Uncorked in Cuba! A hedonistic blend of NZ and Europe

Uncorked Wine Bar and Tasting Room

Uncorked Wine Bar and Tasting Room

My Wellingtonian compatriots will be well acquainted with the bustling, lively and eclectic Cuba Street in Wellington, where you can find all manner of goodies – bars, groovy cafés, funky clothes, the bucket fountain, nick-nack shops, hedonistic treats…

On a stroll through the city I happened upon an intriguing-looking ‘Wine Bar and Tasting Room’ named Uncorked with a sign saying – ‘Yummy Wine’! My wine nose led me inside…

Uncorked sign that caught my eye!

Uncorked sign that caught my eye!

I was met by the friendly and welcoming bar manager, Te Awa. Upon sharing my wine passion, and mentioning this very blog, Te Awa invited me to sit down and taste some of the wines. I was blown away by his enthusiasm and his hospitality, and his openness in sharing the aims for the bar and reasons why it is different from any other. Recently opened, I was attracted to its niche appeal and points of difference:

Firstly, the only New Zealand wines that this bar stocks are from Akaroa Winery in Canterbury and are all organic and handpicked. These wines, made in an elegant and distinctive style, are described below… In addition there is a range of European wines available – today’s wine list had French, Italian and Spanish reds and whites; and I also spotted a white wine from California on the list.

Secondly – only wines sealed with cork are served here – definitely going against the grain for New Zealand, the instigator of this very closure. The turning of the tide against cork had good reason at the time, with spoilage significantly affecting wines around the world, but with the cork industry having made wide-ranging and significant changes and improvements to the cork production process, it is now a much safer bet. Many still believe that the benefits of using cork outweigh the potential downside. Given a good quality cork supplier, I am happy to see this break in trend – why not. We don’t all have to act like sheep just because we have so many!

Thirdly, this bar has a choice of tasting flights, not something that many self-professed wine bars do, and I think they should. I am a wine lover and am usually disappointed by wine bars that seem to be cold and sparse places with hard seats, snooty staff and ridiculous prices. The wine lists are usually quite extensive, which is what tends to draw me in, but staff tend not to want to engage in conversation about the wines, treat you with disdain when you dare to try, and when pouring your wine will make sure they do not go even a millimetre over the meagre line, for which they are charging like a wounded bull. (I always check too that the bottle has not been open more than a day – just a tip!) Wine is a product to be enjoyed and appreciated and yes discussed – every wine has a story and every wine tastes different and this is what makes wine so alluring and an enduring passion for so many.

The Akaroa wines

Akaroa Winery is located in Takamatua Valley, Akaroa, Canterbury, about an hour’s drive south-east from Christchurch, overlooking Takamatua Bay. It is an organic vineyard and winery owned by Timberly and Allan. Timberly is the winemaker and Allan is the vineyard manager. The style of the wines definitely comes across as having a European influence with restrained elegance, complexity and length, compared to many from the New World (1) (not the shop) which tend to be more generous and ripe.

Akaroa Winery Pinot Gris 2011

Akaroa Winery Pinot Gris 2011

Pinot gris 2011 – a very pale straw colour in the glass, with elegant white blossom on the nose, this wine gave a luscious, lightly oily and long palate with soft white peach notes, and is barely off-dry, with the minimal residual sugar finely balanced. I enjoy dry styles of pinot gris and this would appeal to any lovers of the drier style but is accessible to those who need that touch of sweetness to massage the tongue. A touch of ageing in French oak has added to the roundness and complexity. Definitely a gris not a grigio! You can taste an Italian pinot grigio here to compare the two…

Akaroa Winery Cuvée Blanc 2010

Akaroa Winery Cuvée Blanc 2010

Cuvée blanc 2010 – this wine is 55% chardonnay and 45% riesling, not something I would have sought out, but again this winery shows it is not afraid to be different. Pale and clear golden in the glass, there is a delicate citrus and fresh green apple nose. A soft fruity palate is neatly rounded off with refreshing acid, leaving a light toastiness on the tongue from the partial French oak influence. While the tasting notes say the wine is off-dry, I found it pleasantly drying on the palate, clean and crisp.

