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Wednesday 30 December 2015

The Barossa turns on the style for summer

It is all happening in the Barossa, Australia's most famous wine region, over the summer holidays.

The regular attractions have been augmented by new cellar doors and eateries; with more on the way - meaning there is plenty of interest even for regular visitors to the region. 

Among the new innovations are new-look cellar doors at Langmeil, First Drop, Lindsay Wine Estate and Lambert Estate (where a new restaurant is in the pipeline), while a tasting facility will open in the new year at Craig Isbel's Izway Wines. 

Teusner Wines has departed the Artisans of Barossa collective, but will be doing small pop-up events throughout the year, while Kaesler Wines has unveiled a new Kaesler Kitchen restaurant. 

Pindarie has a new cellar door room, Hentley Farm a new dining area and Barossa Valley Estate has a new cellar door opening soon. At 1847 Wines/Chateau Yaldara there is a new eatery. 

There has been a revamp of tourism facilities at Penfolds, FermentAsian will open a new wine bar in January and Barossa Cheese has both a new shop and factory. 

Now wonder the Barossa is regarded as Australia's wine capital – home to brands like Penfolds, Jacob's Creek, Yalumba and Wolf Blass that are sold around the globe, and to some of the gnarliest old vines.

Penfolds Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace are the regional icons, with Torbreck's The Laird hot on their heels, but you can find lots of value in red wines from smaller labels including Teusner, Langmeil, Kalleske, Yelland and Papps, Schild Estate, Rick Burge, Torzi-Matthews, Glaetzer, Charles Melton, Tim Smith, David Franz, Rockford, Schwarz and Two Hands.

The Barossa is arguably the best-known “new world” wine region on the globe and a gourmet's delight. 

It is a region that is about a lot more than just wine. It's about the people, many of whose families have been farming the land for five or six generations.

It's about history; the region is dotted with old churches and cemeteries, and exploration: there are plenty of biking and walking trails through the vineyards.

It's about the hearty food and ingrained German heritage; just visit the local butcher shops like Linke's, where all the smoking is done using a secret family recipe, and the traditional bakeries, to unearth some unfamiliar gourmet delights.

German-speaking settlers, many devout Lutherans from Silesia seeking to escape trouble-torn central Europe, arrived in the 1800s and brought with them culinary traditions from their homeland.

Today visitors to the Barossa can try dill cucumbers, pickles and preserves, smoked and cured smallgoods (try mettwurst and lachschinken at Schulzes), dried fruits, locally made egg noodles and a range of German-style cakes and pastries (sample a Black Forest Torte at the Tanunda Bakery or maybe a streuselkuchen cake).

The nearby Apex Bakery, with its famous wood-fired oven, has been a local favourite since 1924 and is just one of the many local shops, farm gates, wineries, markets and restaurants at which to discover the flavours of the Barossa.

A warm region viticulturally, the Barossa is synonymous with big red wines, usually made from shiraz and grenache, and previously for fortified wines, while the cooler Eden Valley is best known for rieslings. Some of the Barossa vines are among the oldest surviving anywhere in the world.

Leading wineries include Penfolds, Wolf Blass, Seppeltsfield, Yalumba, Jacob’s Creek, Henschke, St Hallett, Peter Lehmann and Grant Burge, along with smaller producers like Elderton, Turkey Flat (below), Schild Estate and Torbreck.

Many younger Barossa growers and winemakers are experimenting with Italian, Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties including sangiovese and tempranillo, which are proving highly popular.

Sixth-generation vigneron Damien Tscharke from Tscharke Wines is one of the trailblazers in this field, making wines from savagnin, touriga, tempranillo, graciano and montepulciano, while the Domaine Day range features viognier, sangiovese, saperavi, lagrein, gargenega and sangrantino.

The wine industry here has deep roots. Penfolds was founded by an English doctor, Christopher Rawson Penfold, in 1844 – as visitors are reminded by a large roadside sign as they enter the valley.

Today, tourists visiting the Penfolds winery can try their hand at blending their own red wine in a laboratory with guidance from young winemakers.

The Barossa spreads across a number of small towns and villages; Tanunda, Nuriootpa, Greenock, Angaston and Lyndoch are among the more prominent but some, like Marananga, are mere specks on the map.

While tradition lives on, there is also plenty of modern tourism infrastructure to meet the demands of the growing numbers of visitors from around the world. The Butcher, Baker, Winemaker Trail guides visitors to stops including the Lyndoch Lavender Farm and Café, Maggie Beer's Farm Shop (check out quince paste, local olives and verjus) and the Barossa Valley Cheese Company.

