Bellissimo! An Italian style gem in Margeret River

I must declare this winery positively exudes the Italian feel. Pots of splashy red geraniums on the piazza overlooking the vines down to the sea and Prosecco at the cellar door, and Italian food next door in the dining room, one could say bliss or Bellissimo!

Smart marketing as Prosecco can be quite the delicious drop anytime. The “joie de vivre” for the francophiles.   Some of the Australian Proseccos can be quite bubbly, but the winemaker, Larry Cherubino, at Wise has produced quite a finer bubble, softer with a slight savoury teaser. Wise Winery sampling Prosecco

John managing the cellar door points out that the Prosecco made by the ‘Tank Method’ delivers a more affordable sparkling wine.

Whereas the sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir on offer, aged in bottles under higher pressure delivers that more finer characteristic bubble finesse.

Good thing for the Australian panorama surrounding the winery otherwise I would be transported back to Italy with memories.   It certainly is worth the detour to take in the view. The winery proudly boasts its location is where the vines meet the sea.  Truly one spectacular Margaret River panorama!

20171112_122203quirky artwork on the drive out



A real gem of a find in the Swan Valley!

Certainly a misnomer! The Ugly Duckling Winery.  A real gem of a find in the Swan Valley and the weather was splendid to enjoy a long lunch with friends on an Easter Monday.  The cellar door is smallish with the good old Australian verandah running the length of a rustic converted cottage overlooking the vines. Talking with the owners Andrew and Joanne gives you an insight to the passion they have for their land and the hard work that has gone into building their Ugly Duckling Winery.

Don’t you like the Blackboard quote
“Time to unwine”



What better experience is there to sit under the trees looking out over the vineyard with a great food and a chilled bottle of Chardonnay?  I always feel connected with the vines when you go for a stroll and view the fruit doing their magic.  Though the harvesting was all over at this time and the leaves are just taking on their autumn show.

What a location!









I was very taken by the 2010 Chardonnay. Even with six years with barrel- ferment, it has resulted in quite a more restrained profile than the usual toasty oak associated with a wooded chardonnay. The subtleness of peach and nectarine aromas contributed to quite an elegant wine. It always amazes me and still discovering how all the different aromas compounds affect the flavours of the wine and then throw in the environmental factor.  I thought it was quite a balanced result not an ugly duckling in anyway and it should cellar well.

Alas no ducks in sight, however I have come home with this lovely chardonnay from the Swan Valley to enjoy at a later date.

A little bit of divine help, perhaps?

According to reports back from winemakers, weather and conditions for the 2013 vintage were not considered easy.  Despite the heat and drier conditions in January and February, in my opinion, some exceptional chardonnays resulted.  I have heard it said that wine is God’s gift to man. The setting couldn’t be more perfect here at Saint Aidan Winery in the Ferguson Valley, West Australia.

The quaintest of churches sit alongside from which the winery takes its name, Saint Aidan. So perhaps there is divine interaction helping Mother Nature here to go into that magic of making good wine.

The art of achieving the right balance to developing those flavours and aromas that give the wine its personality has to be more than just science, I reckon.

I just had to have the 2013 Wooded Chardonnay with lunch. I am very partial to the nuances and complexity that ageing in an oak barrel can add to wine. In this instance, the subtle aromas of toast, vanilla and spice, together with the oak fermentation has given it a richer structure. Sublime or in this instance at St Aidan, simply divine. And keep in mind a good chardonnay is designed to mature in the bottle.  Mary Smith, one of the owners, says this 2013 Chardonnay will cellar well to 2022.

What a pleasure it is to share an excellent glass of wine over food with a friend. The partnering of fine food and wine in such a delightful setting makes a visit to the Ferguson Valley Wine Region a must.

Stripped bare and all to experience.

I had the sensory pleasure of sampling the Shiraz at the cellar door of the Willow Bridge Estate located in the Ferguson Valley wine region south of Perth, West Australia.

