Saturday, January 26, 2019

Australia Day 2019

Today is Australia Day.
It commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet from Great Britain into Sydney Harbour in 1788 to establish a convict settlement.
Not everyone is happy about this being a day to celebrate, especially the indigenous population. They see it as invasion day.
Disquiet about the date has been building for some time now. Each year the protests get more vocal and visible.
Sadly for a lot of people it is an opportunity for them to demonstrate their bogan racist, nationalistic and jingoistic attitude. Never a good look.....for any country.
The events that take place on this holiday are largely organized by the local councils.

They also are in charge of the many citizenship ceremonies that take place around the country. Some have decided not to celebrate the date at all while others have decided to keep the events but move the citizenship ceremonies away from the 26th.
This has incurred the ire of our current turd of a Prime Minister who is threatening to remove citizenship ceremony rights from errant councils.
Many are standing firm however.
Our local council had moved the January ceremony away from the 26th a long time ago (there are three or four more during the year) without a murmur. The co driver took part in one three years ago. No one turned a hair that it was not on ‘the day’.
They are one of those now standing firm.
Hopefully this and many other much more important and worrying matters will be solved when the current vacuous government is voted out and into oblivion some time before May.
Update 27th January: Australia Wide Protests

Saturday, January 19, 2019


Chianti is a wine region in Tuscany, Italy.
It is famous for its red wine made mainly from Sangiovese grapes.
The region is divided up into 8 sub regions, the most famous being Chianti Classico.

We were helping clean out an old friend's home (she is going into care) when we came across a most stunning bottle of Chianti Montebello.
I traced it to its village (Certaldo) and what I assume was its commune (Montebello) but for a while could find no record of it on the Internet nor any pictures of that type of bottle.
The bottle is obviously old but could find no date or further info as the front label is a little damaged. The intact neck label is not too informative.
However a week later I had another look and saw the faded words Nello Gori.
I googled that and BINGO!

In the 1960s, Nello Gori and his son Alessandro purchased the il Pozzo agricultural company and started the production and worldwide export of Chianti wines.
The passion for agriculture and wine was transmitted to the third generation, Gianni and Duccio Gori, the sons of Alessandro. They establish the 40ha Tenuta della Luia vineyard and winery in 1997.
The grapes planted there are Sangiovese, Colorino, Ciliegiolo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah
Annually they sell 2000 hl of bulk DOCG Chianti wine in tanks and 15,000 bottles of Chianti and IGT oak barrel aged wines locally as well as exporting to other European countries and the United States.
I made contact with Gianni who asked me to send a picture.

The bottle will stay with us as a bit of floor art by our wine rack, probably never to be opened. The wine has more than likely already gone 'over the hill' (Gianni agrees) despite bring well sealed with a cork and wax. But the ullage is around 5.5cm.
That wine is still made today albeit with a slight name change.

From the winery web site:
The Chianti Monticello was born about 40 years ago. Initially the name was “Montebello”. Afterwards it was named Monticello in honour of the small town in Virginia (USA), where Thomas Jefferson was born and where he planted some of the first vines in North America. It is the wine dedicated to the founder of the company, Nello Gori and it expresses the freshness and fragrance of the grape and tradition of Chianti.

All in all this little investigative 'trip' made me look into the complexity of the Italian wine classification system again and was a nice diversion from our day to day lives.
Update: 23rd January
We received the following email from Alessandro Gori-
The name of the bottle is  " CLEOPATRA " exported in Australia more of 50 years ago, the glass is handmade near Florence.
Wonderful and appreciated feedback.
Case closed.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Rose' Wine

Rose' wines are made from any red wine grape where, after crushing, the skins are allowed to remain on the juice for varying amounts of time. The longer the maceration, the deeper the colour and more complex the flavour.
After draining the juice from the skins it is treated like a white wine with fermentation taking it to complete dryness or some degree of sweetness by stopping fermentation at predetermined residual sugar level.
The wine is then marketed as a Rose' table wine or used as a base for making pink sparkling wines.
On our trip to Rutherglen last year, we came across a few unusual Rose's.
Rutherglen is well known for its fortified wines eg. Muscat, Topaque (formerly known as Tokay) and Vintage and Tawnies (formerly known as two Port styles).
As a consequence of this, they grow a lot of grape varieties of Portuguese and Spanish origin.
These are not generally used for table wines but there has been a trend to experiment with them for that purpose.
Rose's of Various Hues

So it was nice to find an example at the Stanton and Killeen winery. We bought their Rose' which was made from a blend of Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cão and Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo)
Some wines obtained during an intensive wine tasting trip can be disappointing many months later when opened at home, particularly those bought late in the day when judgment might be slightly impaired (wink, wink).
But this one did not disappoint. Sure, it was quite different from other Rose's we were used to but on a hot 35°C summer's evening with an antipasto plate loaded with goodies, this cold wine went down a treat.
We had also bought a red table wine made with a similar blend of 39% Tinto Cão, 26% Touriga Nacional, 17% Tinta Barroca, 14% Tinta Roriz and 4% Souzão which we have already tried and found to be excellent.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Orange (Amber) Wine

