Yearly Archives: 2007

Coals to Newcastle — Aussie rauchbier earns German gong

A note from Helen Hollyoak, of Redoak Beer Café, Sydney, tells a coal-to-Newcastle story.
Siblings Janet and David Hollyoak established their Clarence Street brew café in 2004. And, as reported in this column some months back, produced what they claim to be Australia’s first rauch bier. (In fact, Canberra’s Wig & Pen brewed Wobbly Boot Smoked Hefeweizen several years back).

Rauchbier’s an idiosyncratic style that originated centuries ago in Bamberg, Germany. ‘Rauch’ means ‘smoked’ and refers to beechwood smoking of barley during the malting process.

The smoked barley gives the beer a distinct, smoked-meat character, reminiscent, to me, of the wonderful German-style garlic metwurst still made in the Barossa Valley. It sounds peculiar, but consumed with local food in Bamberg, it’s delicious.

It’s a niche style, of course. So the Germans may have been surprised when Aussie upstart, Redoak Rauch, earned a silver medal at the European Beer Star Awards, held in Nuremberg in November.

Redoak Rauch’s German silver medal came on top of gold medals won in the beer World Cup 2006 and Australian International Beer Awards 2005.

Brewer David Hollyoak described his beer as, ‘a rich copper colour lager with a dense caramel head and a sweet, smoked malt aroma and flavour… made of the finest Munich malts, beechwood smoked malt, Redoak smoked malt and subtle hopping.’

See for more information about the beer and where to find it. Or to source an original from Bamberg for comparison with the Aussie version, search ‘smoked beer’ at Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen is a fine example of the style.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2007

Beer review — Mudgee Brewing Company

Mudgee Brewing Company Wheat 330ml 6-pack $18-20
Gary Leonard brews this in the southern German style. The combination of malted wheat and Bavarian yeast produces distinctive and highly aromatic banana-like esters. This fruity note carries through the ale’s light, flavoursome and refreshing palate. It has a refreshing tangy acid finish typical of a good wheat beer.

Mudgee Brewing Company Porter 330ml  6-pack $18-20
It’s black and packed with strong, dark-chocolate and roasted malt flavours.  But a moderate 4.3 per cent alcohol means lighter body than the flavours initially suggest. And it’s lightly hopped, allowing the assertive roasted, malty, almost burnt, flavours free reign, right through to the dry finish. See

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2007

Wine review — Tulloch & Kalleske

Tulloch Hunter Valley Pokolbin Dry Red Shiraz 2005 $20-$25
Petite Verdot 2006 $$17.60-$22, Viognier 2007 $16-$20, Marsanne $16.20

With the Tulloch family back in control after thirty-odd years in the corporate wilderness, the old firm is a must-visit if you’re in the Hunter. The semillons and shirazes are classic lower Hunter styles made with the self-assurance of people who know what the area does best. I’ll review the semillons next week. Meanwhile buy some of the gentle, supple Shiraz 2005 available at cellar door for $20 if you join the wine club. It’s in the old ‘Hunter Burgundy’ medium bodied mould – a wine that just grows in interest with every sip. The Viognier and Marsanne are beautifully made, crisp modern additions to the range and sourced from Denman in the Upper Hunter. See

Kalleske Barossa Valley Pirathon Shiraz 2005 $22-$24
and Johann Georg Shiraz 2005 $100

Johann Georg migrated from Prussia to South Australia in 1838 and established vines at Greenock, in the northwestern Barossa in 1853. The first five Kalleske generations grew and sold grapes. Then in 2004, after 151 years in the business, sixth-generation Troy and Tony released the family’s first wines. With the exception of the ‘Pirathon’ shiraz, the wines are estate grown and made. Pirathon comes from family growers in Greenock and neighbouring Moppa, Belvedere, Stonewell, Seppeltsfield, Koonunga and Ebenezer. It’s a traditionally robust, chocolaty and soft Barossa shiraz – built to last and a bargain. Johan Georg sourced from the Kaleske’s oldest vines (planted in 1875) is a more concentrated and powerful but beautifully balanced expression of the regional style.

