Tag Archives: wine tasting

The Annual Tasting… From the inside

Charli Truelove, Hallgarten Marketing Coordinator, was at the forefront of annual tasting logistics when we took to One Marylebone for the first time this year. Below she provides her perspective on what it is like from the other side of the tasting glass.

Arriving at the venue on Sunday to get ready for the two days ahead and prepare for what was our first annual tasting at One Marylebone; nearly 750 wines, from 152 producers, based in 23 countries were set to be on show for customers, press and those in the trade to taste. As soon as I stepped out of Great Portland street tube on that sunny Sunday I was wowed by the view that greeted me – One Marylebone. What is the first thing you should do in this situation? Take a picture of course…

Out of curiosity, I had a sneak peak of the venue on Google street maps before arriving, but was not expecting it to have quite this impact! The Grade 1 listed ex-church built, in 1826 is absolutely stunning. Pumped and ready to start the work ahead (unboxing, carrying, lining-up wines and generally making everything looked shipshape) I am even more bowled over as I step inside; up the stone steps through the impressive doorway into the beautiful wooden herringbone floored, stained glass magnificent venue.

The main task at hand on the Sunday was to simply make sure everything was in place for the two day tasting ahead. Wines numbered and on the table, boxes away, point of sale and signs in place, tasting books primed, pencils sharpened, all set up and ready to go.

On the morning of the first day of the tasting it is my responsibility to direct our suppliers to their designated table and it’s a pleasure to see the excitement on their faces as they walk into the venue and experience the new set-up for the first time.

As the tasting gets underway, by 11:30 I can’t help but notice a queue forming to get inside – ‘this is going to be a busy one!’. The day gets off to a flying start; corks were popping, laughter and chatter filled the building. No matter who you are in the trade, it is always a wonderful experience to taste wines poured by winery owners, winemakers, grape growers and wine experts, who embody the wines and it is clear to see the love and passion they have for what they do.

This year, the organising team decided to take our even catering to a whole new level – street level.  KERB is one of London’s leading street food organisations, whose sole goal is to make events taste better. We welcomed three different and exciting street food vendors, paired with wines from the tasting, to park up and serve their culinary delights to our guests.

  • Growlers – Portuguese rolls filled with hangar steak
  • Nazari – Inspired by Al-Andalus Moorish Spain
  • Hanoi Kitchen – The freshest Vietnamese street food straight out of Hanoi

My favourite was the Pregos – how can you argue with a steak sandwich on a Monday?

The new venue, new wines and new producers seems to be going down well with suppliers and guests alike. As I walk around taking photos and making sure everyone has all they need there is a positive buzz that fills the room, everybody is learning, pouring, tasting and generally getting excited about the wines and suppliers on show.

All in all a very successful annual tasting and my favourite venue so far. After three days, and almost 30,000 steps on my pedometer, I can’t wait to get planning next year’s!

Marvellous Macedonia

In September, South Sales Director, Daniel O’Keefe, took a trip to Macedonia and Northern Greece to visit a selection of our exciting esoteric producers from the heart of the Mediterranean.

Joining Daniel on the trip was Roger and Sue Jones, owners of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, a 1 Michelin  Star Restaurant in the Wiltshire countryside. Roger and Sue have been loyal partners of Hallgarten’s for about 16 years and we have become a central part of their restaurant . Over the years Roger has been highly influential, not only as a chef but also as a prominent wine writer and judge for Decanter, The Buyer and The Caterer.

Roger and Sue Jones, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn

Ktima Gerovassiliou

On the first day of our trip we met Thras at the Gerovassiliou restaurant which was house in the stunning winery.  We  started our tasting of the range mid-afternoon while as we had lunch due to Vangelis and Thras being tied up in the winery during the busy harvest period.

The Sauvignon Blanc was quite a hit and the new vintage of the Chardonnay showed amazing levels of complexity, especially when it opened up. The big hit here though was the freshness and viniousness of the Avaton and the Estate Red.

After the tasting we were taken to a fabulous and lively fish restaurant in a suburb of Thessaloniki, where the local seafood cuisine was almost as good as the wines we had previously tasted and later met with Vangelis’ wife, and the team from the restaurant.

Tasting at Ktima Gerovassiliou

Ktima Biblia Chora

The second day took us to Ktima Biblia Chora, established in 1998, the privately owned vineyard lies on the cool climate slopes of Mount Pangeon, at Kokkinochori near Kavala, Here we were  guided around the estate by the excellent Annagret Stamos who works as a chemist in the area. She provided us with a fascinating tour and insight in to the unique climate that dominates the area.

The Estate White 2016 was, as expected, showing very well and the Ovilos White was my favourite wine to date – fresher and with less pronounced wood.

Following this tasting, we went to a lovely, quintessentially Greek taverna near the beach with Annagret and tasted some older vintages.

Experimental vines at Ktima Biblia Chora

Alpha Estate

Visiting the Alpha Estate was truly an eye-opener! Located in Amyndeon, North West Greece. It is the brainchild of two visionaries, second generation vine grower Makis Mavridis and Bordeaux trained wine maker Angelos Iatrides. An immaculate Estate that almost feels as if it is high up  in the Andes.

To kick off the day, Kostas gave us a really comprehensive tour of the vineyards and an insight into the incredible investment they have made into infrastructure – underground irrigation in the vineyard and horizontal rotating vinifiers in the winery. Kostas gave a very clear explanation of the processes that were specific to Alpha and an exemplary rationale as to why Alpha are promoting Xinomavro as a key variety to watch.

The amount of energy put in to trials of different varieties and processes is very impressive. They have, in fact, donated a parcel of their land to the Thessaloniki Viticultural College. You get the feeling that the philosophy behind Alpha Estate is both long-sighted and very progressive.

The stand-out tasting of the trip (all of which were excellent) . We tasted the full range of wines and were even treated to to some of the older vintages. It was again the reds that really shone from this winery with the overarching theme of fresh, clean and beautifully structured vinious wines. Kostas was really able to make us understand the evolution of the winery and wines as they are now.

Later we went out to dinner at a traditional Taverna in the mountains near the Alpha Estate with 2 students who had recently been employed by Alpha, showing their commitment to supporting the local community.

 

Xinomavro old vines
Agiorgitiko at Ktima Biblia Chora
The barrel room at Alpha Estate
A corkscrew museum at Ktima Gerovassiliou

 

Jon Harris’ Top Picks From The Mediterranean Roadshow

On the fourth and final leg of Hallgarten’s Mediterranean Roadshow we welcomed guests to the 29 Glasgow , where they were treated to a range of 95 wines to taste.