The daughter went to an up market Italian restaurant in Brooklyn (NY) the other night and suggested I look at the wine menu.
Two things stood out.
One was the very large selection of wine, all of which was available by the glass.
This is highly unusual with most wine by the glass limited to a few selections.
I wondered how they kept potentially so many open bottles fresh for any length of time. Most wine starts to deteriorate within days, even when kept under optimal conditions.
There are numerous products on the market that purport to be able to do this from the humble air extractor pump (which is useless) to some really sophisticated equipment.
At the top end are products like the Coravin.

This tool works by pushing a long hollow needle through the unopened bottle’s cork.
At the push of a button wine is drawn out through the needle and argon gas is pushed into the bottle from a compressed canister inside the device.
Trials have shown that wine stays in great condition for two weeks or more.
But there are some drawbacks. It’s a bit fiddly, it only works on corked bottles not screw caps and it is expensive at around $A450 although a business probably wouldn’t shy at that price.

The other surprise on the menu was the large selection of Orange wines.
For this Australian, it immediately meant wines from the Orange Wine Region of New South Wales but knew this would be highly unlikely for a USA restaurant.
And it couldn’t be citrus wine.
So a bit of investigation established that Orange (or amber) wine is white wine made by the same process as red wine.
Instead of crushing the grapes and separating the juice from the skins before fermentation, which is normal for white wine production, the juice is fermented on the skins and left to macerate on them for an extended length of time.


As a result orange wines are more tannic and very flavourful having extracted tannins and phenols from the skins. They also have a mouth feel closer to that of red rather than white wine.
Certainly the colour is quite different being between deep rouge and honey. And they are not too difficult to match with food.
How I could have missed knowing about this style over so many decades is a bit embarrassing. They have been around for many thousands of years originating probably in Georgia (the country, not the USA state). Many Australian producers have started to embrace this style and local restaurant menus are beginning to have a few offerings.
However the best come from the border region between Italy and Slovenia.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

2018 / That Was The Year That Was

We had a reasonably quiet 2018 travel wise. There were no overseas trips, just a week away in Melbourne, a long weekend in Port Macquarie to see Stirls and his new home and four overnights in Canberra for a quilt show, Sydney for a medical appointment, Bowral to see the daughter on a flying visit from New York and Brisbane to say goodbye to my oldest friend.
Life on the farm was dominated by the drought. The pasture stopped growing very early and the dams were drying up. The creek stopped running for the first time in our memory. We were forced to begin feeding the cattle a lot earlier than normal. With a shortage of hay across the country, and what we could get at $30 bale, it was an expensive exercise. On top of that we had severe out of season bush fires to deal with.
But early summer saw some rain come and there was a little relief. Weather events have been quite severe. Storms have brought high winds and hail not to mention damaging lightning strikes.
Looking around the world at other severe weather events it’s hard to deny climate change is with us.
Politics in Australia produced another chaotic year. The ‘do nothing’ conservative government changed prime ministers again in the most shambolic way.
Forced into Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry that they didn’t want, voting against it many times, it was established that our major financial institutions had been ‘very naughty’ for a long time. No one responsible will spend any gaol time of course. Big business is a protected species under conservative governments.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety currently running is expected to produce disturbing findings.
Our brutal treatment of refugees continues to be a stain on the national reputation.
We have to go to the polls sometime before a May this year and there is little doubt the conservative coalition faces oblivion.
The only saving grace is that we are not as big a circus politically as our ally across the Pacific. The USA appears to be an elective monarchy rather than a democracy. It’s just crazy town there.
Sporting wise our state and national rugby teams were again disappointing.
There is no light at the end of that tunnel and with the Rugby World Cup looming it will be tough to watch them struggle.
Our national cricket team was involved in a disgraceful ball tampering scandal. A clean out of the culprits hopefully will change the team culture. The test matches against India over the last months have been encouraging that a change in attitude is in place.
Australia produced another world champion surfer, Stephanie Gilmore. This is her 7th world title!
At home the co driver continued to quilt, dye, sew and help alcohol ink do its magic.
For me, grape growing continued with its usual problems but an influx of kangaroos, due to the drought, made things a little more difficult.
My three year weed eradication program has produced great results. A minimal yearly autumn clean up from now on will be all that is needed.
So, for 2019 we have a trip to the USA planned, mainly New York and South Dakota.
Trying a new route this time through Houston. That means an initial longer flight of 16 hours out of Sydney but a much shorter second leg. And it was quite a cheap ticket.
We are looking forward to catching up with family and friends.
A happy New Year to all my readers!