Kalleske Barossa Valley Grenache Shiraz 2006 $18-$20
and Old Vine Grenache 2005 $45

Like the Johann Georg Shiraz above, fruit from these two wines came from the Kalleske family’s organically certified Greenock vineyard. All of the wines are made in open fermenters and pressed gently basket pressed before maturation in barrels. The grenache shiraz blend combines the lovely, spicy fragrance and vibrance of grenache with the more earthy, chocolaty character of shiraz. The result is full but vibrant wine that’s ready to enjoy now. The straight grenache wine is a glorious, exotic drop with none of the ‘confection’ character seen in some grenache. This is a serious red with considerable cellaring potential. See

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2007

Mudgee wine — whatever it is, Bob Oatley’s taking it to the world

The wine regions that stick in our minds are those with a specialty. Think of the Barossa and shiraz, Clare Valley and riesling, Coonawarra and cabernet sauvignon, Marlborough and sauvignon blanc, Burgundy and pinot noir and chardonnay or Champagne with its incomparable pinot-chardonnay bubbly blends. The list is long.

But when I judged at the Mudgee regional show a few years back, and again on a recent visit to the region, I found a diversity of styles but not one that I’d identify with the region. So, what is Mudgee wine? Does it have a specialty?

You sometimes still hear of ‘Mudgee mud’, a tag coined for a local beer during post world war two rationing. Somehow, undeservedly, the name attached itself to the area’s distinctly un-mud-like wines.

One interpretation of the Mudgee name, ‘nest in the hills’, captures the feeling of this elevated, mountain-ringed area on the Cudgegong River. Its mild growing season tends to produce good grape yields and medium bodied wines.

From Craigmoor’s founding in 1858 until the late eighties, the regional reputation grew from the efforts of small to medium makers like Craigmoor, Hill of Gold, Huntington Estate, Miramar and Montrose.

But the benign climate, availability of water from the Cudgegong and proximity to the Hunter region attracted a new wave of investors during the nineties. Small maker numbers increased, but these were dwarfed by broad acre plantings driven by the mid to late nineties grape shortages.

In this period, Goree Park, famous for its Mudgee horse stud, the Paspaley pearling family, Hunter-based Rosemount Estate and others, established very large vineyards. With the exception of Rosemount, which had planted to meet demand for its own brand, much of the new production went to large companies, notably Southcorp and Orlando-Wyndham.

For a period, then, Mudgee performed much the same function, albeit on a smaller scale, as South Australia’s Langhorne Creek – as a source of significant volumes of grapes for middle priced wines.

Mudgee’s wine identity continued to be carved largely by small makers, with some exceptions – notably Orlando’s Montrose, Poet’s Corner and Craigmoor brands and Rosemount’s Mountain Blue, a top-shelf red made from very old vines.

But for all of the good wines made from the seventies onwards only a few seemed memorable. Bob Roberts made some terrific reds at Huntington Estate and Carlo Corino and then Robert Paul at Montrose showed that the Italian varieties, sangiovese and barbera, had potential.

Then judging at the 2003 Mudgee a regional show a couple of impressively fresh, older chardonnays, including Miramar 1984, sparked memories – of a delicious Carl Corino Montrose Chardonnay tasted on my first visit there in 1979, some lovely early eighties Craigmoor chardonnays and the superb Montrose Stony Creek Chardonnay. Could this, perhaps be Mudgee’s specialty?

I had the question in mind on a visit to Mudgee three weeks ago. Just as it had been back in 1979, Montrose was the first stop. In the late seventies it was shiny new and impressive – having been founded by two Italians, Carlo Salteri and Franco Belgiorno-Nettis in 1974.

About twenty years later, ownership passed to Orlando-Wyndham. Then, in December 2006, the Oatley family (founders of Rosemount Estate, by now a Foster’s brand) purchased Orlando’s Mudgee interests.

The purchase included the Poet’s Corner Winery (now back to its original name, Montrose), the historic Craigmoor cellars (founded 1858) and an impressive suite of vineyards, including a lovely plot of Italian varieties planted on Montrose’s Stony Creek Vineyard by Carlo Corino in the 1970s.

As well, the Oatley’s maintained ownership of the Mudgee vineyards originally planted for Rosemount – although the plum Mountain Blue Vineyard remains with Foster’s, presumably to feed Rosemount Mount Blue red.