The tasting featured the unique flavours of many indigenous varietals from countries on the Med’s shores – the South of France, the Maremma, Southern Italy and the islands of Sardinia and Sicily including wines from the more marginal Mount Etna.

From the more exotic and adventurous Eastern Mediterranean, we will showcase wines from Croatia, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and Lebanon, countries which have emerged on to the UK wine scene over the last decade.

Jon Harris, Sales Director – Scotland, picks out his Top 3 wines from the day…

1

Château Ksara, Blanc de Blancs 2016 Blanc de Blancs, Château Ksara, Bekaa Valley 2016

 

“Perfect for summer, fresh and bright with a surprisingly rich finish”

2

San Marzano, ‘Tramari’ Primitivo Rosé Salento 2016 'Tramari' Primitivo Rosé Salento IGP, San Marzano, Puglia 2016

 

“As with everything these guys do, exceptional, looks great, tastes even better. Defines the term “Brosé” – a rosé wine acceptable for men to drink in public!”

3

Colomba Bianca, Kore Nero d Avola 2016Nero d'Avola 'Kore' , Colomba Bianca, Sicilia DOC 2016

 

“Excellent example and perfect for BBQ season. Big, bold and spicy but not over extracted.”

A Gourmet Evening at Chapter One

Chapter One is what fine dining is all about. Exceptional food in a stylish setting. An extensive list of carefully chosen wines. Impeccable service with meticulous attention to detail. Outstanding value for money.

The Chapter One team also hold three exclusive Gourmet Evenings each year, with each course being specially matched with a particular wine.

Hallgarten’s Adrian Needham was on hand to guide the guests through each wine…

Hot and Cold Canapés

 Bernard Remy, Brut Carte Blanche NV

‘Lively and intense with a delicate and persistent mousse, refreshing notes of lime and lemon combine with floral nuances, honey and a touch of mint on the palate.’

Customer’s verdict: “Perfect start.”


Pea Bavarois With Mint, Pea Shoots & Mint Oil

Vina Ventolera, Litoral Sauvignon Blanc 2016

‘Fresh and bright, brimming with lime, guava, and passionfruit flavours. A touch of freshly cut green peppers and gooseberry lead to the full flavoured palate, which is well balanced and wonderfully vibrant.’

Customer’s verdict: “Heavenly!”


Baked San Marzano Tomato Tart With Cornish Cock Crab & Basil

Kayra Wines, Beyaz Kalecik Karasi 2015 

‘Pale pink in colour, with delightful notes of citrus, orange flower, pink grapefruit and ripe red fruits. The palate echoes the nose with wild strawberry and raspberry dominant and a lively, crisp finish.’

Customer’s verdict: “Very pleasantly surprisedby a Turkish Rosé!”


Ricotta Agnolotti Girolle Mushrooms, Broad Beans & Belper Knolle Cheese

Ca’Rugate, Valpolicella DOC Rio Alba 2016

‘Concentrated aromas of red fruits, ripe blackberry and deep cherry flavours, with floral notes and a hint of spice, supple on the palate with a velvety texture.’

Customer’s verdict: “widely appreciated for it’s quality and lightness”


Josper Grilled Rib-Eye Of Australian Beef, Sautéed Spinach, Australian Truffle Potato Purée, Roasted Roscoff Onion & Bordelaise Sauce

Perez Cruz, Carmenere Limited Edition 2015 

‘A spicy wine with vibrant notes of blackberry, blackcurrant and a hint of mocha. Elegant and complex on the palate with supple tannins and a savoury finish.’

 

Customer’s verdict: “Massive hit! Perfectly paired with the Rib-Eye and truffle.”


Scorched Apricot With Almond Ice Cream & Almond Brittle

 


Kentish Strawberries With Elderflower And White Chocolate Creameaux & Strawberry Sorbet

 San Silvestro, Moscato d’Asti DOCG NV 

‘Made from the Moscato grape, this sparkling wine is fresh, fragrant and delicately sweet with a fine mousse.’

 

Customer’s verdict: “Very impressive and surprised by just how well this finished the evening!

An Australian Masterclass, With An Australian Master – Matthew Jukes

 

Well, it’s been another busy day here at Hallgarten Towers, with some, let’s say… challenging issues. But today I wear them lightly, then I toss them airily aside. And why? Simple: I have spent most of the day salivating at the memory of yesterday’s spine-tingling tasting of our Australian wines.

The venue was Langan’s, the host was Matthew Jukes, the audience was thirty or so hard-bitten members of our sales team, standing room only ladies n genlmun, all waiting to be impressed.

And, boy, were they impressed! It’s not often that our lot are reduced to simpering moans of appreciation, but…

We’d asked Matthew to guide us through a tasting of 18 wines from a selection of the mostly premium producers who make up our list following significant changes late last year. A bit of a challenge, you might think. Not to Matthew…

He begins by running through his early days in the Trade, at the Barnes Wine Shop, where most of the better wines he tasted were… Australian. Thus began his 30-year love affair with Aussie wines, a devotion borne of their brilliance and their diversity, but most of all of the slightly bonkers can-do mind-set of their creators, and their collective craving to make better and better-value wines than anywhere else in the world – and to do a bit of hell raisin’ at the same time.

But Matthew knows this is all about the wines – and we start with a cracker!

The 2016 clos Clare Riesling (with its great history as part of the legendary Florita vineyard) is looking stunning – an “ice pick” of a Riesling, he reckons.

We move on to the Ravenswood Lane Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon Blanc from 2014, with nods of appreciation from the team as they taste the lemon and tangerine palate, deftly charged with a frisson of oak. Uncompromising quality, this.

The 2015 Pedestal (Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc) from Larry Cherubino – “a genius” according to Matthew – is next, and is a great example of “how Larry polishes wine.”

We go down to the McLaren Vale for Rose Kentish’s Ulithorne Dona Blanc 2016, a Marsanne and Viognier blend, its apricot and white peach nose complemented by a touch of lightness from a splash of Pinot Gris.

The next two wines offer a perfect contrast. Ocean Eight’s Verve Chardonnay (2014) and Paringa Estate’s Peninsula Chardonnay (2015) highlight the different philosophies of their winemakers, Mike Aylward and Lindsay McCall. Never was a wine more aptly named than the Verve, as racy a wine as you’ll come across, whereas from ten minutes down the road Lindsay’s love affair and lightness of touch with oak shows in a complex Burgundian mouthful.

Matthew then takes us across Australia to the cold hilltops of Tumbarumba and Eden Road’s Long Road Chardonnay, lean, chiselled and elegant.

We finish the whites with Larry’s Laissez Faire Field Blend, a funky example of how to use a selection of grapes which happen to be in the vineyard – Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Gris.