The Artisans of Barossa cellar door offers a quick snapshot of the region and is a facility shared by some of the region’s most talented winemakers, including Hobbs, John Duval, Massena, Schwarz Wine Company, Sons of Eden and Spinifex.

The Harvest Kitchen team has added a new buzz to the kitchen here, while former food director Mark McNamara is concentrating on his extremely popular cooking school.

McNamara was formerly head chef at the region's benchmark restaurant, Appellation at The Louise, but his focus is now on teaching the basics of good, wholesome cooking.

He says he favours “time-honoured techniques” over new technology and his Kitchen Studio, a beautifully converted shop front, has been created to give people real food experiences.

Would-be masterchefs should also check out Casa Carboni (below) in Angaston. Run by chef Matteo Carboni and his Australian-born wife Fiona, it is a café, wine bar (enoteca) and cooking school rolled into one.

The cooking school provides hands-on classes for groups of up to six people, while the enoteca serves Italian-style platters, fresh pasta and European wines by the glass, as well as a Sunday lunch using Farmers' Market produce.

For some other authentic local tastes, visit the Barossa Farmers Market, which is held every Saturday morning and is something of a meeting place for local vignerons.

This authentic Farmers Market boasts over 40 stallholders offering a selection of “fresh, seasonal produce including fruit and vegetables, freshly baked artisan breads and sweet treats, ethical meats, free-range eggs, sauces, condiments, olive oils, nuts, milk and cream, and a whole raft more”.

Seppeltsfield, which dates back to 1851, has always been one of the de rigueur stops in the
Barossa and that is the case more than ever with the opening of the winery's 115-year-old cellar door and new restaurant Fino (courtyard below).

The new development, which also includes superb new gardens, was opened late in 2014 and has been hailed as one of the Barossa’s most significant gastronomic tourism endeavours in recent history.

Seppeltsfield managing director Warren Randall said the old winery – known for its magnificent fortified wines – is “now back to where she belongs, as Australia’s iconic wine estate.”

The Centennial Cellar at Seppeltsfield here holds every barrel of Tawny (port) from 1878 to the current vintage.

Adjacent to the new tasting facility is Fino at Seppeltsfield, where David Swain and Sharon Romeo (the couple behind Fino at Willunga in McLaren Vale) are serving a small but locally focused menu featuring dishes including Mayura station wagyu pastrami, Coorong mulloway brandade and Hutton Vale lamb pasties with silverbeet and sheep’s milk yoghurt.

Other “must visit” cellar doors include historic Penfolds and the modern Jacob’s Creek Visitor’s Centre where the display vines show visitors the difference between different grape varieties on the vine.

Chateau Tanunda, established in 1890, is widely regarded as one of Australia’s most beautiful winery estates, while family-owned Yalumba has atmospheric tastings rooms, wonderful old buildings and an eclectic range, including a number of whites made from the rare viognier grape.

There is no shortage of great places to eat, either, with Appellation part of the luxury The Louise complex and widely regarded as one of the best regional restaurants in Australia.

Hot on its heels come the new Fino and Hentley Farm, the home of talented chef Lachlan Colwill, who made his name at The Manse in Adelaide. For more exotic flavours, FermentAsian is a popular hangout for winemakers.

Beer lovers are also catered for at the Barossa Brewing Company in Greenock, which is well known for its traditionally fermented beers while Rehn Bier in Angaston is an idiosyncratic micro brewery.

If all the gourmet goodies become too much then the Barossa Regional Gallery at Tanunda and The Jam Factory at Seppeltsfield offer some artistic diversions. 

# A portion of this story first appeared in Quest Kudos magazine.

Monday 28 December 2015

A beginners' guide to the gourmet highlights of Adelaide

Adelaide is often criminally underrated as a gourmet holiday destination.

With the Fleurieu Peninsula, Adelaide Hills, Langhorne Creek and Kangaroo Island on its doorstep, Australia's fifth-largest city and the capital of South Australia has all manner of gourmet goodies nearby.

The regions surrounding Adelaide are full of artisan producers, winemakers, fishermen and market gardeners, many of whom sell their produce at either the famous Adelaide Central Markets (above) or at the Adelaide Farmers' Market, held every Sunday morning at the Showgrounds in the suburb of Wayville.

The Central Markets date back to 1870 and are a treasure trove of cheeses, smallgoods and fresh fruit and vegetables. Rebuilt after a fire in 1977, the Central Markets are billed as the largest undercover market in the southern hemisphere.