The Oatleys recruited James Manners as winemaker and pretty smartly planned a roll out of its Wild Oats, Robert Oatley, Montrose and Craigmoor brands.

Like the Rosemount brand before it, the new venture will rely on driving volume with its multi-regional value range – in this case the Wild Oats label. These are already in the market and moving well.

But the Mudgee regional focus is going to be important, too, James Manners told me. All of the chardonnays have been from Mudgee from day one, most of the flagship Robert Oatley wines will come from Mudgee and all of the Montrose and Craigmoor wines be regional.

He’s not sure why chardonnay does so well in the region. Judged on climate alone – mild rather than cool or cold – you’d expect tasty, early maturing styles. Instead, and especially from the slightly higher, cooler Stony Creek vineyard, the chardonnays tend to be fine, complex and extraordinarily long lived – like the Miramar 1984 that won a trophy at the 2003 show.

The sangiovese and barbera planting at Stony Creek are to be extended – vindicating Carlo Corino’s judgment back in the seventies. The 2006s, now in tank, look terrific and will be released under the Montrose label next year.

But there’s work to be done on the cabernets and shirazes. Both grow well in the area but the flavours tend to fade quickly as very firm tannins take over on the palate. James believes that the solution lies partly in vineyard practice – modifying vine canopies to encourage equal ripening of tannins and fruit flavours – and partly in winemaking.

For Mudgee, the arrival of the Oatleys is nothing but good news. These guys are proven performers. They made Rosemount a household word in the US. And they have the drive, ability and resources to take Mudgee to the world. Finally, the word from Chris Hancock, Bob Oatley’s right hand man, is that the US market loves the name Mudgee and see it as pure Aussie.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2007

Half a century from Mudgee mud to true brew

It may seem hard to believe now but in post world-war-two Australia beer was rationed. My father still recalls ‘Mudgee mud’, a brew that he and other returned Sydney diggers tolerated during the shortage.

According to, the Federal Brewing Company’s beer deteriorated – earning the ‘Mudgee mud’ tag – after switching from well water to town water. But the name lives on fifty-one years after the brewery closed.

These days Mudgee’s a prosperous looking town with dozens of wineries plus the Mudgee Brewing Co founded recently by two locals, Peter Shiells and Gary Leonard.

You can visit the brewery on Saturdays in the century-old wool store in Church Street. But there’s no reason to go dry from Sunday to Friday as the beers enjoy strong support from local pubs, motels and restaurants.

Indeed, we discovered the excellent Mudgee Brewing Company Pale Ale over pizza at Elton’s Restaurant. What could be better after the five-hour drive from Canberra?

This was no Mudgee mud — just top-notch beer, pale coloured, tremendously fresh and with the wonderful interplay of floral/citrus Saaz hops and rich malt flavours. Alas, we missed the brewery’s opening hours but ordered a few samples for review here in the next few weeks.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2007

Wine review — Louee Wines, Miramar, Wirra Wirra & Cloudy Bay

Louee Wines Mudgee Rumkers Peak Shiraz 2003 $18
Louee Wines Mudgee Nullo Mountain Pinot Gris 2006 $18

A too-short visit to Mudgee recently unearthed a few exciting wines, plus three refreshing beers from the new Mudgee Brewing Company. We discovered these Louee wines at Elton’s bistro. The medium bodied shiraz, from a vineyard near Rylstone, impressed for its delicious earthy, savoury flavours – just perfect with pizza. The pinot gris showed the importance of site for this variety. It comes from Nullo Mountain Vineyard located at 1100 metres — about double Mudgee’s altitude. The altitude means a very cool ripening season. In turn, that means terrific varietal flavour, rich texture and zesty, high-acid structure. It’s worth the drive to Elton’s to try it. See

Miramar Mudgee ‘Eljamar’ Chardonnay 2005 $25
This is a lovely wine from one of the most under-rated wineries in Australia. Owner and winemaker, Ian McRae, founded Miramar in 1977 and produces delicious, understated wines from a 45-hectare estate. The chardonnays have been a Chateau Shanahan favourite for decades as they offer delicious drinking when young and, unlike most chardonnays, age very well. I’ve had ‘em and loved ‘em at up to twenty years from vintage. This latest, from a special site within Miramar’s ‘Hidden Garden’ vineyard, offers generous, bright, intense, melon-like varietal flavour without a trace of heaviness. See

