Yearly Archives: 2012

Wine review — Jacob’s Creek, Simmonnet-Febvre and Bay of Fires

Jacob’s Creek Riesling 2012 $6.90–$10
The latest Jacob’s Creek shows the superior flavour qualities of a great riesling vintage. It won silver medals in the Melbourne and Hobart wine shows, then golds in Adelaide and Canberra’s National Wine Show of Australia. Winemaker Bernard Hickin says the fruit comes from the Barossa, Eden and Clare Valleys and Langhorne Creek. The combination gives the wine well-defined lime and lemon varietal flavours and a delicious fruit sweetness ¬– though the wine remains crisp and dry with only about three grams a litre of residual sugar (below our taste threshold). This is an extraordinarily good wine at the price.

Chablis (Simmonnet-Febvre) 2010 $23.75–$25
At a chilly 47 degrees north, Chablis, the northernmost outlier of France’s Burgundy region, makes distinctive, lean and succulent, bone-dry chardonnays. The wines stand out in any tasting and make their own strong argument for the French concept of terroir – that a given location produces unique wine flavours. Simonnet-Febvre, imported by Woolworths-owned Dan Murphys, gives the succulent, rich-but-not-heavy, dust-dry Chablis experience at a modest price. It’s bright, fresh and clean – and presumably it’s the Australian influence that sees it sealed with a screw cap. This cold-grown white makes perfect drinking for a hot Australian Christmas.

Bay of Fires Tasmania Pinot Noir 2009 $32.99–$35
This beautiful, silk-smooth, trophy-winning pinot can still be found in Canberra, two years after its release. It’s a steal at the price and a wonderful wine to enjoy with Christmas ham, duck, chicken, turkey or pork. The brand belongs to Accolade Wines portfolio and made at their Bay of Fires Winery, Pipers River. Winemaker Fran Austin sourced fruit from a variety of clones and vineyards on Tasmania’s East Coast, Coal River Valley and Derwent Valley. Peter Dredge took over following Austin’s departure. But we notice his superb 2011 vintage, like the 2009, won a gold medal and trophy at the National Wine Show.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 23 December 2012 in The Canberra Times


Wine review — House of Arras, Mitchell, Oakridge, Cherubino, De Bortoli and Yarraloch

House of Arras Methode Traditionelle Rosé $80
Derwent and Huon Valleys, Tasmania

House of Arras is the brand created by BRL Hardy (later Constellation Wines Australia, now Accolade Wines) for its Tasmanian sparkling wines. The rosé provides more proof, were any needed, that Tasmanian bubblies, led by those made for Arras by Ed Carr, sit on top of the pile. Carr combined pinot noir and chardonnay in this delicate wine, aged seven years on yeast lees in bottle. The pale, onionskin colour, delicate red-berry fruit flavour and strong backbone signal the wine’s high pinot content. And the superb fruit and prolonged ageing accounts for its unique combination of lightness, freshness, power and delicacy.

Mitchell Peppertree Vineyard Shiraz 2009 $22.80–$25
Peppertree vineyard, Clare Valley, South Australia

Andrew and Jane Mitchell offer two shirazes from their dry-grown, handpicked vineyards in the Clare Valley. The 2009 vintage provides rich, smooth drinking in the ripe, spicy, sweet-fruited, solidly structured, though soft, Clare style. It’s a year or two older than most reds in the market, and the extra age adds to its mellow, satisfying character – a beautiful drink at a fair price. McNicol Shiraz 2003, named for Andrew Mitchell’s father, gives a rare opportunity to enjoy perfectly cellared, maturing red at a realistic $40 a bottle – an excellent gift, or something to savour with Christmas dinner.

Oakridge Local Vineyard Series Pinot Noir 2011 $38
Various vineyards, Yarra Valley, Victoria

Oakridge winemaker David Bicknell made four pinots for this series in 2011 – from the Syme, Oakridge (reviewed 28 November), Guerin and Denton vineyards, at different Yarra Valley locations. The wines share the pale colour and lean structure of the cold vintage. But the subtle differences from one wine to another demonstrate the influence each site exerts upon grape (and hence wine) flavour – probably driven largely by tiny climatic variations. All are highly aromatic, all are delicate and all show a flavour depth and structure belying the light colour. The flavour spectrum ranges from bright, strawberry/raspberry-like to quite exotic, earthy, mushroom and savoury elements.

