15 March 2012

Brookland Valley 2009 Margaret River Chardonnay

It was interesting this week to pick up the paper and see a Seebohm featuring on both the front and back pages.

One was an attractive Olympic swimmer, with a penchant for gold medals and undoubtedly the best name in sport.

The other was a large and litigious man who has been the primary reason for me working 20-hour days all month and otherwise causing me to neglect my important wine drinking duties.

Anyway. After keeping my winning record in the courtroom pleasingly intact, we managed to open a wide selection of tasty beverages over dinner with a group of old friends at Peter Stubbs’ always brilliant Cinco Bistro.

With tops being popped on a range of very nice old 389s, 407s, and Petalumas, we were more spoilt for choice than a hungry baby in a topless bar. The highlight for me though was the tasty little ’09 Brookland Valley Chardy which was cracked early on in proceedings.

Brookland is a Margaret River producer with a stellar reputation thanks to many years of rave reviews from Mr Halliday, Mr Mattinson, and Mr Oliver.

At $40 per, the bottle we had is the middle of the Brookland range – there is also a $70 “Reserve” (which I’ve not tried), and a $20 “Verse 1” offering (which I have tried, and which is nice for the price in a very pineapply kind of way).

In the glass, this fellow is a light gold, but edged with a bright rim that’s as green as a hung-over leprechaun on St Paddy’s Day.

The label advertises a nose of peaches and grapefruit, and for once I found myself nodding in agreement with the description. It’s a genuinely powerful nose that gives off a big whiff of grapefruity tartness, but without the usual squirt in the eye.

The drinking is rich and buttery and delicious. There’s a bit of pineapple there, but it is not nearly as sweet as in the cheaper edition.

One of my mates described it as a “really thick white”, although we were also talking politics at the time, so it’s quite possible he may have in fact simply been referring to Wayne Swan.

In any event, this is a pretty damn special wine which is drinking very well now and will no doubt keep improving for many years to come.

Get on board.

Rating: 8.9
Drink with: Emily
Price: $35-$40



16 February 2012

Chateau Francois 2009 Pokolbin Semillon

Yes, yes. I know. It’s been a while. So, a belated welcome to 2012 and welcome back to The W@nk.

The simple reason behind the lack of postings is that I’ve been off the booze, almost completely, for a good month and a half.

A misguided New Year’s resolution was mostly to blame, followed by the onset of general malaise and a bout of man flu brought on, undoubtedly, by my body suffering a severe depletion of vitamin W.

Nothing else for it of course but to open up wide and take my medicine.

A couple of remedial reds had me well on the road to recovery, but the definitive cure was this lovely little Chateau Francois Semillon and I'm pleased to say that I am now back in the rudest of health as a result.

I have a genuine semi on for this Semillon. It’s seriously stirring stuff.

I’d never heard of it before this week, and I have no idea how or when it arrived in my wine rack. But I do know that it hails from the place where all great Semillon is born – the Hunter Valley.

I’ve made enquiries as to how I might acquire some more and discovered it’s only available in small quantities by mail-order. At a mere $14 a bottle.

Oh, how I laughed and I laughed when I read that price, for this is no $14 bottle of plonk. I’m currently trying to have myself added to the mailing list under a multitude of aliases.

In the meantime, if you were the kind soul who brought this delicious drop to my house in the first place, please let me know because I’d like some more. Immediately. I will pay you $15 per bottle.

In the glass, it’s as yellow as the belly of an Italian cruise captain and as transparent as his excuses. And like his Moldovan consort, it also shows off a cheeky bit of leg and distracts you with a seductive sniff of its sweet perfume.

On the tongue, it’s as insistent and rebellious as an Arab Spring. True and direct, and rolling forward with a sense of power and promise.

But it’s the swallow-through that makes this wine so good – it’s all buttery briochey toasty goodness with lugs of delicious lemon butter thrown in for good measure.

Old Monsieur Francois has apparently been making this gear for 40-odd years, and I'm a little dirty that I've only just now discovered it. With the coal miners creeping ever closer to this little patch of Pokolbin, I sincerely hope he can keep on sending out bottles for at least a few more years - purely so I can stack my cellar.

À votre santé.

Rating: 9

Drink with: Schettino

Price: $14

Chateau Francois
Broke Road, POKOLBIN,
Hunter Valley
P: (02) 4998 7548 F: (02) 4998 7805
(no website, and definitely not on TwitBook)

22 December 2011

Bay of Fires Sparkling Tasmanian Cuvee Rosé

I’ve just returned from a nice little trip to Northern Tasmania to help celebrate the old girl’s 60th birthday.

We ate what could have been one the best meals ever eaten at the brilliant Stillwater restaurant – a singularly exceptional venue where the view from the window is bettered only by the vision presented on the plate, and where both are only sideshows to the quality and flavour of the grub.

Oysters so plump they could have been a whale’s sneeze. Eye fillet so tender it melted at the mere suggestion of a blade. And wine that I’ll never be able to afford again, so won’t waste time writing about it here - except to say that I usually avoid wine in clear bottles, but was happy to make an exception in this case.

The next day, while the women folk spa’d and pedicured, we three boys took in a spot of early morning fly-fishing and bagged ourselves a trifecta of big brown trout. With the fish chilling out on ice, we carried on up the Tamar, taking in a raft of vineyards up the valley. If you like pinot and sparklers, this is the drive for you. Provided, of course, you’re a passenger.

