Philippe Durst is the Export Manager of a significant winery in Alsace, Dopff au Moulin. We have been "friends" on Facebook for over three years but, until last week-end, we had not met...
Philippe is not only great at his job (he, together with Dan Murphy, sells half of the Alsace wine sold in Australia...) but has a great reputation of being an expert at matching wine with food!
Julien Dopff invented the Crémant d'Alsace after getting his training in Champagne and it is still a great part of the production at Dopff, and still their trademark.
So, it was great to finally meet him over a combined trip to Melbourne, Sydney and Hong-Kong to promote wines from Alsace. He also havegreat sense of humour and millions stories to tell about his 30 years selling Alsace wines around the world, first for Wolfberger (available in Oz at Vintage Cellars) and for the last 8 years for Dopff au Moulin. For reasons which will be revealed in a later post, we first met at the Fish Market, a place he never had a chance to visit over his previous visits to Australia, so I was happy to give him the grand tour! And I guess he was suitably impressed...
But when it came to having lunch, he was keen to get to somewhere more comfortable where we could still enjoy some good seafood with a couple of glasses of wine, bien sûr. I took him to Ventuno, in Walsh Bay, one of my favourite places in Sydney, as they make great scallops, have a short but good wine list, usually great service and obviously the view is not bad either...
So, after this lovely lunch, some Pinot Grigio and a great cup of coffee - thanks for picking the tab, Philippe - we were off to Prince Wine Store in Zetland for a Northern Côtes-du-Rhone tasting, all from the famous Guigal empire. Although Philippe had visited Ultimo Wine Centre many times in the past, he had never properly mey Jon Osbeiston, so I was quite chuffed to be the one to introduce them to each other.
From the less known Côtes-du-Rhone Blanc, made mostly out of Viognier grapes and a great drop,
to a great everyday Côtes-du-Rhone rouge for less than $20, which I regularly consume, to Crozes Hermitages, St Joseph, Côte Rôtie and Hermitage, we had a blast sampling these beauties from Northern Côtes-du-Rhône, home of the best Syrah. Although I usually prefer Southern Côtes-du-Rhône and the GSM blend, I am certainly a regular drinker of Crozes-Hermitage and St Joseph.
What a great venue for a great event, organised by Australia Trade Tasting! Philippe had invited me to join an Alsace wine masterclass there last Monday, organised by the CIVA (Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins d'Alsace) and run by the legendary Huon Hooke who I had the pleasure to meet for the first time. He is a great presenter, with a dry sense of humour - not unlike a good Riesling! We tasted 12 Alsace wines, from a Pinot Noir Rosé to four different Pinot Blancc, a wine I am not familiar with but one I will certainly investigate further, three Riesling, one of them from Dopff and from probably the most famous vineyard of the region Schœnenbourg which carries one of the rare Grand Cru label, which I had the pleasure to drink before on Philippe's recommendation, then onto a Pinot Gris 2013 from Domaine Rieflé-Landmann and finally three Gewurtztraminer, the last one "vendanges tardives" 2009 from Domaine Mersiof with a staggering 74g/l od sugar! All wines were from different wineries and the Domaines scattered from North to South of the Rhine Valley. A great education for a wine region that I didn't know very well.
Also, on the Expo floor, I met some interesting people and had a chance to try my first wine from India - Grover Zampa - a pleasant surprise of a Sauvignon Blanc that could easily have passed for a kiwi wine on a blind tasting! Obviously, there was a great delegation of twelve Alsace wineries , a number of boutique Australian wineries, a great delegation from Spain and Portugal with not only wine, but also Jamon, quests and olive oil.
It is not any new wine store that recently opened in Sydney in the growth suburb of Rosebery!
Prince Wine Store is an institution in Melbourne and they managed to secure the services of œnologue extraordinaire Jon Osbeiston - Ultimo Wine Centre founder - and colleague Nick Minogue.
I have known Jon for over 17 years and shopped at UWC for special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, or when I had visitors "de marque" for dinner. Jon would always find this gem of French or Italian wine which would suit both the occasion and my often tight budget!
Knowing my love of Côtes du Rhone, he would always point out to me any new arrivals from my region of predilection for my (almost...) daily consumption. This new "La Ferme du Mont" is typical of such a "trouvaille" and at $22 a pop, well, this might replace the now unavailable Vidal Fleury.
Last Monday, Prince Wine Store was organising a "soft" opening to which I was kindly invited along some much more famous people than this humble blogger. Today was the "grand opening" with over 50 wines on tasting and all the keen crowd welcome. I passed as I was instead invited to last night worldwide tasting of the most amazing Riesling from around the Globe, with a lot of the proprietors or winemakers visiting from as far as New Zealand...Austria, Germany, Alsace, the Clare Valley in South Australia & Franklin River in Western Australia. Here is my report "en images".
Soft Opening 09/02/2015 with a selection of charcuterie, cheese...and wines
Riesling Tasting Night: Australia, AUSTRIA, Germany, France and New Zealand
I am not a wine expert, but I do have a palate, and the most extraordinary thing about this tasting was that somebody with no real education about Riesling could actually taste the differences, like near the river or up the hill in terraces vineyards along the Danube and the Rhine, as well as distinctly recognising slate in the Mosel wines. What a revelation!
Most interesting wines for me were Alsace from Paul Blanck (the less expensive...and one of my top three...) , Framingham from New Zealand (Old Vine younger vintage 2013 vs old school 2005 vintage), Heymann Lowenstein Mosel for the slate influence and Gunderloch- Rheinhessen Rothenberg GG 2013, one of the most expensive, but probably best of the lot...Besides the wines, the passion and knowledge of the people representing the wineries - often their owners - were the real stars of the evenings. Thanks to all for sharing with us and make this an evening to remember!
I am lucky enough to live in the same building (and on the same floor...) as Jon and Barbara, the gorgeous owners of Baska-Jon food emporium, and we (not...) often (enough...) cook each other lunch or dinner. They are great company and we are running a bit of cooking competitions across the hallway! Added bonus: we don't have to drive very far, so we can sample a few more bottles of wine that we probably should...It is all in the interest of research, bien sûr (and we are not killing any whales in the process, just ourselves laughing...).
Anyway, Jon and Barbara came for dinner last week-end and gave us some of their goodies as presents, including their fabulous organic "choucroute", so, I had to invent a recipe to use it!
My son was home for lunch, a rare occurrence these days, and he wanted me to get some sushi from the Sydney Fish Market, and doing so, I found a nice sushi and sashimi combo, with plenty of salmon sashimi. I had smoked salmon in the fridge, and bought some fresh salmon from the market: et voilà!
So, back home, I negotiated to share the sashimi with son number two - son number one lives in St Tropez, so no competition there - and daughter "unique" was away with her BF.
Then I started to enhance the already very good sauerkraut with a few of my own ingredients: cloves, pepper corns and leftover of daughter's cider which would have gone to waste otherwise - the cider, I mean, not my daughter, lol! Simmer for twenty minutes, during which time you boil some potatoes, cut the salmon, roll the smoked salmon, reheat leftovers of braised carrots for Madame in the steamer with her piece of salmon, eventually grill some pork belly and my own piece of salmon and plate!
Season the sashimi with a bit of soy sauce and ginger, the smoked damon with a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar - from Baska-Jon as well - and open a nice bottle of Riesling - you are done! Enjoy!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
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