We were staying in Melbourne over the weekend. Mike, whose 60th birthday we were due to celebrate on Saturday night, felt a need to get out of the city and into the country and smell some fresh air. The Yarra Valley seemed to be a logical choice. Originally the aim was to go to Marysville, an area tragically burnt out in bushfires nearly three years ago. We didn’t quite make it there.

Our first port of call was Sutherland Estate, a winery that I had not heard of before (which is not to be wondered at because new wineries are popping up all the time). It has a very salubrious tasting room which we had to ourselves when we arrived. However after tasting a couple of wines, three bus loads of bulk tasters turned up and we were squeezed out the door by the noise and number of bodies. I tasted four wines there.

2008 Sutherland Estate Blanc de Blanc.

A VERY nice bubbles. The persistent bead was very fine. There were peach aromas on the nose . It had a beautiful huge mousse showing the traditional methode champenoise used in the making of the wine. The taste of apples (Granny Smith was mentioned) and sweet fruit was very cleansing and it had a long lingering finish. A great start to the day and at $28 not badly priced. If we had not been crowded out I would probably bought one of these.

2008 Sutherland Estate Blanc de Blanc

2008 Wildcat Chardonnay

This is how I like my Chardonnays; plenty of oak thrown at them. This was creamy and buttery with a hint of figs on the nose. It was a full flavoured mouth feel and an excellent finish. Very handily priced too at $18.

2008 Wildcat Chardonnay

I tried the 2010 Wildcat Unwooded Chardonnay but as usual this was not to my taste. I like wood in my Chardonnays and at $18, this wine was not such good value. I also tried the 2003 Sutherland Estate Pinot Noir at $24, and being a Tasmanian I knew I shouldn’t. It had a promising nose but was a bit thin and had a slightly bitter finish. Not at all a great wine.

After quite a bit of travelling through some wonderful bush land we arrived at the Black Spur Inn for lunch. This is in Narbethong and the dining area was well set out and the food was good. To accompany the food we had a bottle of Merlot.

2010 Punt Road Merlot.

Punt Road is a winery in the lower area of the Yarra Valley. I remember on my one visit there a number of years ago, we were given our tastes in huge Reidel glasses. This Merlot has a pleasant nose with cherry and berry hints. It was a lovely full flavoured wine with lots of savoury characters. It had a very pleasant long finish. An excellent choice to go with lunch.

2010 Punt Road Merlot

I finished the day at Chandon. I had to pay $5 for the tasting, and was to be truthful, disappointed in the wines I tried. I think the Sutherland Estate bubbles was better than any I tried at Chandon and more handily priced.


The Tasmanian Wine Fair is an annual event run by the Tasmanian Wine Centre. David Johnston invites many wineries to be a part and there were about 30 represented last Sunday 12th August. With each winery showing a range of wines there are too many wines to be trying all of them. With Sil (Son in Law) I did a circuit trying bubbles, then let our palates decide where we would go after that. I present what I thought were  the handiest bubbles on the afternoon.

Hamilton Syn NV Cuvee Blanc

This was a lovely start to the afternoon. It was a cleansing bubbles with a pleasing mousse. At $20 this is a very good value bubbles that I would be happy to drink on any occasion.

Hamilton Syn NV Cuvee Blanc

2008 Josef Chromy

A lovely wine! Cleansing with crisp acid. It was hard to assess the mousse with such a small sample given out, but the flavours were very pleasant. The bouquet of green apples was evident and certainly came through on the palate. Sil suggested that it was very reminiscent of Granny Smith apples. A definite lift in class from the Syn, but a huge lift in dollars as well. At $47 this make this wine a very special occasion only.

Josef Chromy 2008 Vintage

d’Arenberg Dadd

For Darry, the labels on his wines are just a small part of his legendary status. With a tongue stuffed quite securely in his cheek he has produced a bubbles in an attempt to compare favourably with French bubbles, but has had a backhanded slap at the French obsessiveness about correct labelling (Mumm being a well known French Champagne). This wine was made with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier, left for at least 18 months on lees. It was really dry. In balance, the label has more interest than the wine.

d’Arenberg Dadd

Skillogalee Sparkling Riesling

The person behind the counter at the Skillogalee counter said with great assurance that this style of bubbles would not be found any where else in the room. He was right! In fact I don’t think I have EVER had a sparkling Riesling before. It had a definite Riesling nose and flavour. It was light and fresh and very tasty. Not badly priced at $27.

Skillogalee Sparkling Riesling

Shottesbrooke 1337 NV

This blanc de blanc had a  quite toasty nose. there were tropical hints on the palate and some rich full flavours that were pleasing. It finished fairly short which was a bit disappointing. However the reds well and truly made up for the lack of finish in this wine. (Please see following posts as they occur).

Shottesbrooke 1337 Sparkling

Holm Oak NV Sparkling Rose

100% Pinot Noir has given this wine a gentle blush. It is very dry, yet very cleansing. It has lovely flavours and I rated this bubbles fairly high from the tastes today. It is also fairly handily placed at $32 for a classy bubbles.