Ninth Island, Stoney Rise, Tamar Ridge, Pipers Brook. All very good. But the nicest of the day for mine was a cheeky little Bay of Fires Sparkling Rosé.

I don’t usually go for this kind of stuff, but this one was very nice. And when the lovely lady behind the tasting counter mentioned something about strawberry, musk and “a complex character called Lanolin”, I knew it was for me.

“Lanolin? Like...like in sheep’s wool?”, I asked in what was a perfectly obvious Anchorman reference (complete with accent). She didn’t seem to understand though, possibly because Taswegians didn’t actually have televisions in 2004.

We bought a couple of bottles and took them up the beautiful Cataract Gorge the next day for lunch. We barbequed our trout, and lit up a lot of candles (sorry Mum) on a pretty spectacular birthday cake.

The bubbly was the perfect accompaniment to our picnic in the thin Tasmanian sunshine. Fresh and fruity and easy-drinking.

My brother added his thoughts that it was just like a good stag-party stripper - pink, perky and priced to please. Of course, I wouldn’t know about such things. But I did enjoy the analogy.

I reckon it’s just the kind of drop that is pretty perfect for Christmas afternoon toasts and generally for keeping your mother-in-law happy. I’ve just picked up another dozen for that specific purpose.

Happy birthday Mum.

And Merry Festivus to the rest of us.

Rating: 8.5
Drink with: Christmas
Price: $30


08 December 2011

Sapich Brothers - Purple Death

My buddy, Goose, came across this cracker...

It clearly doesn't require any commentary from me.

24 November 2011

David Franz 2006 Georgie's Walk Cabernet Sauvignon

wine jerk I met recently made the absurd claim that he would only drink Cabernet Sauvignon from the Coonawarra.

Now, I am all for narrow-minded parochialism, but this, to me, is an argument that flies as poorly as Peter Roebuck.

For sure, there are many great Coonawarra cabernets, but to limit yourself to one region like this is just bigot-laden madness.

Godammit man, have you never heard of the Margaret River? Not to mention Bordeaux and Napa and the Yarra.

To say he is missing out is an understatement, but there is also a sense of sweet justice in this whole sorry saga because:

a) he was a tool smoker of the highest order; and

b) it means there is more good wine for the rest of us.

And the truth is that he doesn’t really have to go that far from his beloved Coonawarra cigar to find an equally acceptable alternative.

My friends at Purple Palate hooked me up with some lovely gear from one of my favourite winemakers, the complex and clever David Franz.

I always drink his wine and avidly promote it to my friends. And so it continues with you and with his 2006 Georgie's Walk Cab Sauv from the Barossa. Only a few hours north of Coonawarra, but a few hours too far for our fetid little friend.

Anyway, let’s crack on – it’s late, I’m tipsy and it’s likely that I’ll run out of words before too much longer.

Running out of words is not a problem that ever seems to have troubled young Dave though – he is a master of verbosity (in the best way) and the livery on the bottle contains his usual hand printed word salad which covers almost the entire surface. It’s fun and classy and makes it stand out from the crowd on the shelf.

I poured myself a generous lug and gave it a good swish around to liven it up. In the glass, it was as dark as a lawyer’s heart and the nose started out as tight as a Scotsman’s shout.

And so I kept swirling and swirling until it was circling the glass like Magellan and pretty soon I had a churning black current of blackcurrent smelling cabernet. It’s an addictive bloody smell, this one. It smells alive and stings the nostril with a hint of the heat to come.

In the mouth, it starts a fire that can only be put out by consuming more product and then waiting for the fresh coolmint breeze to hit you on the follow through. It’s long and dark and delicious, and while that may sound like just another line from the Roebuck school of grooming, it applies equally to this bottle of booze.

Sure, it’s not Coonawarra cabernet. But who really cares? The best wine to drink is the one you like. And I like this. A lot.

As Liza Minelli once said, "Life is a cabernet, old chum". Or something like that.

Rating: 9
Drink with: a big glass
Price: $40


03 November 2011

Turkey Flat 2009 Barossa Shiraz

I saw Cold Chisel play on Tuesday night.

Oh, we’ve shared some history, this band and I.

I’d seen them here, at the same venue, 13 years earlier; the last time they “re-formed”. Don Walker essentially wrote the soundtrack to my adolescence.

The scream of Jimmy’s voice tearing at the air...the magic of Mossy’s fingers dancing along the frets...every note they’ve ever played is permanently ingrained on my brain.

And so there we were again, in deepest, darkest Boondall. Sitting at a table with old friends. Seeing which one of us could tell the biggest lies. Watching the tide of human detritus that is a Cold Chisel crowd wash by us.

We drank cans of Wild Turkey and bought bandanas so that we could hide in plain sight.

All I can say is that it must have been a quiet night in Ipswich that night because I swear every single scrawny, singlet-sporting, slack-jawed Swicher had travelled East for the evening.

More Holden Racing paraphernalia than you could possibly poke a short stick at. Millions of doled out dollars sensibly spent on shrivelled up tuffy-stickers. I’ve seen Halloween pumpkins with more teeth. And that was just the women.

It was one of the best nights out I’ve had in ages.

But let’s now move on from one Wild Turkey to another. The Turkey Flat 2009 Barossa Shiraz is an absolute steam-roller of a drop.

Born from vines that are over 160 years old, it’s dark and dense and brooding and smells sweetly of double Dutch liquorice.