There are over 80 stalls and the market is South Australia’s most-visited tourist attraction. Here you will find everything from house-made patisserie goods to freshly-caught local seafood.

The Farmers' Market features regular cooking demonstrations and is divided into indoor and outdoor sections selling seasonal and local specialities.

Adelaide has a reputation as a staid, conservative city compared to Sydney or Melbourne, but its food scene is anything but sedate.

Henschke Hill of Grace restaurant at Adelaide Oval 
One of Australia's leading food magazines recently named it as “our new hottest city” when it comes to eating out.

Leading the way are innovative chefs Jock Zonfrillo from Orana, who uses indigenous ingredients in modern Australian dishes, and South African-born Duncan Welgemoed, who serves up cutting-edge cuisine with an African accent at Africola.

Throw in Press Food + Wine and its adjacent late-night wine bar, Proof, sophisticated Peel Street and several hole-in-the-wall wine bars like Cantina Sociale and Adelaide is buzzing. Unfussy and popular with winemakers late at night, Sean Connolly's remake of his Sydney success Sean's Kitchen (below) is a brasserie-style eatery noteworthy for its buzzy atmosphere and superb charcuterie.

Chef Jamie Oliver's Adelaide outpost Jamie's Kitchen is always busy, as is Italian-accented Andre's Cucina, while the most popular food precincts are rough-around-the-edges Rundle Street, old favourite Gouger Street, a lively Chinatown and new hotspot Leigh Street.

Visitors don't need to leave the city for authentic wine and food experiences, either, with Henschke Wines having opened their up-market Hill of Grace restaurant [named after their iconic shiraz] in the recently remodelled Adelaide Oval.

Penfolds, too, is in on the act, having spent 18 months building its Magill Estate Kitchen restaurant and cellar door, which actually overlooks grape vines, in suburban Magill. Here, as in the more formal Magill Estate restaurant (below), diners can enjoy Penfolds benchmark Grange by the glass.

Just down the road, arguably the closest vineyard region to any major city in Australia, the Adelaide Hills are home to winery restaurants including Bridgewater Mill and The Lane (check out the panoramic vineyard views), as well as dozens of cellar doors ranging from brash to rustic.

Unlike other urban areas, Adelaide was settled exclusively by free British colonists, not convicts, so when the city was planned in 1837, its founders didn’t bother to set aside space or resources for a jail, reasoning it wouldn’t be necessary.

More practically, Adelaide, which is known as “the city of churches” for its many spires, was designed on a grid system so it is almost impossible to get lost. There are five city squares and the downtown core is surrounded by parkland and bordered to the north by the River Torrens.

Today Adelaide is a city of infinite variety, hosting sporting events including the Clipsal 500 motor race, AFL matches most weekends and a Test cricket match every summer since 1884. Adelaide and surrounding areas also host the annual Tour Down Under cycling race.

The locals don't miss out when it comes to culture, either, with the city the venue for the annual Adelaide Festival of Arts and Fringe Festival as well as WOMADelaide, an annual celebration of music and dance from around the globe.

For those who fancy a stroll, the North Terrace precinct houses the Art Gallery of South Australia, the South Australian Museum, the Botanic Gardens, the National Wine Centre and the South Australian Parliament House, all of which are close together and just a brisk walk from the main shopping strip on Rundle Mall.

Just 12 kilometres from the city – a quick ride away on one of the city's signature trams – is Glenelg Beach, a weekend playground for city residents. It has an English seaside resort vibe and is perfect for a swim to work off any kilos you might have piled on.

# This is an edited version of a story that first appeared in Quest Kudos magazine. 

Sunday 27 December 2015

Qantas provides a rare travel treat

I overslept. Two flights in succession. One of the biggest treats of a year in which I flew 170 times on commercial aircraft and four times on helicopters. 

Those flights are a perk, or downside, depending on your view, of my job. Probably 95% of the time I travel in economy class rather than the pointy end but, this time, I got lucky. 

On my final trip of the year, a long one to explore several fascinating destinations in Japan, I was lucky enough to be upgraded by Qantas.

Now I've been a critic of Qantas in the past; at one stage I felt their cutbacks had impacted negatively on both food and service. 

But on the evidence of several recent flights; in both economy and business, they are very much back on top of their game. 

When I boarded my final long-haul flight of the year from Tokyo's Haneda Airport to Sydney, just getting on board really did feel like coming home - and, believe me, I am not the sentimental type.