Wirra Wirra ‘Hiding Champion’ Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2007 $22.95
Cloudy Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 $34.95

These are too quite different and excellent expressions of sauvignon blanc. Samantha Connew’s Adelaide Hills version is lighter, citrusy and less in-your-face varietal than the Cloudy Bay wine. It sits more towards the citrus and passionfruit end of sauv blanc’s flavour range – and it becomes more of a subtle backdrop as the bottle steadily disappears. Kevin Judd’s Cloudy Bay presents the more serious end of Marlborough’s now very broad style spectrum (ranging from thin and green to weighty, pure and intense). It’s textbook stuff – purely, unmistakably sauv blanc with the intensity, mid-palate weight and integrated, high-acid structure that characterise the best.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2007

Macedon Ranges — really cool

Look at today’s feature picture for an idea of how cool Macedon is – in both senses. What you see is Hanging Rock’s south-facing Jim Jim vineyard, one of the coolest wine-growing sites in Australia, covered in winter snow. And that’s winemaker John Ellis’s son, Robert, making the most of it.

John and Anne Ellis established the vineyard in 1982, specifically to produce top-end bubblies from pinot noir and chardonnay grapes.  And for that you need a cold climate, barely capable of ripening grapes. But they were not the first in the area with this aspiration as Gordon Cope-Williams had arrived at nearby Romsey in 1977.

The Ellis’s Jim Jim vineyard represents the coolest end of Macedon’s climate spectrum – a fascinatingly diverse region that rolls the equivalent of France’s Champagne, Burgundy and northern Rhone regions into one.

It achieves this largely through variations in altitude and aspect. Jim Jim vineyard, for example, sits on a southern slope of the Great Divide at an altitude approaching 700 metres. The site is too cool to produce still table wine. But it creates the perfect high-acid, delicate-but-intense flavours for sparkling wine.

Baynton, just a few kilometres to the north through the Macedon Ranges, sits at the other end of the climate spectrum. A drop in altitude to around 400 metres above sea level means a growing season that’s not only too warm for pinot and chardonnay sparkling wine but too warm even to make good table wine made from those varieties. Here, Granite Hills Winery (founded 1970) makes intense, peppery shiraz, a variety that doesn’t cut the mustard a little higher up.

This altitude-driven style variation is a feature that separates Australian wine regions of the Great Dividing Range from the more homogenous classic regions of France. In France, distinctive wine styles defined their regions over great periods of time. Legal confirmation of these followed long after the reality.

For example, after a long winemaking history Champagne emerged as a sparkling specialist, using pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay, in the eighteenth century – its specialty being driven largely by the cold climate at forty-nine degrees north. But the statute of Champagne, defending its name and boundaries, came only in 1927.

A little to the south, and again over many hundreds of years, sublime, elegant table wines made from chardonnay and pinot noir defined Burgundy. And a little south again, shiraz defined the appellations of the northern Rhone Valley.

In Australia our regional definitions grew less from the wines we made and more from an imperative to define legally defensible boundaries. Hence we rolled out our geographic indications system following wine agreements with Europe and America in the early nineties.

Along the Great Divide the boundaries we drew create far from homogenous regions. Mudgee, for example, has vineyards clustered mainly in the 500-600 metre range, but with at least one outlying extreme – Louee Wine’s Mount Nullo vineyard at 1100 metres. It’s almost another country in terms of the wine styles it makes.

But in high, cool Orange, the boundary makers recognised the importance of altitude on wine style and set a lower-altitude limit of around 650 metres. Famously, this put the boundary on the contours of the Little Boomey Vineyard. It literally rolls in and out of Orange.

Though the Macedon Ranges boundary covers a wide range of altitudes, in reality, the vineyards seem to be focused on the higher, cooler sites, with the very coolest sites focusing on sparkling wine production and the more moderate sites specialising in pinot noir and chardonnay table wines.