The colour is black syrupy espresso, with flame tree red striking along its edges.

In the mouth, it’s a massive attack of concentrated Barossan intensity – a degustation of delicious dark fruit and smoky BBQ sauce, rounded out with a cheeky cinnamon doughnut for dessert.

It’s smooth but powerful and keeps on delivering a persistent hum of flavour long after you’ve licked your lips.

Great drinking now, and I have a feeling it will be doubly exceptional down the track. Less than $40 for this wine is seriously outstanding.

My good friend Fraser bought me a bottle of the ’03 many years ago. It’s been doing hard time in my cellar and probably still has another 5 or 10 years left to serve.

But I don’t know. Tonight’s wine was so delicious, I think I might just give the '03 some time off for good behaviour and crack it with him soon.

Rating: 9.25
Drink with: a Danneman cigar
Price: $38


20 October 2011

Best's Great Western Bin No.1 2010 Shiraz

I don’t have much to say this week.

I’ve been left deeply depressed by the Wallabies’ performance at the Rugby World Cup and an All Black dog has been following me around since exactly 6.01pm (AEST) on Sunday night.

I would be wearing black if not for the obvious unsuitability of the colour in the current context.

And so I have sought consolation in the bottom of a bottle all week. The best of these was Best's Great Western Bin No.1 2010 Shiraz. That's a mouthful of a name, but pleasingly it's also a nice big mouthful when you actually get it into your mouth.

Ok. It's probably not the most sophisticated drop. It's not mind-blowing in the manner of some of the pinot I've dug into recently. It's not When-Harry-Met-Sally, I'll-have-what-she's-having good. But it is tasty. Damn tasty.

Like that English bloke with his face on the couscous, it's dark and fruity and easy-going.

Easy to pour. Easy to drink. Easy to pour yourself another and forget that your rugby team has been infiltrated by a sleeper cell of Kiwis who have just ruined the final week of the World Cup for you.

And at $25, it's good value for such a friendly drop.

Vive la France.

Rating: 8
Drink with: Ainsley
Price: $25

06 October 2011

By Farr 2009 Sangreal Pinot Noir

I’m on a bit of a Pinot run at the moment.  It must be the weather. One week, the first wave of summer is prematurely rolling in. The next, I’m having to re-don the doona.

Because the sun and wind and rain have been unable to make up their collective minds, I’ve been left in a state of wine purgatory where I don’t really know whether I want to drink white or red.

And so the answer has been, invariably, to opt for a Pinot.  It’s red, obviously. But it’s also nice and light and I reckon it’s just about perfect in these difficult climatic times.

I must say I don’t often shop at Uncle Dan’s these days. But I did stop in last week to bulk up my dwindling stock of quaffers and happened to get chatting to the first employee in their history to know anything about wine. 

He was an unfortunate looking fellow: third world ugly, with sticky out ears and a pair of glasses which indicated he most certainly should have gone to Specsavers.  But boy did he know about wine.  And boy did he love to talk about it.  A genuine case of upside down vinous diarrhoea.

After steering me into a couple of decent cheapies (which subsequently turned out to be very good), he also talked me into treating myself to the pricier By Farr 2009 Sangreal Pinot Noir.

By Farr/Farr Rising is the father and son team of Gary and Nick Farr based out of Geelong (and that said, I wouldn’t mind betting they got very high on their own supply last Saturday night).  The old man uses the By Farr moniker, while his protégé son produces under the (slightly cheaper) Farr Rising label.

I’ve had quite a few of the Farr Rising pinots, and they are consistently excellent drinking.

This was my first dive into Dad's topshelf Sangreal Pinot though, and it was as good, if not better, than I was expecting.

Sangreal is properly French for Holy Grail. Although, if you subscribe to the Dan Brown school of etymology, it could also mean royal blood or Mary Magdalene’s privates (as I understand his pulp fiction theory).


It pours out quite dark for a pinot; smoke on the water purple, with a bright border and a passion for flashing.  It throws off a heady, earthy sniff full of  berries plucked fresh from the dirt and warm from the sun. And while the smell is insanely good – insanely, insanely good – the only real way to tell how good it is to drink is to, as Berlusconi likes to say, suck it and see.

And…wow. Wow, wow, wucking fow.

This is the duck's nuts of deliciousness.  An alacritous concoction made with a messianic brilliance.  

The first glass evaporated down my throat in no time, but I made sure I took my time to savour the second and the third. 

When I was done, I was licking the inside of my glass, and wishing, like Berlusconi, that I had a longer tongue.

I didn’t think I’d be topping last week’s NZ offering from Felton Road for quite some time.  But I think, just maybe, I just have.

Seriously impressive.

Rating: 9.51 
Drink with: Audrey Tautou
Price: $65-$70


22 September 2011

Felton Road 2008 Central Otago Pinot Noir

Over the weekend, while Irish eyes were smiling all over the Auckland waterfront, my Australian eyes were crying in Brisbane. 

Not only were the Wallabies completely fusterclucked by the Paddys, but the rugby watching community were treated like mugs by Channel 9 who, having paid millions for the broadcast rights, decided to delay the coverage of the game played in heaven so they could instead telecast a game of touch football.

Lucky I have Fox.

To improve my mood, I drowned my tears in valium and brandy and a lovely bottle of NZ Pinot.  And I felt a little better.  But more of that in a minute.

