Monthly Archives: January 2011

Australia Day 2011 – How Lucky Am I!

8.49am, Thursday 27th January 2011, Yalumba Clocktower, Angaston, Eden Valley, The Barossa
I had one of those memorable moments last night folks – at the end of a pretty quiet Australia Day really. I was coming over the Kapunda hills about 8 o’clock, coasting down into the Valley – with an outstanding hot orange, pink and grey sunset splashed right across the sky. I had Jim Croce on the radio and was half way through a peppermint Magnum ice cream on a stick (my absolute favourite) … and I thought with all the grief and drama going on elsewhere in the world: “How lucky am I?!” Somewhere else in the Valley – down near Tanunda – Sting was about to go on stage with the Symphony Orchestra for Barossa Under The Stars, and I daresay those folks thought much the same thing.

The “Vermentino & Sardines” Roadshow Rolls on … to Melbourne

3.25pm, Monday 24th January 2011, Yalumba Clocktower, Angaston, Eden Valley

The proof is in the sardines - and the Vermentino

Folks – here’s the proof! The second event in the “V & S” roadshow has gone very well in Melbourne. Here are the snack size pieces of sardines straight from the char grill at Grossi’s Merchant restaurant in Melbourne – with the Running With Bulls Vermentino. And by the way – that’s a very arty shot thanks to Sam “Our V Man winemaker on the spot” Wigan. I’ll get all the detail from the live cross on the phone to Sam later tonight after the second leg of today’s “V & S” event – where they will be moving up to Grossi Florentino for the whiz bang combo of the sardines wrapped in speck and stuffed with breadcrumbs that will go with your choice of Vermentino in the glass.

Vermentino & Sardines …. Are GO!

7.57pm, Friday 21st January 2011, set up in front of Zuma cafe, Adelaide Central Market, Adelaide in the midst of Tour Down Under fever, South Australia

Lovin' sardines & vermentino

Folks – this is our first live cross on location by phone blog. Our Sam “The V Man” Wigan and Olivia Barrie have been down at The Central Market in the heart of Adelaide with the first of the Max Allen inspired “Vermentino & Sardines … The Musical”” events. Sam and Olivia have been pouring tastes of chilly 2010 Yalumba Vermentino, and Matt Goodlet – the chef from the Sparrow Kitchen & Bar in North Adelaide – put together a very sharp sardine (+ breadcrumbs, garlic and chives) open sandwich straight from the BBQ plate into the hands of folks wanting to have a go! Now apparently the BBQ plate has been cleaned and has been cold for a while because the Vermentino & Sardines tasting stall was absolutely mobbed from 5 pm till just after 7  … when they ran out of sardines! 500 serves of sardines! Sounds like the kids did well.

According to a very excited Sam on the phone, most folks were trying both Vermentino and the sardines for the first time – and they want to get on board with both. “What can we do to help” is the common response when the “V&S” plan is explained. Apparently a lot of people went straight across to the fishmonger stalls in the Adelaide market, and there’s been a massive run on sardines as it looks like folks are going to cook them up themselves! Look out Max Allen – baby steps – but we may put a dent in that extra sardine quota yet! Only 46,997,000 little silver fish to go! From little things – big things come!

So we’re off and running, and Sam will be in Melbourne on Monday to do the second “Vermentino & Sardines … The Musical” event with Max and some other wineries in a double header with the Grossi restaurants – Merchant in the afternoon and Florentino in the evening. Good luck and we’ll be keen to see how it all goes.

PS Sam tells me I haven’t done it all until I’ve tried the Rabbit Pizza at the Sparrow Kitchen & Bar – it’s smoked rabbit with house made BBQ sauce, rosemary & asiago. Always good to have another reason to go down to town.

So have a good weekend and we’ll see ya when it’s Monday.