Cherubino Laissez Faire Riesling 2012 $29
Porongurup, Great Southern, Western Australia

Larry Cherubino’s Laissez Faire takes riesling where it seldom goes in Australia. He sources grapes from dry-grown bush vines at Porongurup (little more than a rocky knob in Western Australia’s Great Southern wine region) and allows the wine to ferment naturally. The process mutes riesling’s aromatic high notes, leaving the more citrus-like varietal characters intact. This citrus character provides a mouth-watering sensation on a richly textured, savoury, delicate and soft, dry palate.

De Bortoli Windy Peak Shiraz 2012 $11.40–$14
Heathcote, Victoria

It’s a sign of maturity in a top wine-growing region when it offers cheaper, high quality wines as well as more expensive reputation-building products. De Bortoli keeps the cost of Windy Peak down by releasing it young and maturing only a portion of the blend in oak (old oak at that). The tank-matured portion retains a bright, spicy fruitiness that lifts the more mellow, savoury oak-aged component, giving a generously flavoured, soft and spicy shiraz to enjoy now.

Yarraloch Chardonnay 2011 $28.49–$30
Yarra Valley, Victoria

Yarraloch reveals facets of the winemaker’s art as well as the natural richness of chardonnay and the racy acidity of the cold vintage. The winemaker thumbprint shows in a funky aroma and flavour (a result of natural fermentation and maturation on yeast lees in oak) cutting through the grapefruit and just-ripe nectarine varietal character. Together, the funky and varietal flavours and racy acidity create a literally mouth-watering sensation in a silky-textured dry white.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 19 December 2012 in The Canberra Times and

Wine review — Houghton, Hardy and Sir James

Houghton Wisdom Pemberton Sauvignon Blanc 2012 $22–$25
The strength of the 2012 vintage revealed itself in the National Wine Show’s sauvignon blanc class. The judges awarded medals to 15 of the 17 wines. However, their verdict reflected good rather then exciting quality as they handed out mostly bronze medals – with only two silvers and a lone gold to Houghton Wisdom. The wine, from Pemberton, Western Australia, went on to win the trophy as the best sauvignon blanc in the show. It’s a racy style with herbaceous and passionfruit-like varietal flavour and mid palate richness, derived from maturation on yeast lees.

Hardys Oomoo McLaren Vale Shiraz 2011 $14–$17
The reintroduction of Oomoo shiraz in 2003, following almost a century’s absence, helped reestablish Hardy’s links with McLaren Vale. Consistently high quality and low price (as little as $10.85 on special) makes it one of the best red buys in Australia – evidenced by its recent top-scoring gold medal in the 2012 National Wine Show of Australia. It’s a medium-bodied style, featuring bright, fresh, ripe berry flavours with a touch of varietal spice and regional savouriness. This is a very good effort in the disease-ravaged 2011 vintage.

Sir James Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2007 $19–$23
Modestly priced Sir James 2007 topped its class in the National Wine Show of Australia, winning a gold medal and outscoring several of its far more expensive cellar mates, House of Arras Brut Elite Cuvee Elite 401 2004 and Grand Vintage 2004. The judges got the pecking order wrong, I reckon. But there’s no doubting the exceptional quality of Sir James – a fine, delicate dry, bottle-fermented bubbly. It combines the right fruit flavours with a subtle patina of flavours derived from prolonged ageing on spent yeast cells. It’s made by Ed Carr and Paul Lapsley, using fruit from the Yarra Valley and Tumbarumba.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 16 December 2012 in The Canberra Times


Wine review — Shelmerdine, Villa Maria, De Bortoli, Serafino, Peter Lehmann and Pierrepoint

Shelmerdine Lusatia Park Pinot Noir 2010 $60
Lusatia Park vineyard, Woori Yallock, Upper Yarra Valley, Victoria

In 2010 Stephen Shelmerdine selected a small amount of fruit from a couple of rows of the oldest pinot noir vines (planted 1985) on the Lusatia Park vineyard. The grapes were hand harvested, de-stemmed and then cold-soaked before undergoing a natural fermentation as whole berries, then gently hand plunged towards the end of fermentation and later pressed to old and new French oak barrels for maturation and a natural secondary fermentation. The process captures pure, bright, delicate fruit flavours and very fine, silky tannins. The exceptional quality of the fruit translated to an extraordinary pinot noir – probably capable of long-term cellaring, and unquestionably a delight to savour right now.

Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2012 $12.90–$20
Wairau and Awatere Valleys, Marlborough, New Zealand

George Fistonich established Villa Maria in Auckland 50 years ago. Now Sir George, Fistonich spread his operation southward over the years, first to the Hawke’s Bay area on the North Island, and later to Marlborough at the northern tip of the South Island. His broad acre vineyards there produce outstanding wines, including this great value-for-money sauvignon blanc. It leaps out of the glass into your face, the variety’s raucous bonhomie in overdrive. Fruit, fruit and more fruit is the theme – a combination of gooseberry and passionfruit, with a fleshy mid palate and brisk acidity zesting up the dry finish.

De Bortoli Sauvignon 2011 $24–$26
De Bortoli Dixon Creek vineyard, Yarra Valley, Victoria

De Bortoli’s sauvignon offers more of an intense conversation than the backslapping style of the Villa Maria reviewed today. Winemaker Steve Webber calls it a “funky style. The antithesis of new world sauvignon. Textural, creamy, sauvage”. Webber intentionally muted the varietal character and added texture (and funky character) by fermenting and maturing the wine on yeast lees in old oak barrels. The wine remains clearly varietal – but the barrel work adds a literally mouth-watering dimension.

Serafino Shiraz 2010 $23.75–$26
Maglieri family vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia

Steve Maglieri planted vines in McLaren Vale in 1968, two years after emigrating from Italy. He later sold Maglieri Wines to direct marketer, Cellarmaster Wines (now part of Woolworths). But Maglieri retains 120-hectares of vines and with his daughter, Maria, now operates Serafino, with Charles Whish as winemaker. The supple and charming 2010 shiraz offers bright, ripe, plummy fruit flavours, woven in with soft, smooth, fine tannins. And McLaren Vale provides its own thumbprint in an underlying savouriness.

Peter Lehmann H and V Shiraz 2010 $22
Barossa Valley, South Australia

Peter Lehmann’s new Barossa shiraz and Serafino from McLaren Vale demonstrate the great finessing of Australia’s warm-region wines. Both wines retain warm-climate generosity and ripeness. But both do this without over-ripeness, over-extraction of tannins or over-oaking. If you like, we could call them relaxed wines – reds that unleash sweet, ripe supple fruit, subtly enhanced by appropriate oak maturation. Lehmann H and V does this deliciously and in the Barossa mould – ripe, round and full flavoured with tender, mouth-caressing tannins. French oak adds a little spice and tannic bite to the finish.

Pierrepoint Chardonnay 2011  $35.50
Tarrington, Henty, Victoria

Andrew and Jennifer Lacey established vineyards at Tarrington, 10 kilometres southeast of Hamilton, Victoria, in 1998. This is part of the Henty region, which also embraces Seppelt’s distinguished Drumborg vineyard. Pierrepoint vineyard, at 200 metres above sea level, clearly suits chardonnay and pinots noir, even in the particularly wet, cool 2011 vintage. The fine-boned, smoothly textured chardonnay combines the variety’s generosity, cut by a refreshing grapefruit-like zestiness, courtesy of the cool site and season. Similarly, the impressively tight but silky, lighter-bodied 2011 pinot noir ($39.50) presents bell clear varietal flavour that holds your attention glass after glass. (Available at

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 12 December 2012 in The Canberra Times and

Wine review — Peter Lehmann and Mitchell

Peter Lehmann Barossa Valley Hill and Valley Semillon 2012 $22
Peter Lehmann’s new Barossa semillon offers light, fresh lemony varietal flavours on a delicate, soft, delicious, dry palate. It’s a unique dry white, softer and more approachable now, say, than a Hunter semillon of the same age. At just 11.5 per cent alcohol it’s less heady than most Australian whites. Lehmann was the first to popularise this light, unoaked Barossa style. Hill and Valley sits in price between Lehmann’s two existing semillons and was sourced “from some of Barossa’s oldest semillon vineyard, owned by two family growers in the Barossa sub-regions of Light Pass and Vine Vale”, writes winemaker Andrew Wigan.