Akaroa Winery Cuvée Blanc 2009

Akaroa Winery Cuvée Blanc 2009

Cuvée blanc 2009 – after the 2010, I noticed a slightly darker golden colour, more generous nose and a fuller flavour. Still with a luscious softness on the tongue, and a fruity sweetness, the sugar again in perfect balance, acid kicking in and modest toastiness lingering. This wine really makes you go ‘mmmmmm’… This wine is a blend of pinot gris, chardonnay, riesling and gewürztraminer – but don’t worry about that, it is the sum of the parts that matters!

Akaroa Winery Pinot Noir 2010

Akaroa Winery Pinot Noir 2010

Pinot noir 2010 – lovers of New Zealand pinot noir – here is a new one for you! It amazes me how this fickle yet rewarding grape can reflect each and every terroir in unique ways, almost like a fingerprint. The most well known areas for pinot noir in New Zealand are Central Otago, Martinborough, Marlborough and Waipara, but then I recently tried one that surprised me from Auckland (West Brook winery) and now this from Akaroa. This wine – a cherry red to behold, was generous on the nose and palate, giving layers and layers of savoury richness and red berries, and spice with a hint of liquorice, a delicious wine that is dry and long. Taste this against a European red and let the mind work as well as the tongue…

And finally at Uncorked…

A casual yet elegant setting in the groovy happening part of town, and far enough away from the main hustle and bustle of the CBD to relax and let your senses be titillated. Only wines under cork, only organic Akaroa wines from NZ, European wines to enjoy, tasting flights regularly rotated, and hospitable staff. It is not a restaurant, the focus is very much on the wine, but you can partake of cheese platters or flat breads to accompany the wine.

Have a glass, a flight, purchase a bottle for consumption there, or to take home (15% lower prices for take-away purchases). Most of all, try out this cool new venture in Cuba.

Many thanks to Te Awa



Posted in Chardonnay, European wine, Gewurztraminer, New World wine, NZ wine, Pinot noir | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Tig’s blog for the year 2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Do not forget this name! West Brook the western winery with wicked wines

West Brook winery aerial view

West Brook winery aerial view

West Brook winery may not have a particularly memorable name but once you have visited the stunning and serene setting and tasted the wines you will not want to forget it! Check out the beautiful setting of vineyards, rolling hills and duck pond, and the giant chess set out the front of the winery.

Giant chess set by duck pond

Giant chess set by duck pond

You can buy a bottle and enjoy it in the picnic area next to the pond, play giant chess or even pétanque. It is peaceful and soothing and almost makes you forget why you came – but not quite! The wines!

West Brook Waimauku Estate Chardonnay 2008

West Brook Waimauku Estate Chardonnay 2008

My first taste of West Brook wine was the chardonnay, for which the winery is well renowned, and has won many awards. With my buddy Roger I tried the Waimauku Estate Chardonnay 2008 (pictured) at Centre City wine shop in Wellington in 2012. The colour of the wine speaks volumes! Dark golden, oozing with the toastiness of a medium oaked chardonnay, with flavours reminding you of brioche and nougat (as the tasting notes say!) just starting to settle into its age – it could have been cellared much longer, we didn’t want to wait. Chardonnay this good helps you to understand why it is the most widely planted winegrape in the world. Classy, complex, this is a superb addition to any chardonnay collection.

I recently visited West Brook in Waimauku, Auckland, a 30km drive to the north-west of the CBD with my friend Randy Weaver, one of the founders of the famed Coopers Creek winery in Kumeu and now Director of Wine Science at Auckland University. Randy knows the West Brook owner and winemaker Anthony Ivicevich well – they chatted, I tasted!