That’s the whites finished, but Jukesy is in full flow now – “Order, order!” – and we crack on with the reds, beginning with another Mornington Peninsula masterclass from the Pinot Noirs of Ocean Eight and Paringa Estate’s Peninsula, allowing Matthew to opine that “there are definitely better Pinots in Australia than in New Zealand.”

We go back to the Adelaide Hills now, this time with Fox Gordon’s Nero d’Avola, which provokes murmurs of approval and an occasional raised eyebrow. God, it is so clean, pristine clean and with amazing sweet raspberry fruit. Sicily, eat your heart out.

Our first glimpse of the Barossa, now, and Teusner’s Joshua (Grenache/Mataro/Shiraz). The genius of Kym Teusner, says Matthew, lies in forging great partnerships with growers with access to really mature fruit. The Joshua looks great, overflowing, cascading, gushing with fruit.

And the hits just keep comin’ – Fox Gordon’s Eight Uncles Shiraz is next up, and the primary fruit flavours jump out of the glass – plums, damsons – and then, miraculously, just a hint of smoke.

The contrast between this and the next – the Eden Road Long Road Syrah – provokes some comment. This is so much more Syrah than Shiraz, with an earthy, textural feel to it.

We go now to Langhorne Creek, and the great story of Greg Follett, who persuaded his dad to let him become a winemaker rather than a grape grower – with spectacular success (the amount of awards he has won is legion). His Bullant Cabernet Merlot is an easy wine to understand, a lovely claret lookalike at a fraction of the price.

Back to Teusner, and the first 100% Cabernet Sauvignon in the tasting. We’re all smacking our lips now, and wondering if it can get any better. God, this is lovely Cabernet, with perfumed fruits of the forest to the fore.

On to an old favourite, Bob Berton, our longest-standing producer. “Captain Bob,” as Matthew calls him, can turn his hand to almost any style, and here we have an amazing Coonawarra Cabernet with masses of cedar fruit.

We end with a masterpiece – Larry Cherubino’s Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2014. This is in a class of its own and able to compete effortlessly with St Julien.

As we wind down, I reflect that, of course, no-one needs to champion Aussie wine at the price-fighting end. As Matthew reminds us, the work put in by Hazel Murphy in the early days has ensured that Off-trade sales of Australian brands will always be healthy. It is at the premium end where there is more of a challenge. But Verve Chardonnay v Chablis, Paringa Estate v Puligny, clos Clare v German Estate Riesling, Larry’s Cabernet v top-end Bordeaux, the list is endless and it’s all a bit of a no-brainer. As one of our more Francophile salespersons said: “These are proper wines!”

Two hours have raced by and we could have stayed forever. Matthew takes a bow to whoops and cheers, rock star status assured.

What a tasting this was!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hallgarten’s Edinburgh Tasting – Jon Harris Recommendations

Following our Hallgarten Tasting at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Sales Director-Scotland, Jon Harris, has chosen his standout wines of the show…Cuvée Sélection Brut 1er Cru Vieilles Vignes, Champagne Marc Hébrart NV

 

Champagne Marc Hébrart, Cuvée Sélection Brut 1er Cru Vieilles Vignes NV
I
ncredible richness and complexity for a wine at this price – smashes all the Grand Marques at the same price

 

Schloss Johannisberger Riesling QbA Feinherb Yellow Seal, 2015
N
ot the cheapest wine in our portfolio but just benchmark Riesling, dry, mineral, wonderful concentration and perfectly balanced acidity. Verging on too expensive for many of us on an on trade list but the retailers loved it.

 Syrah Frappato 'Vitese' , Colomba Bianca, Terre Siciliane, Sicily IGP 2015

Colomba Bianca, Syrah Frappato ‘Vitese’ 2015
Another wine that over delivers at its price point, perfectly suited to both retail and on-trade.

 

Ventolera Syrah 2013
Probably my wine of the show – beautifully balanced and expressive, incredibly elegant for new world Syrah.

Get in touch and let us know if you agree with Jon’s choices!

Teusner: An Independent Man

The drive up to the Barossa always takes longer than I bargain for and I am running late. Luckily, Kym Teusner is as laid-back as they come. Which is just as well, because the winery that Teusner bought before the last vintage still has not been finished and there are builders everywhere putting the final touches to the new fermenters, ready for the new vintage in a couple of weeks. “We had to do it,” Kym explains laconically. “We needed to double our crush.” They will do 40,000 cases this year. It is an imposing sight: dozens of glinting tanks of all sizes, capable of holding anywhere between 1,000 litres to 150,000 litres. “All batches are fermented separately, that’s a bit of a creed for us.”

We are joined by Kym’s sales and marketing guy, Ben Shillito, who explains that in Australia they have three different labels: Round Two, an indie retailer wine, uses fruit from their own single vineyard in the Angaston foothills; Teusner is the main brand, all the fruit coming from generational grower vineyards, in some cases going on to 8 generations of the same family on the property; then Hutton Vale is a small parcel joint venture between the Teusners and the Angas family, premium vineyard owners.

Even their bought-in fruit comes from growers with whom they have long-term relationships. “Some of them sold to the big wineries, but after GFC, a lot of the big boys let them down. And then the same thing happened with the terrible 2011 vintage. We stuck with them. We still bought fruit from that vintage.”

I nod my head. But GFC? What is that? Some new vineyard disease, a technical term in the winery? “Global Financial Crisis,” explains Kym.

Since we started working with our new Australian wineries, I’ve thought that Teusner offers the greatest commercial possibilities; they are a reasonably sized Barossa operation whose labels do look off-trade driven. I am not disabused as we settle down to a large tasting overlooking what Kym calls the building site.

The Woodside Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (with 4% of Barossa semillon) has a touch of sweetness about it and is well rounded for a sauvignon. Very commercial and appealing.

The Empress Riesling 2016 is sourced from the Eden valley and is a lovely open fruity wine. Kym explains that Eden Valley rieslings tend to have more floral notes than the flintier rieslings of Clare.

The Gabrielle 2011 Barossa Valley Semillon moves Kym to raptures. “I love and adore semillon. I think the Barossa does this better than anyone. I know the Hunter Valley boys like their own semillon, but this definitely gives them a run for their money.” This is their Coco Chanel wine. Kym explains: “Coco Chanel once said ‘Fashion changes – style endures’ which I think says it all about Barossa Valley Semillon. And as everyone knows, Coco’s real first name was Gabrielle.” I didn’t know that, but what I do know is that this wine does has fabulous style, with a great honeyed biscuit nose and a fleshiness in the mouth.