For the very next day, as I settled in to watch the next instalment of matches, I was again throwing pillows at my plasma due to the fact that our friends at Fox are too tight to have the non-Wallaby games commentated by people who can speak actual English, and instead force us to listen to the local speech impediment that is the New Zealandish language.

To be frank, when watching a game of footy, I never wish to hear a man come out with phrases like “He teckled hum on the dick”, “Weepu was cleaned out by the sux”, and “Hore uz the All Blix Mr Fux-it”.

Anyway, despite my natural aversion to the accent and their fondness towards denim shorts, I have to admit that I really do quite like Kiwis.  I’m not sure that I could eat a whole one, but they are generally a great bunch of people.

And boy do they make some rocking Pinot.

The Felton Road is pretty much the cream of the crop when it comes to Central Otago Pinot.  At A$65, it’s certainly not cheap, but it is still exceptionally good value.  They could charge twice that and still sell out in record time every year.

The Felton Road vines sit like a verdant oasis in the middle of the barren Central Otagan ranges about an hour from Queenstown.  If you’re planning a ski-trip any time soon, you should definitely do a detour and check it out (preferably after you’ve finished skiing for the day).

The wine is simply cracking.  Bright purple and glowing in the glass, it looks smooth and svelte and downright classy.  And it is.

It smells vibrantly of fresh flowers and all-round sweetness - a preposterously perfumed posy of pinot.

I wouldn’t waste too much time smelling it though, because the drinking is of course what it is all about.  Black velvet, in that slow southern style. A new religion that will bring you to your knees. 

It’s silken, and subtle, and utterly delicious.  Not too heavy, not too light.  Just a luscious blend of sweet and savoury that delivers bombs of flavour long after you have gulped it down.

This is, in short, a simply stunning bottle of wine.  Well played.

Rating: 9.5
Drink with: Stuffed Wallaby
Price: A$65

08 September 2011

Naked Run 2009 The First Riesling

The name of this mob pretty much describes every one of my Saturday nights between 1995 and 1999. And, if I'm honest, pretty much exactly every NYE since then as well.

Running races, sneaky streaks, laps of the block, the occasional midnight swim.  If there wasn't a nudie run involved, it wasn't, and isn't, a real party.

And so, as you might imagine, I was of course very pleased to discover this cheeky little Rizza from the Clare Valley.

I ordered a case at half price from the Vinomofo boys (check it out - it's Groupon for wine). That's $11 a bottle. And that, my dear friends, is sectionably insane for a wine as nice as this.

It's as pale as a Pommy's pallor, but its colour completely belies its impending potency.

It gives off a vibrant whiff that is all lemony and limey and sharp and inviting.

The drinking is then zippy and zingy and dry and chock full of more delicious citrusy tartness.

It's the sort of delectably rewarding drop that encourages you to re-live your glory days by dropping the draws, getting the tackle out and engaging in a cheeky spot of late night streaking.

Through the quad. To the gymnasium. 

Anyway, the lesson here is that it is possible to find a really good wine for $11.  The trick is to find someone that genuinely cares about what they’re producing, and to steer clear of mass-produced rubbish.


Rating: 8.75
Drink with: Frank The Tank
Price: $11-$20


Rosemount 2009 Diamond Label Sauvignon Blanc

This week's review is dedicated to the letter "Y".

Well, not the letter so much as the question.

Why would you bother buying it? Why would you bring it to my house? Why am I wasting my time writing about it?

This is, to me, an insipid, gormless, and pointless wine. It has so little taste and substance, it might as well be tapwater.  It's not even strong enough to get you drunk and dull your tastebuds.

This is wine for lazy, follow-the-leader types.

For the kind of people who think it's clever to put stick figure drawings of their families in the rear window of their cars. And who mistakenly believe that the rest of us give a toss.

For people who think it's acceptable to put ice cubes in their wine.

For people who have given up, or who by all rights should.

For the English.

I think I once had a nice Rosemount wine. Sadly, this was not one of them.

You can do better.  And so can they.

Rating: 5
Drink with: Sorry, but I've got nothing
Price: $10.99

01 September 2011

d'Arenberg 2003 Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon

Well my name's John Lee Pettimore. Same as my daddy and his daddy before.

Ok. Not really. But since today is International Cabernet Day, I've been tucking into some tasty '03 d'Arenberg Coppermine Road Cab Sauv. I've also been listening to Copperhead Road on repeat all day.

Anyway, d'Arenberg's answer to John Lee Pettimore is its fourth generation owner and chief winemaker, Chester d'Arenberg Osborn. Same as his daddy, and his daddy, and his daddy before.

Chester is an interesting character. He's got hippy hair and quirky 1980's dress-sense, but even when he's asleep, he knows more about making wine than the rest of us all rolled up together and squeezed through his basket press. He goes particularly gaga for Grenache, and if you ever get a chance to read or listen to his passionate sermons on the topic, well you should.

He sends out more than 40 styles of wine from his McLaren Vale lair, with eccentrically evocative names such as The Love Grass Shiraz, The Lucky Lizard Chardy, The Feral Fox Pinot, The Broken Fishplate SB, The Laughing Magpie (ie Kookaburra) SV, and, seriously, The Cenosilicaphobic Cat Sagrantino.

Cenosilicaphobia is, incidentally, and quite literally, the condition of fearing an empty glass. Sounds frightening, doesn't it? I wonder if, in turn, there's a word for those with a fear of cenosilicaphobia.