Standouts for me were the chardonnays of course but also the pinot noir from Waimauku – I had never had a pinot from here, and Auckland is not known for pinot – but it was really really good! If you fancy something totally different this is the go! We all love our pinots from Otago, Waipara, Martinborough and Marlborough, but as all pinot lovers will know, this is the grape that most reflects the terroir (climate and soils). So of course the Waimauku pinot would carve out a profile of its own – I bought some and will wax lyrical when I share it with my wine buddy and expert Raymond Chan so watch this space!

Back to gewürz – of course!

Tigs and gewürztraminer are inseparable as my readers know well. France and NZ produce the best examples I have had to date, with a huge mind-boggling variety of flavour profiles, intensity, age, and style. Why am I so gewürz obsessed? Because it is the most surprising variety for me, varying according to producer and region. It can be light and fruity, dry and spicy, sweet and floral, make an intense dessert wine, or a dry table wine, it can be drunk very young or aged for many years. It is great on its own and an equally superb and versatile food wine. Most of all it is the wine that can really make you groan with pleasure… If in doubt try some of those I have written about here – the famous Hugel and Domaine Zind-Humbrecht versions from Alsace, France, and from NZ, try Johanneshof, Coopers Creek, Brookfields – and West Brook!

West Brook 2012 Marlborough Gewürztraminer

West Brook 2012 Marlborough Gewürz

West Brook 2012 Marlborough Gewürz

The reason this wine was a standout for me is its elegance but with backbone. It is very pale in colour (see my wonky photo – arty, not the result of overconsumption!) and has a delicate floral nose with gentle notes of lychee and honeysuckle – then wham! The palate bursts with spice and floods with luscious honeysuckle and baked apple, coating your tongue with deliciousness, lingering on and on to a dry lip-smacking finish. Wow! It is a tighter package than some gewürz I have tried – this one is lithe and toned with no rough edges, generous with flavour then tailing off gently leaving you wanting more. Warning – very easy to drink! I absolutely loved this wine.

Alcohol 13.5%; Price $22.90 from cellar door

Many thanks to Anthony Ivicevich for an instructive yet relaxed tasting at the cellar. I came away with a few beauties. More on the pinot at a later date – it deserves its own 15 seconds of fame!



Posted in Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, New World wine, NZ wine, Pinot noir | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tigs and wine in the land of the long white cloud…

Dear Tig readers

Here I am back in NZ! This country sparked my love for wine so I think it is appropriate to give my readers some bite-sized facts about NZ wine. (Sources and more detailed statistics at the end of the article; data are for 2012 unless otherwise stated.) For some easy to view charts click on links provided (and rather than the predictable wine pics I hope you enjoy my pics of the iconic Piha beach in Auckland and the airstrip in Wellington – scroll down.)

  • How many wineries are there in NZ?
    There were 703 wineries in 2012, three times more than in 1996.
  • What is the area of vineyards in NZ?
    In 2012 there were over 34,000 hectares of vines.

***See this chart showing the growth of vineyard area and wineries since the mid-1990s.***

  • What types of grapes are grown?
    Sauvignon blanc accounts for 58% of grapevines planted in NZ. The next three largest vine areas are for pinot noir (15%), chardonnay (9%) and pinot gris (7%). (See Table 1) The New Zealand Wines and Wineries website gives a great overview of characteristics of wine grape varieties specific to NZ – simple and clear and very informative.
  • Where are the grapes grown?
    Marlborough (66%), Hawke’s Bay (14%), Otago and Gisborne 5% each. (See Table 2)

***See this table for juicy details of wine grapes by region and variety.***

  • How much wine does NZ produce?
    In 2012 NZ produced 194 million litres of wine (down from the peak of 235 million litres in 2011).
  • Where are the wines sold?
    Sales of NZ wine by value in 2012 (NZ$mn; share of total): Australia (380; 32%), UK (284; 24%), USA (251; 21%), Canada (71; 6%).

