In this edition:
- Festive Glamour: When the festive season throws you an occasion, you need to glam it up.
- Andrew McUtchen looks for fun in cricket with former Australian cricketer Damien Fleming.
- Take a look at our Christmas Gift Guide.
Whats a good quaffing wine, what should I buy? Its the question I get asked more than any other. Its also the hardest to answer.
In order to narrow the range of options, I tend to answer with a question: I reply, What sort of wine do you like? and go from there.
Theres no point suggesting a cracking $10 cabernet to someone who only drinks white, especially given theres so many good-value red and white wines around at the moment.
The high value of the Australian dollar has had a fair bit to do with the current oversupply of wine. The strong currency means that the American, and to a lesser extent the UK and Europe, export market has waned, leading to an excess of good-quality wine in Australia that needs to find a home.
To deal with this excess, some wineries have been introducing whole new ranges or tiers of wines that sit at price points below their better-known sisters and brothers. In other cases, the quality of lower-end, mass-produced wines has increased with the availability of better-quality juice. Some also finds its way into cleanskins, which dont dominate the way they did even five years ago.
Conversely, the strong dollar has driven down the price of imports, so that theres plenty of affordable wines from foreign shores that offer a good experience.
The response I get from some people when I suggest a few cheap wines to try is really?. This is common when I mention a wine that is as well known as Vegemite.
Its not a snobby reaction, but often just surprise that a wine that has been around for donkeys years can still be good. The Hardys Nottage Hill 2010 shiraz I reviewed here late last year (check it out at www.theweeklyreview.com.au/wine) still draws disbelief when I suggest friends snap it up. Im supposed to have more-refined tastes, but a good wine is exactly that.
At times Ive had to resort to offering money-back guarantees on the wines I recommend (single-bottle only, it doesnt apply on case buys) to convince a suspicious friend of a wines merits. No one has ever redeemed the offer.
Many of the local wines priced in quaffing territory $15 and under are generally made by the bigger producers. Their economies of scale allows them to keep prices down and produce wines of amazing consistency year in, year out.
I recently noticed that several of the wines I had been recommending to mates havent appeared in these pages, or that new vintages had been released but not reviewed.
So this week Im righting a couple of wrongs and reviewing a few new vintages of favourite quaffers. Youre likely to find them a dollar or two cheaper at the chains, too.
It would potentially bankrupt me to offer a money-back guarantee to half-a-million people, so that offer isnt on the table here, but please email any feedback good and bad to the address below.
(Murray Darling) $10; 13.5%
The Deakin Estate range has had a makeover recently. The bottles are lightweight and eco-friendly and theres pretty new packaging. Inside, its still the same wine that year in, year out, provides good value. This is a soft, gentle wine that has nice intensity to the tasty flavours of cherry, blueberry, blackberry, menthol, pepper and spice. Nicely structured, it has bright acidity, a soft grip of tannins and a good hit of cherry, cured meat and spiced plums on exit.Food match Bangers and mash
(dAbruzzo, Italy) $10.99; 12.5%
This is a hot-selling wine around some of Melbournes better independent wine shops, and for good reason you get a lot of wine for your money. Theres some complexity to the flavours of plum, blackberry, liquorice, spice, dried herbs and nuts, but its the fine, drying tannins and structure that make it stand out from the crowd. Acidity is fresh and food-friendly, it has a good mouthfeel and the rich finish has good length and some nice savoury notes.Food match Osso bucco
(La Mancha, Spain $13; 14%
From vineyards in La Mancha, where 50 per cent of Spains grapevines grow, comes this blend of tempranillo and shiraz. Savoury to the core, theres an earthiness to the aromas of cherry, blackberry, spice and leather. Its a similar story on the palate, with ripe cherry, liquorice and dried-herb flavours. Chunky tannins and vibrant acidity just add to the drinkability of this. It benefited from a splash in the decanter, too.Food match Braised oxtail
(Yarra Valley) $14; 13%
De Bortolis bargain Windy Peak range has taken on a regional focus recently, and this is sourced from vineyards around the Yarra Valley. Its perfumed and bright, with aromas and flavours of raspberry, strawberry, cherry, spiced plum and a beetroot-like earthiness thats a real delight. Its silky smooth and seamless in the mouth, with good balance between the sweet flavour and sour acidity and a fine grip. Its a serious wine for the price.Food match Duck-neck sausage
(Australia) $11.99; 13.5%
The bulk of the wine comes from the Riverina, but 12 regions from all around the country contributed to this. Its 97.82 per cent chardonnay (when you make so much of a wine I guess its easy to be so specific), with small amounts of pinot noir, semillon, riesling and verdelho. Theres a hint of elegance to the stonefruit, cantaloupe, nuts and tropical fruit aromas. Medium-bodied, its smooth and tasty, bright and balanced with clean flavours of melon, peach, citrus and nougat on exit.Food match Roast chicken