The Salsa Rose Rosé 2016 is made of Grenache and Mataro with a touch of Montepulciano (the previous vintage also had Carignan.) This is all barrel-fermented, picked sparingly in the vineyard and pressed straight into oak. It is a really funky wine. “This is the only wine which we don’t inoculate. Some goes through malo, some doesn’t. My aim here is to have you wanting another glass.” It has a hugely attractive gamey, meaty flavour to it – unlike any other rosé.

Kym and Ben then line up three shiraz wines and I get clicking with the camera. The Riebke family, led by Steve Riebke, based in and around Ebenezer, are still their most important growers. The eponymous wine shows great commercial, plummy, rich fruit. You can see why it is the best seller. The Teusner Billmore Shiraz 2015, sourced from the western Barossa around Gomersal, is softer and sweeter and more extreme than the Riebke. “This is more what the public expect of the Barossa,” says Kym. Finally, the Wark Family Shiraz 2015 is sourced from a Stonewell vineyard just at the back of the winery and shows really soft fruit and beautifully integrated tannins.

“This is how I’d classify them,” says Kym. “ The Riebke is a firm wine and comes from light soil; the Bilmore has chocolate flavours and comes from brick red soil; the Wark has a ferrous iron nose, with coal, tannins and structure.”

The Albert 2015 Old Vines Shiraz (from two vineyards in Ebenezer and Williamstown, some of the vines of which are 70 years old) shows intense menthol and eucalyptus, but Kym says there are no eucalyptus trees for miles, so thinks it must be a combination of clones and soil type. It is a massive wine and needs time.

The Gentleman Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced: 80% Eden Valley, 20% Barossa and has a lovely mint and herbaceous nose and a chocolate feel in the mouth. “The problem here is that some Barossa growers try to make the cabernet too much like shiraz, but cabernet is a completely different animal, and should at its best show good herbaceous fruit.”

The Righteous Mataro has masses of sweet fruit with a lovely soft oakiness to it and will be around forever. “I’m very keen on mataro. This wine is absolutely the best we can do with this grape in the whole of Barossa.” They get the grapes from Marananga.

The Righteous FG Shiraz has intense black fruits, plums, dark chocolate and warm spices. It more than lives up to its name!

The Hutton Vale wines are the result of a joint venture between Kym and the Angas family, who own some prime vineyard plots in the Eden Valley.

The Hutton Vale Grenache Mataro from 65 year-old vines smells of dried herbs, has the softest and silkiest mouthfeel and stays on the palate forever.

The Hutton Vale Shiraz 2013 (the previous vintage got a 98 from Halliday) has a massive and intense dark cherries and rich raspberries on the palate. A huge wine.

The Hutton Vale Cabernet 2013 has very soft fruit (which seems to be a characteristic of the Hutton Vale wines.) It has classic cedar box nuances – so obviously a very good wine.

Then we come to the two wines which started everything – the Joshua and Avatar – “the daddies of the place” states Kym.

The Joshua (2015) comes from 100 year old Grenache vines which make up 65% of the blend and sees no oak. I’m a huge fan of old Grenache and this is a beautiful wine, with that delicious  damson nose. The Avatar 2014 is made up of 50% Grenache and spends 18 months in oak. As you’d expect, this is more dense and heavy, with a touch of tar.

We need to pack up the tasting rather sharpish, as Kym and Ben need to catch a plane for Brisbane. “But no worries, mate, make yerself at home, take a look around,” say Kym.

Later, as I am driving home, have Kym’s quotes ringing in my ears and I am reminded of the last wine we tasted: the Independent Shiraz Mataro 2015, which had strong tar and liquorice flavours and a touch of herbals. “We really work this wine, I like to try and layer the flavours, but there is always a core of fruit there. The thing about working with shiraz on its own is that it gives instant gratification.” The last phrase made me laugh. The wine was named – presumably – after Kym Teusner: a man independent of mind.

 

a visit to berton vineyards with a huntsman

Dusk was falling fast, and in the outback you’re always on the lookout for roos. If you collide with one of them, it can put its foot through the front window and break your back. Steve was at the wheel. We’d been on the go for four hours and were headed for Griffith, a small town about seven hours drive from Sydney. I asked if he wanted me to take over for a while, but he said no, he was fine. I stared out of the front window, my eyes on the trees which verged the road, trying to make out kangaroos.

And then: “Oh. My. God! What’s that?” Steve’s voice was measured but unsteady. He was sat rigid in the seat and was pointing to his right. I clumsily leaned over but couldn’t see anything through the window. “What’s wrong? What are you looking at?” I asked uneasily.

“There, right in front of me.”

And then I saw beyond his right ear an enormous spider crawling menacingly along the bottom of the window and on to the dashboard. It looked, well, like a tarantula – and it was creeping towards me.

“Pull the car over,” I muttered.

Steve slid the car over to the loamy earth, while both of us kept our eyes on the “Thing.” For three seconds we sat, paralysed. But then it slid into one of the air con slots under the window. Steve and I climbed gingerly out of the car.

“What do we do?” Steve asked.

“I dunno,” I said. “It might be poisonous.”

But the Thing, whatever it was, had gone to ground. Maybe it had crawled into the bonnet and got out under the car? At any rate, it was now dark. “Let’s just go for it,” said Steve. “We can’t stay here all night. I’ll keep my eyes on the road and you watch the air vents. Hopefully it’s fallen out.”

Tentatively we got back into the car and Steve gunned up the engine and we made our way out on to the straight-as-an-arrow road. For three minutes all was well. And then it appeared again, this time on my side. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up (and I haven’t got many). “It’s back,” I said quietly.

“I’ve clocked it,” said Steve, and this time he slid the car skilfully into a controlled stop. Deftly, we opened both doors, our eyes on the Thing. I searched the grass for a piece of wood and handed it to Steve. “Right, let’s give it a go,” he said, and reached into the car from the driver’s side, while I held open the passenger door. Steve thrust the stick at the spider – who shot out past my head and into the night. “Jump in!” shouted Steve, and off we roared.

“Wow – there we were, on the lookout for Skippy and his mates, and right in front of us a man-eating poisonous tarantula thingummy jumps out at us,” said Steve.

Three hours later, in Griffith, we googled the spider. Turns out it was a huntsman. And here’s the point: although they are not poisonous, they do cause death – by jumping out from behind sun visors in people’s cars and causing them to crash!

Well, the things we do for Hallgarten.

Of course, by the time we rolled up at Berton Vineyards the following day, our story had morphed into how English and cool we had been in the face of this – Thing! – but Bob Berton was having none of it. “You’re Pomms. You’d have been petrified!”