***See this chart showing the growth of NZ wine export volume and value since the mid-1990s.***

Table 1: Areas of vines by grape variety, 2012

Grape variety

Hectares   of vines

Share of total (%)

Sauvignon blanc



Pinot noir






Pinot gris















Cabernet   sauvignon



Table 2: Areas of vines in the main winegrowing regions of NZ, 2012


Hectares of vines

Share of total (%)




Hawke’s Bay






















Wines of NZ

NZ Winegrowers

Tigs with friend at Weta studios, Miramar, Wellington

Tigs with friend at Weta studios, Miramar, Wellington

Lion Rock and black sand at Piha Beach, Auckland

Lion Rock and black sand at Piha Beach, Auckland

Wellington air strip

Wellington air strip

Posted in Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, New World wine, NZ wine, Pinot noir, Sauvignon blanc | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chocolate and wine? Two rights make a right!

A farewell treat before leaving Adelaide was to take the ChocoVino experience at Hahndorf Hill Winery in the Adelaide Hills with my good friend Anne. We all love chocolate and we all love wine – but why pair them? And does it work? This experience opened my eyes to new enjoyment of both.

Hahndorf Hill Winery is in a beautiful setting in the Adelaide Hills, with the tasting room overlooking vines and rolling fields. Blaufränkisch vines are planted right up to the cellar door. This winery is known for the Austrian varieties of grüner veltliner, blaufränkisch and zweigelt, and I have also been very impressed by their pinot grigio. They are one of those wineries who say those magic words that are music to my ears – there is a hands-off winemaking approach to let the grapes speak.

The cool climate is ideal for elegant, flavourful wines perfect for the Austrian grape varieties and the more typical shiraz, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. Both the wines and chocolates are selected according to terroir, regionality and vintage! ChocoVino co-ordinator Christine Worsfield says “the chocolate is made from beans grown in one particular area, which then reflect the flavours of that area… so when you match a single-origin chocolate to a regional wine, you get to explore the concept of terroir in a unique way while taking your tastebuds on a whole new adventure.”

Chocolates include Amedei Chuao from Venezuela – one of the best in the world we are told, and from Madagascar, Italy and more.

I tried the Madagascan trio which included a generous taste of the grüner veltliner, chardonnay and shiraz, each matched with a Madagascan chocolate. The tasting sheet is shown in the slideshow below.

Our enthusiastic and informative host Dee told us how to get the ultimate experience:

Look at the chocolate – it should have a rich and even sheen.

Touch it – the chocolate should feel silky, cool and dry.

Listen as you break it. Good chocolate has a distinctive snap as it breaks.

Smell it – the freshly broken edges deliver a promise of the pleasures to come.

Taste the chocolate. Let a piece melt on your tongue to release its first impressions and then savour it slowly to reveal the layers of natural flavours within.

With your palate primed with the sensual flavours of the chocolate, sip the wine and explore the synergy between the complex aromas and flavours of the wine and the chocolate.

Cleanse your palate with the purest bottled water in the world – Cape Grim from Tasmania – and start all over again.

And most importantly – enjoy!

The true wine fanatic will also be delighted by this winery as they try the best grüner veltliner that Australia has to offer. They make it in the more steely, crisp style and also in a late harvest luscious style. I had a glass of the latter in my tasting selection – citrus and white blossom on the nose, and on the palate a full fruit burst of sweet luscious mango, light citrus and gentle spice. It was long and delicious and rounded off eventually with a pleasingly dry finish. It was matched with a milk chocolate with 44% cacao. After a taste of this, and another sip, I got more mango and less of the sweetness.

The shiraz (2009 vintage) was also incredible. A spicy savoury nose, it gave a pleasantly surprising mouthful of blackberry with that spice and savoury all following through, very long and harmonious. After a taste of 77% cacao chocolate I then got definite licorice flavours in the wine.

Unfortunately there was no blaufränkisch to try as it sold out in three days! I did however track down a bottle at Goodwood Cellars in Adelaide and shall be trying it soon. I have high hopes!

