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.
Stuck in a wine rut? Is shiraz losing its allure or do you stick with sav blanc but would really like to try something else? Well, do I have a column for you.
Ive had a few friends ask me recently to recommend alternative wines to the ones they go for every time theyre in a bar or a bottleshop.
The world of wine can be intimidating at times, and when youre spending upwards of $20 on a bottle, its easy to play it safe by choosing something you know youll enjoy rather than take a risk and end up with a bottle you dont like.
Rather than recommend a few obscure grape varieties that will have you spending the best part of next Saturday tracking down, there are plenty of mainstream ones that are similar to what you may default to every time you pour a glass.
As a rule of thumb, wine can be categorised into distinct styles, crisp and light-bodied whites, medium-bodied textural whites, light-to-medium reds and
Crisp and light-bodied whites: Sauvignon blanc is the most popular white wine variety in the country, but if my sav-loving friends are any guide to its popularity, it wont hold that mantle forever.
Theyre all looking for alternatives. Major retailers have evidence that shows theyre not alone either. Their stats show that women in particular are switching from sav blanc to pinot grigio at a rapid rate.
I reckon theyre missing a trick by moving straight to grigio, a wine that can be utterly refreshing and delicious but is also capable of true blandness. Closer to sav blanc in style, but with more complexity, are the highly aromatic grapes riesling and gewürztraminer. Albarino from the north of Spain and the Italian pair fiano and vermentino are also worth seeking.
Medium-bodied textural whites: If youre a little like me and keep reaching for the chardonnay, a white from Frances Rhône Valley or a barrel-fermented pinot gris makes a nice change.
Wines such as chardonnay and the Rhône triumvirate marsanne, roussanne and viognier are generally fermented and aged in oak barrels, which helps impart texture and fine tannins.
Light-to-medium reds: Ill agree that pinot noir is a wine youre unlikely to ever tire of, but the vibrant gamay is a delicious alternative. Its the grape in Beaujolais, a relatively inexpensive light red when compared with its pinot noir-based neighbour in France, Burgundy.
Always think cabernet sauvignon when you think red? Try it in a blend or reach for a straight merlot from time to time. The maligned merlot grape is starting to find some real form in Australia and is worth another chance if its been a while since your last bottle.
Medium-to-full-bodied reds: Feel free to substitute grenache or mourvedre for a shiraz or a blend of all three in a GSM or a tempranillo-based wine from Spains Rioja region next time youre thinking about shiraz. Rutherglen durif is also a good thing for those who like their shiraz from the bigger end of town.
Theres another option, too. And thats to stick with your favourite wines but look further afield. If Barossa shiraz is your poison, try a bottle from Bendigo or Heathcote regions that will deliver the depth of flavour that you find in the Barossa.
And, finally, now the days are getting longer and the weather warming, if you find yourself in two minds about what to drink, just think pink. Dry, savoury rosé will be big again this summer as the rosé revolution in Australia goes from strength to strength.
(Central Victoria) $20; 13%
From two vineyard blocks at the vast Mitchelton site near Nagambie Lake in central Victoria, this is fermented in oak barrels, of which 20 per cent are new. Its complex and alluring, with aromas of white stonefruit, waxy lemon, pear and citrus blossom. Theres intense lemon, mineral and Granny Smith apple flavours that are reminiscent of leaner, modern chardonnays. Smooth texture, luscious even, with bright, chalky acidity that has a fine grip along with a finishing burst of lemon and creamed honey.Food match Bouillabaisse
(Yarra Valley) $35; 14%
Heres another impressive wine from the lauded 2010 Yarra Valley vintage. Rich aromas of rose petal, red berries, caramel, muscatels and blackcurrant. It is savoury in the mouth, with black olive, cedar oak, red and blackberry flavours. Theres also a lifted perfume on the mouth thats engaging and moreish. Its light and bright, with a lovely mouthfeel, super-fine tannins and a savoury finish with a good deal of intensity.Food match Lamb tagine
(Clare Valley) $19; 12.4%
Word is that 2012 is one of the best years for riesling in South Australias Clare Valley in more than 20 years. Bursting with pretty, floral aromatics, a wash of zippy lemon, lime, ginger, quince, blossom and apple flavours fill the mouth. The flavours are intense, but theres a subtlety and complexity that draws you back for another sip. Its dry and crisp in the mouth, with a line of chalky acidity and a lengthy finish.Food match Tempura prawns
(Yarra Valley) $24; 12.5%
Vinoque is a new label from De Bortoli in the Yarra Valley. The grapes that made this wine came from a vineyard at Roundstone winery, which was burnt down in the 2009 bushfires. The gamay vines, and Roundstones owners, survived, and this is the first wine made from those vines since that black day. Perfumed dark cherry, nuts, spice and stalks fill the glass and the mouth. Its silky smooth and theres tension between the bright acidity, light tannic grip and intense cherry, berry finish.Food match Grilled quail
Love a bargain?
(Alicante, Spain) $13.99; 13.5%
Ive reviewed previous vintages of this and it has been a favourite for a while. Like the previous vintages, this is dense, delicious and full of character. Plush aromas include plums, blackberries, cherry, spice, coal and a touch of dried herb. Its smooth and savoury, with fine, powdery tannins and bright acidity. Light on its feet, bright fruit flavours of plum, cherry, and vanilla really push through to a persistent finish.Food match Paella Valenciana