The story of Berton Vineyards is an inspirational one. Polymath Bob Berton, looking more and more like a roadie with each passing year, held various management positions for De Bortoli, Beelgara Estate and Miranda, before striking out on his own in 2006. Originally looking to build something smallish from scratch, he instead accepted a take-it-or-leave-it offer to buy the old Riverina winery from Foster’s. In ten years he has turned it into the 21 million-litre capacity winery it now is, and established the eponymous business that now exports to 15 countries. Key to all of this has been the creation of a network of loyal growers whose trust he has won by the fairness of his methods and the frankness of his approach. Men like Glen Sergi, who we go to see this morning harvesting his Pinot Grigio grapes from Foley’s Corner Vineyard, a 500-acre plot about six miles from Bob’s Yenda base.


“Good fruit, Glen,” says Bob admiringly, as we follow the harvest from vineyard to winery and watch in wonder as the free run juice and then the grapes spew into the crusher. Then, leaving winemaker James Ceccato and his team to supervise the vintage, Bob takes us around the winery. It is a constantly changing scene, as Bob and his team refit a winery built in 1969, while at the same time carrying on with their day job – which is making bloody good wine. He takes us the perimeter where we can see another winemaking facility next door. In 2012, during the massive floods, that winery actually floated, buoyed by the underground storage tanks. Even now you can see where the cracks appeared as the concrete wall succumbed to the pressure. These are the things that a modern winemaker needs to think about. For a while Bob’s facility was in danger. It is a miracle they survived that terrible year intact.

Then we move onto the tasting. The whites are looking good. The Pinot Grigio is spectacular (was this Foley’s? I wonder). A blend of Semillon and Chardonnay looks very good and works just as well as a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon. We and the winemaking team decide to concentrate on the former blend rather than the latter. The Unoaked Chardonnay is showing very attractive limey fruit, and the Metal Label has wonderful lemon and melon aromas.

However, it is with the red wines that Bob and his team really hit the mark. A 2016 Shiraz/Cabernet blend in tank shows good raspberry style fruit. The Foundstone Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 in tank shows good open earthy fruit. The Foundstone Shiraz 2016 in tank has masses of fruit; at the moment, it is a little aggressive, but will iron itself out. Steve posits that 10% of Cabernet would soften this. A Cabernet/Merlot blend from 2015 is really good, a lovely mixture of blackcurrant and liquorice. Finally (in this session anyway), the Foundstone Merlot 2015 has masses of pleasant ripe open fruit.

During all of this, Bob is cajoling and challenging his winemaking team like a coach with a football team. “We need to improve with this one, we need to figure out how to get this better…” You would imagine he would be a tough man to work for.

We move on to the more serious stuff. The Metal Label Black Shiraz 2016 is typical; lovely open fruit, black plums, very commercial. But the Winemakers Reserve Black Shiraz puts that firmly in its place, showing colossal and voluptuous Padthaway fruit.

James Ceccato then unveils four news parcels of Shiraz from Gundagai (lovely gorgeous fruit, sweet and moreish), Heathcote (minty, serious, brooding), Mount Lofty (closed, serious dark fruit) and Coonawarra (a massive wine, huge eucalyptus fruit, a touch of mint.) We will have fun working out what to do with these.

The home run continues with a Metal Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2016: really good expressive chunky fruit, the Reserve Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2014: good serious fruit, minty, tannins firm but not harsh, the High Eden Cabernet Sauvignon 2014: more refined than the Coonawarra, a touch lighter, more elegant, tomato leaf, and, finally, the masterpiece which is the Bonsai Shiraz: dramatic and heady.

At the end of the tasting Bob takes us to the barrel room, where we taste the serious reds again. Throughout the tasting we are interrupted by Bob’s lieutenants with queries. How is progress on the new turf project behind the winery? When is the guy from Chile turning up? Bob gets on to the subject of worms. Waste management is an important matter for them and they are about to meet with a Chilean businessman who has developed a way of using worms to turn dirty water into clean water. Bob animatedly explains the process with the zeal of a heavy metal artist talking about his new album. More interruptions. More issues. More opportunities.

It is non-stop. Surely there cannot be enough hours in the day.

It carries on like this for the rest of the day. And later, while Steve and I have a beer in Griffith, we reflect on Bob’s amazing story. It’s the classic one about the small town guy taking on the big boys – and beating them.

I sit back and sip a James Squire One Fifty Lashes Pale Ale. While not exactly Napa, Griffith has a sort of working class charm and honest attitude about it. I like it; as a working class Geordie, I could hardly fail to. It’s pretty much what an Englishman might expect of an Australian outback town; gritty, conformist, gratifying the needs of the farmers it serves; a few good restaurants and some gritty working-class bars on the main drag. To walk into one of these is to imagine yourself on the set of Bad Day at Black Rock or An American Werewolf in London (check out the classic scene when the two young Americans walk in to the Yorkshire Dales pub and get the very silent stare treatment). Friday night can feel a bit scary, given the serious beer-swilling and braggadocio, the pool hall tension, v-v-very loud heavy metal, and shrieking at the rugby league game on the widescreens. But as is often the case with Aussies, underneath it all there’s a genial charm: “What can I getcha, mate? – don’t worry about him, we’ll carry him out shortly…” Nevertheless, Steve and I do feel obliged to lower our voices a couple of octaves, gesticulate excitedly at the screens and yak about THE GAME!

The best wine tasting ever!

Three days into our Australian buying trip and I am heady and I am reeling. And I want to shout out the reason why from the nearest rooftop: I have just had the best wine tasting I have ever experienced.

I am writing this on an early morning flight from Perth to Sydney, following a good night’s sleep, so these are considered thoughts and not hasty scribbles. But reflecting on the last three days spent with Larry Cherubino, a recurring question is: God, how does this bloke do it?

I joined the wine trade way back in 1989 and I have attended my fair share of mega tastings – en primeurs, Bordeaux classed growth masterclasses, SuperTuscan launches. And I well remember the first time I tasted Jean-Francois Coche-Dury’s Meursault in his tiny cellar and thinking: Oh, so this is what they mean. So I am no virgin. But for sustained brilliance and diversity, nothing matches the last three days. Nothing.

Ever since our office was inundated with calls from wine journalists after Larry won James Halliday’s Winery of the Year and Matt Skinner’s Producer of the Year in the same year, we have struggled to keep up with the superlatives. But to my shame, this is the first time I have visited him (in fact the only time I have been to Western Australia was an in-and-out visit to Vasse Felix about ten years ago.) So I was anxious to chat about his different wine ranges as he drove Steve and I from Perth to Margaret River.