This was a unique and beautiful experience in a stunning setting. No wonder this winery has been listed as one of the ‘Top 10’ cellar doors in Australia by Wine Business Magazine.

Check out the lovely photos of the winery and the tasting.

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Posted in Adelaide Hills, New World wine, South Australian wine | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tigs’ pick of wines to buy in Adelaide

Bon voyage Tigs! Any tips?

As I prepare to leave Australia after seven years, friends in Adelaide are asking me which wines I think are the best of the bunch that they can buy here. I believe this is a safe list with some interesting wines at all price levels. Try something you hadn’t thought of – travel broadens the mind – so does trying different styles and varieties of wines.

Wine stores can be confusing, overwhelming and intimidating places. They are a mine of information, jewels to be discovered and minefields to avoid. I could write reams on the topic, but have aimed instead for practicality and simplicity, to share my pick of the crop, the obvious caveat being that I have not tried all of the wines available – an immense task in itself. [1] I have listed wines that can be easily acquired in Adelaide.[2]

The slant here is mostly towards South Australian, NZ and French wines because that is what is available in Adelaide. Also, I have limited knowledge outside these regions – for now! I am not an expert, I am an enthusiaist and as such love to share my snippets of information about wine. Methods, vintages, winemakers and labels change over time though so beware!

I have listed some excellent all-round wineries, and then listed wines by grape variety as an easy reference. Don’t be afraid of whether a wine is a varietal (one grape only) or a blend of more than one grape. This is not an indicator of quality. Note: the locations given for the wineries are not always where the grapes are sourced.

Good all-round wineries

Langmeil (Barossa) – excellent red and white wines, with traditional style winemaking. The second oldest winery in Barossa, with the oldest shiraz vines in Australia and possibly the world. The whole range is good to excellent – including grenache and cabernet sauvignon. See Sprinting the Long Mile! for the whole range and some pics.

Yering Station (Yarra Valley, Victoria) – impressive and elegant pinot noir, chardonnay, sparkling wines, shiraz – everything! Most famous for the shiraz viognier (about 5% viognier, a traditional French blend). See Chill out and get serious in Vic’s Yarra Valley for more of the range and some pics.

Penfolds (South Australia) – an iconic winery for Australia, famous for reds that age well. Grange is the obvious star, but at a much more attainable price I recommend trying the Bin 138 (a Rhône blend) for great value and wonderful flavours – and exceptional aging potential. I opened my 2002 Bin 138 this year – smooth, complex, elegant and long. For an excellent value shiraz try the Marananga. The cabernets are also exceptional – Bin 707 at the top, Bin 407 very good at the next level.

Chandon – sparkling wine made in the style of French champagne (owned by Moët & Chandon). Very good white and rosé sparklings, cheap relative to quality. See Yarra Valley article.

Hugel – this is a French winery in Riquewihr in Alsace. Excellent aromatic wines made from gewürztraminer, riesling, pinot gris and pinot blanc. My personal pick is the gewürztraminer and I blogged this ‘Alsatian Sensation’ specifically – and added some gorgeous pictures of Alsace. It is stunning. In Adelaide, you can also get the riesling and the white blend named Gentil (French word for ‘kind’) – a cheaper option, elegant and aromatic. The other stunner I am familiar with from Alsace is Domaine Zind-Humbrecht – their gewürztraminer is one of the best I ever had.

Bird in Hand (Adelaide Hills) makes a very good sparkling – slightly blush coloured, always good value. I was also impressed by the chardonnays and shirazes – there are no bad wines here, and at reasonable prices. Check them out here.

NZ wineries with unwavering quality: Villa Maria and Babich, both started by Croatians. Both make exceptional white varietals: sauvignon blanc (take care to avoid fake brands, they will put you off sauvignon blanc forever!); chardonnay; pinot gris – round and soft and aromatic, lovely fruit, dry finish; and gewürztraminer. Both make good red wines too. Villa Maria makes amazing syrah (cool climate style of shiraz). Babich pinot gris is beautiful – I bought it from Fassina at $17 a bottle [3]. Villa Maria sauvignon blanc was a similar price – strongly recommended.