Tasting From the Back of the Ute

4.40pm, Wednesday 19th January 2011, Yalumba Clocktower, Angaston, Eden Valley
Believe me folks – it’s another beautiful day in the Barossa, and we’ve used it well. Last year in August, we had a whistlestop tour through New Zealand introducing the new Rare & Fine reds – Signature, Reserve, Octavius and Menzies – to the locals. Our trade event in Auckland was at Cibo in Parnell, and today we had a couple of the owners – Jeremy and Christina – come to visit. They were part of the massive crowd down the Angaston main street yesterday for the Tour Down Under finish, and today we gave them a much less hectic pace to deal with.

Jeremy & Christina at Pewsey Vale

We slid into Barossa time, and started up in the hills looking at Eden Valley Riesling from the Pewsey Vale and Heggies vineyards. This shot is the comparative tasting set up on the back of my ute, and there over Jeremy and Christina’s shoulders is Pewsey Vale peak. Down to the left is the top of The Contours Block, and we added the new release 2005 vintage Contours to the tasting. It’s holding its lemon lime citrus well, has gone a touch buttered toast and is still pretty smart acid right through to the end of the palate. Thinking about food and Contours, the talk did turn to oysters – I’d even go with that summer salad of cold steamed asparagus, corn still on the cob sections, and snake beans tossed with cherry tomatoes and a Vietnamese dressing.

Just looking at that photo again – it’s not hard to see why I volunteer for these tastings.

Lycra and Italians

Calm before the storm

5.03pm, Tuesday 18th January 2011, Yalumba Clocktower, Angaston, Eden Valley
At last – a bit of a quiet moment! It’s been a very big day in our corner of the world. First up, Stage 1 of the Tour Down Under finished in the Angaston main street – directly opposite Doddridge’s old forge – this afternoon. Here’s exactly that spot last night – the calm before the pushbike storm! From 6am this morning the town has been absolutely burbling with tourists and locals alike getting right amongst the Lycra-clad bicycle warrior world! Here’s the good news – Australian lad Matt Goss has won the stage ahead of the world champ Andre Greipel, and they couldn’t have had a more perfect day for it.

Me – I was elsewhere.

Pick the Italian ...

I had the good fortune to score a seat at a seminar in Tanunda: “A Little Southern Italy In The Barossa”. It was put on by the Barossa Grapegrowers Vine Selection Society and the Barossa Viticulture Technical Group, and it featured new Italian varietals and how they might suit our winegrowing world. The two presenters were our own viticulturalist Ash Ratcliffe and the man from Southern Italy himself – Puglia actually – Sabino Matera – who is importing a whole dose of these wines into Australia. Here are the two boys – that’s Sabino on the left (but you could tell that by the sharp shirt! Italian just has a style all its own!)

So it was an excellent catch up on the varieties Fiano, Grillo and Nero d’Avola – how they work at home in Sicily and Puglia, and how they transplant into Australia – including a field trip to the Amadio vineyard down the road in Kersbrook (Adelaide Hills), where they’ve got Fiano, Aglianico, Vermentino, Nero d’Avola and Montepulciano in the ground – amongst others. This was all followed by an extensive tasting of 6 Fiano, 1 Grillo and 7 Nero d’Avola wines. A big Southern Italian day out!

Here’s the thing. Even though, as Ash says, all new varieties come with a great degree of risk and may not fly in the market no matter how passionate the effort is in the vineyard and winery, these Southern Italian varieties have a lot of things going for them when you’re talking about doing well in warmer growing regions. And let’s face it – when you compare a lot of our regions to the rest of the world – they’re warm.

The Italians

I’m going to be honest with you – this was my first time with Fiano and Nero d’Avola today. Here are the three wines I tried before heading up the hill to Angaston, and the good thing was that all three struck me as top food wines – as you can see from my notes:

  • 2009 Cantele “Alticelli” Fiano, Salento, Puglia: it’s new to me but I’m going with a bit of a cross between Semillon and Chenin Blanc. Fresh, perfumed stonefruit nose that carries to the palate with a fairly snappy acid finish. I’m looking for a light beer battered garfish fillet – sweet and light for this one!
  • 2009 Planeta “La Segreta” Rosso Nero D’Avola Blend – was a combination of Nero D’Avola, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. Red fruit very cherry berry nose with a soft sweet juicy fruit palate that had this dry backbone running through it – screaming for grilled lamb loin chops and tomato chutney for mine. I’d call it a lovely middleweight, and it had a Stelvin closure.
  • 2008 Morgante Nero D’Avola, Sicily – here’s your more heavyweight plush velvety juicy dark fruit number, and I though it was in the Shiraz frame really. Sticking with what I can cook without too much drama – wait for winter and go with osso buco that’s falling off the bone.

