24 February 2011

Open That Bottle Night - Sat, 26 February


Fantastic concept this.

Essentially, the idea is to encourage us all to get around to opening that special bottle of wine which has been hiding in the bottom of the cellar for years.

A great excuse to open (and appreciate) a great bottle of wine at the beginning of the evening.

I think it's a great idea as far too many of my "special" bottles are only ever foolishly opened at the end of a drunken evening, long after my taste-buds have left the building...

All aboard.

Witches Falls 2008 Granite Belt Grenache

I've been watching the trend nervously for years.

First came the adoption of the man-bag. Then David Beckham came out wearing a skirt, and a brigade of little Emo popstars led a dubious dash back into the world of male mascara.

Not long after followed the troubling occasion when my 10-year-old nephew informed me that he needed some money to buy nail polish.

"We've already had Mother's Day, mate", I told him.

"No, stupid, it's for me. All the cool kids are doing it. I think I might go for a nice shade of French black", he replied.

"How about a nice shade of harden-the-French-up, sonny?", I muttered. "And it wouldn't kill you to get a haircut either."

And then, this morning, came the straw that finally broke my camel's back. As I waited in line at my favourite little caffe bar for my daily doppio, the bloke (and I use the term loosely) in front of me placed an order for something which he described as a "weak soy chai latte". I don't know what that is and I have no desire to find out, but it sounded like he should have been ordering it for his grandmother. At Starbucks.

What I do know is that I felt emasculated just standing next to him, and found myself wishing fervently for Derek Zoolander to walk around the corner and start a freak gasoline-fight incident in downtown Eagle Street.

And so, in the interest of suppressing the metrosexual Revlon-revolution and reviving some good old Johnny Weissmuller-type masculinity, this week I'm revisiting a big, bruising red that was dished up to me during the Christmas party season at a restaurant where the walls are decorated with butchered bovine and the seats are upholstered with their hides.

The wine compendium in this upmarket meat-market was thicker than Ricky Nixon's skull, and offered at least seventy-five gazillion options. As there were a few of us, we decided to put two different straight (un-metrosexual) grenaches head-to-head. Being that we were also trying to prove a point about good quality Queensland wine to a southerner with a superiority complex, our first pick was the Witches Falls 2008 Granite Belt Grenache. The second was a Barossan offering weighing in at almost twice the price of the local contender.

They came accompanied by outrageously generous slabs of Wagyu rump served up roasted, rubbed and blushingly rare; an artery-choking carnivore's delight requiring the lubrication of equally powerful wine.

The waiter kindly carafed the contesting wines so that we could pick the winner without the influence of labels and reputation. And, you guessed it, the champion by unanimous points decision was...the youngster from Queensland. I was as (pleasingly) surprised as anybody.

So, how was it?

It pours out with a patriotic maroon glow (much deeper than the Barossan), and the heavy alcohol (15%) shows itself off with thick dark legs dancing around the glass like a Beyoncé filmclip.

Give it a little time to open up, and the nose is a super-scented bomb of turkish delight sweetness, with a heated, spicy edge that alerts you to the beast lurking within.

It might be missing an apostrophe, but it’s not lacking in flavour. The drinking is a warm (but not over-cooked) food fight of plummy, egotistical goodness. A hegemonic hit of fine, saliva inducing tannin rounds out the experience.

Definitely a case of the bear in the glass dealing comprehensively with the bull on the plate. I had no idea that Qld wine could be this good.

At the end of the meal, I was stuffed and sleepy and felt like someone had slipped me a Jeffrey. All that remained was to stroke the furry wall and follow my Destiny.

Boom chicka wah wah.

In truth, both wines were good, and the Qld'er only just edged the Crow Eater for mine. But at the price, and for this much power and finesse, the Witches Falls also represents good value.

And if a restaurant takes this much care even at the cheaper end of its list, imagine what the top shelves are like. I'm looking forward to revisiting them - just as soon as they finish pumping the floodwater out of the basement, and with the boss is picking up the cheque of course.

Rating: 8.5/10
Drink with: Eat more beef, you bastards!
Price: $27 retail ($49-$65 in restaurants)

10 February 2011

Westend Estate 2008 Three Bridges Golden Mist Botrytis

Shane Warne. Is there anything, or anyone, this man cannot do?

A gentlemen and a scholar if ever there was one. Well, maybe not a scholar. But a gentleman certainly. For this week, the great man delivered us the authoritative lesson in class.

On the day that his latest conquest - the most shagadelic Ms Hurley - arrived to pay him a visit downunder, not only did he take the time to have someone clip the hedge, vacuum his rug, and install some privacy screens on the front gate, he also ensured that he took delivery of a "fresh" mattress for the occasion.

And that, my friends, is pure, unadulterated class. Okay, so again, maybe "unadulterated" is the wrong word. But nonetheless, you get my drift.

After all, a man must always have a good clean workbench, particularly when he is expecting a fembot for the weekend.

And so then, from one gentleman to another; this time a man widely acknowledged as a true gentleman of the Australian wine business, Mr Bill Calabria of Westend Estate in NSW.

I confess I’ve not actually met the chap, mainly because I’m too scared to visit the Griffith area after watching the second series of Underbelly. But many other wine writers are quite adamant that he’s a truly great bloke. And being that these people are real, proper writers who have had their words printed in magazines and on newspapers, I’m prepared to accept that what they say must be true.

The thing that caught my eye when it comes to Bill though, is that he is ironically unique amongst winemakers...He is a teetotaller.

Not by choice mind you. It seems the poor fellow suffers the most unenviable affliction of being allergic to alcohol.

Imagine for a moment, if you will, the sheer torment of this situation. Being born into a prominent wine family. Going on to yourself become a talented and acclaimed winemaker. And all the while you can never enjoy the sweet product of your labours. Not a drop.

It would be like Enzo Ferrari suffering from car-sickness. Or Warnie having an allergy to vaginas.

Fortunately for Bill, it seems he has learned to bear his burden, while at the same time mastering his craft, by utilising the undoubtedly unsatisfying “sip and spit” method.

As Bill says on his website, ‘One does not have to swallow to know whether it is good or bad.’ I expect Ms Hurley will be nodding in agreement with that sentiment come Monday morning.

If you’re still reading this (and hopefully my Mum stopped reading some time ago), you’re probably hoping that I’m going to get to the wine shortly.

So, let’s do it. The Golden Mist Botrytis Semillon.

I bought it after reading a while back that it had beaten the uber-famous Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes in some far off wine show.

Now, I don’t know it’s that good. But it certainly is one delicious little sticky, let me tell you that. And, at $20 a pop, you can buy 40 of these for the price of one bottle of d’Yquem.

It gives off a subtle golden glow in the glass, but despite the pallor, it has a lovely, thick lusciousness in the mouth. It’s big and fat and full of tongue-coating flavour.

It tastes like it smells, with a truckload of intensely ripe tropical fruit, and finishing with a clever surprise of warmth and clarity.

I’d happily wash down a plate of cheese and bikkies with a bottle of this anytime.

All this is my very longwinded way of saying that this is a very nice little bottle of plonk.

Get one up ya. Before Warnie does.

Rating: 8.75/10
Drink with: S.K. Warne
Price: $20