Monday, June 13, 2011


I have broached this subject before but a recent purchase rekindled my interest.
Cleanskin is a term used for bottled wine that does not carry a label or any other identifying marks.
They have been sold in Australia for a long time now but are generally more prevalent during times when there is excess wine in the Australian domestic wine market.
We have however recently had New Zealand cleanskins on our bottle shop shelves due to the over production of Sauvignon Blanc in that country.
Wineries sell cleanskins to get rid of unwanted stock while at the same time avoiding the negative consequences of discounting their existing brands.
This form of disposal often has very little to do with the quality of the wine and wine drinkers can benefit greatly by buying them.
Having said that, there is always an element of risk when purchasing cleanskins from a quality point of view.

During our trip around South Australia last year I had left my name at various wineries to be advised when specials came up.
One of those was the well known Pikes in the Clare Valley who are famous for their Riesling.
They contacted me to say they had on special many of their wines at 30% off with free delivery. For each dozen purchased, the customer had access to a dozen 2010 Clare Valley Riesling cleanskins.
I paid $18.40 a bottle for their labeled Traditional Riesling and $6.50 for the cleanskin.
The co driver and I did a comparative tasting the other night.
We both agreed they were probably the same wines or near enough to it.
We really could not tell the difference.
And there is also an 'in between' marketing ploy. Wineries have been known to produce a completely new label for a particular wine and sell it at a greatly reduced price compared to the established brand.
We think we have some of those in our wine rack too; no names, no pack drill.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Daughter's Italy / Part 3

I always knew Positano and I would be great friends. What wasn’t there to love about it? There was the iridescent sea lapping gently against the pebbly beach, briny air caressing our faces and THE MEN. These are the men of the Amalfi coast! There is something unique about these men. They roam the shadowy corridors and steep stairways of Positano with tanned seafaring physiques that made our knees go weak with a casual “ciao bella!”. We knew we were in trouble from the get-go, but successfully managed to manoeuvre ourselves around the slick lothario’s with a smile and a quickened step.

Ms. B and I were in Positano to gossip, eat enough bread to fill a bakery, laugh from the pit of our bellies and get drunk on red wine in tumblers and stumble home arm in arm. What could be better?
After a few days of meandering through the snake and ladder like pathways of Positano, Ms. B and I decided to expand our horizons by going to Capri for the day. A stomach churning ferry ride out to the Island, complete with the mantra
“I am AUSTRALIAN – I will not V-O-M-I-T/I am AUSTRALIAN – I will not V-O-M-I-T”... we landed in the somewhat disappointing and glum looking Marina Grande. The blue skies that had been with us in Positano had disappeared under a cluster of clouds and it was cold and windy as we boarded our smaller boat to circumnavigate the island (I am AUSTRALIAN – I will not V-O-M-I-T/ I am AUSTRALIAN – I will not V-O-M-I-T).

Unfortunately due to the rough weather the Blue grotto was closed (seriously – who comes all the way from Australia to Capri and doesn’t get to see the Blue grotto? Me it seems!). Fortunately we did get to see the Green grotto (lucky for our guide... I was murderous with sea sickness by this stage (I am AUSTRALIAN – I will not V-O-M-I-T/ I am AUSTRALIAN – I will not V-O-M-I-T)). The harbour couldn’t come soon enough as we disembarked the boat, green to the gills and still chanting the mantra over and over in our heads.

In typical family tradition, by the time we had made it up the heady slopes to Capri town my mind was on food. Seasickness, what seasickness?? There was no way we wanted to sit in the touristy trattorias dotted around the piazza, we wanted REAL Italian food. My trusty guidebook told us of a “secret” pizza joint (hey Lonely Planet – it’s not too secret if you published it in your guidebook is it?) that proved a little tricky to find. Apparently the restaurant had been cooking pizza for 18 generations and it involved going down various alleyways that led you to believe you were heading towards a public urinal.

After a couple of wrong turns, we finally found what we were looking for. Ms.B and I exchanged glances of “Do we/don’t we?”... I pushed her through the doorway to discover the largest living man we have ever seen! He looked like Jabba the Hut from Star Wars. Seriously. I could tell his genetic code was based on the piles of pizza the place was churning out. As we sat down Ms.B elbowed a bottle of wine towards me with a twinkle in her eye... Our host was pictured on the wine label languishing on the rocks of Capri in the sun... In just his shorts. There goes lunch we giggled.

What came out of that pizza oven in a dark and dingy alley in Capri can only be described as glorious. And believe me, I have eaten many pizzas across Italy and nothing will ever compare to this! A thin crispy base, lusciously creamy mozzarella, blood red tomato sauce and every meat an Italian butcher could find was washed down with an icy coke. Eyes glossy with desire and molten cheese hanging down our chins, I don’t think we spoke to each other for a full 15 minutes.

Ms.B and I still send each other desperate texts every once and a while with just 2 words “Pizza.. Capri...”.....

Saturday, June 04, 2011

A Date Day

For a change we decided to head south for some shopping and lunch.
About an hour's drive away is the small town of Moruya which sits on the banks of the river of the same name.
The town's name comes from an Aboriginal word, mherroyah, meaning "home of the black swan". Black swans can still be to seen in the surrounding lakes and rivers.
There are a number of historic buildings preserved in the main streets of the town including the court house.

Although being the smallest of the three major towns on the Eurobodalla Shire, the council area bordering our Shoalhaven, Moruya is the administrative centre of the shire and home to the council offices and other public institutions.
Not surprisingly there is also a quilt shop.
At the mouth of the river is Moruya Heads which has a great surfing beach. The surf was very big when we were there and waves were breaking over the bar and heading up river.
There are many other unspoiled beaches to the south including Congo and Bingi as well as some others without names which are within a short drive from the town.

The town is also famous for its granite quarry.
The granite for the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons was quarried in the area. From 1925 to 1932, the Harbour Bridge works saw 250 stonemasons employed and relocated to Moruya by the contractor to produce 18,000 cubic metres of dimension stone for the bridge pylons, 173,000 blocks, and 200,000 yards of crushed stone that was used as aggregate for concrete.
During the seven years of this work, a small town of about 70 houses grew up near the quarry called Granitetown. Unfortunately despite the quarry still being in use not much remains of this historic town site today.
Moruya's other claim to fame is it is the site of our local airport albeit a pretty small one. You can just make out the runway in the above picture to the right.
The airline Regional Express, known as REX, flies mostly Saab 340B aircraft from Moruya to Sydney and Moruya to Merimbula, with connecting flights to Melbourne.