Peter Lehmann Eden Valley Hill and Valley Chardonnay 2011 $22
Lehmann’s new white triumphed at the recent National Wine Show of Australia outscoring a field of 56 upmarket chardonnays and winning the best-premium-chardonnay trophy. Chairman of judges, Steve Pannell, said the wine sparked a debate about “artefact” in chardonnay – in this instance (and in many modern chardonnays) yeast-derived sulphur compounds resulting from fermentation and maturation in oak barrels. To my taste the sulphur compounds outweigh the fruit in an otherwise very pleasant wine – a wine that could be even better with less artefact in future vintages. No gold medal or trophy from me, I’m afraid, but a silver medal in my scoresheet.

Mitchell McNicol Clare Valley Riesling 2006 $35
Thirty-five dollars seems a modest price for a well-cellared riesling from a great Clare Valley vintage. The wine honours Peter McNicol Mitchell, father of winemaker Andrew Mitchell. Mitchell senior arrived in the Clare Valley in 1949, laying the foundation for the vineyards and winery, operated by Andrew and wife Jane since the late 1970s. The riesling, from a cool, elevated site, delivers bright, fresh, citrusy varietal flavours, overlaid with the delicious honey-like character of bottle age. It sits lightly, delicately and softly on the palate – an absolute joy to drink. (Available from

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 9 December 2012 in The Canberra Times

Wine accoutrements enrich our drinking experience

The old saying “perception is reality” preceded current understanding of how we taste. Sensory cues seemingly unconnected to our senses of smell and taste affect not just our perceptions and the psychology of taste, but how we physically taste. It seems that when we expect something to taste a certain way, it will.

If we’re to squeeze the greatest amount of pleasure from the wines we drink, it therefore makes sense to build a rich sensory experience even before we reach for the bottle. Hence this little guide to wine gifts leans as much to the aesthetic as the practical.

The setting includes dazzling cutlery, fine bone or porcelain crockery, crisp, clean tablecloths, perhaps a brightly coloured French one – all terrific, enduring gifts in their own rights, though not covered here.

A wonderful quality of good wine accoutrements is their durability. Crystal decanters and glassware, for example, survive the generations. Some of the decanters mentioned may still be used exactly as previous owners did over the last 200 years.

Wine decanters
There’s little practical reason to decant young modern wines. In the old days, less precise winemaking meant many wines contained traces of hydrogen sulphide, a by-product of winemaking, or free sulphur dioxide that tended to dissipate with a good splash of air.

That’s seldom the case these days, though very young, cellarable whites often contain noticeable levels of sulphur dioxide; and some modern chardonnays retain traces of various sulphur compounds, deliberately built in for complexity. Decanting tends to take the edge of these, too.

However, some young reds seem to release more aroma and flavour after a good splash into a decanter and an hour or two’s exposure to air. Old reds, on the other hand, should be decanted to separate the clear wine from the harmless sediment deposited during years of maturation.

That’s the practical side of decanting. But crystal decanters add hugely to wine’s visual appeal. Smooth-sided decanters allow the wine’s colour to shimmer and sparkle; those with intricately-cut patterns, offer an additional dimension – rainbows of light refractions twinkling through the various angles and shapes, made even more appealing with the flickering, yellow light of candles.

Decent crystal decanters begin at around $50, and come in sufficient shapes, sizes, brands and prices to satisfy most of us.

Even the darling of the wine world, Riedel, offers decanters on its website from $64.95, moving steadily through the price ranges and peaking at $900 for its quirky Twenty Twelve model.

But for that price, or anyway near it, Santa might bring a glorious old antique – perhaps a George III-era (circa 1815) with its “wide comb fluting body, plain neck rings and mushroom stopper”, currently selling at $785 in Hartley Cook’s Grafton Galleries (Shop 1, 15 Boundary Street, Rushcutters Bay).

