Saturday, July 25, 2009


The Australian wine industry has taken a hammering recently after a decade of greedy corporates over planting programmes. These were to chase high volumes and market share particularly in the UK but unfortunately the targets were supermarket specials and promotions and ultimately cheaper sales. The over supply has led to falling grape prices and an unsustainable vineyard industry which is now resulting in growers selling up and moving on. That's the bad news. The good news is that Australia still produces some of the world' s nicest wines. Sure, we have had a flood of over-engineered jammy Shiraz and blowsy Chardonnay but at the top end there are some very affordable gems. Over the last couple of years I have moved away from drinking Australian wines, preferring NZ and European styles. Last night we opened a 2001 Saltrams No. 1 Shiraz. As I was decanting it (into my magic silver funnel), the wonderful aroma of mint, berries and sweet oak floated up. Beautiful. We took the wine to a BYO seafood restaurant in Herne Bay (disappointing - I had a beans and rice dish!). It was everything that the aroma promised. Structured but with an elegant finish. Rich but not porty. This was a truly delicious wine. When we got home we decided to open another Oz red (there were 4 of us), and chose a 2000 Rosemount Balmoral Syrah. The McLaren Vale shiraz was quite different from the Saltrams Barossa Shiraz. It was firmer, more solid and definitely more 'Rhone-like' The Saltrams had sweetness and drinkability , the Rosemount was more for savouring. Both wines punched above their weight and I am now looking forward to further plundering the cellar.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Here is a great recipe for freshly caught trout that I used when fishing years ago. When I say recipe, it wasn't from a book or anything it was just kind of instinctive.

1 trout (any size)
lemon juice
foil wrap

First catch your trout, clean it, lay it on foil,rub with butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, squeeze a lemon or two over it, add a splash of wine, wrap it up and put on a BBQ or fire. Cook it. When cooked eat it.

Complicated I know but it works. I cooked this somewhere near the Tongariro River back in the mid 70's. I had gone on a fishing trip with Chris and Sue Prowse and I think Robert Prowse (Rob, do you remember?). We went to a spot Chris knew of beside a tributary stream off the Tongariro. It was about 10 minutes from Turangi. One evening I caught a medium sized trout which we cooked. I also caught a large trout, the stuff of legend but had it stolen. When I put it on the bank and went back into the water to try my luck again, I had my back turned to it. Something (a noise or a sense) made me turn around and I saw that my trout had gone and I saw a ferret (stoat or weasel) disappearing into the bushes with it in its mouth. It must have been a strong little animal as the trout was huge (and got bigger with the re-telling).
When I went back to the camp the others didn't believe my story (philistines). They were lucky that I shared my other trout with them. The wine was probably a Penfold's Autumn Riesling which I remember as being delicious.
It was also on this trip that I discovered the benefit of very cold running water. In the morning while boiling water for tea/coffee I managed to spill a boiling pot over on my arm. I immediately plunged it into the nearby stream and kept it in there for ages. The water was so cold that I could that I lost feeling in my arm but when I finally withdrew it I had no pain or blistering.

Monday, July 13, 2009

CHARDONNAY CONSUMPTION INCREASES BY ALMOST 100%! our house. Her indoors has gotten over the Pinot Gris craze and rediscovered Chardonnay. This is good news in that I no longer mistakenly pour myself a bloody Pinot gris from that bottle in the fridge but but bad news in that there is rarely any Chardonnay left over to put in the fridge. Fortunately though there are plenty of good wine deals going with Chardonnay at the fore to enable us to 'trade-up' for the everyday drinking version. Over the last couple of years I have waited for the supermarket wine sales to stock up on good wine offerings. I know that this is kind of against my principles in that the same supermarkets are destroying our wine industry (see previous post 'Mea Culpa' , but the bargains (if approached selectively) are there to be had. Now, due to looming wine surpluses, the self-same greedy supermarkets and the number of wine companies desperate to move stock, the bargains can now be found on the wine Internet sites and in wine retailers. Recently I have bought some very good Chardonnays at vastly reduced prices from non-supermarket sources.

First example is 2007 Te Mata Elston Chardonnay bought from Caro's in Parnell. This is one of New Zealand's top Chardonnays and invariably 'delivers'. I bought this for about $24 a bottle. Normal price is $35 to $40.
(A sideline to this brand is that about 10 years or so ago we went to Iguasu in Parnell for Saturday afternoon tapas and ordered a bottle of Elston. It was corked. We ordered another and this was corked. We ordered a third and this was also corked. I concluded that a poor batch of corks (not Te Mata's fault as they pay top dollar for the best) led to a discrete batch of wine being contaminated. TCA (the chlorine compound that leads to 'corkiness 'in wine) is very pervasive and will contaminate anything surrounding it. If a piece of cork is suspect it will contaminate the other corks in the bag. When wine is bottled the run is done using corks from the one bag or container. This means that it is usual to see 'corked' wines being run off the bottling line close together and often to be in the same carton. Iguasu staff, to give them credit, uncomplainingly replaced each bottle until I called a halt and switched to another brand. This meant that 1. they understood TCA taint, and, 2. they had confidence in Te Mata as a brand. A reliabe wine company guarantees to replace corked or faulty product.)

Second example is Matua Valley Mathesons Chardonnay 2007. I bought this from the internet supplier 'The wine Importer' for about 13 dollars a bottle (normally about 23 dollars). This is a meaty, woody and big Chardonnay that is worth the $20+ tag and a veritable bargain at $13.

Third example is Pencarrow Chardonnay 2007 Chardonnay purchased fom Glengarry at $9.90 a bottle (normally about $19). This is a great bargain. Good Martinborough Chardonnay from a top producer (Palliser) that is fresh, vibrant and very, very drinkable.

The bargains won't last forever as when wineries run out of their expensively produced wine that they are forced to sell at ridiculously cheap prices they will engineer the newer vintages at lesser costs and subsequently at lesser quality. They will do this to meet the demand retail prices.

Buy judiciously (feel free to ask me for advice).

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Maurice had a wine collection. Maurice was into hoarding. Maurice pontificated about it. In truth Maurice was boring.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of a (one-sided) discussion of a wine cellar and the treasures lying therein? Wine bores are good at telling everyone about the great wines that they have had or that they have in their cellar. Often though the wines in the cellar are 'not ready to drink yet' and the wines drunk no-one else seems to have been present to remember the occasion. A wine bore treats wines like a stamp collection- carefully looking at the label before putting the precious bottle back. If being hosted by a wine bore you are likely to be regaled with stories of the world's great wines whilst being offered a 'precocious little' Spanish or Chilean number that the host 'discovered. Keep me away from them please.