Anyway, since it's Cabernet Day, I'd probably better start talking about the big C. No, not Chester. The Cab Sav. And more specifically, the Coppermine Road Cab Sav.

To start with, the name - it's a bit boring by comparison to Chester's other offerings, but is eponymous with the road which borders the d'Arenberg home block.

In the glass, it's a dark, glowing beast of wine. It prowls around, flexing its muscles and managing to look far more solid than liquid.

And the nose is massive. Really massive. It hits the nostril with a dominating combination of cherry ripe and coffee shop - the sweet whiff lures you in like a Muhammad Ali rope-a-dope, and then the dusty, hi-octane savouriness rumbles your jungle and smashes you fair in the face with a colossal right hook.

But while the sight and smell threaten to completely overwhelm your tastebuds with a brutal campaign of shock and awe, what actually follows is a lesson in good manners and subtlety. Yes, there's an intensely concentrated wave of tasty fruit and smokey BBQ sauce, but the long, dry, muscular, cabernet tannins are well-toned and fine, rather than being jacked up on 'roids and pumping iron.

In short, it's bloody good.

I should say that I also tried the 2007 model earlier in the evening - all the same juicy flavour is there for sure, but it's still very full of testosterone and adrenaline and needs a bit longer to soften up. Buy it now by all means, but send it to the cellar to relax for a few more years.

Cabernet really is one of those wines where the divide between a good and a bad drink is very obvious. Pick a good one, softened nicely by age, and you'll be as happy as a dog with three balls. Pick a bad one, and you'll be pulling faces like a bulldog chewing a wasp.

I've learned a thing or two from Chester, don't you know - it's hard to stay away from Coppermine Road.

Rating: 9.25
Drink with: Steve Earle
Price: $60

25 August 2011

Penfolds 1994 Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon

In 1994, I was 17 and it was a very good year.

The Reds won the Super 10. The Maroons won the Origin.

The world’s best band, Oasis, arrived with a bang. Kurt Cobain, sadly, departed with one.

My hair was fair. I was thin. And I started to properly enjoy drinking beer (even if it was Hahn Ice).

But, as of this week, I’ve turned a positively ancient 34 years of age.

And while, happily, the Reds and the Maroons are again #1, so too, sadly, is Katy Perry.

My hair is also turning silver (ok, grey), I’m carrying a couple of extra kegs, and the only upside to my drinking is that I now enjoy far more wine than beer.

So, to make myself feel a bit better, I decided to take a tasty 17-year old out to dinner. The missus come along as well. You know what they say: two might be company, but three is a result.

The 17-year old in question was a ripping Penfolds 1994 Bin 707 Cab Sauv.

It was one of the first good bottles of wine I ever bought to lay down. She’s followed me for almost 15 years, living under the stairs and waiting patiently for her day to come.

And did she what.

In the glass, she was as red as a Greek balance sheet, and far brighter than I expected. She smelt sweetly like a fistful of raspberries packed into your grandfather’s pipe.

She was a cracker when she was bottled, and she is simply astounding now. I tell you what; if you have the stamina to keep wine for this long, the reward is well worth it.

The length and structure remains, but all the tannin has long gone; suffocated and softened by a decade and a half without oxygen.

And with the pucker gone, the deliciousness explodes from the tip of your tongue all the way down to your big toe.

For me, cabernet always goes best with a steak, and this old girl was no exception. She wrapped her legs around a ball of beef and danced like she was being paid.

Of course, at almost $200 a bottle (these days), it’s a drink-your-cheque-at-the-bar kind of wine for most people.

But what are birthdays for, if not for being spent with old friends and getting drunk on fine wine.

She made a happy man feel very old. And I loved it.

Rating: 9.75
Drink with: Grace
Price: $190 these days (although I think I paid around $100 in about ‘96/’97)

11 August 2011

Torbreck 2007 The Steading GSM

By all accounts, the collapse of society as we know it is imminent.

The world seems to have finally come to the realisation (for the second time) that our financial system is potentially just one massive Ponzi scheme built on nothing more than make-believe money and a steaming pile of bankers’ bullshit.

And then there is London, where the degeneration of social order has plumbed even greater depths, with the streets on fire and young men in hoodies eagerly engaging in a spot of heavily discounted late-night shopping.

All of this goes to show two things: firstly, that The Kaiser Chiefs are very good at predicting current events, and, secondly, that the stability of our comfortably civilised society is in fact perilously balanced on the knife edge of calamity.

The only sensible solution I can come up with in the face of the arriving apocalypse is to sit down and have a good drink. And so I shall.

Torbreck’s “The Steading” is that most classic of Barossan blends, a GSM. 60% grenache, 20% shiraz, 20% mataro. 100% yummy.

What I love about GSM, and The Steading is no exception here, is that it is invariably just such an enjoyable, easy-drinking drop. It smells like a party and tastes like purple.

It’s warm and ripe and full of fruity, spicy flavour; but it’s also soft and round and smooth. And while it lingers pleasingly in your mouth, there’s no burn or tannic pucker to speak of at all (despite a big 15.3% dollop of alcohol).

This is the sort of wine you can drink just to have a drink, but equally, it would be more than a match for a Sunday roast or a dirty great ball of rib-eye steak.

Drink it to warm up, or just to chill out. On a Sunday, or on a Monday. Any which way you pour it, if you’re pouring me a glass, I’ll be in there like swimwear.

