17 December 2009

Stella Bella 2009 Sauvignon Blanc

Apparently, there is something important happening in Copenhagen this week.

As far as I can make out, the unwashed and the bearded have gathered there for a friendly chat with the riot police and to sample the local tear-gas. The most successful have been detained overnight in a beer warehouse. Frankly, there are worse places to be incarcerated.

Apparently, it also has something to do with polar bears, missing Maldives, and Al Gore pushing hyperbole well above sea level.

Whatever. I happen to like it when it gets hot. Summer brings with it the happy crack of willow on leather, bikini’d bodies, and a non-negotiable obligation to splash down refreshing beverages.

And so it was that I found myself sitting in the sun on the Byron beachfront with a couple of plastic cups, a chilled bottle of the 2009 Stella Bella, and a box of the best seafood this side of J Sheekey. If you haven't taken away from Fishmongers in the laneway behind Strop's old pub, you really are just letting the best in life pass you by.

But I digress. Back to the booze.

Is there a label on the market that more effectively gives you a flavour of what is about to emerge from within? A stream of happy juice being hand-pressed from a floral fruitopia. It is perfect. And perfectly inviting.

Now, I'm not going to wank on about the wine, because it’s really not that sort of drop. It is just a very friendly, easy-drinking, tasty, and satisfying bottle of plonk that punches above its RRP. You should always have a bottle of it in your fridge for emergencies.

It smells great. A heady hit of freshly split passionfruit on vanilla bean icecream.

And it’s delicious from the first sip. No bite. No sting in the tail. It's as smooth as a freshly waxed lemon (the good kind!) and fills your mouth with a voluptuous coating of limey yumminess.

There’s enough acid to take on your seafood and a lovely clean finish that is longer than the legs on the Swedish backpackers prancing in the surf.

And best of all, it is cool when you are hot.

Climate change arguments are mostly lost on me because they've turned it into fashion. It's the new Live Aid and “Give Peace a Chance”.

Maybe it's getting hotter. Maybe it's not. Either way, I am going to place the blame squarely on the introduction of decimal currency and pour myself another of these stellar Stellas.

Ciao. Bella.

Rating: 8
Drink with: Seafood and summer

Price: $24 RRP (but under $20 virtually everywhere)

Ballandean Estate 2008 SSB


Pale as water. Smells like gasoline and drinks as rough as guts. Salty and almost fizzy.

I drank it while watching Bear Grylls drink his own urine. As he retched and spluttered, I couldn't help but feel envious.

SSB would usually stand for Semillion Sauvignon Blanc. I can only assume they used an abbreviation so they didn't get into strife with the ACCC for false advertising.

Rating: 2
Drink with: Local anaesthetic

Price: $16

10 December 2009

David Franz 2004 Benjamin's Promise Shiraz

David Franz is the Nicholas Cage of Australian wine.

He is the son of the Baron of the Barossa – Peter Lehmann – but, admirably, he doesn't trade on that pedigree. What he does trade in are carefully crafted and interesting wines that draw on the intrinsic talents instilled by his bloodline. The Barossan sang réal.

The Benjamin’s Promise is one of the most rewarding and fascinating bottles I've purchased this year. And that's even before I got its top off.

Each bottle comes wrapped in tissue and inscribed with a long and rambling yarn personally screen-printed on the bottle by Dave. The yarn is actually more of a tome. He may also be related to Tolstoy.

And I tell you what. Even if the wine was only average (which it's not), the presentation of the bottle gives you $100 worth of gift giving value for under $40. Buy one for your father-in-law this Christmas. You won't even have to wrap it.

It’s bottled unfiltered (to keep in the tasty bits), so the suggestion is that you should double decant it and wait for it to come to life. That's always good advice. Make sure you do.

In the glass, it glows bright vermilion and waves a "come hither" finger inviting you closer. The nose is muscly and raisined and smells a lot like a bloody good Port.

Take a slug and it gives you a great big mouthful of ripe fruit that is as peaty as a dram of Glen Livet. The tannins frot your tonsils and make your tastebuds belt out the theme to Rocky.

This is the sort of big Barossa red that is easy to love. It draws you in with a seductive whiff. Then rolls you over and gives you a jolly good seeing to.

The David Franz wines are made on a smallish scale and are relatively difficult to locate. Well worth the hunt though I’d say. If you find them, get a bottle of the Riesling as well.

Rating: 8.75
Drink with: Rib-on-the-bone. And a smile on your face.

Price: $38

PS You should also check out his website
– particularly the opening series of photos.

Dave looks to have a larrikin streak and a smile like a slice of watermelon - the type of bloke I’d probably like to share a glass and a yarn with. Although, after this bottle, I kind of feel like I already have.

03 December 2009

Shaw + Smith 2008 M3 Chardonnay

Recent hot weather has found me reaching for nice bottles of chilled white in place of the big reds that I usually prefer.

And since I've been hearing a lot of wraps on this year's release of the M3, I gladly relieved my local of their last couple of bottles over the weekend. The fact it was also on sale made the decision that much simpler.

You have to be careful with chardonnay though. It is like the girl with the curl - when it is good, it is very, very good. But when it is bad, it can be downright horrid.

I first tried the M3 a couple of years ago - the 2006 vintage - and it confirmed my love of good chardonnay from the right regions.

Happily for Messrs Shaw + Smith, their vines are perched smack bang in the heart of the Adelaide Hills. And The Hills, of course, is a right proper chardonnay producing district - home to such other chardonnay celebrities as Penfolds' Yattarna and the Petaluma panoply.

But while the Yattarna sells for well over $100, the M3 is a much more approachable $30-$35.

And so I iced down a bottle as we toasted to a mate's birthday on a hot Sunday evening. The first pour showed a lovely, light golden colour - like the straw fiasco encasing a bottle of Chianti. The acidity to come was apparent from the way it wrapped its legs around the glass.

Still being a youngster, the aromas did take a while to open up. But by the second glass, it was like sticking your nose into a bowl of ripe summer stonefruit. A fruit platter on Christmas afternoon.

And it is just as pleasing in the mouth. Delicate and refined, but also creamy and smooth. It has a yummy, soft fruitiness with a touch of oak that delivers more wood than Tiger on a cocktail waitress.

This is an elegant white wine that will improve with age gracefully over the next 5-10 years. So, have one now with a plate of fresh prawns and bugs. And stash another away for a special occasion down the track.

M3 is for mmm...mmm...mmm!
Rating: 8.5 (and bound to improve with age)
Drink with: Moreton Bay Bugs
Price: $30-$35