18 February 2010

Paringa Estate 2007 Pinot Noir

I recently caught up with some friends at a bar too trendy for its own good. A place filled with gin junkies and the type of girls who hit the town with a To Do list and no panties. The blokes were no better - an exhibition of waxed chests and looking deeply into each other's mirrored aviators as they re-adjusted their GHD-scorched fringes and man-bags.

The waiter was an offensively short man who sported a set of ears that ought to have made him very good at listening. But, since he was also French, they did not. Between his innate insouciance and the loud whistling noise generated by his enormous nose, it was like sitting in the middle of a Monty Python sketch.

When Frère Jacques had finally finished insulting the people at the table next to us, we called him over and ordered a bottle of Paringa Pinot Noir. "Oiu, oiu", he sneered, before stamping a foot, spitting at the ground and disappearing for a good ten minutes.

It was worth the wait though.

The Paringa shows its ambition from the start. It’s a very deep purple for a pinot, and smells unctuously like a wonderfully ripe bowl of cherries.

The drinking is achingly good. I’m almost embarrassed to say it, but it really does dance on your tongue. Good (or in this case, great) pinot is a cut above any other wine when it comes to that special layered flavouring.

It’s spicy, fruity, and soft. Smooth as Alicia Keys' tonsils. Gargling baby oil. Swaddled in silk.

A taste bud's whet dream.

Rating: 9
Drink with: A good tapas plate
Price: $60 (and worth every cent)

11 February 2010

Pizzini 2009 Pinot Grigio and Printhie 2008 Pinot Gris

In London, some of the best times you'll ever have are the summer Sunday-afternoon sessions at any one of the hundred million pubs scattered along the Thames. Licensing laws are lax, and you are free to take your pints and ice buckets out onto the grass as you vainly attempt to find some dappled sunshine with a large group of your expatriate friends.

Without fa
il, Pinot Grigio is the default white wine of choice. To start with, the girls are the ones bearing the buckets. But the boys follow once they have become too lagered out and bloated to make the trek back inside to the bar.

Pinot Grigio (or Pinot Gris if
the winemaker is a Francophile) is generally the very definition of easy-drinking wine. Light. Inoffensive. Smooth. Summery.

You don't need a plate full of food to tame it, but it will also go
well with a wrap of hot chips and aioli. It's exactly the sort of booze you want on a lazy afternoon when the next food you are likely to see is at a kebab stand after you've caught the last tube to Cockfosters.

The Aussie autumn is roughly equivalent to an English summer. It's
warm(ish), and it rains a lot. So as March approaches, I thought I would road-test a couple of Aussie Pinot Grigios/Pinot Gris'.

First cab off the rank is a Pizzini 2009 Pinot Grigio.

The Pizzinis are very proud Italian-Australians. From the King Valley in northern Victoria, they produce what must be the widest range of Italian-style wines on the Aussie market - most of which you've probably never heard of and some of which you won't even be able to pronounce. Nevertheless, the ones I've tried have generally been pretty solid.

Their Pinot Grigio is one of my favourites. It’s a light golden glow in the glass, rimmed with a twinkle and a spark. It has a mild, but pleasant, floral whiff that politely puts a gun to your head and makes you an offer you simply can't refuse.

In the mouth, it's a mouth-wateringly, nubile flood of passionfruit icing on a lemon and poppy seed muffin. It gives you a nice, crisp finish and there's a hint of texture and muscle. But in Corleone-terms, it's probably more Fredo than Sonny.

Beautifully balanced, light and delicious. It’s summer in a glass.

Perfect for Fivesies. Or Elevenses, if you are so inclined.

Rating: 8.75
Drink with: Luca Brasi
Price: $18 (www.pizzini.com.au)

Next up is the Printhie 2008 Pinto Gris.

The Gris style (as opposed to the Grigio style) means it’s richer and more full-bodied. That’s never a bad thing, whether we be talking women or wine.