But on both flights the food and drink (now all handled by Neil Perry's Rockpool Group), was outstanding. There was an excellent choice of in-seat entertainment (current movies, TV programs, radio channels, CD albums, laptop power outlets and USB connectivity) and the crew were perfectly Australian, irreverent but charming. It all just worked. Casual but classy.

But what was the greatest luxury of all - both on my outbound sector from Brisbane to Narita, and on the way home - was the chance to catch up on some sleep. Not just dozing in an upright position, but actually stretching out and getting some real zeds. Above all else this is where business class is a valid investment; particularly if you have to get to work as soon as you get off the plane. 

There are many perks, of course, to being at the pointy end; access to business lounges with meals, snacks and drinks throughout the day, as well as barista coffee; workstations and internet access, magazines and pre-flight showers. You board the flights first, are plied with Champagne and given a nifty little amenity kit. 

Then there are those Skybeds, which you can adjust to any position from upright to lie-flat (with mini mattress, pillows and duvets). The Marc Newson-designed, second generation Skybeds (on A380s and re-configured 747s are a joy, fully 2-metres long, but even the older Skybeds with a slight incline of 9 degrees are very comfortable. 

While went to sleep early on both flights, and slept through breakfast, the food was a real step up from previous flights with a selection of Rockpool-inspired small and main plates, enabling guests to enjoy a full meal or just a late-night snack. Choices included a veal and potato goulash pie to chicken ciabatta with chipotle mayonnaise. 

I opted for a delightful asparagus soup with sourdough croutons, followed by a delicious (and filling) pan-fried snapper with caramelised fennel and roast garlic potatoes). Restaurant quality food.  

On the way home, choices ranged from a nigiri plate with pickled ginger soy and wasabi to a chicken kara-age roll with daikon and cabbage salad and or a roast veal fillet with honeyed carrots. Oh and there were those chocolate profiteroles that were so delicious I had tucked in before remembering to take a picture.  

Wine selections included a choice of Duval-Leroy, Jacquart and Charles Heidsieck Champagnes, a delicious Hill-Smith Estate Chardonnay, an Eddystone Point Sauvignon Blanc from Tasmania and a very nifty Tuesner shiraz. Cheeses, ice creams and Valrhona chocolates (although surely someone in Australia can do chocolates) are on offer, as well. 

There was also Glenlivet, Chivas Regal and Martell VSOP Cognac among an impressive range of spirits for anyone spending the night awake, or needing a serious nightcap. 

All in all, most satisfactory. 

# The writer was a guest of Tobu Top Tours on a trip to promote the new Hokuriku Shinkansen bullet train route from Tokyo to Kanazawa, which opens up new areas of 
regional Japan to overseas visitors.

Qantas flies twice daily to Tokyo via Sydney (Sydney-Haneda) or Brisbane (Brisbane-Narita). The Brisbane-Narita flights are operated by the refurbished A330 aircraft, with lie-flat seats in Business, brand new economy seats and new in-flight entertainment. The Sydney-Haneda flights are operated by a B747, which features the refurbished A380 interior. 


Saturday 26 December 2015

Meet a winemaker doing his best for the environment

He's a climate-change activist, an equal opportunities advocate and committed environmentalist - all of which play a role in the organic wines produced by David Bruer at his Langhorne Creek winery in South Australia.

The CEO and co-founder of organic wine producer Temple Bruer insists all his employees take environmental stewardship as seriously as they do their grape farming and wine production.

For committed eco warrior Bruer, making good wine goes hand in hand with trying to create a better planet.

Founded in 1980, Temple Bruer was one of the first organic producers in the country – and Bruer himself one of the key players in the formation of Organic Vignerons Australia. Today he grows grapes not only at Langhorne Creek but also in Eden Valley and at Loxton in the Riverland.

From early on Temple Bruer adopted certified organic grape and wine production to protect the health of consumers, the company's employees, the wider community and environment,” Bruer says.

To further improve the sustainability of the company and our products, several stages of carefully considered re-vegetation has been undertaken, all of which have been in line with the Angas River Catchment Revegetation guidelines.

Our aim is to improve species diversity, protect endangered species, provide a habitat for native fauna and create a carbon sink for some of the company's carbon emissions.”

Bruer sees organics playing an ever-increasing role.

A bright, clear sustainable agricultural future demands that no synthetic chemicals should be used at any stage of the grape growing, and later winemaking, processes,” he says.

This can be done and is done, with yields comparable to the district average, at least at Langhorne Creek.

