How good a meal would be without wine?
Let's explore this together.
Our dinner at Sepia - the wines we sampled: Goisot Bourgogne Aligote & Chateau Villa Bel Air rouge
An elegant place, probably most suited to a business lunch than a birthday dinner party, it is nevertheless a confortable venue, with a very good service and food of the highest standard (which I will review in due time)
I thought I would just mentioned the two beautiful wines we sampled on the night:
Bougogne Aligote - Maison Goisot
One of our favourite Chardonay when living in France, it is almost unknown, and very difficult to find here in Australia.
So given the chance, we jumped at it, and were not disapointed!
It is quite a good example of an every day Chardonnay, and a very good match with the several avatars of seafood served at the start of the Sepia degustation menu. This particular wine is coming from a vineyard biodynamically managed and has a very clean taste.
It is no Meursault or Montrachet, but well worth the money!
Chateau Villa Bel Air - Graves
I had a couple of glasses of this beautiful wine to accompany the meaty part of the degustation menu, and what a great counterpoint to the fabulous "Roasted pasture fed Angus beef tenderloin, marinated in Hatcho miso, braised short rib, smoked daikon radish, yuzu jellies, oxtail consomme", my favourite and even with the less successful "Cocoa and sansho seared Mandagery Creek venison, baby beetroots, rhubarb, chocolate, beetroot and boudin noir crumb".
Let me quote Berry Bros & Rudd here: There really can't be a better value wine than this in the whole of Bordeaux. It shows the sleek, generous, polished character that all the wines from the Cazes stable seem to share in 2006. A pure, intense nose is followed by fresh, concentrated, black cedary fruit and toasty coffee hints, all in a lovelymodern package. Made from 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc, and agedin 20% new oak barrels, this really is a belter at the price.
Three Cotes-du-Rhone competing for "our favourite"?
Are we going to move away from our Vidal-Fleury to either the Saint-Cosmes 2009 or the Clos Petite Bellane 2007?
Let's start with the fundamental differences:
Vidal-Fleury is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre
Saint Cosmes is 100% Syrah
Clos Petite Bellane is half Syrah, half Grenache
So, in theory, the Vidal-Fleury is more complex and has the most Grenache, which gives the wine its smoothness.
The Saint Comes is on the Gigondas appelation and the vineyard actually makes primarily excellent Gigondas and have done so since 1570!
The Clos Petite Bellane is on the Valreas appellation, not bad either, but usually a notch under Gigondas in fame.
We have talked about Mont-Redon and the biodynamic Les Genestas elsewhere.
All are in the same price bracket (between 17$ to 25$).
So far, I prefer the Clos Petite Bellane and I have ran out of stock already...a sure sign.
But this is only my humble opinion and these wines are made with love, passion and expertise, and it shows, or should I say, it tastes!
And as some advertising agency said for beer, if you can't find these wines at your local bottle shop, then move!!!
A few wines from "Down Under" and New Zealand
As a preamble, I have to say that I rarely find a red wine from Australia that I like, so to prove the rule by the exception, here are some of my favourite wines from Australia and New Zealand...(not all red, though...)
Lark Hill Winery
This winery is located near Lake George in Bungendore, a small village less than 40 kms away from Canberra.
It used to be the terminal station of the railway coming from Sydney via Gouldburn.
Lark Hill is the highest vineyard in Australia at an altitude of 860m. It is also one of the oldest biodynamic vineyard in Australia
I am a big fan of their Pinot Noir 2005 and the most recent Chardonnay 2008 that one could easily mistake for a Meursault.
They also make a highly regarded Riesling that I have yet to taste.
Peter Lehmann "Mentor" collection
Peter is certainly the godfather of the wine industry in Australia, and more specifically from the Barossa Valley in South Australia.
A friend recently brought us a bottle of their "Mentor" range, a Cabernet Sauvignon 2005.
Very "Bordeauxesque" and quite layered.
In the words of the winemaker: "Colour is deep with a dense centre. The nose has inviting aromas of classical Barossa Cabernet
blackcurrant, hints of mint & cedar box. The palate has a defined Cabernet cassis flavour, a touch of
chocolate & vanilla, and shows a superb integration of oak and fruit."
At around 40$ a bottle, it is quite good value as well.
Yass Valley Wines
Yass Valley Wines is situated at Murrumbateman, 20 km from Yass and 40 km from Canberra, just 3 km off the Barton Highway which is the main western road from Canberra.
The varieties in the vineyard are Traminer, Chardonnay, Riesling, Semillon, Barbera, Shiraz, Merlot and Verdelho, and all on 3ha of land!
The Crisp Lane Cafe is beautifully situated overlooking both the Yass Valley Wines vineyard and the pastures and vines of their neighbours in the valley. From the northfacing verandah or the full length windows in the Cafe, guests enjoy both country hospitality and the delightful country views. We had the Verdelho to accompany a tasty tuna steak sandwich and a gorgeous quiche. It was almost as being back in Portugal!
Interestingly enough, the owner is named Withers (more on that later...) and the cellar door is an impressive showroom of vintage hifi and very old Apple (Mac 2s) computers...
This winery is one of the oldest in Murrumbateman, and has attracted a LOT of great reviews:
“ The rise in status of this wine over the past ten years has been phenomenal. It is now a contender for the mantle of ‘Australia’s best red wine’ ”
- Campbell Mattinson
The aim of the owner, John Kirk, is to emulate the wines from Northern Cotes du Rhone,
but it fails in my view to compete primarily because of the very high price (75 to 90$ a bottle ofr Shiraz...) and also by trying to do wines like a Voignier Nouveau!
Well, we already know that Beaujolais Nouveau is NOT really good, so why try with a grape that is usually a supporting grape to another more robust grape like Sirah or Grenache?
