26 November 2009

Jim Barry 2009 Watervale Riesling

I had a fantastic dinner on the weekend at a fairly middle-of-the-road Thai spot. But of course, dinner is so much more than the food on the plate. It is the company you keep. The atmosphere around you. And, importantly, the wine you share with your friends.

There were quite a few wines on the table, but I brought a Riesling since my friends like their Thai hot and I do not. I wanted something to take the edge of the inevitable chilli rush, and there was no Gewürztraminer cold in the local Dan’s. So I plumped for the next best thing, a nice looking Clare Valley Riesling.

The Jim Barry Watervale Riesling goes for only $15/$16 dollars, which is quite tidy value for a wine with this much style and finesse.

It pours with similar colour to a well made mojito - pale, but tinged with verdant invitation. Legs like chopsticks dance around the glass as you give it a twirl.

But it is when you bury your nose in the top that the party really gets started. The mojito comparisons continue as you are met with the sweet smell of muddled limes and freshly crushed herbaceousness. There is also a hint of the hot lemon facetowels your barber uses at the end of a shave. And that is always my favourite part.

The drinking is great too. What you smell is what you taste. It fills the mouth agreeably with strong citrus flavours, and the kick of acidity beats up nicely on the chilli sting from your green curry. The finish is long, smooth and permanently inviting of another sip.

It is thirst quenchingly good and would be an excellent choice on any hot day this summer, with or without food.

Riesling is not as popular with the punters as it once was, which probably explains the modest pricing of this fellow. But long gone are the cask boxes of riesling your parents used to take to BBQs in the 1980s. These days it is elegant and tasteful. And, importantly, it now comes in bottles.

Rating: 8
Drink with: A hot Thai and/or HAB

Price: $15

19 November 2009

Innocent Bystander 2009 Pink Moscato

Well. Christmas is almost upon us. And well you might ask, "What may I legitimately drink with my Christmas breakfast that will suitably dull the inevitable parade of re-gifters and drunken uncles that is to come?".

It is a good question. Because if you can't beat them, you might as well join them.

Since the mercury is bound to be soaring, you will want something nice and cold and I can think of little better than what my brother refers to, frighteningly, as his "breakfast wine" (although, I'm sure he nicked that from Matt Skinner).

But hey, if the girls can get away with champers at this time of day all year, then the rest of us can surely sneak in a little bit of early morning Christmas cheer by tearing the wrapping off this little fellow.

The Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato is indeed a friendly little drop, with a hint of fizz and a pink flourish that doffs its cap agreeably to the season.

It smells sweetly of strawberries and a kind of musky perfume that reminds you of awkward fumbles on highschool dancefloors. It bubbles with laconic enthusiasm, but still lets you know there will be a hint of sharpness to offset the sweetness.

And there is really no getting away from it. It is sweet. Really sweet. But it also has that lovely level of tamarind tartness to accompany it. It is not dissimilar to liquefied (and clarified) cranberry sauce, and so it will of course go down nicely with your Christmas ham.

At only 5.5% alcohol, you could easily make the argument that it doesn't really even count as booze because, in truth, there is probably more alcohol on Father Christmas’ breath. Still, it is just enough to make your Aunty Sharon's stories tolerable (probably), while still allowing you to put on a fine display when the backyard cricket begins after lunch.

The makers suggest drinking it with a straw. But that concept is unfathomable heathenry. You should instead swig it straight from the bottle. Or pour it in a tall glass and tell the rellies that it’s grapefruit juice.

My one criticism is that it comes in only a 375ml bottle and that, frankly, is just mean. It might as well have “Bah humbug” written on the label. Happily, I have discovered the solution – buy two of them.

At $12.50, it is certainly worth buying yourself a couple for Christmas this year.

Rating: 8
Drink with: Brekky
Price: $12.50

12 November 2009

De Bortoli 2006 Deen De Bortoli Vat 5 Botrytis Semillon

Short and sweet this week. The wine that is.

The Vat 5 is the little sister of the illustrious De Bortoli Noble One.

Both are fantastic little dessert wines - produced by allowing the Botrytis fungus (the "noble rot") to eviscerate the grape, and thus concentrate and distil what is left of the juices into a sweet, sugary delight.

The Noble One is $30+ (for a 375ml bottle). The Vat 5 is less than $10.

Now, it is certainly not the god-given nectar that is Noble One. But then, nothing else really is. The Vat 5 is certainly a little lighter in style, but it is still a cracker - and, at this price, it is also ridiculously spectacular value.

It shows a deep, gilded radiance in the glass. And the nose gives a lovely over-ripe apricot aroma, tinged with a warmth that is reminiscent of a nicely, raisined Kevin Muscat.

In the mouth, it is all honey and lemons, and as thick and velvety as a Brummy chav-hag in a Juicy Couture tracksuit.

It tickles the tonsils like golden honey, while its deliciousness lingers on your lips and flirts dangerously with the inner cavities of your cheeks. It is the gift that keeps on giving. I told you it was good value.

A good stickie is to dinner, what a cigarette is to coitus. Forget the mints. What you want after your main course is cleared away is a quality cheese, some bikkies, and a half bottle of the De Bortoli.

At this price, you should do it at least once a week.

Rating: 8.5
Drink with: Cheese and bikkies, or even cheese on toast if you must.
Price: $9.95 (375ml)

04 November 2009

Two Hands 2008 Gnarly Dudes Shiraz

Let's face it - first impressions count. We judge books by covers, and sometimes wines by labels. At least in part.

So, first things first. The kitschy name. I sincerely hope it derives from something to do with gnarled vines. Because otherwise, it smacks of faux hipness; of mouldy old, marketing men trying to prove to the iSnack 2.0 generation that their product is cool. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt in this case, since this brand has been admirably successful in marketing its product - particularly to the overseas market. But the vine on the label still looks as though it has seen better days - and maybe a bushfire or two.

All told, Two Hands produces an astonishing 12 different straight Shirazeseses (the plural of Shiraz, if you didn't know) across five different ranges. The Gnarly Dude falls into their entry level "Picture Series'. Two Hands "for beginners", if you will.

But whatever the first impression, all is forgiven in the glass.

It pours dark. Like fresh tar. At Midnight. With the streetlights out.

And the nose speaks to you with a voice every bit as deep and timbrous as Madge from Neighbours. It hits you like napalm in the morning – and, like Colonel Kilgore, I loved it.

In the mouth, it is a huge Barossa red. Fruity and spicy to start, it explodes with more nuttiness than a sanatorium. But, happily, it then develops with a smoothness and length that is quite unexpected.

This then, I think, is wine for men who won't eat quiche. A carnivore. It demands a nice thick rib eye, with a side order of rack of lamb.

All in all, it is a cracking Barossa shiraz, with a touch of class.
A coquettish choirgirl with a twinkle in her eye. A boxing glove, made of kid leather.

Surf's up. Dude.

Rating: 8
Drink with: Harold and Dr Karl
Price: $27

*My only (other) issue with this wine is that my final pour from the bottle contained seriously large chunks of wood such that I’ve never seen before. I can only assume this is not the norm, and it was a dodgy bottle. Perhaps I got the bottom of the barrel. I will have to try it again to find out. Oh, the horror. The horror.