Judging at the regional show a few weeks back these were certainly the styles that shone. We tasted some attractive pinot gris, gewürztraminer, sauvignon blanc and shiraz. But the sparkling wines were the best I’ve ever seen at an Australian wine show – vindicating the judgment made by Gordon Cope-Williams and John Ellis several decades ago.

The pinots and chardonnays, too, were extraordinarily good and driven largely by a comparatively new wave of makers.

The gold medallists from the show, reviewed below, give a taste of what Macedon does best and are worth seeking.

Curly Flat Macedon Ranges Pinot Noir 2005 $46
Williams Crossing Macedon Ranges Pinot Noir 2005 $20
Portree Macedon Ranges Pinot Noir 2005 $33

The very cool climate of the Macedon Ranges wine region, an hour’s drive north west of Melbourne, produces top-notch pinot noirs – wines of great perfume, clear varietal flavour and silky, fine texture. Judging there two weeks ago 21 of the 29 pinots tasted won medals – three golds, three silvers and fifteen bronzes. The high strike reflected the quality, especially of these three gold-medallists. Portree wine, the fullest bodied of the trio, shows a more powerful face of pinot. Curly Flat, the most complex and interesting, needs time (it’s not released yet anyway). And Williams Crossing, Curly Flat’s second label, is taut, fine and delicious. See and

Cope-Williams Romsey Brut Pinot Noir Chardonnay NV $26
Hanging Rock Macedon Cuvée VII LD $115
Mt William Winery Blanc de Blanc 2001 $35

I’ve never judged a class of Australian sparklings as striking and delicious as those at the recent Macedon show. A maturity of winemaking, coupled with the extremely cool growing conditions delivers flavour and structure seldom found outside of France’s Champagne district. These three gold-medallists show pretty well the full spectrum of the region’s sparkling styles: the ultra-fine, elegant, marvellously fresh, all-chardonnay Mt William 2001 (; the classically fine and intense Cope-Williams Brut NV ( and Hanging Rock’s idiosyncratic tour-de-force of powerful fruit, tight structure and edgy, tangy cask maturation complexities (

Shadowfax Macedon Ranges Chardonnay 2006 $35
Lanes End Macedon Ranges Chardonnay 2005 $28
Curly Flat Macedon Ranges Chardonnay 2005 $38

Macedon’s third grape specialty, chardonnay, probably faces more Aussie competitors than its pinots and bubblies do, partly because of the sheer versatility of this variety. That said, the chardonnays that it makes are in a very fine, restrained style — the best of which could take on any competitors.  Amongst twenty eight chardonnays judged we found these three zingy fresh chardonnays: the very fine, stunningly fresh Shadowfax 2006 (, the more robust, slightly oakier, but still very fine Lanes End (, and the more restrained, slightly funky, deliciously fresh Curly Flat (

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2007

Beer review — The Barossa Brewing Company

The Barossa Brewing Company Wheat Store Ale 330ml 6-pack $20
This is modelled on the southern German wheat beer style and starts well with distinctive banana-like esters. The palate appears a little fuller and rounder than the German style. While it seems lower in acidity, it’s still a tasty, characterful and refreshing drop. It’s a 50:50 blend of floor-malted wheat and barley.

The Barossa Brewing Company Greenock Dark Ale 330ml 6-pack $20
Greenock Dark Ale packs huge flavour without the high alcohol that often accompanies it. It’s 4.4 per cent alcohol and in the English porter mould: dark and attractively aromatic with a flavour sitting somewhere between dark chocolate and coffee. English Fuggles hops balance the malt richness with a refreshing bitterness.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2007

A Barossa brew

Grape and grain seem to cohabit peacefully in many of our wine regions, with small breweries popping up, in recent years, in the Hunter, Mudgee, Yarra, Beechworth, Gippsland, Bright, Macedon, Rutherglen, Mornington Peninsula, Tasmania, Mildura, Clare and the Barossa.

These are probably many more. And some that’ve made this column to date have direct wine industry connections. At Rutherglen’s Bintara Brewery, for example, grape grower Michael Murtagh, doubles as brewer. And Tasmania’s Moorilla Estate Brewery sits alongside the winery of the same name.