Thanks very much Ash and Chris for letting me sit in – and I can already see a Southern Italian inspired summer for me this year. I’m already committed to the Vermentino & Sardine thing, now I’ve got more! And I think I’m going to like it! I’ve spoken to our Vermentino winemaker Sam Wigan, and we’re going to follow that fruit right through vintage, so that’s a good place to start.

See ya when the pushbikes have left the Barossa.

Old Timer Grenache

4.16pm, Monday 17th January 2011, Yalumba Clocktower, Angaston, Eden Valley, The Barossa
We start this week with a visitor from the SIDART restaurant in Auckland. Marie is the sommelier who has built their wine list specifically on texture and being able to match chef Sid Sahrawat’s adventurous menu. So today we thought that, seeing as this was her first visit to the Barossa, let’s do something that the Barossa does well … go visit vines over 80 years old on their own roots and taste the wines off each block – amid those vines.

So out to the two old timer bushvine Grenache vineyards for us – the Moppa and the Tricentenary – both on the Valley floor. The canopies this year are ‘day of the triffids’ like because of the great winter rainfall drink that the vines have had. The bunches are still a touch in drought mode though – large numbers of small berries = every chance of more intense flavours!

Whilst we were out there, it was a good opportunity to illustrate a term for Marie that is often used with respect to old timer vines – ‘dead arm’ or ‘dying arm’.

What's the rush?

It’s technical name is Eutypa Dieback, and it’s a fungal disease of grapevines that progressively limits growth and yield, eventually killing the vine. However, it takes ages, and the supression of yield contributes to increased fruit intensity, so it’s not all bad. Also, as you can see from the bare arm and the arm with the stunted and yellowed shoots and leaves – in the foreground of this photo of a Grenache bushvine in the Tricentenary block – it’s taken since 1889 when the vine was planted to make this sort of dent, and the rest of the vine is healthy. So I suspect the vine will be operational and yielding top raspberry over rosemary flavours and aromas long after I’ve retired!

Oh and PS Back at the winery, having a terrible sweet tooth, I couldn’t help adding the 2009 Botrytis Viognier FSW (Fine Sweet White folks!) 8B to the tasting. Why? Because the chef has this dessert, and I reckon it’s a surefire winning combination : “Fig pudding with mandarin, caramel & five spice” With honey, apricot and grapefruit from us – yep – I reckon that works! Next trip to Auckland folks, which will probably be June or July this year – I’ll let you know how it goes. Do you reckon that qualifies as legitimate research and therefore tax deductible?

Big Murray River Coming

2.55pm, still Friday 14th January 2011, still at Yalumba
I nearly forgot. With all the floods going on up in Queensland, it’s worth bearing in mind that a stack of that water – particularly what’s fallen inland and on the western side of The Great Divide – will be headed our way in South Australia … into the Murray River … eventually. The old timers have a rough rule of thumb that says it takes 3 months for the water to get from the Queensland border down to where our closest points on the Murray are – which would be Blanchetown and Mannum. Well, it was already up and flowing at a rate of knots at Oxford Landing (downstream from Waikerie) at Christmas time, and it’s over the top of the weir now downstream at Blanchetown. The give away for the way the Murray is starting to move further downstream in Mannum is that the red bellied black snakes are noticeably on the march everywhere down there. It’s been dry times for a long time, so if the water’s starting to move the snakes out of their homes, then something is going on already! Watch this space.