Nutrients are supplied in part by compost, but also by growing cover crops of legumes and cereals, the former for nitrogen and the latter for organic matter.”

To be certified organic, wine must be made from organic grapes such that no synthetic chemicals are used at any stage of the grape growing or winemaking process. Only natural sprays are used in the Temple Bruer vineyards.

True to his principles, both Bruer's winemakers are women: Vanessa Altmann and Verity Stanistreet.

Our big thing is triple sustainability,” Bruer says. “Financial stability is pretty obvious, we have to be able to pay our bills on time and to be making a profit – I make no apologies for being a Green capitalist.

We also look to be agronomically sustainable, which is pretty much a given, and to be socially sustainable. We have been, from day one, an equal opportunity employer, but it is more than that – it is about measuring job satisfaction. That may be an unrealistic expectation but we want our employees to be as happy as possible.

Where possible I try to change either the reality, or the expectations. Sexism doesn't exist here. I've fired an employee for bullying a female workmate and everyone knows exactly why. I don't expect to have a problem like that again.

And when it comes to wine making, I don't see that you need a penis to do the job. It just isn't an essential part of the role. I care more about the palate than the sex of a winemaker.”

Bruer says he is seeing a huge lift in interest in preservative-free wines, but less passion about organic wines.

From our point of view we find organic wines taste better. But for most consumers there are 10 key criteria. Number one is value for money. Number two is value for money. Number three is value for money ….

Some kind of organic or biodynamic credential can be of interest for consumers but for me natural methods of maintaining soil fertility confer better balance in the grapes grown.

This makes the wine making easier, so that less handling is needed in the winery, therefore the natural berry flavour is preserved.”

Among Bruer's environmental tactics have been using lightweight bottles, which also saves on transport costs, cutting out air freight, generating green power, shifting from freon-based refrigeration to ammonia, re-vegetating more land and increasing soil carbon sequestration by reducing or eliminating cultivation.

All white wine grapes are harvested at night; we want the grapes to be as cool as possible because we are trying to minimise our refrigeration demand,” Bruer says. 

He's constantly thinking about ways to stay in business without damaging the planet.

For details see: 

# This an edited version of a story that originally appeared in Nourish magazine. 

Thursday 24 December 2015

A new wine event for 2016: A celebration of sauvignon blanc

For many hipsters sauvignon blanc is a vinous Satan; despised for its freshness and vibrancy - and the fact that so many people have genuinely good time drinking it.

They'll drink Sancerre, of course, and Pouilly Fumé, as if they don't count as sauvignon blanc because they are French.

And they'll drink barrel-fermented biodynamically grown Australian sauvignon blanc made using indigenous yeasts, minimal intervention and no sulphur.

What really gets their goat is New Zealand sauvignon blanc, primarily from Marlborough; brisk, herbaceous and refreshing. 

The fact is the naysayers are in a minority; a very small minority. Most Australians love Kiwi sauvignon blanc, drinking more of it than any Australian white wine style.

The Kiwi winery that started the craze, Cloudy Bay, this year celebrated the 30th anniversary of the wine that changed global drinking habits. The first Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc was released in 1985.

And now, 30 years on, New Zealand’s most popular wine export, will be celebrated in style at the first ever International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration, to be held in Marlborough from February 1-3.

The all-but sold-out event is attracting over 300 producers, writers and wine experts from around the world.

Attendees will have an opportunity to take part in tasting and discussion sessions, as well as taking a journey through diverse regional styles, and the range of winemaking techniques that are used to produce the wine. 

Luminaries attending include Robert Joseph, Matt Kramer, Jane Skilton and Jamie Goode, along with star winemakers like Sam Harrop and Patrick Materman.

Sauvignon blanc grapes were first planted in Marlborough in 1975, at what is now Brancott Estate. Since then, the variety has ballooned in popularity and now makes up 70 percent of New Zealand’s overall wine production.

From humble beginnings, New Zealand sauvignon blanc is now a $1.1 billion dollar export earner for the country.

The Celebration will focus on the diversity of sauvignon blanc styles being produced in the eight countries represented. During the event guests will be treated to a showcase of New Zealand and international sauvignon blanc, some Marlborough scenery and a smorgasbord of locally sourced food.

It sounds like fun. And I will report back.

For details visit

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Christmas Eve opening for Tasmania's latest cellar door and eatery

Christmas Eve might not be the ideal day to launch your spectacular new cellar door and French restaurant, but owners Wendy and Ian Roberts are not prepared to wait any longer. 

