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

w: http://www.olivefarmwines.com


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.

vinigambino.it                              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

mail.trattorialinguagrossa@gmail.com for reservations You won’t be disappointed.

I’m a 95 point girl!

I am unashamedly a wine snob!



I have arrived at a stage in my life I would not
consider drinking any wine that didn’t come with a 95 point accreditation.

You could say taking it one step further than that adage

“Life is too short to drink bad wine”

Once you have experienced a quality wine simply there is no turning back.

Now what kind of girl has an edition of James Halliday
Australian wine companion for night time reading????


My guide to a good wine .. Well firstly it must have good legs.

Close up T shirt


Mine aren’t bad but I am referring to the way ( the “Legs”) or the tears that stream down the side of the glass after you swirl it around. It is a good indicator to the alcohol content.

For me, the sniff is the all important test.
The better it smells, the better the wine is.
If you think it’s bad, trust me, it probably is.  The wine glass

After a little bit of practice you will learn to pick up those subtle aromas such as hay, honey, passion fruit, pepper,  coffee, plum, berries  – background notes that
winemakers sprout forth when discussing wines.

To simplify it,  winemakers don’t actually add plum or pepper to a wine, it is during
the fermentation, the characteristics of the wine
develop and to be a little scientific here compounds called esters are created. So if you smell coffee, it is because the wine shares the same esters as coffee and so on.

Swan Valley

A wine flight is good way to taste
Practising in the Swan Valley!

But saying that,  wine and food  find a soul mate in each other.  Think of an  extravagantly   elegant  champagne  in tandem with a perfection of a devouring a luscious strawberry.
Or a full bodied Shiraz with an aged cheddar and slice of delicious pear. I am in heaven.

And you could say wine making is bit like making music. Winemakers skillfully create notes.
Need I say, music of course goes hand in hand with a glass of wine.  Well it does for me.

Don’t get too tied up with age thing. Just because it is an old wine, doesn’t mean it is
necessarily the best.
Winemakers these days produce many young wines intended to be drunk pretty well
immediately for a good price.    Wash my mouth out!!!

Certainly the quality reds have great staying power and can reward you with something spectacular after 10 or more years.

Like the nectar of the gods and worthy of squirreling away a bottle of two.
I leave you with my favourite saying which I just adore.
Me to a tee!

“Always keep a bottle of Champagne in the fridge for special occasions. Sometimes, the special occasion is that you’ve got a bottle of Champagne in the fridge.” Hester Browne (author, freelance writer & journalist)