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.
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
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