavours, find the smells, roll the wine around your mouth and find those characteristics
  • Don't only drink mainstream, the little guys make wine for passion, not just for profit, Their blood, sweat and tears help enhance the taste
  • Don't drink from anything that can be recycled as a pillow
  • Don't drink wine in the birth year, everything worthwhile in life deserves at least a year to settle
  • Don't mix wine with anything - especially not coca cola as that's just pure sacrilege
  • Don't drink wine from the bottle - unless you have no other choice or are really really thirsty!