And no, I don’t know what a “steading” is either.

Rating: 8.5
Drink with: Your stockbroker (your shout; he won’t be able to afford it)
Price: $35


03 August 2011

Baileys of Glenrowan Winemaker's Selection Old Muscat

As I was walking between bus and business this morning, I crossed paths with a bloke all trussed up with a trendy scarf wrapped around his neck and ears. No coat though mind you. And a scalp that had been shaved totally nude in an apparent attempt to disguise the fact it was prematurely balding.

Granted, it’s a bit cool at the moment. But this chap appeared to be doing everything he possibly could to be cold, presumably just to justify the wearing of his natty little scarf.

I felt like slapping him and shouting, “Godammit man, get a hold of yourself. This is Brisbane, not Melbourne. Men don’t wear scarves here. Unless we’re watching the Lions play AFL, which of course no-one has done since the bandwagon left town in 2004.”

All Uncle Fester really needed to do was stop trying to be cool and simply don a jacket. Or pick up a voucher for some sew-in hair from Ashley & Martin. Or maybe just sneak a little bit of fortified plonk into his morning latte. A nice little bottle of Muscat would do the trick nicely here.

A friend generously gave me a bottle of Baileys’ Winemaker's Selection Old Muscat last year, and it has been keeping me company into the wee hours for the past few weeks as I fought to stay awake to watch Cadel climb the Alps, and then go on to sip his champagne on the Champs-Élysées.A superb effort. And an absolutely superb little drop.

Sometimes I sipped at it with stinky cheese and fruit. Sometimes I had it with a chunk of dark chocolate. It didn’t matter. It was good all the time, and I was as happy as a bloke with a contract to import Lycra® cycling suits into Australia.

It’s the colour of bright, boiling caramel, and warms you up as soon as you give it a sniff and twirl it around the glass. It is a particular pleasure of mine to spend some time watching the legs drip themselves down the inside of the glass, and this baby has legs like tree trunks that stick to the glass like thick rivers of golden syrup.

I didn’t so much have this wine, as it had me.* Over and over again. Roughly and then smoothly. It had me at hello. It had me at goodbye. And then again at all points in between.

The drinking is like liquid Christmas cake. As smooth as brandy double cream, but as dry as Stephen Fry’s wit at the same time. It coats your mouth thickly, then palpably tingles as it evaporates about the inside of your cheeks. All set to an aroma of one of those fancy citrusy candles your missus likes to use when she takes a bath.

I’m almost certain it’s not possible to make anything more delicious than this stuff. It’s easily the equal of every glass of Noble One I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting.

Baileys sits smack in the middle of Kelly country, and produced their first vintage just outside Glenrowan in 1870 when Ned was but a boy. It’s clear they’ve learned a thing or two about making wine over the years.

On a final note, I just noticed that James Halliday rates this wine a stupefying 98 points (I think he’s only ever scored one wine higher, and it cost $1000). In truth, that’s pretty much all you need to know, and you can therefore disregard my waffle above.

Bet he’s never compared wine with a rough shag though.

Rating: What Mr Halliday said, divided by 10
Drink with: Kevin Muscat
Price: $65-$75 (375ml)


* with all apologies to Lennon/McCartney (in that order) for this bastardisation

08 July 2011


This week, Suncorp Stadium (or Langcorp Parkium for the traditionalists) will play host to the footy match, and the football player, of the decade.

No, I’m not talking State of Origin III. And nor, as good as he is, am I talking Darren Lockyer.

What I am talking about, of course, is the Grand Final of the game they play in heaven. The Qld Reds v the Canterbury Crusaders. The Floods v The Earthquakes.

And the player is Quade Cooper. A kid who, if the Reds win the title on Saturday night, should have his own gold statue (complete with pink boots and a magician’s wand) erected on Caxton Street right next to Wally Lewis and Locky.

Cellar-dwellers to Cellar-masters (hopefully) in little more than 12 months. A sell-out sea of Red at Suncorp. And not a bogan in sight (except for a handful of Kiwis who managed the swim across the Tasman).

In honour of the occasion, we should all be drinking copious amounts of Red plonk this week. To get you in the mood, I’ve searched hard and long to find three high quality (and suitably t
hemed) drops for your drinking pleasure. Don’t say I never do anything for you.

Nothing outlandish, mind you - just good, honest Reds with the right sort of spirit. The wines are pretty good as well.

I should also point out, that with each of them coming in around the $30 mark, they’ll cost you less than a round of (light) beers at the game.

Boireann 2009 Shiraz

First to take the field is a smoking little drop, and a Queenslander of course. Some may mock its Granite Belt pedigree, but you really shouldn’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Boireann is probably the Sunshine State’s most respected winery (their flagship SV ($55) particularly caught the eye of Mr Halliday a couple of years back), and with wines like this one it’s not hard to see why.

They make (in small quantities) plenty of unique and obscure blends. Of the ones I’ve tried though, this straight shiraz ($28) is my outright fave.

First up, it looks bloody brilliant in the glass. It’s deep and dark and flashes light around like an Eddie Murphy smile.

Take a whiff and it’s a nice tight little package of classy cold climate fruit with just a touch of vanilla sweetness. The drinking takes you on a savoury adventure that is ridiculously delicious and full of flavour, but never falls into the trap of over-cooking the delivery with excessive heat or alcohol.

If you’re not a fan of big, over-ripe Barossan-style shiraz, this might be just your ticket.

