Friday, June 22, 2012

2011 Bordeaux En Primeur

I don't buy much French wine. There is so much good Australian (and New Zealand) wine to try it's hardly  worthwhile struggling through the complicated Appellation d'origine Controlee (AOC) labeling to find a French one that may be OK and value for money. And usually the 'really good stuff' is very expensive.
But the strong Australian dollar has made imported wine a lot cheaper in the last year or so, so there has been much more on offer. We have seen French Sauvignon Blanc from the Touraine region of the Loire Valley for $15 in our supermarket. And under screw cap no less!
One of my wine contacts is offering 2011 Bordeaux En Primeur ie. wine made in late 2011 and still in the barrel. You pay half now and half just prior to delivery, a couple of years from now.
Here are a few examples with their tasting notes.

Chateau Margaux Premier Grand Cru Classe

Administrator Paul Pontallier is nearly embarrassed to explain the amazing success of the 2011 Chateau Margaux, a candidate for wine of the vintage. With the harvest occurring between September 5-20, it was the smallest crop in over twenty years as yields were cut significantly by the drought. The berries were tiny. Moreover, analytically, the 2011 has a higher level of concentration as well as tannins than the 2009. A blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and the rest Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, only 38% of the harvest made it into the grand vin. The wine offers an inky/purple color, barely noticeable sweet tannin, and a beautiful nose of creme de cassis, spring flowers and lead pencil shavings backed up by fresh acids and good overall structure. This medium to full-bodied effort possesses tremendous personality and character. It rivals what they achieved in both 2010 and 2009, which is virtually impossible to contemplate given the quality of those two vintages.

Chateau Ausone St. Emillion Grand Cru Classe

Not surprisingly, Alain Vauthier’s 2011 Ausone is one of the greatest wines he has produced. I know this sounds impossible, but it is the reason why I spend so much time tasting and reflecting on what is in front of me. The 2011 could turn out to be better than his 2009 – sacre bleu! Probably the wine of the vintage, the 2011 exhibits a murky, inky, blue/purple color as well as an extraordinary nose of creme de cassis, plum sauce, crushed rocks (primarily chalk), acacia flowers and hints of graphite, truffles and damp forest floor. The riveting aromatics are followed by a wine that does not let the taster down in the mouth. Full-bodied with extraordinary purity, oozing richness and well-integrated velvety tannins, acidity, oak and alcohol, this is another superb achievement by Vauthier from this phenomenal site on the decomposed limestone hillsides of St.-Emilion. Possibly the longest-lived wine of the vintage, it should evolve for 30-40 years.

Chateau Lafite-Rothschild Pauillac 1er Cru

A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot (harvested between September 3-21), the 2011 Lafite Rothschild came in at 12.6% natural alcohol (considerably lower than in 2010 and 2009). Exhibiting a deep ruby/purple color, lots of crushed rock, red and black currant, forest floor and underbrush characteristics, moderate tannin and medium body, it is built somewhat along the lines of the 1999 and 2001.

All sound very attractive.
And the prices?
Chateau Margaux Premier Grand Cru Classe: $1000 a bottle.
Chateau Ausone St. Emillion Grand Cru Classe: $1489 a bottle.
Chateau Lafite-Rothschild Pauillac 1er Cru: $1175 a bottle.
Sorry, but I don't think so!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Hunter Valley Revisited

It was an early morning drive up to Sydney through some very heavy rain to drop the co driver off at the Sydney Quilt Show at the Darling Harbour Exhibition Centre.
Then I drove further north another ninety minutes to Umina on the Central Coast and Stirl's place.
We headed over to Patonga which is a small village near the mouth of the Hawkesbury River just before it empties into Broken Bay. There is a nice pub here overlooking the beach which serves an OK lunch and good beer.
The Hawkesbury is one of the major rivers of the coastal region of New South Wales. It and its tributaries virtually encircle the metropolitan region of Sydney and is dammed in many places to provide the city's water supply.

Later that evening, the co driver arrived by train and we settled down to a good dinner of roast lamb and vegetables and followed by strawberries and ice cream all washed down with some Knappstein Riesling and Bird in Hand Tempranillo.
After breakfast the next morning, we were on the road to the Hunter Valley, one of Australia's well known vineyard regions. We decided to take the Great Northern Road which follows the old convict road north instead of the Freeway. It's always a nice drive through some pretty farming land as well as some rugged sandstone gorges. Remnants of the convicts' work is still to be seen. Relics such as stone retaining walls, culverts, bridges and buttresses can still be seen along the entire length of the road, most hewn out of the sandstone by pick and shovel
Our first stop was at Wollombi for coffee.

The establishment of this township was directly connected with the construction and importance of the Great Northern Road. Wollombi is pretty small these days but has a number of 19th-century sandstone buildings and timber slab constructed cottages and sheds in a narrow valley junction containing Wollombi Brook and Congewai Creek.
From here it was onto Broke in the Broke Fordwich wine region of the Hunter and our destination for lunch, Margan Estate. This has long been a favourite winery of mine and I have bought much of their Semillon and Verdelho over the years.
We had a quick wine tasting, sampling a vertical tasting of their Semillons from 2011 to 2007.
Lunch was great. Seared tuna with piccalilli, buffalo mozzarella with beets, grilled barramundi, roast duck on lentils and a pepper risotto was accompanied by their Barbera.We finished off sharing a cheese plate.