Named the Gravel Pit Shiraz basically because the vines are grown close to the winery in a very gravelly area and no irrigation is applied. Apparently, this particular block was utilised to excavate the gravel that went into the construction of the roads in the surrounding area.

And it was very sensory indeed. The fact of no irrigation impacts on the size of the berry and its compositional characteristics. A smaller berry has given way to  more intense flavours and complexity.  Flavours of blueberry and plum glided around my palate and I picked up this herby flavour and a toasty compound with a very subtle oak finish.   When I mean stripped bare, it is the berry taking centre stage not needing to be manipulated at the back end.

This Gravel Pit Shiraz really proves that grapes are truly receptors to the surrounding soil and influences and this iron gravelly loam has worked magic.

It is 2016 and there was the slightest of lingering earthy tannin finish at the end but my goodness this one will cellar well and be a beauty.

And yes it was a magic view from the block.   It is well worth the 2 hour drive from Perth to sample the wines in the Ferguson Valley.  I met Kim, the winemaker who said they had just finished picking the  grapes for the Rosé   and was looking good for the balance of the vintage. 

It’s a scorcher of a day in the Swan Valley and the best drop to drink?

The hot weather has truly arrived and here to stay.  Wine to drink needs serious consideration when it is a scorching 38 degrees.

I am lunching today at the Upper Reach winery in the heart of the picturesque Swan Valley, a very pleasant 30 minute drive from Perth.

What does hot weather do to grapes, you might ask?  Good thing is not quite harvesting time as 38 degrees makes it tough for the winemakers working outside.  For the grapes, hot conditions can change the physiology of the fruit, the all important sugar levels, something winemakers keep a close check on.

Laura, the owner, was keen to show off the new release 2017 Unwooded Chardonnay with an intriguing name, “The Gig”.

Upper Reach winery

Sometimes we overlook how delicious an unwooded chardonnay can be.   Particularly when matched with great food on a scorcher of day sitting out on the balcony under the vines overlooking some of the best of Australian scenery on offer.


I was quite impressed by the delicate floral character as well as the tropical fruit notes coming through. Positively yummy with a long tingly finish!

Now look at this scenery!  20180102_144226With a glass of chilled Gig, it just doesn’t get better.



Nothing like having a Spanish wine connoisseur visiting from Madrid to take
an opportunity to brag a little about Australian wines.

IMAG2854We might be a young country in comparison to the Spanish viticulture but the Swan Valley has the claim to the first winery in West Australia established in 1829 and second to the Wynham Estate in Australia.

On the strength of 80 years and 4 generations of history, we met with Shane Ukich at the Olive Farm Wines.

I wanted to establish with Fernando  Relinque how Australian wines compare with his country.

Fernando said when he thinks of Australian wines he thinks of freshness & taste of fruit and I could think of no better place than to start than with the Olive Farm Wines.

Typical white variety grown throughout the Swan Valley is the Chenin Blanc and Verdhello and the Olive Farm wines offer some very fine examples.

But first to start,  a very unique approach  was the 2007 Brut Madeline made in the traditional ” Méthode Champenoise”.

First time I had actually come across the Madeleine, traditionally a table grape transformed to a Sparkling Brut. Certainly impressed my guest with its fruity beginnings and full bodied finish. Fernando thought that was a fair comparison to the “Método Tradicional” or Traditional Method produced Cava from his home country.  Cava traditionally uses  mainly  indigenous Spanish grapes.

Next we tasted the  2015 vintage Chardonnay just released a week ago.  A lot of Australian wineries have foregone the Chardonnay as it appears to lost traction but the Olive Farm Wines still have faith in presenting for taste a lighter oaked Chardonnay.  6 months in new and French Oak this Chardonnay holds great promise with a year or two cellaring.

Of course the proof with my Spanish guest would be the Tempranillo (pronounced tem-prah-nee-oh)

Interestingly the Tempranillo he is accustomed to in Spain is usually blended with 40 % Cabernet Sauvignon 15% Syrah as compared to our tasting. The 2014 Tempranillo had quite a tannic grippiness to the mouth.
And yes it was an excellent  example of this  variety’s spiciness with fresh cherry flavours. IMAG2856

Next  on offer was the 2014  Durif.  Principally a French cross pollination variety grown in California   and Israel as known as Petite Sirah, the grape is perfect for our drier climate.  This 2014  was all about that quite tannic ,  plummy full bodied wine with  characteristic deep colour.