The couple has already launched a new wine range, Roaring 40s, for sale at the new facility and they aim to make their Riversdale Estate property, in the Coal River Valley outside Hobart, one of Tasmania's leading wine destinations. 

Located in the shadow of the famous UTAS radio telescope, Riversdale Estate has until now been best-known for its luxury accommodation in several vineyard cabins.

The vines produce pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, pinot meunier and shiraz and much of the fruit has in the past been sold to labels including Treasury Wine Estate's Heemskerk.

After a launch scheduled for December 1 was abandoned because of an issue involving the water supply, Riversdale Estate is now ready to welcome visitors to a new cellar door tasting room overlooking the vines and the French Bistro restaurant, which will offer Riversdale wines along with some international benchmarks. 

The new development has spectacular views of the estate’s 37-hectare vineyard and adjacent wetlands and will be complemented by the opening of a Peter Rabbit-themed children’s garden scheduled to open in January. Afternoon teas are also set to become a feature after the holiday period.
The new facility will be open seven days a week 9am-5pm and will only close on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and key public holidays. 

Riversdale Estate, 222 Denholms Road, Cambridge, Tasmania. (03) 6248 5666 

Monday 21 December 2015

Aldi: an unlikely source of some Christmas wine gems

It was about this time last year that popped into an Aldi store in southern Sydney and found myself impressed by the range of imported wines on offer. 

I invested in half a dozen different bottles and found them all good value. There is no Aldi near where I live, however, so they dropped off my radar until a couple of months ago.

A PR company acting for the cut-price supermarket chain asked me if I'd be interested in visiting a couple of Aldi producers in the Yarra Valley, but as I had to promise not to reveal who they were, I declined the offer. No point in visiting wineries if you are not allowed to say who they are. 

Then Aldi asked if I would be happy to receive some samples of their Christmas range; both imports and own-label locals. As they'd just won a blue-gold at the Sydney International Wine Competition for the $5 Aldi 2015 South Point rosé it would have been churlish to refuse, and it turns out buying director Jason Bowyer has a keen nose for a bargain. 

There are some real standouts to be found on Aldi shelves, including a non-vintage Champagne for under $25 (one of three in a range all of which come in at under $30) and delightful Mosel riesling for under a tenner. 

Here are some of my favourites from the Christmas and summer seasonal range:

Monsigny NV Brut Selection Champagne: A fresh and crisp aperitif-style bubbly with floral and citrus and a delicate mousse. $24.99. 

Peter Mertes 2014 Mosel Riesling: A lovely example of aromatic, off-dry German riesling that is downright delicious. $9.99. 

Neve 2015 Nelson Pinot Gris: A delightful drink from New Zealand, fresh and lively with mere hints of spice and barrel maturation. $7.99.

Qiwila 2015 Sauvignon Blanc: From the Maule Valley in Chile, this is a riper style than we are used to, but has plenty of palate interest. $6.99.

Loire Valley 2014 Sauvignon Blanc: Crisp and vibrant and perfect for enjoying chilled with seafood. $7.99.  

There were also some very tidy own-label local wines on offer, including: 

Second Left 2015 Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc: Very enjoyable with sweet citrus, green notes and overall a nice package for $7.99.

A.C. Byrne 2015 Mount Barker Riesling: Fresh, zingy and citrusy and from one of the best riesling regions in the country. $9.99.

Tudor 2014 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir: A fruit-driven cool-climate pinot that actually comes from one of the best producers in the Yarra. $12.99.

Tudor 2014 Central Victorian Shiraz: A wine that has won a show trophy; bold shiraz with a touch of mourvedre added. $12.99. 

For details visit 


Saturday 19 December 2015

An early Christmas present for Tasmanian wine lovers

Tasmanian wine lovers got an early Christmas present when the new home for Devil’s Corner wines was unveiled last Wednesday at the Hazards Vineyard on the East Coast.

A new wine tourism destination; The Devil’s Corner Cellar Door and Lookout has been crafted from dark metal and rough, textured local timber. It has been designed by Cumulus Studio, the renowned Tasmanian architects behind projects such as Pumphouse Point and The Apple Shed in the Huon Valley. It was built by Launceston builder Anstie Constructions.

Brown Brothers acquired the Devil’s Corner vineyard site in 2010 and opened a small temporary cellar door overlooking the Moulting Lagoon and Hazards mountain range, with the plan to establish a permanent structure after spending time researching what visitors look for at a tasting facility.

