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.
PRINCE WINE STORE - SYDNEY
Almost 30 Pinot Noir were on offer to taste at my first event of the day. Knowing that I had a second one to go to, I was very selective in what I was going to taste... So here is my list:
Kooyong Pinot Noir 2012 - Having visited nearby Montalto on the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne, I was curious to find out about this reputable wine, and I was not disappointed!
Moorooduc Estate Garden Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 - Also from the Mornington, this was the first wine I tasted, and certainly one of the most interesting of the lot. I liked its pepperiness!
Savaterre Pinot Noir 2012 - Beechworth Victoria - Cold climate Aussie Pinot noir at its best. Dark, meaty, ashen, smoky as Campbell Mattinson puts in. I couldn't say it better myself...
Tolpuddle Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 - Tasmania - apparently we were in luck, as only 18 bottles of this vintage were left, and the best restaurants here were fighting for them. Very good indeed!
Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011- This winery had their first planting in 1980 and were the pioneers of Pinot Noir in Martinborough, and that's why they could claim the name for themselves!
This was one of my top three favourites this morning, almost as good as the French!
Copain Wendling Pinot Noir 2014 - The Russian River Valley, just north of San Francisco, produces some of my favourite West Coast wines in the US. I am more familiar with the Chardonnays,, but this was a good enough example of Pinot Noir produced near the coast in the Anderson Valley. Still young, it was a tad on the flat side, but I think it will develop over time.
From Burgundy, France
Joseph Voillot Volnay Vieilles Vignes 2012 - Neil Martin (from Robert Parker team) sums it up for me: "there is a sense of nonchalance and harmony towards the finish"... Exactly, like a long lunch!
Jean-Luc & Eric Burguet Vosne Romanée 2012 - just the name would give you a winegasm, but the liquid itself was quite on another level. Citing Antonoio Galloni here: "A model of pure sensuality and finesse, the 2012 is drop dead gorgeous from the very first taste". I told you so...love at first sight, to be shared with somebody very special indeed...Not cheap though!
Jane Eyre Gevrey Chambertin 2013 - only 900 bottles produced, so lucky us to taste it for free! Not the most expensive in the line-up though and very much worth the asking price!
A big thank you to Alex Wilcox and Jon Osbeiston and their suppliers for this great tasting!
BELLEVUE HILL BOTTLE SHOP
Almost 90 Pinot Noir from around the World were on offer to taste here, a very expensive exercise for the shop owner and his partners, but also very taxing on your humble blogger...So again I had to make drastic choices and concentrated on French and US west Coast, and was eventually coerced (gently...) into tasting the Oakridge 864 from Victoria. More on this latter...
From Burgundy, France
Clos de la Marjolaine - Savigny les Beaune 2010
Blagny 1er Cru 2010
Volnay 1er Cru 2010
Domaine Roy - Savigny les Beaune 2010
Pierre Janny Volnay 1er Cru - 2010
Maybe I was suffering Pinot Noir fatigue, but I found it very hard to find clear differences between these French Pinot Noir. Classic Bourgogne Pinots, all very good, but maybe too much by the book
Faiveley Mercurey Le Clos du Roy 2012 - In the words of The Drink Shop in the UK: On the nose, scents of small red fruits mix pleasantly with spicy and woody aromas, which come from the wine being raised traditionally in oak. This wine is very nicely balanced on the palate.
Its rich aromas blend marvelously with its tannins, giving a wine which is greedy and full of body.
Henri de Villamont - Bourgogne 2012 - probably the best value of the line-up, outstanding for only A$32.00
Lucien Muzard & Fils - Bourgogne 2012 - in the same vein at an amazing A$36.00
Parent Bourgogne 2011 - Excellent at A$48.00, amazing value as well
Can I risk to say that maybe 2011 and 2012 were better vintages than 2010?
From Languedoc, France
Le Fou (The Madman) 2013 - In my youth (!) the wines from Languedoc were primarily "Vins de table", but then over the last 25 years, there has been a conscious effort from the regional authorities to push the quality up, invite New World winemakers to try their luck there - including a few Aussies - and this wine is certainly a good example of the high quality Languedoc wines can command. Certainly more fruity and full than the Bourgogne wines, this was very drinkable indeed and at A$22.00 was one of the most affordable of the line-up. You would be mad not to try it!
From the US West Coast
Bliss 2010 - Mendocino - California - The name sums it perfectly...
Mouton Noir - Lieu Dit 2011 - Oregon - At A$68.00, this was an amazing choice. I have said way back that Oregon was the perfect place to grow wines that could compete with the best of France, and although general more expensive, this is a fine example of a well priced Pinot Noir
Underwood 2013 - Oregon - Very good example of entry level Pinot at A$28.00. will buy some!
A big thank you to Dan, Mickey an Calvin for organising such a great event!
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!
PRINCE WINE STORE SYDNEY OPENS in ROSEBERY
Jon Osbeiston, arguably the best expert in French and Italian wines in Australia, not to mention his encyclopaedic knowledge of the Australian wine scene, had sold his Ultimo Wine Centre store to Vintage Cellars, part of the Coles/Westfarmers empire in April 2013. He stayed behind the counter for anther 18 months up until late last year when he joined forces with reputable Melbourne wine experts, the well named Prince Wine Store. I bumped into Jon a couple of times over the last few days quite by chance and I decided to pay him a visit last Friday. And I was impressed!
Obviously, PWS is not yet stocked with the old and iconic wines that are still awaiting clients in Ultimo, but Jon and the team in Melbourne have certainly assembled a great choice of wines from the humble 10$ bottle to more upmarket Australian, French and Italian labels.
The success of the Prince Wine Stores in Melbourne was in part due to their very successful wine tasting evenings. An upstairs room has been fitted in the Sydney store and I will report in due time!
Great location, near the most up and coming, growing suburb of Sydney, south of the CBD in Rosebery, Zetland and near Alexandria. Warehouses are replaced by designer apartments and new and fabulous cafes and restaurants are sprouting all around the place to cater for a cashed up , multicultural and savvy younger generation, like Milano Torino, Da Mario and the quirky Kitchen by Mike to name my three favourites in the area. We wish you all the best for this new venture, Jon!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
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