And just to finish off our wine cultural exchange, a visit to the Feral Beer  distillery.  IMAG2860
And that here I will end!.  Somehow Fantapants doesn’t roll off the tongue like Petite Sirah!












Olive  Farm Wines

920 Great Northern Highway. Millendon. 6056

Swan Valley – Western Australia


A Box of Homesickness

There it was,  waiting for me on my return from Italy – A box of homesickness.
Actually it is my regular package from Pikes Wines in the Clare Valley.
Ever since  I made that leap across the Nullarbor, I haven’t been able to locate a Riesling that matches Pikes.  There has to be a very good reason that the Clare Valley is renowned for  the home of Australian Riesling !
And yes I know that Riesling has taken a backseat for some time behind Sauvignon Blanc  and the Pinot Grigio’s but you need to dust off the old fashioned thought process and go out and discover what winemakers are delivering now.

Riesling can come in different styles, quite floral,  quite acidic and mineral or present a more drier delicate finish. I definitely  am a  fan of the drier variety.

Pike’s Traditionale  Riesling  is lively and fresh, that balance of tangy citrus fruit balanced with a slightly chalky dry finish.  A terrific pale colour with green tint and zesty lemon-lime on the nose.
To me it is pure to its variety and elegant. If you can bear to stash away a few bottles, it will reward you with delightful golden, honey toast characters and confirms the value
for keeping a few bottles for 3 or 5 years.  I can vouch for this!

Drink slightly chilled or on its own though the team at Pikes recommend you can’t go past matching it with Oysters. And that it exactly what I am going to enjoy now.
A match made  in heaven!

If you haven’t been to Clare Valley which is simply glorious at this time of year with
its spectacular autumn show,  14 May 2011 047do you yourself a favour and
plan a wine weekend away.
This  region has a bountiful supply of charming heritage B&B like this one in Mintaro.  Mintaro  resized
I have enjoyed many a ride on the Riesling trail meandering through countryside
and stopping off at wineries.
Now to enjoy those oysters and my favourite drop from Pikes.
Ooh I do miss the Clare Valley at this time of year.



Sun was out and I could view Etna in all her glory so I couldn’t resist a return visit to the Trattoria at LungaGlossa for some lunch.

Don't you just love the patina of these buildings!
Don’t you just love the patina of these buildings!

I was fortunate to meet Valeria Càrastro, an Agronomist,  who completed a doctorate
on the soils of  Mt Etna and heads up Etna Wine Lab. Essentially an organisation
that promotes the smaller wine producers.
We engaged in a very animated conversation on the virtues of Italian wines
versus  Australian wines and Valeria  offered a very interesting perspective to the
story of Etna  Wines. (Naturally of course I can’t reveal the outcome)

Valeria suggested a visit to Wiegner Wines and I couldn’t turn down an invitation to meet with Peter Wiegner and his son Marco. And it could only be described as one amazing visit.
Peter, Swiss born just oozed passion and love for his organic vineyard, situated  750 metres above sea level.
Wiegner Wines  were situated on a different slope to my other winery visits, so I was keen to see what differences I could pick up in the wine. Mt EtnaFor Peter and Marco, it was all about a smaller winery making quality wines.
He was the absolute ambassador for the different climate and lavic soil that produced the unique Etna wines.
We were whisked off  to his personal entertaining room to sample some food and indulge in his glorious wines.  We discovered Peter’s  other talent, passion for fine food.
French is his mother language and his love of French food was revealed.wiegner winery

I was particularly taken by the Torquato made with 100% Aglianico,  a new grape variety for me.

Wiegner bottle     Torquato Vino di Tavola 2009
Exceptionally appealing with a perfect perfumed lift.
Just thought the fresh berry nose and hint of mint delightful. Finishes perfectly with that distinctive ashy dryness that Etna symbolises.