Executive director Ross Brown, who is a regular visitor to the state as a fisherman, said: “Over the past four years we have learnt a lot about what people are interested in when visiting the East Coast. This information has been gathered from our small trial cellar door and as a result we’re ready to expand our offering.”

Along with creating an intimate cellar door experience, Devil’s Corner will be partnering with local East Coast producers Freycinet Marine Farm, trading as ‘The Fishers’, and Tombolo Freycinet Café, both of whom have eating establishments incorporated into the site.

“The success of the Devil’s Corner wines across Australia, combined with the extraordinary interest in visiting the vineyard, has convinced us that we need to provide an enduring and memorable home for the brand,” Ross Brown said. 

“The rugged Tasmanian landscape provides the perfect backdrop to this spectacular vineyard site and strongly engages visitors. Developing a 'must visit' Devil’s Corner cellar door on the spectacular Freycinet Peninsula, and combining it with local seafood, is an exciting next step in growing our business.”

Along with the cellar door and local food offering, a new lookout has been opened on the site, with direct access from Sherbourne Road for visitors to take a break and enjoy the views of the vines and Moulting Lagoon. 

Clermont-Ferrand takes a most unlikely lead

I spent 24 hours that felt more like a week in Clermont-Ferrand a couple of years ago. It is a dull industrial city, home to the Michelin tire empire, with very little to recommend it to travellers or gourmets as a destination.

It is, however, surrounded by the gorgeous countryside of the Auvergne, where on the highlight of that particular day we visited the Bellonte farm, where guests a
re invited to watch all aspects of Saint-Nectaire cheese production. The Bellonte family has been making cheese since 1663. 

Like the town, the local football team, Clermont Foot Auvergne 63, has been a model of mediocrity since being founded in 1990 following a merger of two local teams.

The first incarnation of the club, dating back to 1911, had been similarly unsuccessful - with the city never having been represented in the French first division.

Clermont hit the headlines in 2014, when they became one of the first professional teams to appoint a female manager; Helena Costa. But less than a month after taking charge, Costa quit her job, saying she was merely "a face to attract publicity".

But club president Claude Michy was not to be dissuaded and appointed Corinne Diacre as her replacement.

A brave move - and one that has proved a stroke of genius.

Diacre was no football neophyte. She played 121 times for the French national women's team, many as captain, and had successfully managed her Soyaux women's club side.

She took over a team that had finished 14th in the French second division, fulfilling the roles of both sporting director and manager. 

It was a direct echo of the The Manageress, a British television series from 1989-1990 about a woman (a marvellous performance from Cherie Lunghi) who becomes manager of a professional football team.

The program was derided at the time as being completely unrealistic.

Diacre, however, has more than proved her worth. Recruiting cleverly on the second-lowest budget in the league, she guided Clermont Foot to a respectable 12th position in her first season.

As I write, Clermont Foot are third in the French second division - and would gain promotion to the Ligue 1 for the first time if they stay there.

Diacre, 41, has been rewarded with a new, improved contract through June 2018 and was this week named division two manager of the year by the respected France Football magazine. 

It has been a remarkable success given the many difficulties she has encountered, including gaining respect from a multi-national squad that includes several Muslims.

In France, she has been a sensation. The rest of the world has been slower to recognise her achievements.

"Yes, I had to say stop," she told France Football of her reluctance to do media interviews. "I don't need to be talked about every day in the press.

"Why am I the only woman? How am I different from the others? I didn't know.

"I wanted to stand back from all that and to work."

Now she has big ambitions - and no one is laughing any more.

"The dream would be able to get promoted into Ligue 1 with Clermont," she told France Football.

"Not to annoy people who were against my arrival but for the risk-taking of the president." 

At last a reason to visit Clermont-Ferrand.

Thursday 17 December 2015

A five-minute guide to some great wines for Christmas pleasure

I'm often asked for wine recommendations, so here are two dozen gems that I selected for the December edition of Golf Magazine Australia

I've selected some of the best (and best value) wines to be found for enjoyment over Christmas and New Year. Enjoy!

Cheap and cheerful

Zonin NV Prosecco $14

Prosecco has overtaken Champagne as the world's favourite sparkling wine style. This is fresh, crisp and uncomplicated Italian import. A great party choice.

Angoves 2015 Long Row Riesling $12

One of the best wine bargains to be found right now, it has lifted aromatics, citrus zest and Granny Smith apple crispness. Great with spicy dishes.

