21 January 2010

Help Haiti - Buy Rhum Barbancourt

If there's any place on earth that's been served up more than its fair share of trouble, it must be Haiti.

If you want an idea of what it was like before the quakes, this 2004 account by my favourite writer pulls no punches - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/article1037225.ece

How to help:

a) donate to the Haiti fund at Medecins sans Frontieres (http://www.msf.org.au/donate.html); and/or

b) seek out and buy a bottle of excellent Haitian rum (Rhum Barbancourt). Goes great in a mojito.

19 January 2010

Some Young Punks 2008 Passion Has Red Lips

It's just dawned on me that I've been leaning heavily in favour of wines of the white persuasion recently. You shouldn't read anything too One Nation into any of this of course.

In fact, while I'm certainly no fan of Pauline Hanson (or gingers generally), when it comes to the booze, I'll happily own up to the fact that I'm partial to a nice, big, juicy red.

So, this week I rummaged around the rack in search of a big-boned claret of ample proportion and happy-go-lucky charm. And lo and behold if my eye wasn't almost poked out by the golden globes of a décolleté piece of trailer-trash whose plunging neckline suggested she may have seen more helmets than Hitler.
Man, what a label. Provocative, but in an ironic sense. Tacky, but in an iconic sense.

The label design is an unabashed knock-off of the pulp fiction novel Sin on Wheels, and the Punks' other offerings (Quickie!; Naked on Roller Skates; The Squid's Fist; Double Love Trouble) follow a similar vein.

Usually, brands that resort to this type of packaging do it because their product is rubbish and it's a way of attracting the attention of the great unwashed. But here, your tawdry taste in labels will be excused as soon as you pour out a couple of glasses for your mates. The window dressing is only a garish garnish for the decidedly serious main course inside the bottle.

These Young Punks certainly know what they're doing - they are actually a PhD-toting crew of vignerons who just happen to have an incongruous penchant for tuffy stickers and funky glasses.

Pop the top, and this Clare Valley blend (almost equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz) pours as dark as a Venetian canal. Happily, it doesn't smell like one.

What it does smell like straight up is Wonka's chocolate factory. But give it some time and a lovely smokehouse feel also wafts through. It's pretty big in terms of alcohol content, and it shows as a parade of long legs goose-step around your glass.

The flavours are as tight as a PE teacher's tennis shorts, and give you some nice, tarry chewiness that is full of Old Gold cherry ripeness. It fills the mouth, and is as warm as a leopard-skin Snuggie on a cold night. But it's also beautifully rounded and there's none of that initial tannic pucker that can sometimes make you recoil at your first sip.

It's an unpretentious, rough-and-ready drop just begging to be teamed up with something rich like a lamb stew or a beef bourguignon.

I like the Punks because they are knocking the often po-faced wine industry down a peg or two. Their success is a good lesson learnt in taking things slightly less seriously and becoming relevant to audiences other than just the regular old crusties.

Right-o then. That's it from me. I'm off for a Quickie! and, just maybe, a Squid's Fist.


Rating: 8.25
Drink with: Two trailer-park girls
Price: $20-$25 (try Drinx Grand Central or Rosalie Fine Wines in Qld)

Images courtesy of
http://www.bouchon.com.au; http://www.winelistaustralia.com.au; http://www.kevinlynchonwine.com

14 January 2010


I love New Year’s Eve. Where the nominated hour hosts a fierce competition between the explosion of fireworks and the ecstatic popping of corks and cherries all over the world.

Where wildly optimistic resolutions and fraudulent declarations of love are proffered in e
qual measure - and where only the latter bears any chance of a successful conversion.

This NYE was much quieter than usual for me. There was no waiting until dawn for the only cab in Noosa. No public nudity. And, surprisingly, no hangover.

But there was wine. There will always be wine.

And so I thoug
ht this week I should look at some of the bottles of fizz which were fortunate enough to pass my lips over the holiday period.

Duval-Leroy Femme de Champagne 1996

This is thinking outside the carton. It's using your imagination, and not simply reaching for the ubiquitous Moët or Veuve. Happily, I have imaginative (and generous) friends.

The potion-like bottle is as sex
y and feminine as the name suggests. But while it is deliciously curvy, it still manages to show off a certain masculine style amongst those lovely lady lumps. The Lady Gaga of champers.

In the glass, it gives off a bright pyrotechnic implosion of effervescence to rival an Eiffel Tower firework display.

It smells like a bakery in the early morning, and drinks like a dream. Intense but creamy, it gives you a hit of velvety lime that lolls on your tongue until you dive in for your next sip.

Surely up there with some of the best vintage bubbly those cheeky little cheese eating surrender monkeys can bottle up.
Rating: 9
Drink with: Frogs
Price: $115

Moët & Chandon Nectar Impérial NV

A NYE without Moët, is like Butch without Sundance. Stars
ky without Hutch. Tango without Cash. As de rigueur as it may be, it is with good reason.

The Nectar Impérial is not your more familiar whitebread Moët - although it is also non-vintage and sells for about the same price. This one comes in a suave, dark-suited bottle and is in the demi-sec style (sweeter and not quite as dry).

The sweetness is immediately obvious on the nos
e and gives a lovely ripe whiff of dried fruit. In the drinking, it retains the delicate, fresh ambrosial qualities of more traditional champers, but with a slightly devious sweetness which is hard not to love.

Perfect for a pre-prandial tipple, although you could happily continue toasting with it all night long.

I'd buy this pulchritudinous little fellow over the standard gear any day of the week. And twice on Sunday.

Rating: 9
Drink with: G
érard Depardieu
Price: $70

Grant Burge Pinot Noir Chardonnay NV

Probably my favourite Aussie sparkler. Looks credible in the bottle, and backs it up in the glass.

To be honest, if you're going to spend more than this on bubbly, you might as well go French. But at the $25-$30 mark, this is good honest drinking for the girls – and the blokes will be keen for a taste as well.

It pours a tad deeper than the ones above, but gives off some great bubble. There’s a nice nuttiness to the nose, and I suspect it’s probably what Odeon’s Sex Panther aftershave would smell like. It may or may not be made with bits of real panther - but you still know it's good.

In the mouth, there’s a solid fruitiness that is intense, but not too sweet. A bit more down-to-earth and not quite as creamy as the imported stuff, but still nice and smooth. And at only a fiver a glass, it really is a fantastic little fizz.

I like Grant Burge because he makes some of my favourite reds. Pretty sure he’s onto a winner with this as well.

Rating: 8
Drink with: A Magic Millions brekky

Price: $25-$30

Brown Brothers Zibibbo

I was pleasantly surprised at how drinkable this little champ is.

At under $10 a bottle, it’s not tight or refined and is never going to be complex enough to take on the big boys.

In fact, it’s looser than a wizard’s sleeve. But it is still a really, really nice drink to have around on a hot day. Or a hot evening. Probably not the best if you’re on a hot date though.

It’s not made from traditional champers-type grapes, but rather from a variety of Muscat grape that is usually eaten (and not drunk). But the Brothers Brown have turned it into a fine sparkling – and I, for one, am quite happy about that.

It’s not hugely aromatic, but it is a fantastically sweet drop without being at all sickly. It bubbles with festive fruitiness and has a good clean, dry finish that reminded me of putting my tongue on a 9v battery – in a good way.

They also make a Ros
é version which is equally respectable.

Put a couple in the fridge this weekend for a relaxing Sunday session. It is the perfect recipe for dulling the painful realisation that the holidays are over and that you will have to work much harder this year if you are to afford to drink French fizz on a Sunday.

Rating: 7.75
Drink with: CSI Sunday
Price: $9.95