Lawson’s Dry Hills (NZ) – Another safe winery from NZ is Lawson’s Dry Hills. In particular the gewürztraminer is dry, fruity, aromatic, with lychee and Turkish Delight. An interesting, crisper, fresher style in contrast to those from Alsace, France.

Pertaringa (McLaren Vale) – this is one of the best wineries in McLaren Vale, with a combination of friendly and knowledgeable staff and very good wines. The whole range is worth trying.

Bremerton (Langhorne Creek) – all excellent wines, and very good value. Famous for the Old Adam Shiraz, although I was even more impressed by the cabernet sauvignon. The entry level cabernet is very good value and the reserve is about $50 – worth $100 – perfect for a treat or an exceptional gift. There is a great sparkling shiraz too.

Lake Breeze (Langhorne Creek) – excellent wines, especially the cabernet sauvignon. Good value range.

Geoff Weaver (Adelaide Hills) – very good sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and chardonnay. He was the chief winemaker at Hardy’s before going out on his own.

BK Wines (Adelaide Hills) – a New Zealander making wine in the hills. His range of chardonnays is exceptional as is his syrah. The whole range (see here) shows elegance and lets the grapes shine through.

D’Arenberg (McLaren Vale) generally good, very large range (see range here). Best value whites – Olive Grove chardonnay, and the Money Spider and Hermit Crab – made from Rhône grapes of viognier, marsanne and roussanne. The cabernet sauvignons, shirazes, and red blends are all good.

Clonakilla (ACT) produces exceptional wines particularly the shirazes.

Amazing overseas wineries whose wines you may come across include: Guigal (France), Sassicaia (expensive Super Tuscan beauty from Italy – super what? read here…). My pick of French champagnes are Bollinger (with oak fermenting – rare in Champagne), Pol Roger and Taittinger (who use a large portion of aged reserve wines). Piper Hiedseick is good value. I am not an expert in Bordeaux, but it is worth spending a bit extra to get assured quality. Try a bottle of Haut-Medoc – I have never been disappointed. For a riesling treat – try Dr Loosen from Germany – iconic riesling producer.

My picks by grape variety:

Sparkling wines

White sparkling (Australian): (chardonnay, pinot noir) Bird in Hand, Yarrabank, Chandon, Jansz, Oyster Bay.

Red sparkling (Australian): (shiraz) Bremerton, Seppelt’s original sparkling shiraz, Barossa Valley Estate E&E Black Pepper, Peter Rumball; (merlot) Irvine, Tapestry; (red blend) Primo Estate ‘Joseph’; (chambourcin) d’Arenberg ‘Peppermint Paddock’.

White wines


South Australia: Penfolds, D’Arenberg Olive Grove; Leconfield; Bird in Hand, BK Wines, Geoff Weaver.
Other Australia: Kooyong Clonale, Xanadu, Yering Station, Pierro (YouTube), Leeuwin, Vasse Felix.
NZ: Kumeu River, Greywacke, Cloudy Bay, Dog Point, Villa Maria, Oyster Bay, Babich.

Sauvignon blanc:

South Australia: Geoff Weaver, Bird in Hand, SC Pannell, Hahndorf Hill Winery.
NZ: Villa Maria, Oyster Bay, Babich, Greywacke, Cloudy Bay, Dog Point, Isabel, Astrolabe.


South Australia: Pauletts, Skillagolee, O’Leary Walker, Geoff Weaver, Grosset.
NZ: Villa Maria, Oyster Bay, Babich, Greywacke, Cloudy Bay, Dog Point.
Other: Hugel (France), Dr Loosen (Germany).

Red wines

Shiraz (cooler climate version is syrah):

South Australia: Langmeil, Penfolds, Bremerton, Dutschke, Barossa Valley Estate, Chateau Tanunda, Serafino, Bird in Hand, Pertaringa, Kay Brothers, John Duval, Bethany, d’Arenberg, Hahndorf Hill Winery.
Other Australia: Yering Station, Mount Langi Ghiran, Clonakilla, Tahbilk.
NZ: Destiny Bay, Villa Maria, Craggy Range, Te Mata, Murdoch James.