“This is how we look at things,” he explained. “With Ad Hoc we are looking for exemplars of varietal characteristics and style in each vineyard area. Sometimes these are then blended, sometimes not. With Pedestal, these wines are all about the sub-regionality of the Margaret River region; the north part is better suited to red wines with its slightly warmer Indian Ocean influence, but the south is better suited to whites due to the cooler influence of the ocean. Going up to The Yard, these wines come only from the vineyards that we own such as Channybearup, Riversdale, Justin, and Acacia . They are literally our back yard wines. The Cherubino range is simply the best expressions of fruit we can find. The Laissez Faire wines are meant to be as natural as we can make them”

As we approached the Margaret River area and the big gun emplacements of Leeuwin, Vasse Felix and Houghton, Larry explained the vast differences in terroir between the various regions he farms. “Margaret River is one of the best examples of a maritime climate in Australia. Pemberton, further south and further inland, is also cooled by the sea, but these breezes have moved across more landmass, bringing much-needed heat for ripening. Frankland River is inland from the Southern Ocean. The continental climate means sunny dry days and cold nights. Here, the afternoon sea breezes known as the Albany Doctor drop temperatures a lot. This diurnal variation makes for deep red wines and white wines with freshness and acidity. Mount Barker and Porongurup are both in the huge Great Southern area and have a continental climate. But, because Mount Barker is closer to the sea, the wind arrives earlier and its daily temperatures do not reach the same heights. Porongurup is an elevated region with excellent air drainage. Temperatures are moderated by the Southern Ocean.”

The Wilyabrup vineyard, where Larry is developing his Cellar Door operation, is situated at Cape Naturaliste, just north of Margaret River. Steve and I became terribly excited at the thought of going to a nude beach, but sadly the name refers to the other form of naturalist.

1. Wilyabrup Vineyard, Margaret River

Larry showed us around the estate (and you can certainly feel the cooling wind from the Indian Ocean, which is one kilometre away.) Then we moved on to the first of our blockbuster tastings. I don’t want to bore anyone with long tasting notes, so these are impressions rather than notes:

Pedestal Pinot Gris 2016, Margaret River

(From a vineyard situated three kilometres from Wilyabrup. All fermented in two-three year old oak.)

Lovely soft nose. More rounded and elegant than a Grigio, as it has to be. Delicious.

Pedestal Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Margaret River

(The blend is 67%/33%. Fermented in neutral and new oak. 3½ tonnes per acre.)

Oak evident, fruit restrained, serious. The Sauvignon seems the more dominant of the components. Going places, this one.

Pedestal Chardonnay 2016, Margaret River

(15% fermented in new oak.)

Beautiful classic nose. Very soft, elegant. Politely enquiring with one eyebrow raised.

Ad Hoc Hen & Chicken 2016

Lovely nose, cavorting in the glass, obvious, slightly tropical, melons.

Ad Hoc Pinot Grigio 2016, Pemberton

Delicious, moreish, fruity, great example. If only they were all like this.

Ad Hoc Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc 2016

(The blend is 80%/20%)

Lovely nose, serious and elegant and obviously classy. Travels down the more traditional, more subtle road, the one less travelled.

Laissez Faire Pinot Blanc 2016

Lovely expressive, nose, masses of peachy fruit. Poetry in motion.

Laissez Faire The Field Blend 2016

Amazing array of flavours on the nose. Peaches, citrus, stone fruit. Soft and luxurious. Long lasting.

The Yard Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Pemberton

(20% is barrel fermented for eight weeks.)

Rounded and elegant at the same time (how does he manage this?), refined, and obviously serious.

Cherubino Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Pemberton

(All barrel fermented, all new oak)

More concentrated than the Yard (same vineyard but from different parts). A symphony to the Yard’s concerto.

Cherubino The Beautiful South Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon 2016, Pemberton

(The blend is 85%/15%. All fermented in oak.)

Fruit still masked, hiding beneath a luxurious duvet, waiting to be peeled back. Slowly.

Cherubino Chardonnay 2016, Pemberton

(100% barrel-fermented, single Gin-Gin clone. Fruit is taken from one single block.)

Oh heaven – this smells gorgeous. Layered and intense. Wonderful, refined and very classy soft chardonnay with just a hint of ginger.

Cherubino Chardonnay 2016, Margaret River

(95, 96 and Gin-Gin clones)

Another ravishingly beautiful wine. A touch more closed, a touch softer, more ethereal, lifted.

(We spent twenty minutes salivating and comparing both of these masterpieces. I would say that the Pemberton is the Meursault and the Margaret River is the Puligny. We took a long time to recover.)

Pedestal Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot 2015

Lovely, complex, chunky young fruit

Pedestal Elevation Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

A touch dusty, needs time, but voluptuous and crunchy fruit.

The Yard Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Riversdale

Smells like Bordeaux – classic Claret-type nose. Steve seems so happy he is almost climbing up the wall. “You see a lot of good Aussie wines which are let down because of their excessive weight. This doesn’t have that problem. This has really good weight and balance.”

Cherubino Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Riversdale

Chocolate orange and black fruit nose. Amazing complexity.

Cherubino Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Margaret River

Dark brooding fruit, very serious. Chocolate box and sandalwood. Needs time. Tannins firm but not harsh. Not showy at all. Serious. Dark plums.

After this tasting, while Steve and I had a beer to recuperate, Larry cooked a dinner of salad, wild rice and lamb chops at his house on the estate. Here we got stuck into more works of art.

The Yard Shiraz 2015, Riversdale

Amazing fruit, beautiful clean scent. Gamey. The best of the three shiraz wines that we taste.

The Yard Shiraz 2015, Acacia

The fruit is a touch sweeter than the Riversdale, possibly needs a wee bit more integration.

The Yard Shiraz 2015, Justin

Massive fruit, brooding. The most closed of the three and needs more time.

Cherubino Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Margaret River

Really expressive and vibrant fruit, blackcurrant, heady and rich. Sensual. Kate Bush on a very very good night.

4. Larry and Steve tasting, Cellar Door, Wilyabrup Vineyard

After that, Steve and I staggered back to our guest house in the vineyard. The following morning I went for a jog around the estate and witnessed the diurnal variation; although it would climb to 32 degrees later in the day, there was a fierce and cold wind whipping off the ocean. I could have been in South Shields. Ish.

As we drove the 30 minutes or so to Larry’s 2,000-tonne winery, he explained some of his winemaking principles.

“Although I believe firmly in organic, biodynamic and sustainable principles as a way of preserving integrity, I don’t want to straitjacket myself in the organic category. There are definitely aspects of more widespread traditional winemaking that I agree with, and I’m quite happy to use them. Also, I strongly believe in synthetic closures. My feeling is that all wines are cork-affected, or at least modified by the closure. And after five years, you get good bottles, not good wines.”