Cook, a wine lover and glassware expert, always carries a range of old decanters (about twenty at present, he says), a specialty for a few decades now. He owns about 30 personally, including a rare 1810 magnum decanter. He says unlike other delicate antiques that might sit in a glass cabinet, “we can use an old decanter in the same way it was used 200 years ago”.

Wine glasses
We possess only one nose, albeit with two inlets, and one tongue, quickly inundated by the smallest sip of wine. But if we believe Riedel, every wine deserves a unique glass shaped to deliver aroma and flavour to just the right places in these two esteemed organs. Unlikely as that proposition seems, Riedel wows the crowds in its master classes by harnessing the power of suggestion – a potent technique when teamed with the company’s elegant, functional stemware. Which takes us back to perception being reality.

Beautiful wine glasses deliver drinking pleasure by creating a sense of anticipation, displaying a wine in its best light and capturing its full spectrum of aromas. In August at a Quay Restaurant degustation lunch, a unique wine glass arrived with each of eight food courses

The wine service lock-stepped with the overall precise theatre of the food service: waiters arriving on time to remove crockery, cutlery and glassware; more waiters bringing new glasses and crockery; food arriving and a new wine being poured.

Small volumes of wines partly filled brilliantly polished glasses. The low fill allowed light to flood through, revealing vivid colours against the crisp, white table cloth, and sufficient room to swirl the liquid, releasing the aromas – nicely trapped for our noses by the tapering tops.

The pleasure peaked with Phillip Jones’s magnificent 2010 Bass Phillip Gippsland Pinot Noir – a highly aromatic, shimmering, limpid, delicious pool of red-purple sloshing leisurely around the base of a huge, fine, crystal glass.

Riedel remains the hot wine glass, if expensive, though the company also owns the Spiegelau and Nachtmann brands. Indicative of Riedel’s combined functionality and aesthetics, most Australian wine shows and many wineries and restaurants now use the company’s Ouverture Magnum glass, which is not offered at retail. However, the Ouverture red wine glass, offered on the company’s website ( at $39.95 a pair appears to be the same product.

The glasses are widely distributed at retail, including in fine wine stores, and appear occasionally as well-priced job lots at Costco.

Good stem ware of whatever make should be of a fine, even thickness through the bowl, with no bubbles or swirls, sparklingly clear, with a rim tapering towards the top to capture aroma. Glasses come in all shapes and sizes, of course, so chose ones that make your mouth water in anticipation.

Cork pullers
“It’s good seventeenth century technology”, said one Australian winemaker. But cork lingers on – a fringe dweller in Australia and New Zealand, though the dominant seal in some countries, including Italy, France and the United States.

If you buy wine as the need arises and drink only Australian and New Zealand wine, there’s no need ever to own a cork puller again. But if you drink imports or have a cellar with older vintages under cork, you still need a device of some kind to rip or push the cork out.

Corkscrews and parallel, metal-prong devices both pull corks out from above. A needle and pump, on the other hand, pushes corks out with compressed air.  All of these devices do the job. However, after plunging a needle into my hand some years ago, I’m wary of them and absolutely happy with the more traditional devices.

Metal prong cork pullers
Metal prongs, like the German made Monopol Ah So cork puller, work easily and well once you get the knack. They’re particularly handy for extracting old corks that might crumble using a corkscrew. Even better, they’re perfect for an old dinner party trick. With practice you can whip the corks out of cheap and expensive wines before the guests arrive, swap the contents, replace the corks intact, and no one’s the wiser.

Amazon offer the Ah So at $19.50, though one Australian retailer charges $49.50,
Peters of Kensington and Ultimo Wine Centre websites offer it, but both were sold out in mid November.