Peter’s vines are Nerello Mascalese, Fiano, Aglianco and the Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Franc is the reflection of the French in him, I would say.

Added bonus,  you can source  Wiegner Wines from a supplier in Sydney Global Wines


The wineries here are quick to  point out their ancient lineage and the unique
characteristics provided by nature’s rich volcano soil and high altitudes.

It is much the same “protectiveness” that the vignerons have for the famous “terra rossa” of Coonawarra in South Australia.

A recent storm had blanketed the region with snow. Italy has experienced a severe winter
and what a sight to see the vineyards blanketed with snow. Adjusted Vineyards with snow

Today the panorama from the Gambino winery, one could truly appreciate this
high altitude and wow what a special place to be standing!20150319_141301

I had arranged to meet Francesco Gambino and he was the perfect host, passionate in this family run concern.
The grapes are hand picked and the emphasis was on low yield, high quality. Francesco Gambino                                                        Lively discussion with Francesco

With Etna wines, the harvesting period is two months later than rest of the
Italian mainland, late October.
Gambino Vini had only just released the 2104 vintage.
Francesco pointed the main benefit to the high altitude was the grapes had to cope with
drastic temperatures which toughened the skins and developed the tannins , subsequently
imparting the wines with longevity, something very much treasured by
us wine connoisseurs.
It is the practice to employ a sommelier and Manuela  had organised 4 wines for tasting. 20150319_132940
I especially wanted to try the Fued’O with the regional Nero d’Avelo and Nerello Mascalese.
First taste you were rewarded with an explosion of fruit flavours.
Sublime perfume and body, softly balanced.

The flagship is the Petto Dragone made with Nerello Mascalese 2012 vintage.

I could have drowned in that glorious ruby colour!
New scents to me like rhubarb and lavender.

 And that signature mineral freshness.
Yes, this was worthy of bringing back to Australia.                              20150319_132957    Info for the wine buffs
Azienda Agricola Gambino
Contrada Petto Dragone
Linguaglossa ITALY

Just skipped a country!

I am a devotee of Australian wines and I strongly believe Australian wines can compete with the best of the European wines.

However, to test this theory I have skipped country to sample the Italian wines.
Sicilian wines lays claim to superiority due to its ancient roots, literally.
Mt Etna region has been cultivating wine since the beginning of the 19th century.
From a  high altitude around 850 metres above sea level and the rich alluvial plains come the wines from ancient vines respecting centuries old tradition  One of the wineries, the Gurrida Estate boast that its production in those early beginnings was to supply the British fleet with vine.
So thumbs up for the head start.

I teed up a meeting with the Gambino winery near the town of Lunguaglossa, Mt Etna to explore their wine varieties and enjoy lunch. Without a doubt, farming on the
side of a volcano  provide a certain typicality to the Etna grapes.
And certainly defines their unique mineral taste.

I am out to explore unfamilar wine varieties like Nerello Mascalese and what about this sensual name Nerello Cappuccio.
A typical variety common to Sicily is the Nero D’Avola which I adore, intense perfumes of blackberries together with a soft structure and elegant tannins.

One of the unusual features to these vineyards is they subjected to flooding at this time of year and yes that means rain. Plenty of it!  I should have picked another day. The weather had no regard to my luncheon plans.

Misty photosThe fog set in and we had to take rescue in the town of Lunguaglossa. No other course of action but to find the local trattoria and bunker down for the afternoon with the best of the local vino.

Salvo, the proprietor  had an extensive range of local wines  and selected a Syrah
from Aitala vineyards.
When I tasted the Syrah I was rewarded with quite a punch of flavour, sweet jammy and then a spicy peppery note in the aftertaste. It was just perfect with my dish of marcaroni and wild fennel, a very traditional Sicilian dish.

Salvo kindly set a meeting with the winemaker Rocco Trefiletti for another day. Perfetto as they say in Italy.

Great selection of local wine

Great selection of local wine for reservations You won’t be disappointed.