Thursday, January 26, 2012

Australia Day

Today is Australia Day and a public holiday.
We commemorate the day in 1788 when the First Fleet of eleven convict ships arrived at Sydney Cove in Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) from Great Britain to establish the first white settlement in what was known then as New South Wales.
They had originally arrived a little to the south at Botany Bay a week before but found the site (recommended by Captain Cook) to have unsatisfactory anchorage, poor soil and little water.
Just prior to their leaving Botany Bay an expedition lead by Frenchman Jean François de Galaup comte de Lapérouse arrived.
Who knows, if he had been a little earlier, we may be all speaking French! But then again, his expedition was never heard of again after leaving the British. There is good evidence that his ships came to grief in the Solomon Islands to the north of Australia.
At least there is Sydney suburb named after him. La Perouse is situated on the north head of Botany bay.

In 1770 Captain James Cook had explored the east coast of the continent then known as Terra Australis and New Holland and taken possession of it for Great Britain on 22nd August.
Previous to that, the continent had been occupied, probably for around 40,000 years, by the Aboriginal people and had been known to Europeans, mainly the Dutch, from the beginning of 17th century.
While the Aboriginal people living here today see little reason to celebrate, what do the rest of us do on Australia Day?
The general consensus is not much. It's pretty much a lay back day, what with it falling at the end of summer school holidays and with a lot of the workforce still on vacation.
There are organized events across the nation with the emphasis on Sydney.
The co driver and I treat it much the same as any other day with no special activities planned.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

South Coast Wine Show 2012 Results

The wine show is over for another year. This was the thirteenth.
Out of the 118 entries, 6 Gold, 16 Silver and 46 Bronze medals were awarded.
From the Shoalhaven Coast region, a Semillon took a gold, including wine of show.
Not surprisingly the cooler climate Southern Highlands dominated the gold medals with a Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc from that region also taking gold.
Wineries around our area, Cupitts, Fern Gully and Bawley Vale also won medals.
About a hundred people turned up for the public tasting and award announcements.

This number was down on previous years. This was a bit surprising as there is no Awards Night Dinner this year and this was the only chance to get a good representative tasting of the wines of the zone as well as indulge in some pretty good finger food and local cheese.
Then again total entries for the show were also down with some major producers not submitting at all or with a reduced number.
Maybe a sign of the financial times.
The Australia dollar is currently very strong ($A1 =$US1.05 = GBP 0.67 =EUR0.80.) so our overseas wine markets have been hit very hard and there is substantial competition now in the local market from imported wines, especially from Europe and in particular France, Italy and Spain.
For a full list of medal winners, check out the wine show web site.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Clyde River Picnic

The Clyde River rises in the foothills of the Budawang Range behind us and spills out into the ocean at Batemans Bay. The river valley is a pretty remote area in parts but near Brooman there are a lot of rural properties on its banks. The co driver's quilt group had a social day at one of their member's farms and the men and kids were invited.
It was sure a beautiful setting for a picnic.

The kids swam and paddled canoes, the ladies talked and sewed, the men swam and lay in the sun and I did a little fishing.
The whole thing was a "Summertime and the livin' is easy" scenario.

I had been fishing in the Clyde but a lot further upstream many years ago. We used spinner lures and targeted yellow belly or Golden Perch which is a native Australian fresh water fish.
Casting into the edge of weed beds and around structure like fallen trees always brought us luck.
So this time I took a good selection of lures hoping for continued success.

I found a good spot a little downstream from the group and cast out into a weed bed. I used spinner lures, fluorescents, cicada rattlers and even soft plastics.
Over two hours of effort resulted in nothing, not even one bite!
Ok, so "the fish are jumpin' "part of the song was missing.
But at least the view down river from my spot made up for that.
Finally I gave up and headed back for lunch.
Fresh bread rolls, fresh fruit and cold drinks were on the menu.
After that, I succumbed to lying in the shade of a huge sheoak (Casuarina) on the river bank.
A great day with good company.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Veraison is a French word that means, in the world of viticulture, 'the beginning of ripening'.
The word has however been adopted into viticultural English and is regarded as an important milestone in the grape growing season.
Veraison is the time when the grape berry has stopped growing and the ripening process starts. The visible indication of this phase is the change of colour of red grapes from green to red (anthocyanin formation) and white grapes from green to yellowish (carotenoid formation).
The berries also change chemically with acids being degraded and sugars accumulated while herbaceous aromas degrade and fruity aromas start to develop.
Due to the cooler summer this season the onset of veraison is a little later than normal. Theory has it that slower ripening and lower ambient temperatures will improve the quality of the grapes.

As a result of all this, harvest will be delayed for a few weeks. We can only hope that heavy rain, which has also been an integral part of this summer, stays away for the next few months.
We don't need the juice diluted and the grapes put under any disease pressure.
So far in our little vineyard, we have seen veraison in the Pinot Noir (picture) and the Tempranillo.
Surprisingly there has been no sign as yet in the Semillon which is regarded as an early ripening variety. Another indication of the lack of ripeness of the Semillon is that the birds have not yet taken to eating the few bunches which are growing through the netting.
The later ripening Cabernet Sauvignon has a bit of a way to go yet.
So it's time to start cleaning up the wine making equipment and think about bottling last year's vintage to make room in the tanks for the new.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

South Coast Wine Show 2012

The entries are in and have been collated. One hundred and eighteen wines from twenty four wineries were received for judging in the various classes next week.
The South Coast Wine Zone covers a pretty big area and has two official wine regions, The Shoalhaven Coast and The Southern Highlands. A third area just west of Sydney around the Hawkesbury River is waiting for recognition.
This means the zone has a number of distinct climatic areas ranging from cool continental to warm maritime. Because of this we get a diverse number of wine styles from the same grape variety depending on where they are grown.

The three judges take around a day to get through the entries. White wines in the past have done better than reds but chief judge, David Morris, say the quality of the latter has been improving over the years. It will be interesting to see if this trend has continued into 2012.
My favourite whites from the zone are Semillon, Verdelho and cool climate Riesling. The Southern Highlands produce some acceptable Pinot Noir as well.
The public can taste all of the entries the following day when the awards are announced.
There is more detailed information on the Wine Show web site.