At the winery Larry continued. “It takes thirty minutes to get from the vineyard to the winery. At the winery we crush, de-juice, chill, add in a very small amount of sulphur and then move the juice. We do not move grapes. Once they are here, we never rack our wines. We like to have them in a semi reductive state rather than an oxidative state. If you rack, when you have a problem with one barrel it can infect all of the others.”

And then, accompanied by winemakers Andrew Siddle and Matt Buchan, we tasted from tank.

Ad Hoc The Cruel Mistress Pinot Noir 2016

(To be bottled next week – we will be the first to receive this)

An explosion of raspberry fruit, huge and inviting flavours.

Apostrophe Possessive Red 2016

“A ripper” says Larry. Young fruit. Unfined, it is a little grainy but with masses of lifted fruit.

Laissez Faire Field Blend (Syrah, Grenache) 2016

Very young, dark broody plummy fruit. We all love this.

Ad Hoc Middle of Everywhere Shiraz 2016

Larry tells us that this is as good as the Yard Shiraz was some years ago.

Nose closed, but lots of serious fruit. Touches of liquorice and anise, a touch gamey. It is a huge step up on 2015.

Malbec 2016

(This may go into the Yard or Avant Gardening)

Lovely expressive fruit. Rich and plummy, but more rounded than many Argentine versions.

Cherubino The Beautiful South (Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot) 2015 – from bottle

Lovely lovely wine. Complex, closed, big.

Apostrophe Stone’s Throw White 2016

(Riesling, Gewurztraminer)

A lovely rich and serious nose. Beautifully perfumed. The Gewurztraminer is really unctuous.

And then we came to the wine which will stay with me forever:

Laissez Faire Chardonnay 2016, Porongurup

My God! There is funk, there are funky wines, and there is Laissez Faire Chardonnay. A truly amazing array of flavours – ginger, cloves, nutmeg, a smidgeon of pineapple, apple. Where does this come from?

We then tasted this against the two Chardonnays of the previous evening – the Cherubino Margaret River and the Cherubino Pemberton. Eventually, we decided that the two Cherubino wines had more elegance and finesse and that the Laissez Faire had more outrageous fruit.

These three wines alone are worth the price of admission.

5. Two awesome Chardonnays!

And then, still savouring the tasting as we left the vineyard, I received a text from Robin Knapp, our Regional Sales Director back in the UK: “Tell Larry that his 2013 Cherubino Cabernet Sauvignon is the best wine I’ve tasted in at least three years. It’s sensational and a complete marvel of balance.”

So I’m not the only one, then.

We then toured the vineyards, including Margaret River’s 30-acre Glamorgan vineyard, which supplies the fruit which goes into the Pedestal Chardonnay. Then we moved on to the 35-acre Channybeaurup vineyard, the main vineyard of Pemberton. They have pulled up most of the red grapes as it too cool.

As we drove on to Larry’s farmhouse in the Frankland River area, Larry pointed to the Stirling ranges in the very far distance, where it snows two times in every ten years. It is this coolness of climate, he explained, that accounts for the fact that a huge proportion of medal winners from Western Australia come from the Frankland River area. We stopped off at the Pemberton marron farm and Larry bought four marrons, a large freshwater type of lobster. They were still alive and kicking wildly as they were put into a container. This reminded me of the time I bought a couple of live lobsters from Steve Hatt and put them on the back seat of my car. The warmth of the car woke them up and during the journey home I spotted them in my mirror crawling along the back seat, like a scene from Them! What manly courage it took me to remain calm, composed and brilliant.

We visited the Justin vineyard, then passed near Mount Barker, and then visited the Porongurup vineyard on the edge of the brooding granite outcrop of the Porongurup range. Here, amazingly, the grapes had gone through veraison, in contrast to the still-green varieties from further north in Margaret River.

At dinner in the farmhouse, while Steve and I sipped a beer, Larry cooked the marron – and then out came yet more wines.

Ad Hoc Wallflower Riesling 2016

Demure and coy compared to the other Rieslings, but textbook fruit.

Cherubino Riesling 2016, Great Southern

Soft and expressive, floral, a touch citrusy.

Cherubino Riesling 2016, Porongurup

Really expressive floral, lemony Riesling. No trace of diesel or petrol, just waterfall-pure type fruit.

Laissez Faire Riesling 2015

A touch unctuous on the nose. Definitely honey. Open, seductive. Wonderful acidity.

We were drawn back to the irresistible once-in-a-lifetime Laissez Faire Chardonnay of the night before. Steve said: “There isn’t a Chardonnay in the UK that compares to this.”

Laissez Faire Shiraz 2015, Great Southern

Smokey, garriguey, liquorice. Like a Crozes-Hermitage.

Cherubino 2015 Shiraz, Frankland River

A touch of minerality. Herby. Lovely smooth fruit.

Laissez Faire Syrah 2014

A heavyweight feel in the mouth. Our sales teams would go mad for this.

Ad Hoc Avant Gardening Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec 2015

Larry: “This is a sleeper wine!” Restrained and quiet at first, but then in the mouth the taste kicks in and you get really upfront liquorice and concentrated fruit. Excellent.

And then it ended. At 1.15a.m. in a farmhouse at Riversdale in the Great Southern.

What to say?

Well, there’s nothing you can say, really. So Steve and I sipped a beer and stared out into the night. They said there would be times like this…

Langan’s Brasserie Premium Australian Tasting – Come On Aussie, Come On!

So: how was it for you?

For me, it was depressing: and with a touch of deja-vu, because for the second time this year I went to bed quietly confident that we’d get the right result – only to wake up to find mayhem. At three a.m. things were a little tighter than we’d hoped and Florida was proving to be stubbornly resistant, but I was still confident Clinton would carry Pennsylvania. And surely Wisconsin, Ohio and North Carolina wouldn’t all vote for Trump? Would they?

Well, at least it was good to see their pollsters are every bit as useless as ours.

There is drizzly rain and a chilling wind in central London. But on the other hand I have the perfect antidote; Hallgarten’s tasting of our new Australian range at Mayfair’s wonderful Langan’s Brasserie.

It’s mid-afternoon by the time I arrive. Langan’s is iconic but always reassuring and thankfully I see the ground floor is packed out with lunchtime customers. Trump’s election doesn’t seem to have bothered them.

Upstairs in our tasting room, the first person I run into is Our Man in the South, Daniel O’Keefe, who is in raptures. “Marvellous wines, marvellous wines…” I point to Amelia Jukes: “All her work!” – Hallgarten has taken over most of the business that Amelia had built up through her Hallowed Ground Agency. And what an amazing job she has done. The wine-up in this room would knock most UK agency/distributors for six.

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There’s a refreshing bustle, some serious wine evaluation taking place, concentration. I nod at some of the faces dotted around the room. And then I join in.