Cabernet sauvignon and cabernet blends:

South Australia: Penfolds, Bremerton, Lake Breeze, Leconfield, Langmeil, d’Arenberg, Taylor’s ‘Jaraman’.
Other Australia: Moss Wood, Pierro, Leeuwin, Howard Park.
NZ: Church Road, Craggy Range.

Grenache and GSM (grenache, shiraz and mourvedre):

South Australia: Penfolds Bin 138, Langmeil, Charles Melton ‘Nine Popes’, d’Arenberg – range of varietals and GSMs.

Pinot noir:

South Australia: Geoff Weaver.
Other Australia: Yering Station, By Farr, Farr Rising.
NZ: Amisfield, Pencarrow, Palliser Estate, Martinborough Vineyard, Gibbston Valley, Isabel, Mount Difficulty, Roaring Meg, Babich, Oyster Bay, Neudorf, Stoneleigh, Cloudy Bay.

Try something else…

These are beauties that are great value and a taste sensation…

James Irvine (Barossa) merlot/cabernet franc (50/50 blend) – smooth, full, great value.

Paracombe (Adelaide Hills) pinot gris – aromatic, rounded, fruity, dry finish.

Pertaringa (McLaren Vale) aglianico – Italian red, fruity and tannic.

Tar ‘n’ Roses (Heathcote) nebbiolo – drink about 6-8 years old. Will blow your mind.

Turkey Flat (Barossa) mourvèdre – rich, dark, brooding. Delicious.

Waywood Wines (McLaren Vale) nebbiolo – savoury, complex, a rare treat.

All the gewürztraminers listed above! All those listed are dry and spicy and fruity.

Never write off a wine until you have tasted it for yourself – you may be missing a treat.

Drinking wine should never be boring! Get to tastings, ask questions, and like what you like – don’t let others tell you what to like.



Caveat: This is unavoidably a subjective article. These recommendations are mine alone. I have no sponsors and no freebies and no hidden agenda. I simply hope readers find something new and rewarding to enhance their wine repertoire!

[1] The wines I have listed are those I trust. There is no particular order in the lists. I have deliberately not included prices as they will vary widely over time and between stores. There will be omissions of wines I tried a while ago and cannot be confident about recommending now, there will be some I have forgotten and many more that should be on the list but I haven’t got round to trying yet. Some I did not include because I do not rate them – but will not mention these. This is a snapshot of what I would recommend to friends.
[2] I worked in specialist wine stores in Brisbane and Adelaide, on the wine-tasting panel for Fassina stores in Adelaide, worked a vintage, a taster for Delegats and worked in a range of wine research, including wine economics, for the University of Adelaide. I have visited wineries across France, NZ and Australia and tried wines from all over the globe.
[3] Read about Fassina here – their history and what they are doing now.

Posted in Adelaide Hills, Barossa wine, Cabernet sauvignon, Chardonnay, European wine, Gewurztraminer, Grenache, Langhorne Creek wine, McLaren Vale wine, New World wine, NZ wine, Old World Wine, Pinot noir, riesling, Sauvignon blanc, South Australian wine, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine varietals and blends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Welcome to the Marquis – a goldmine in the heart of wine country

Wandering around the streets of Adelaide near the iconic Central Market on Gouger Street I happened across a new icon – the Marquis. Glancing inside I was stunned by the sight of the wine wall stretching down the middle of this French-themed restaurant and wine bar – although don’t be fooled, it has an impressive beer and spirits collection too!

On entering I was welcomed by the friendly staff, before chatting with the sommelier, Chi, who came to Adelaide from Sydney, and has worked at the Marquis since it opened in September 2011. We had an informal chat about the philosophy behind the wine choices in this goldmine of wine. We talked about grüner veltliner, categories of French champagne and the China market – it was a treat to talk to someone so knowledgeable and worldly. Here are a few snippets:

What makes you decide which wines to buy in?

