Archive for February, 2018

February 8, 2018

Jim Barry Assyrtiko, 2017

Drinking wine in Australia 4: So Jim Barry’s son, one of his sons, Peter, Peter and his wife go to Greece and drink some sensational white wine and then they go home and they decide to plant that varietal at the family vineyard in Australia and they do and a few years later they bottle their first vintage and here it is.  Assyrtiko.  Not sure I’ve ever drunk a bottle.  The tricky part is, however, wine in Santorini can be plonk but the experience so divine you might think you’re drinking Burgundy.  Was their venture just a passing interest?  No.  This is a breakthrough in terms of sipping and eating.

 

As an aside, it was not the most interesting wine we drank across four states and umpteen cities and vineyard treks.  It was the second most interesting wine.  The most interesting wine was from Mount Mary, the Middleton family’s vineyard in the Yarra valley; we had, at Cutler and Company, a few glasses of sensational Fume Blanc from Reflexion, their “down market” brand, which was profound with food.  Moving.  Sometimes wine stewards are pretentious and insensitive and at worst trendsetters but sometimes they understand the harmony of food and wine and score big time and that was our experience with the Mt. Mary.

 

That said, the Assyrtiko was definitely the second most interesting wine we drank.  It marries the acid and citrus of the Mediterranean with floral aromas and hints of honey and peach and is aggressively interesting and unique and a breath of fresh air for white varietals.  Again, not to get TOO repetitive, but the likelihood of finding this in BC, let alone Canada, is remote at best.

 

Price: A pricey $45 Australian, if you can find it, and it was hard to find (and even the clerk said to me “this is the first bottle I’ve sold”!).

 

Market Liquidity: The spirit of adventure rewarded.

 

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February 7, 2018

Pirie, Tasmanian Sparkling

Drinking wine in Australia 3: In search of a brilliant sparkling we drank glass after glass of Australian sparklers, but mainly Tasmanian wines because, well, it’s almost impossible to find them outside of the state.  The wine industry in Tassie is young, the volume is low, and only a few generic sparklers make it overseas.  Ditto their Pinot.  Plus, restaurants serve them at a low cost and with some cheer.

 

We made the trek deep up country to Jansz and sampled some sensational vintages and bought their limited and very tasty rose.  We had a beautiful regular old non-vintage from Clover Hill.  We drank glass after glass as an aperitif which was uneven but usually fun.  We drank a poorly reviewed Shingleback and found it enormously food friendly and ordered more.  

 

There is a trend, good or bad, for hip Oz restaurants to have five categories on the wine list: Red, White, Sparkling, Orange and Chilled Red.  I can’t see the words “chilled red” without thinking of Lambrusco, and indeed many of the reds we sampled had that cheap fruit tang of L.  The orange category, say a Sem/Sauv Bl left on the skins or a Cab Sauv not left on the skins, were sometimes refreshing sometimes sour.  But perhaps the best thing going on in Australia is bottle after bottle of brilliant sparkling and restaurants that give you a choice per glass, at about $10 per.

 

Of course you can’t return home and buy House of Arras, Clover Hill, Swift, Frogmore Creek, Sittella, Yarrabank, Bay of Fires, or any of the other myriad sparklers we tried.  BC just doesn’t let the consumer choose; they choose for us.  And shelf space, they tell us, is at a premium…

 

When all was said and done there really was no comparison to the generic non-vintage Pirie which was yeasty and aromatic and effervescent and just all round wonderful (and hard to find, even in Melbourne, but worth the effort) and for which, if Canadians were allowed to be adults and buy wine and bring it home in volume the way other nationals were doing we would have ordered several cases.

 

 Of course you can’t buy it and ship it like the rest of the world.  You can’t even contract an agent to get it.  You just have to live with the fact that the BC government is an omniscient beast who not only knows all but acts in our best interest.  Not.

 

Price: Around $34

 

Market Liquidity: Drinking wine in the socialist state of BC sucks. Tassie rocks.

February 6, 2018

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Margaret River Riesling, 2016

Drinking wine in Australia 2: Generally, LE churns out a huge swath of drinkable and sometimes especially eloquent wines.  The Art Series is their upper echelon and, if you can find it in Canada, will set you back significantly.  In Australia you can source the various bottles and a dry WA Riesling spoke to us.  But unfortunately only on the shelf at he bottle shop.  As a sipper or with food this just didn’t work for us.  It was highly acidic, and not in a “succulent” way as the label promised; very lime forward, deeply mineral, and only a nuance of floral notes.  To compare it apples to apples, new world to new world, I was thinking of how spectacular the “simple” Riesling from Sea Star on Pender Island was/is, and thinking about the heft and cache of Leeuwin, and that just made us more discouraged.

 

Price: $30 Australian in Australia.

 

Market Liquidity: Sometimes big stars walk through a matinee performance.

February 6, 2018

Two Wonderful Chards: Devil’s Lair Margaret River Chardonnay & Frogmore Creek Chardonnay, 2016

Drinking wine in Australia 1: We bought the Devil’s Lair because Decanter lauded it with a huge amount of points; we wanted to see what the fuss was.  For us, there wasn’t too much fuss. This is a wonderful Chardonnay, crisp and fruity and with muted oak; it has a decent finish but it wasn’t as wow as anticipated.

 

The Frogmore Creek on the other hand was really lovely, what a sipper.  Delectable; smooth, nutty, light oak, bracing acidity, a Sprite finish. 

 

Prices: Low 30s for both, Australian bucks.

 

Market Liquidity: Not all Oz Chardonnay has to taste like Lindeman’s.