The metal in the screw should be of a narrow gauge, so it worms easily through the cork, with wide loops (at least five of them) to give purchase, and of high tensile strength so it doesn’t straighten out under tension. Corkscrews should also provide leverage – a metal extension that rests on the collar of the neck in the old waiters-friend styles (these require considerable strength); or the more highly levered versions like the Analon Sure Grip ($24.95 at Kitchenware Direct) or the Starin Elegant ($30.19 at

These are only a few examples. There are dozens of good corkscrews online and in stores.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 5 December 2012 in The Canberra Times

Wine review — Pikes, Giesen, Hewitson, Oakridge, Chapel Hill and Mount Horrocks

Pikes The Merle Riesling 2012 $38–$42
Thickett Block, Polish Hill River, Clare Valley, South Australia

Neil Pike’s shimmering, green-tinted riesling delivers all the beauty of this exceptional Clare vintage. Characteristic of the season, it offers pure floral and lime varietal aromas, backed by a juicy, intense palate combining power with delicacy and a taut, racy acidity. The acidity etches the gorgeous flavour into the palate, leaving a tangy, fresh, lingering aftertaste. Its racy, fruity character puts it on the Christmas drinking list – well suited to delicate seafood, asparagus, salad and lightly spicy food. It’s also a terrific gift for a wine lover as it should evolve for a decade or more in a good cellar. Pike ranks 2012 with “recent great vintages of 2002, 2005 and 2009”.

Giesen The Brothers Chardonnay 2011 $24.69–$27
Upper Brancott Valley and lower Dashwood, Marlborough, New Zealand

Marlborough carved itself into Australia’s wine consciousness with its distinctive, pure sauvignon blancs. But the region’s southerly latitude and cool, sunny climate suits other varieties, notably chardonnay and pinot noir, both of which it now produces in large volumes. The Giesen brothers, for example, send stacks of good wine our way from their 280-hectares of vineyards – the type of broad acre planting that sets Marlborough apart from many cool-climate grape regions. The dazzling freshness, full, ripe flavour and rich texture of Giesen chardonnay make it a luxurious but affordable match for Christmas lobster or salmon.

Hewitson Miss Harry 2010 $21.95–$23
Barossa Valley, South Australia

The Barossa often makes big, burly wines. But Dean Hewitson’s blend of Rhone Valley varieties reveals a generous but gentle, medium-bodied side of the valley. Lighter, fragrant grenache comprises 44 per cent of a blend, filled out and softened by shiraz (39 per cent), tightened by mourvedre (eight per cent) and seasoned with small amounts of carignan and cinsault. The sum of the parts is a fragrant, fruity, spicy, soft and seductive wine to suit a wide range of foods – particularly the Christmas ham.

Oakridge 864 Single Block Release Chardonnay 2011 $77
Drive Block, Funder and Diamond Vineyard, Wandin East, Yarra Valley, Victoria

David Bicknell explores the vineyard blocks available to him in great detail – in this instance a north-facing block at 230 metres above sea level, planted to the P58 chardonnay clone in 1990. Bicknell whole-bunch pressed the handpicked, hand-sorted fruit direct to French oak barrels for fermentation and maturation – blocking the secondary malolactic fermentation to preserve the cold season’s high acidity. The high acidity, in tandem with intense grapefruit and barely-ripe nectarine-like varietal character, creates an exquisite flavour sensation. The barrel-derived complexities, including sulphur compounds, add exotic complexities to the fruit flavour. The fruit flavour built in intensity for several days after we opened the bottle. The wine has huge potential. I’d be buying now for Christmas 2014drinking.

Chapel Hill The Chosen Shiraz 2010 $65
House Block, Chapel Hill Vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia

Michael Fragros and Bryn Richard make this potentially very long lived red from an 0.8-hectare block of shiraz planted in 1977 at an altitude of 164 metres – a fairly high elevation for McLaren Vale. It’s a powerful, well-balanced red, leading with ripe-cherry varietal aromas, overlaid with a deep savoury character that flows through to the robust palate. Powerful fruit and layers of firm, fine tannins make a big impact on a nevertheless harmonious palate. The power, complexity and solidity of the wine suggest long-term cellaring and, ultimately, an elegant structure 10 or 15 years from now. In the meantime, all that power and richness works well with protein-rich food. Good for Christmas if you have lamb or beef on the menu; even better as a Christmas gift for a patient wine lover.