And if you happen to be out Stanthorpe way, say if you become lost on the way somewhere nice, then I wholeheartedly suggest you stop in at Boireann and pick up a couple of bottles before they sell-out for the season.

Or you could just go to The Wine Emporium for the free tasting tomorrow ;)

Rating: 9
Drink with: Oomfoofoo
Price: $28-$32


Wills Domain 2008 Margaret River Cabernet Merlot

Next off the bench is a cheeky little drop which under-sells and over-delivers. In spades.

Despite their aversion to apostrophes, I really do love this lot. The cellar door is one of the best around too – awesome view, awesome people, and awesome booze.

The bottle comes dressed in a sharp black suit, and it pours out to reveal another genuine stunner in the glass. No argument.

The nose? Bigger than Bill Lawry’s, and full of pungent black fruit with a hint of ferrous.
The drinking is pretty lively too. Big and forceful in terms of flavour, but in a velvety, voluptuous kind of way. Like being smothered by a pair of Double-Ds. Probably.

Aside from that, it’s an extremely long but balanced wine. As dry as dead dingo’s donger, with a yummy tannic pucker as it follows through.

If the Reds win tomorrow night, I’m starting a campaign to have Suncorp re-named as Will’s Domain. Willy Genia that is. And with an apostrophe.

Rating: 9
Drink with: Ewen
Price: $30


Cooper Burns 2007 Barossa Valley Shiraz

First up, how cool is the bottle? So simple, but so schmick. Reem.

I bought a few of these a while back with the expectation of trying one, and keeping the others for later. Just drank the last one tonight though. Had to. Felt there was some omen value to it. Or maybe that was just an excuse.

Anyway, it probably wasn’t a great move, because, although it was a cracking drop, they don’t really make very much of it and the shop I bought it from has now put up the “sold out” sign. Not to worry, you can buy it direct from Mr Cooper and Mr Burns. I’ll take a dozen thanks.

It pours out jet black with a glowing red rim, and the nose is plummy, and spicy, and a lot like a half-smoked cigar.

I know I talked above about “over-ripe Barossan-style shiraz” as if it was a bad thing. Well, the over-ripe part can sometimes be a bad thing, but otherwise, big Barossan shiraz is generally, as a dyslexic man once said, ducking felicous.

This Cooper Burns’ model is definitely not over-cooked. It’s fruity, but also smoky and choclatey and finely textured.

It shows genuine ego and a touch of arrogance, but it really is a clever and complex little drop. A sheep in wolf’s clothing. (Whoa, did I just mention sheep? Take it easy Keiran Kiwi).

Anyway, this is great wine. A genuine cracker. Well, not an actual cracker of course, because it’s a wine. But you get the gist.

Crack one while your watching the footy tomorrow night. While Ritchie fiddles, Cooper Burns.

Rating: 9.25
Drink with: Rice, Stephanie Rice
Price: $35-$40


23 June 2011

Leeuwin Estate 2009 Art Series Riesling

Over Lizzy's long weekend, I decided to take the family off to the beach in northern NSW. Typically, the weather sucked and it was so cold that even the bronze mermaids around the pool were sporting protuberances of impolite proportions.

To top it off, I found myself denied the basic human right of Foxtel and having to instead wander through the wasteland of regional television searching for scraps to sustain me on a wet and windy Sunday night.

After doing the rounds of all five channels a number of times, I finally settled on Masterchef - partially because I couldn’t bring myself to watch DWTS, but mainly because Gary and George appeared to have secured the services of Steven Seagal as a guest judge for the night.

Fair play, I thought - few could deny his culinary credentials after his convincing portrayal of Casey Ryback, the ex-Navy Seal turned chef, in the blockbuster classic, Under Siege.

I also vaguely recalled (perhaps from watching the scene until the VCR tape wore so thin it snapped) that Chief Petty Officer Ryback’s signature dish involved a very pretty girl from Baywatch exploding her way nakedly out of a giant cake. They did “food dreams” properly back in the 90’s.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. It turned out that the judge with the pony-tail was not in fact Steven Seagal, but rather a proper chef called Neil Perry. Apparently, amongst other things, he is responsible for the airline food on Qantas. At least we now know who to blame.

The obvious downside in all this was that there would be no exploding cakes. No Miss July ’89, Jordan Tate. And consequently no happy endings to the mystery box challenge.

All was not lost though because I had picked up a tidy little 2009 Art Series Riesling from Leeuwin Estate to drink with our Thai takeaway.

Not a lot of (good) Riesling seems to come out of the Margaret River (you’d usually look to the Clare Valley), but this is an exception. On sale for just under $20 a bottle, it’s obviously not meant to be in the league of Leeuwin’s flagship Art Series Chardy, but is undoubtedly good value drinking for a Sunday night.

The label has a pretty little painting of what is probably a frog, and which the girl behind the counter told me was the main reason she liked this wine. Hardly an inspiring recommendation, but maybe she’s just a big fan of frogs.

Anyway, what of the drinking?

In the glass, it’s light and bright and shiny and inviting. The alcohol (12%) is nothing big, but it clings thickly and pleasingly to the sides of the glass as you give it a swirl.

The nose is pleasant without being overpowering. Limey and slightly spicy, and a lot like my dinner.

It got better the longer it sat in the glass, which in truth was not that long. But probably well worth the effort if you’re more organised than me.