Airlie Bank 2015 Franc $20

A charming young Yarra Valley red made entirely from cabernet franc. It is fruit driven, aromatic and supple and could be enjoyed lightly chilled on a warm day.

Paladino 2014 Pinot Grigio $15

For lovers of fresh, crisp and dry white wines that can be enjoyed chilled, this is a bargain buy from the Veneto region of Italy. A lovely aperitif.

Rosabrook 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon $20

A lovely wine for enjoying on a warm summer's day; this West Australian wine is pungent, crisp and very fruity. Think lime citrus notes, passionfruit, guava and some brisk, refreshing acidity.

Shingleback 2013 Haycutters' Shiraz $17

You get a whole lot of value with this bold, brash shiraz from award-winning McLaren Vale winery Shingleback. This is all about dark, inky fruit. Great with lamb roast
Affordable luxury

Shaw + Smith 2015 Sauvignon Blanc $28

Adelaide Hill producer Shaw + Smith remains Australia's benchmark sauvignon blanc producer, making impressively bright and fresh wines with pure fruit and brisk acid.

Heartland 2013 Dolcetto & Lagrein $22

A blend of two Italian grape varieties grown in Langhorne Creek, South Australia, this is a delicious soft, easy drinking red style perfect for barbecues.

Hay Shed Hill 2013 Block 8 Cabernet Franc $35

An unusual wine that offers both restrained power and finesse (none of your airy fairy franc lightness here). It is extremely food friendly, too.

Tulloch 2014 JYT Selection $40

Only made in outstanding years, the JYT Selection represents the best of vintage from the Tullochs, regardless of variety or region. This is an elegant blend of shiraz from Young and Orange.

Charles Melton 2015 Rose of Virginia $25

This is probably the benchmark rosé in Australia, a wine that's perfect for summer enjoyment. It is a blend of five different grape varieties, primarily grenache and pinot meunier.

Briar Ridge 2015 Dairy Hill Semillon $35

Young Hunter Valley semillon is a delightful summer drink, full of brisk fresh acidity and refreshment. This stand-out would be great paired with freshly shucked oysters.

Splurge a little

Arras Brut Elite Cuvée No. 801 $50

High-quality sparkling wine from Tasmania is now recognised as among the finest in the world and this elegant number would be perfect for welcoming in the New Year.

Grosset 2015 Springvale Riesling $45

This wine is often overshadowed by the more expensive Grosset Polish Hill Riesling, but is a better “drink now” bet; zesty and vibrant with slatey minerality.

St Hallett 2012 Old Block Shiraz $100

One for lovers of powerful Barossa shirazes, this is an outstanding wine, cellar-worthy for sure, but also just a little more suave than several of its more brash rivals.

Oakridge 864 2013 Lusatia Park Chardonnay $75

Oakridge winemaker David Bicknell is really in the groove right now, producing sensational lean, and throroughly modern chardonnays. This is a cracker.

Ruckus Estate 2013 Merité Merlot $50

A newcomer makes a big impact; new clones from Wrattonbully and magic from consultant winemaker Sue Bell have created an impressive wine that could be mistaken for Pomerol.

Phi 2013 Single Vineyard Pinot Noir $60

A spectacularly good Yarra Valley Pinot that is a joint venture between grape grower Stephen Shelmerdine and winemaker Steve Webber. A plush and exciting pinot.

No expense spared

Taittinger 2008 Millésimé $120

Perfect as an aperitif or with the turkey, this is a very classy and expressive bubbly from Champagne's “vintage of the decade”. It is a 50-50 blend of chardonnay and pinot noir.

Penfolds 2013 Yattarna Chardonnay $130

Penfolds may be best known for their stylish red wines, but this is an outstanding chardonnay, made almost entirely from Tasmanian fruit. It is complex and elegant.

Katnook Estate 2010 Odyssey $100

An outstanding Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon released with some age, so it is ready to enjoy right now. Think dark, rich berry fruit flavours and cedary oak.

Tahbilk 2010 1860 Vines $285

A classic Australian shiraz made from fruit grown on vines that are 155 years old, some of the oldest in the country. The 2010 is considered one of the greatest vintages ever.

Cullen 2013 Kevin John Chardonnay $105

Biodynamically grown, this is always one of Australia's finest white wines, a Margaret River chardonnay where brilliant fruit and quality oak come together to create a tour de force.

De Bortoli 2013 Noble One $65

This is the 30th vintage of Australia's landmark dessert wine and it has been released in a special anniversary gift box to mark the milestone. Pair with Christmas pudding.