Mount Horrocks Cordon Cut Riesling 2012 375ml $36–$42
Clare Valley, South Australia

After the atypical botrytis-affected 2011 vintage, Stephanie Toole’s famous sticky returns to its delicate, pristine fruitiness in 2012. The pure floral and lime-like varietal character sets this luscious, refined crisply acidic riesling apart from most other Australian dessert wines. O’Toole suggests serving it with “foie gras or similar savoury-toned appetisers or citrus and stone-fruit desserts”. On a hot Christmas day, moving it up front of the menu with savoury appetisers provides a refreshing and luscious start.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
Firsts published 5 December 2012 in The Canberra Times

Beer review — Moondog

Moon Dog Freaks and Geeks Farmhouse Ale 330ml $6.90
This Farmhouse ale results from collaboration between Danish brewer, Beerhere, and Moon Dog Brewery, Abbotsford, Victoria. The colour’s a dense, dark tan, the alcohol hits 7.6 per cent and the range of malts (including barley, rye, wheat and oats) gives exotic, tart, sweet and sour, savoury flavours. A Christmas pudding beer.

Moon Dog Wet Nurse Tonic Milk Stout 330ml $7.50
Moon Dog’s voluptuous milk stout trowels strong chocolate and roasted coffee bean flavours onto the palate. The slippery, creamy, fluffy texture adds to the overall opulence of a sweet but also bitter and seductive brew. Could be a great companion to Christmas chocolates and nuts.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 5 December in The Canberra Times

Chinese drinking more beer than Americans

China now consumes more beer than the United States according to – 28,640 megalitres a year, compared to America’s 23,974.

Australia doesn’t rank in the top 10 in total consumption. But at 104.7 litres, we still hold fifth position on a per capita basis – way behind front running Czech Republic on 158.6 litres per person. Second, third and fourth positions go to Ireland, Germany and Austria respectively. And the United Kingdom, Poland, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg and the United States occupy sixth to tenth places.

The world’s biggest brewer, ABInBev sells 18 per cent by volume of the world’s beer, followed by SAB Miller (owner since 2011 of Fosters) with 14 per cent share, Heineken on nine per cent and Carlsberg with five per cent.

China is the fastest growing beer market at 39.7 per cent, followed by Brazil (third biggest in total consumption) at 8.3 per cent.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2012
First published 5 December 2012 in The Canberra Times

Wine review — Hunting on Sundays, Grant Burge and Plantagenet

Hunting on Sundays Canberra District Shiraz Cabernet 2011 $22
Sommeliers Travis Cutler  (Thirst Wine Bar) and James Duffell (formerly of Lanterne Rooms) turned to winemaking and came up with this lovely luncheon red from the cold, wet 2011 vintage. Combining shiraz and cabernet, the wine displays the bright berry fruit and spice of shiraz with the leafiness of cabernet. It’s a pleasant and easy-drinking lighter bodied red with soft tannins and devil-may-care drinkability. The quirky label had us smiling as much as the wine did. Perhaps everything tastes good when you’re in the right mood. It’s available at Campbell Liquor Discounts.

Grant Burge Moscato Frizzante and Moscato Rosa 2012 $16–18
Formally the grape name is muscat-blanc-a-petite-grains, but in the Barossa they call it white frontignac, or fronti. But there’s also a red variant plus muscat of Alexandria. In Italy it’s moscato, a name increasingly adopted by Aussie winemakers as they emulate the light, zesty, intensely aromatic, grapey, sweet, low-alcohol ‘frizzante’ style made in Asti, Piedmont. Grant Burge’s stunning package captures the light, fresh, grapey mood of the wine – an appealing drop that threatens to bring sweetness (balanced by crisp, clean acidity) back into fashion. The white version, introduced in 2008, now has a pink companion, Rosa.

Plantagenet Mount Barker Riesling 2012 $19.95–$25
Whatever the Plantagenet winemakers did in 2012, they should keep on doing. This is the most exciting riesling in years. Sales Manager Andrew Charleson describes 2012 as a fantastic vintage but one marked by change. Winemaker John Durham left at the beginning of the vintage; a caretaker winemaker stepped in; and then Kath Oates, formerly of Mud House, New Zealand, arrived to finish the job. Out of all that change, though, came a delicious riesling of intense, lime-like varietal aroma and flavour, with a fresh, powerful-but-fine, delicate palate.