Few wineries as young or as small as Canberra’s Eden Road have won so many prestigious awards – 45 awards in the last few years, including Australia’s most important, the Jimmy Watson, for its first vintage of The Long Road Shiraz in 2009. The key is the altitude; Eden Road Wines is situated in High Country (it’s cold up there!) as Managing partner Christopher Coffmann tells me. And, wow, the 2015 Skin Contact Pinot Gris Rose is a Grace Kelly of a wine – glacial elegance. Then it’s on to the 2011 Canberra Shiraz, which is looking magnificent – tar, coal, liquorice, vanilla.

Fox Gordon’s iconic E&E Black Pepper Shiraz won acclaim as the best red and best wine at the IWC a few years ago. We’ve got quite a wodge of their wines on show today. The 2015 Abby Viognier is a sumptuous and rich Viognier, enveloping your palate, throat passage and heart. I pause. There is a hum of concentration throughout the room. At these events there is normally a lot of chatter, old friends catching up. But here there seems to be a definite appreciation of the wines. To cushion the shock of Donald’s victory, I think, we should all try a glass or three of Fox Gordon’s Nero d’Avola 2015: wonderfully original.

Now, onto something more familiar. We’ve been working with Larry Cherubino for a few years now, but we’ve only just inherited his Laissez Faire wines via Hallowed Ground. These are Larry’s range of natural wines, the purest expression of natural winemaking made in small batches from hand-harvested grapes. Oh God! The 2015 Fiano is witheringly beautiful: charm, style and elegance in a glass. Still reeling, I move on to his 2015 Porongorup Pinot Noir, a cornucopia of bramble and dark forest fruits, gamey, mushroomy, a touch of the Little Red Riding Hood mystery (can’t think why, just keeps recurring in my mind as I taste.)

I have to move away now, have a chat with Amelia, who is five months pregnant and radiant. She must feel so proud exhibiting the fruits of her labour, so to speak. But she has to dash off to chat to another one of customers. So I crack on.

Langhorne Creek’s Lake Breeze was named Australia’s Champion Small Winery a few years back and – and this is becoming a familiar story – has achieved an extraordinary level of success in Australian Wine Shows, including 25 trophies and over 100 gold medals since 1994. And tasting the Bernoota Shiraz Cabernet 2012, it is easy to see why. This is an example of what Australia does best, exhibiting a magnificent generosity of fruit and spirit. If only politics was as smooth.

One of the big gains with working with Hallowed Ground is the chance to work with two wineries in the M4ornington Peninsular, where we had been looking for a partner for some time. Ocean Eight’s Mike Aylward was named “Young Gun of Wine” in 2011 (some title, that!) And here we have a Hollywood of a Pinot (the Aylward 2012): definitely an Oscar winner, appropriate here at Langan’s, where the walls are adorned with film stars and other celebrities dining at the restaurant.

Meanwhile, no less a figure than James Halliday described the Paringa Estate as “One of the best, if not the best, wineries on the Peninsula”. The estate was founded in 1984 by teacher Lindsay McCall, when he purchased a derelict orchard in 1984 on Paringa Road. In 1996, Lindsay gave up teaching to focus entirely on Paringa Estate: 25 years on, Paringa Estate is one of the most highly awarded wineries in Australia, regularly winning gold trophies for their Shiraz, Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay. My God: the Paringa Estate Pinot Noir 2010 is a sublime wine. Gpd! This might be the star of the whole tasting.

Ravenswood Lane shows what you can do with the beautiful cool climate fruit from the Adelaide Hills. Marty Edwards follows a philosophy of minimal intervention, respect for organic principles and is committed to capturing the nuances of each site and variety. This is definitely true of the Sauvignon Semillon 2014. I am not the only one purring as I swish the wine around my mouth, coating my palate with peach and lemon. Great stuff!

Teusner Wines was created by Kym Teusner and Michael Page in 2001 – in order to save an old Grenache vineyard from being torn up! Teusner’s philosophy is to produce only exceptional, affordable wines by being very selective about the fruit that is sourced from old, well maintained vineyards. “We started small and rode the wave and this is where we’ve ended up. These are wines that we love to drink, we are not chasing markets,” says Kym Teusner. The Woodside Sauvignon 2014 is looking magnificent, open full and rich but also still with beautiful acidity.

Ulithorne Wines is located in the heart of the McLaren vale, in the area of Seaview on the northern side of the Onkaparinga River National Park. They have made some wines especially for Hallgartens, including the affordable Dona range. This is actually the first time I’ve tasted them as they are still on the water and Ryan Kinghorn has air-freighted these over to us. My Managing Director, Andrew Bewes, has already texted me to say the range is looking great. And he’s right! The star is the Dona Blanc 2016, a Marsanne, Viognier and Pinot Gris blend, which has those brilliant secondary characters that the Rhone Valley does so well.

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And that’s it. Wow – what a tasting. Time has flown by and now it’s time to leave. I leave Chris to tidy up and make my way back out into the London darkness. I’m now cooking, full of it, full of good Aussie spirit. I’m up for anything. Tonight I will be seeing Phyllida Lloyd’s production of Julius Caesar at Donmar’s tent at King’s Cross. I’m excited: the two other plays in the Donmar trilogy, all set in a women’s prison, were sensational (The Tempest might be the production of that play I’ve ever seen.) But how I wish I could take a bottle with me to drink during the play. What would I choose? Despite the weather, I’m warm as I make my way across Mayfair and up to Regent’s Street. Thinking of Australian wines, I cannot get that old Australia cricket song out of my head, the one they used to sing during the Packer era… Come on Aussie, Come On Come On, Come On Aussie, Come On…Da da da da da da da….What great days. And what great cricket. Thommo smashing the ball into Bumble Lloyd’s box…Ian Chappell’s moustache… Come on Aussie, Come On Come On, Come On Aussie, Come On…A helpless Colin Cowdrey, “Good morning” as he passes and incredulous Thomson on his way to the crease…Doug Walters smashing the last ball of the day for six at the WACA…Ah, those were the days. So what would it be? The Paringa Pinot? The Fox Gordon’s Nero d’Avola? Something from Larry…?

Come on Aussie, Come On Come On;

Come On Aussie, Come On

 

Jim Wilson, Portfolio Director

San Marzano & Union Street Café Host Puglian-Inspired Dinner

Members of the wine and restaurant trades were treated to a Puglian-inspired feast at Gordon Ramsay’s Union Street Café earlier this week following a partnership with the restaurant and Italian winery San Marzano.

The event saw five top chefs come together to create a six-course tasting menu that was brilliantly matched with wines from San Marzano.

Continue reading San Marzano & Union Street Café Host Puglian-Inspired Dinner