The Voignier "tout court" at 45$ a bottle is just not worth it.
For comparison purposes, you can buy a coffret of 2 of the best wines from Chapoutier, a Chateauneuf du Pape 2008 AND a Hermitage 2006 for 64 euros...or a St Joseph 2005 from Eric et Joel Durand available in Australia for around 30$
St Julien - Chateau Lagrange 2006 & Chateau Marquis de Lalande 2006
St Julien is a tiny appelation from the Bordeaux region of Medoc, home of the 1855 classification.
While St. Julien has no first growths, it is home to five second growths: the three Léovilles (Las Cases, Poyferré, and Barton) as well as Gruaud-Larose and Ducru-Beaucaillou - my personal favourite.
St Julien is home to (only...) 48 Chateaux! and I recently found at the NGA bookshop in Canberra a book on these wineries called" Bordeaux Chateaux, a history of the Grands Crus Classes since 1855" published by Flammarion and written by Frank Ferraud, with photographs by Christian Sarramon, a must read for all Bordeaux wines enthusiasts.
Although 2006 is not an exceptional vintage (2005 was named the "vintage of the century"...), both wines are exceptionally good and show the typical qualities of a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, rich, fruity, complex with rich blackberry core and supple feel. The Marquis de Lalande was a notch better than the Lagrange, but either can be recommended to accompany meat dishes like coq au vin and daube or roast pork.
Silvaner 2009 - Hans Wirsching from Germany
Some might be surprised to find a note on a German wine by a Frenchman...
But, don't be! This was a gift of Maitre Karl who I had the pleasure to host at my table recently with his lovely wife Paivi, after he sold his restaurant (now High Street Bistro, more on this later...) and regained possession of his Saturday nights after five and a half years of very hard work.
This is a very good example of a modern German Silvaner, quite dry, crisp, layered, herbaceous but still fruity with hints of pear, citrus. It was a perfect companion for the scallops we had as an entree.
A nice discovery. Thanks, Karl!
Riesling from Alsace
About to prepare a rather unusual recipe of scallops by Jean-Pierre Crouzil, the Chef of L'Ecrin a Michelin rated restaurant in Plancouet in Northern Brittany, who is heralded as being the King of the Scallop and seafood more generally.
This wine comes from the oldest winery in the World (1352), where there is still a bottle of wine from 1452!!!. The winery belongs to the Hospices de Strasbourg, another proof that wine has long been consumed for its therapeutic qualities (in moderation, obviously...)
A typical example of a Wiebelsberg AOC Grand Cru, this wine is almost amber in colour and full of different fruit flavours - the experts would probably identify litchees, apple and pear - quite complex, layered and intense - a perfect match for this rather bitter sweet preparation of scallops...
On two recent occasions, I had the pleasure and privilege to taste two different Pinots, one from Burgundy and one from...New Zealand.
Ultimo Wine Centre Hospice de Beaune Savigny Les Beaune 1er Cru ‘Cuvee Forneret’, 2007
Ultimo Wine Centre bought a barrel at auction in November, and this is the result. At last count 186 bottles left. Just run and buy some. At A$79.95, it is a bargain. We drank it for Mother's Day Dinner. see menu and recipe here.
“Purple-red of medium depth, with open, fresh aromatic nose. On the palate this has pure fruitiness, flesh and fine tannins. It is a lovely Savigny for early to mid-term drinking.” (Anthony Hanson, Auctioneer Christies)
Tarras Vineyards Pinot Noir 2008, Central Otago
We had this wine for my birthday recently at Capital Grill. I wish the food had been up to it. See review here
A blend of Pinot Noir from The Steppes and The Canyon Vineyards. Deep, concentrated dark cherry fruits integrated with fine ripe tannins.
5 Stars Cuisine Magazine (November 2009)
Top 10 New Zealand Pinot Noir - Wine New Zealand Magazine (October 2009)
BEST IMPORT 94/100 Sydney Morning Herald, March 2010
An exciting new producer with two $50 reserve wines as well as this excellent estate blend. Foresty, earthy, black-fruit complexities and a savoury, burgundy-like palate with power and structure. Classy flavour and good concentration, with less oak than the reserve wines. Now to five years.
Huon Hooke, SMH Good Living
Huon Hooke has also put this wine in his newly published list of the 50 best wines for 2010.
Definitely up there with the French!
Pessac Leognan - The Heart of Bordeaux
Over the years, I have had the chance to drink wines from three Chateaux from that region:
Chateau Haut Brion red - can't remember the vintage, sorry,
Domaine de Chevalier 1975 white
and for Valentine Day in 2010, Chateau Carbonnieux 2005 White.
This is a very good example of a Sauvignon Semillon blend (60%-40%), the aromas of white fruits and almonds being a perfect companion for the spicy scallops, as it has strength and depth.
It was maybe even more in tune with the burnt fig, caramel, and honeycomb ice cream from Maggie Beer
My favourite Cotes-du-Rhone
Well, this is my favourite wine for everyday (almost...). It is perfect with meat, Thai food, Indian food, cheese, bien sur... It cost a mere 20A$ in Sydney by the bottle and you can easily save up to 30% in a dozen. To upgrade and stay in the Rhone Valley, you would have to spend twice as much for a St Joseph, a Chateunuef-du-Pape or a Gigondas or even more for a Cote Rotie...
I have entertained many of my guests over the years with several vintages of this wine. We currently drink the 2007, as the 2005 seems to have been all drunk, at least in Sydney! The 2005 is actually rounder, less tannic than the 2007.
On the photo, ready to drink with a selection of goat cheese from Willowbrae Cheese, recently featured on MasterChef and loaf from the Moana Bakery in Rozelle: a treat!