The Printhie vineyards are set in the elevated, cool climate of Orange. The grapes are picked later and riper, and the team at Printhie perform some clever and innovative alchemy to create a more complex mix than the Grigio above.

I have to confess that I needed to open two bottles of this little champ. There was something not quite right with the first bottle. It smelt musty and damp - like the stairwell of a multi-storey carpark. I must have picked up a dodgy one because, thankfully, the second bottle was right back on the money. It smelt properly of an apple orchard irrigated generously with honey. A scent of summer that invites you to roll over and have your tummy tickled.

In the glass, it’s a pale gold, tinged with the shade of an envious Granny Smith. Dive in and it’s a cheery, mouth-filling orgy of lightly spiced apples and pears. An alcoholic Danish. Hans Christian Andersen on a bender.

Again, it’s just a wonderful summery drop. A bit heavier than the Pizzini. But still simple, bright and easy to drink.

At any Sunday session, we all know that eating is cheating. But if you felt compelled to sneak in a cheeky bar snack, then I’m sure this would wash it down suitably.

Rating: 8.5
Drink with: Calamari a L’orange
Price: $17 (www.printhiewines.com.au)

04 February 2010

Peter Lehmann The King AD 2008 Vintage 1987

We recently had a little celebration to wet the heads of my twin boys. Lunch turned into dinner. Dinner turned into 2am.

At some point between dinner and rum o'clock, we dived into my cellar in search of something to wash down a plate of blue cheese and melty brie.

I surfaced with The King - the type of wine no longer allowed to be called a port. Now, I've got no issue with that since port is generally only poured into those tiny, miserly glasses that hide at the back of your mum's crystal cabinet. The King deserves a much larger pour. I like to call it a Suitcase.

The eponymous Mr Lehmann makes The King only when the grapes are good and the mood takes him. The 1987 is the year of its birth. The AD 2008 is its recommended coming of age. I was a couple of years late to the coronation, but the celebrations were still in full swing.

To be honest, it wasn’t a great start though. The cork disintegrated so badly that all we could do in the end was push the crumbly mess inwards. It worked, but it also left us with the dilemma of then having to separate the debris from the liquid within.

It was sink or swim. A situation calling for desperate measures and Churchillian sacrifice. And so, in a one-off fit of genius, I reached for one of my newborns' (unused) muslin wraps and a decanter. It worked a treat, although, predictably, his mother was unimpressed. I was quick to point out the crimson lining. That what was previously a very plain white shroud was now a fashionable, tie-dyed maroon... That the imbued alcoholic perfume would serve as an incentive to the little tackers and remind them of the type of wine they should aspire to over the next 18 years. You can guess where that got me.

But, in the end, at least we had the wine. Suitably strained, filtered and refined. And well worth the effort.

In the glass, it’s the glowing deep red of desert sand. Fumes rise like a heat haze carrying the delicious smell of an old Chesterfield lounge and pipe smoke. Long, sticky legs slowly wind their way back to the bottom of the glass in mesmerising fashion.

There’s a hefty amount of alcohol (20%), but it starts nicely smooth and mellow with lovely soft, ripe fruit. You’re always aware though that it’s made of sterner stuff, and each sip finishes pleasingly on a thick, dry, tannic high.

And so, after a couple of rounds of Suitcases had been poured, the bottle was drained. The King is dead. Long live The King.

At only $15, it's exceptionally good value for a drop that's a little bit special. It also makes a refreshing change once in a while as an alternative to the plethora of botrytis stickies that have become as common as muck in recent years.

Go on. Do something unfashionable and get back into a bit of fortified after a meal. The 1987 King might be a bit hard to find. But there's a 1996 or 1997 out there with your name written all over it.

Worth sacrificing your children's clothing for.

Drink with: Good blue cheese and a slice of pear
Price: $15 (http://www.peterlehmannwines.com/experience/the-wines/barossa-wines-of-excellence/the-king-ad-2018)

Image courtesy of www.peterlehmannwines.com