And one that’s recently hit our radar, the Barossa Brewing Company, is connected to the Trinne family, suppliers of stainless steel equipment to the wine industry since the 1970s.

Darryl Trinne operates the business from an old wheat store in Greenock, a quiet little village on the western side of the Barossa. It’s a little off the main tourist trail, but very close to some of the very best vineyards.

I’ve enjoyed the beers on tap at the Greenock Pub (a must-try if you’re in the Barossa). But the bottled versions scrub up well, too, and might eventually reach the east.

Like the best small-maker wines, these are hand-made, small-quantity, highly individual products that give real drinking satisfaction.

Natural beers like these add welcome colour and depth to regional tourism and can even put a smile on our faces here in Canberra. See for interesting details or to order The Miller’s Lager reviewed last week or the two brews below.

The Barossa Brewing Company Wheat Store Ale 330ml 6-pack $20
This is modelled on the southern German wheat beer style and starts well with distinctive banana-like esters. The palate appears a little fuller and rounder than the German style. While it seems lower in acidity, it’s still a tasty, characterful and refreshing drop. It’s a 50:50 blend of floor-malted wheat and barley.

The Barossa Brewing Company Greenock Dark Ale 330ml 6-pack $20
Greenock Dark Ale packs huge flavour without the high alcohol that often accompanies it. It’s 4.4 per cent alcohol and in the English porter mould: dark and attractively aromatic with a flavour sitting somewhere between dark chocolate and coffee. English Fuggles hops balance the malt richness with a refreshing bitterness.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2007

Wine review — Yalumba, Henschke, Petaluma, Mitchell, Grosset & Mount Horrocks

Yalumba South Australia Riesling 2007 $10-$12

  • Eden Valley Julius Riesling 2007 $27
  • Green’s Hill Lenswood Riesling 2007
  • Peggy’s Hill Eden Valley Riesling 2007 $20

This week’s recommendations are all rieslings from the outstanding 2007 vintage, selected at a tasting a few weeks back. The Yalumba wine, a Barossa-Eden Valley blend, and value champ of the line up, offers plump, ripe, fresh varietal flavour at a bargain price. Henschke’s Julius, one of the big hitters, is intense, tight and in for the long haul. Peggy’s Hill, too, shows the Eden Valley’s restraint and taut structure but seems a little more approachable now than Julius. Green’s Hill, from Lenswood, a high, cool site in the Adelaide Hills, presents restrained but clear varietal flavours cut with bracing, fresh acidity. It should age well.

Petaluma Hanlin Hill Clare Riesling 2007 $25-$29
Mitchell Watervale Riesling 2007 $22
With the Bay of Fires Tasmania Riesling 2007 reviewed last week, Petaluma was a standout of the tasting – but the two are stylistic poles apart: the Tassie wine is delicately perfumed, ultra-fine and nothing like our mainland rieslings; the Petaluma is big and rich, but oh so fresh and delicate, too. It’s just about sold out I’m told and in limited supply thanks to the difficult 2006–07 growing season. Andrew and Jane Mitchell’s 2007 offer yet another style alternative, perhaps influenced by a spontaneous fermentation. There’s real flavour concentration, a rich texture and a little bite to the finish. It, too, was made in tiny quantities in 2007 – the forty-year-old vines yielding just 2.5 tonnes to the hectare.


  • Polish Hill Riesling 2007 $42
  • Springvale Vineyard Watervale Riesling $35

Mount Horrocks Watervale Riesling 2007 $28

These three sat towards the top of the tasting in a cluster with Bay of Fires, Petaluma and Henschke Julius. While the two Grosset wines share a wonderful purity, delicacy, fine-ness and unique, smooth silky texture, a lime-and-green apple tang gives the Polish Hill (a cool sub-region of Clare) a please-cellar-me, slightly austere edge. The softer Watervale offers delicious, lime-like varietal aroma and flavour. Like the Petaluma and Bay of Fires, these were hard to stop sipping after the tasting. Stephanie Toole’s Mount Horrocks 2007 grew in interest with every sip, delivering pure, lime-like varietal flavour. It’s intense but subtle, elegant and restrained.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2007