From there we headed into the Pokolbin region of the Hunter. This is the main, best known and touristy area.
Our first stop was the Small Winemakers Centre which sells a selection of wine from makers too small (or not interested) to have their own cellar doors.
Here we picked up some Thomas Semillon which is always a good drop, even in not so good years.
During our travels around the vineyards it was obvious that a lot of grapes had not been picked this vintage due to the bad weather..
You could see a huge acreage of  mummified berries still hanging on the vines. That made me feel a little better about abandoning my crop this year.

Our final stop was McWilliams Mt. Pleasant. Our main aim here was to track down their Anne Semillon which, thanks to Stirl's contacts in the wine  industry, we had tasted some time ago and never been able to find commercially.
It lies, quality wise, between their well known 'Elizabeth' and the very expensive 'Lovedale' Semillons
There was a rumour that the 'Anne' was actually the overproduction of the 'Lovedale' under another label.
We tasted the two and the consensus was they are not the same wine although the reasonably priced 'Anne" is still a stunner.
Then it was time to head back to Umina. Winter days are short and the co driver who had now assumed driving duties due to our wine consumption, didn't want to tackle the freeway back south in the dark.
Saturday was the co driver's mall day (we don't have any around us) so Stirls and I enjoyed some time at the beach watching surfers carve up some pretty big waves from the warmth of a cafe at Avoca.
Sunday we hit the road home after a pleasant four days away.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Autumn Colour

We don't get a lot of Autumn colour in Australia. Virtually none of our native trees are deciduous and are green all year round.
But people have planted exotics in their gardens including many deciduous trees. And of course various public parks and botanical gardens have many.
The previous owner of our property planted liquidambers (Liquidambar styraciflua) around the place.
This year they have been particularly colourful.
This rather tall example is on our western boundary and has evergreen natives on either side.

To the left is a silky oak (Grevillea robusta), the biggest of the Grevillea genus which runs to around 250 species. They vary in size from tiny alpine ground covers to this tree which can grow to 30m . This tree is covered in bright yellow toothbrush shaped flowers in spring which attract numerous species of honey eaters as well as parrots.
To the right is a Norfolk Island pine ( Araucaria hetereophylla). Coming from the small island which lies between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia, this is a popular tree along urban beach fronts, in parks and in large gardens. Araucaria is a small genus of about 18 species, three of which grow on the Australian mainland ie. the Hoop pine and the Bunya pine. The most famous member of this family is the recently discovered Wollemi Pine.
The rest are distributed around some pacific islands and South America.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Cattle Moving Day

We cut the herd almost in half today.
The bull, four bull calves and two cows went off to greener pastures.
The old cow was a bit hesitant to cooperate but we soon managed to get her loaded with the others.

The race and ramp that Stirls and I had worked so hard on repairing a few weeks ago held up under the strain and no one, human or animal, got injured so it was a successful day.
So we now have a more manageable number of cattle and with a shed full of good hay we are set for the winter.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Stormy Start to Winter

The weather bureau predicted that a famous (infamous?) winter south coast low pressure system was forming in the Southern Ocean and to expect damaging winds up to 110km/hr and 100mm rain overnight.
So we battened down the hatches.
Nothing! Overcast and calm the next morning.
But by the time we had driven into town for a few appointments all hell broke loose.
We had 12 hours of driving rain (55mm) and winds up to 106 km/hr!
The bureau got it right, just their timing was out.
At least our 'hanger' finally came down.....without any damage, thankfully.

The storm caused huge amounts of damage as it moved north through Wollongong and the metropolitan area of Sydney where it hit just on 5pm as people were leaving work.
Winds in Sydney were up to 130km/hr. This, together with the highest tide of the year, produced some pretty spectacular surf along the suburban beaches.
It even snowed up on the western slopes of the Great Divide a few hundred km from Sydney..
Further information and pictures here.
The chaos continued north to Newcastle hitting that area as the Australia v Scotland Rugby Test Match started. How they played in these atrocious conditions was beyond me. Unfortunately Scotland ended up getting over the line ahead of the Wallabies with an after the final bell penalty kick.
Hopefully this is not a sign of things to come, weather AND football wise.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Shoalhaven Coast Winter Wine Festival 2012

Every Queen's Birthday long weekend (this year 9-11th June), the Shoalhaven Coast Wine Region hosts the Winter Wine Festival
This year it will be the ninth.
There will be wine and cheese tastings, winery tours, winemakers’ dinners, market stalls, live entertainment, and it is usually a fun couple of days for the whole family.
Participants purchase a festival glass at the first winery they visit and then enjoy wine tastings at 13 wineries from Kiama to Durras and west to Kangaroo Valley.
At our end of the region, the three local wineries will be participating.
On the Saturday, Bawley Vale Estate will have live music in the vines followed by a Degustation Wine Festival Dinner at one of our local restaurants.
On Sunday they will be hosting a jazz band.
Home cooked soups and cheese plates are available both days.

Our friends at Fern Gully Winery will be presenting live music both days and be offering the usual yummy food.
The gourmet pies are my favourite. Either Atlantic salmon and prawns in creamy Chardonnay sauce or slow braised beef with bacon in Port sauce or roast mushroom in Shiraz sauce. Then there is G's homemade sweet potato, carrot and pumpkin soup with damper (camp oven bread).
At Cupitt’s Winery it will be a game of Petanque on the lawn, live music, winery tours and barrel tastings with the winemaker and local produce and homemade preserves on sale.There will also be a Cellar Door Art Exhibition.
Saturday dinner will feature a “Toast to Winter” wine pairing menu with their newly released wines.
On Sunday there is the famous convivial Long Table Lunch ‘Per Molto Tempo’ with live music and wine and cheese trivia with prizes.
It can be a pretty busy weekend for wine lovers.