Chi: The first thing would be the market. We can get thousands of wines from around the world from our suppliers but what we buy is more market driven. People in Adelaide are still going more for Australian wine, especially their own South Australian wine. Shiraz, riesling, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and cabernet sauvignon are the varieties that are the most popular at the moment. But because we also want something more unusual, something they may never see otherwise, like some of the Austrian grüner veltliners or the German rieslings, or some Spanish or Chilean wines, we have a selection of those.

Around 60% of our wines are Australian. Of course there is nothing wrong with the Australian wines, they are all good, but if you drink the same kinds of wine every week you might get bored. There is a good chance to come here and try something a bit different, something that is quite hard to get in the market.

What are some examples of interesting wines you have here?

Chi: We have a selection of Austrian grüner veltliners, which is quite popular in Sydney and Melbourne but unusual to see it in the Adelaide market. I am personally from Sydney so I know a bit about the market there. Also some of the Italian white wine that people have probably never heard of like trebbiano and erbaluce. With the red we are a restaurant with a French background so we have a fairly big focus on the French red wines. We do have a fair bit of good quality Burgundy, and French champagne of course – even with the champagne, people might get bored with the same ones, so we do have a selection of grower champagnes as well.

What is a grower champagne?

Chi: This is where the people grow their own grapes, and then make their own champagne. Examples would be Jacques Picard, Jacques Selosse and Vilmart, just to name a few. So for example, Möet would buy most of its grapes from the growers to make their champagne. Like Penfold’s Grange, they do not grow their own grapes, they buy from the growers. Something like Bollinger would be a negociant champagne. On the label you can see if it says NM it means it is a negociant champagne, if it is RM it is growers champagne. There are seven classifications but these are the two you see the most.

Detecting a mild accent, I asked Chi where he lived before Sydney. Hong Kong he said. Aha! Hong Kong is the hub of the wine trade in Asia, since there is zero wine tax in Hong Kong so you pay no tax when you buy alcohol. Plus most of the wine buyers will go through Hong Kong because of the wide reach of contacts in the market. In a place whose name means ‘fragrant city’ it is appropriate that it be the hub of trade for a product that enlivens the senses.

I told him that I had been reading that the Chinese wine production is surpassing Australian wine production (by volume) and that they are even exporting wine to Australia, so:

Have you got any Chinese wine in yet?

Chi: No, the industry in China is still at a primary stage at the moment, they are still learning, and they have a range of the more obscure varieties. In 30 or 40 years, there will probably be something iconic coming out of the region but not for the moment.

Back to the Marquis, in your role as a sommelier, when people come in for meal, do you automatically come over to talk to them or do they have to ask see a sommelier?

Chi: It depends – we can see when they walk in how they look at the menu, what questions they ask, as to their degree of wine knowledge. They may look at the wine list and be a bit flustered so we may go over everything, but obviously some of the guests are quite knowledgeable and pick out whatever they like. We need to be flexible. We usually wait until they have ordered their food and we try to get one or two bottles to match with their food.

There are also 32 wines available for purchase by the taste (30ml) or glass (150ml), which on the day I visited included French champagne, French red wine (Côtes-du-Rhône), Argentinian cabernet sauvignon, Italian Soave, and some iconic Australian wines.

As well as over 700 wines, there are more than 100 spirits including whiskies from Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Sweden, India, Australia and the USA; aperitifs, brandy, rum, gin, vodka, tequila and liqueurs. And fear not beer lovers, there are over 60 beers from all the world! Take a look at the photos below of some of the wines you can buy to drink on the premises or to buy retail (at a 20% lower price). To see the full collection, treat yourself to a visit! Come in for a champagne breakfast or a light lunch, full dinner or nightcap at the bar.

Many thanks to Chi for taking the time to talk to me.


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