The drinking is tasty, and tangy, and absolutely bone dry. Deliciously refreshing, and as tight as Pippa Middleton’s backside.

At the end of the day, it’s not a world-beater by any means, but it’s certainly a good solid white to have in your repertoire.

Mmmm mmmm. Me likey.

Rating: 8.25
Drink with: Harry
Price: $20

09 June 2011

Stella Bella 2008 Cabernet Merlot

After a glut of recent reds, I was going to write up a white this week. I swear.

But Brisbane is suddenly experiencing some Pearl Harbour-like weather, and I am in need of something to warm me up.

So, instead of hearing about a multi-award winning chardonnay, you will have to make do with a slightly less medalled (but frankly, to me, better) Cab Merlot.

Both were from Stella Bella, and to give this mob their dues, I must say I don’t really ever recall drinking a bad wine from their hand.

The Cabernet Merlot pours with a stygian splash that is deep and dense, and looks more suited to knife and fork than to mere stem and bowl.

Despite being armed with only a delicate little Riedel, I dived in. Obviously.

The nose is a belligerent collision of bright, jammy goodness balanced with a savoury dusting of oak and herbs. It promises a decent hit of tannin, and then delivers it in spades.

I only need one word to describe the drinking. Solid.

Ok, maybe a few more – well-balanced, long, and bloody delicious.

Above all though, this is just a genuinely good drinking wine. You can drink it with food. You can drink it by itself. By yourself. Or just to keep your brass monkeys warm on a chilly night.

I was lucky enough to drink this with the winemaker at a nice little tasting organised by the Bar Barossa boys. Tasting events are great but, if I’m honest, you never really get enough in your glass. And so, of course, I bought a few more bottles just to help me see out the long, cold winter ahead.

A mere nine days into June, and with the mercury already hitting an all time Bris-Vegas low, I’ve had to crack another one tonight. Just to generate some body heat of course. Teamed it up with a generous slab of eye fillet that was as rare as a virgin rabbit. Double delicious.

One glass. Two glass. Three glass. Four. Before I knew it, the Stella Bella had done a Keyser Söze on me.

And like that.........it was gone.

Rating: 8.75
Drink with: A nasty nip in the air
Price: $32



18 May 2011

Yalumba 2004 "The Menzies" Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon

An hour after my flight home from London touched down on Saturday morning, I was straight to the track to watch Black Caviar do her thing.

Battling jetlag, but with a drink in hand and my position on the rail safely secured, I settled in to watch the parade of nags and fillies trot by on their way to the ring and the bar respectively. Amongst the nags was none other than our deputy PM, prancing around smugly and inappropriately trying to big up the crowd.

Since he was in an area reserved for VIPs, owners and horses, there was of course much speculation about his presence in the enclosure.

Certainly, he should not have been eligible under the first banner. He’s not even mildly Important, never mind the Very. Some might say he also lacks many of the necessary characteristics required to technically qualify as a Person.

The second alternative was that he had taken the advice of The Australian ("better than bank interest and just as safe") and used the Future Fund to invest in a share of The Caviar (although I concede this option pre-supposes a level of foresight he lacks. It also assumes he can read).

Accordingly, the only sensible conclusion was that he had gained access by virtue of being a horse, or at least the rear-end of one.

In any event, after Caviar had successfully collected the chocolates by a two length margin, old mate “Swanny” was in the thick of the heaving, hooting, high-fiving crowd of great unwashed as they celebrated the 10c return on their $1 wagers by spilling their $7 beers all over themselves. As Charlie Sheen would say, “that is #Winning”.

After being in the presence of this political giant during the day, I decided I needed to elevate matters significantly that evening and cracked a bottle of Yalumba’s 2004 “The Menzies” Cab Sauv with dinner.

A mate had supplied an ’05 on NYE, which was cracking, and I had immediately gone out and sourced a few bottles of it myself (including some older vintages) at good prices.

I’d opened some of the much older ones in February and to be honest they were a bit disappointing/had their day. On that evidence, I’d say it’s probably a max 10 year wine. Pleasingly though, when I pulled the cork on the ’04 it was excellent and every bit as good as I had remembered the ’05.

In the glass, it’s squid-ink black, but still manages to twinkle like a well vajazzled vajayjay.

The nose is a Stockman's Breakfast of black coffee and rolled cigarettes. It hits you with a fistful of fury when first opened, but settles down after it’s taken a stroll around the glass, sucked in some fresh air and had a little time to relax.

I generally find Coonawarra cabernets to be a bit rougher than their Margaret River cousins, but this old boy is as velvet-tonsilled as its namesake.

The drinking is a cabernet chorus line of pretty intense Ribena-berry goodness, softened nicely by a subtle touch of vanillary oak, and ending with a cool fresh-mint finish.

It’s wine to be enjoyed on cold nights with steaks and sausages and stews, and the ever-present promise of a warm, comforting, cabernet cuddle by the end of the meal.

Yalumba, being Australia’s oldest family-owned winery, is both big enough to ensure quality and boutiquey enough to be cool. It also gets right into all that organic, lovey-dovey grape husbandry, moon-dancing stuff which a lot of people seem to like these days.

Get one. And then drink it soon.

Rating: 8.5
Drink with: Black Caviar, obviously
Price: $35-$45

PS I should point out that I am not really that biased against any particular pollies. I just tend to think most of them are as useless as the next.

PPS Except maybe Malcolm.

PPPS And, of course, “The Menzies”.