Holm Oak NV Sparkling Rose

Relbia Estate NV Chardonnay Pinot Noir

A new winery for me from the north of Tasmania. The gentleman behind the counter said that as yet they don’t have any vineyards themselves, but they buy in the grapes they need. This wine was a nice example of the breed. It has spent a minimum of three years on lees. It has a great mousse, probably the best of all the bubbles tasted today. It is dry and cleansing with beautiful flavours and a good long pleasant finish. At $30 a bottle it is probably the pick of the bubbles tasted today.

Relbia Estate NV Chardonnay Pinot Noir

Other nice bubbles:

2008 Chain of Ponds Diva. Nice wine; wildly overpriced at $53.

Hanging rock Macedon XII. Very fine bubbles, but out of my price range at $53.

This weekend just gone (11th & 12th August 2012)  has been one in which I could say; “When too much wine was barely enough!” My wine group (the Connoisseurs) had a theme night on Saturday entitled Minor Varieties, and Sunday was the Tasmanian Wine Fair. This page is about the wine group night. I ask your forgiveness with some of the photos. I have since changed cameras!!


We started with a Sparkling Moscato, which was made by that special vineyard in McLaren Vale called Scarpantoni. It had a picture of a woman on the front and was called La Civetta, which in Italian means “The Flirt”. It was a nice refreshing bubbles with a little residual sweetness, but finished clean and crisp. A good start to the evening.

Scarpantoni Sparkling Moscato (La Civetta)

Pinot Gris

Next came a Pinot Gris from Marlborough, New Zealand. This wine did not have a lot going for it and was the least appreciated by the group. One could imagine though on a hot day with a bowl of prawns to polish off, this wine could wash the remnants from the mouth quite effectively. (Terrible photo)

Black Birch Pinot Gris

Chenin Blanc

Next came a Chenin Blanc from Peter Lehmann in the Barossa Valley. This wine did have some flavour and finish. In fact it is pretty good value for money. It is a 2007 wine and was on special at the Eaglehawk (that fabulous bottleshop in North Hobart) for $13. I could imagine drinking a fair bit of this wine during the long hot summer (if Tasmania can have a long hot summer)!

2007 Peter Lehmann Chenin Blanc


The last of the “chilled” wines on the night was a Gamay from that fabulous winery in Rutherglen called Pfeiffers. Their motto based on the spelling of the surname is “Pfeiffers Pfine Wine Pfor Pfine Pfood and Pfabulous Pfolk”. Gamay is the main grape in Beaujolais wines from France, but here in Australia is like a rose; however it has flavour and finish. This is a very good example of the style and needs to be explored a bit more.

Pfeiffer Gamay

It was my little wine club’s monthly meeting last Saturday (14th July) and the wines were introduced by the vintner Neil Snare. He presented a range of Rieslings. He consistently showed a young example and an older example from Australia and Europe. As I was recovering from a week off work with the flu, my note taking has not been as pronounced as other times so I will try to rely on my memory.

Palate Cleanser

It has been traditional now for a number of years that Peter, the house host, provides a bubbles as a palate cleanser for the night. We were spoiled on this night as Neil brought along a 2004 Winstead bubbles. What a great palate cleanser it was!

Winstead 2004 Ensnared Sparkling Pinot Noir

The First Rieslings

We started with 2 young Rieslings; a Tasmanian example from Kate Hill and a South Australian example from the high Eden Valley. Both wines were very lively and clear and clean. In fact I found them enjoyable. I used to drink a lot of Riesling at one stage but then drifted away from it. I guess when you have limited dollars you tend to buy what you prefer, and reds were my main choice. These fine examples could win me back! Both of these wines had a firm acid structure, the necessary base for a Riesling that might be given a chance to age.

2011 Kate Hill Tasmanian Riesling

2011 Heggies Eden Valley Riesling

Older Rieslings

Then followed three aged Rieslings (between 17 and 20 years old) and the staggering thing about them, was that not one of them had fallen over yet. I will present them in the order we tasted them.

1995 Winstead Tasmanian Riesling

The 95 Riesling was still fresh and had none of the “kero” hints that older Rieslings can get. It was the second vintage from Winstead and was actually made by Andrew Hood. Neil is unsure what went right in the vineyard and the winery, but this has been a wine of longevity and flavour.

1994 Richmond Grove Watervale Rhine Riesling

This wine was one that came out of my cellar. The cork was old and shattered into countless pieces, so much so that we had to sieve and decant the wine. Even then there was a lovely honey aroma dominant on the nose and a really pleasant mouth feel. The term Rhine Riesling was used very loosely by wine labellers years back, but agreements with the French authorities have meant many nomenclature changes. I was happy with the way this wine has held up. It proves that my cellar is pretty well placed.

1992 Leo Buring Watervale Leonay Riesling

The third of these old wines was an absolute stunner. A 20 year old Riesling that still had pop and flavour. Watervale is part of the Clare Valley in South Australia and has long been reputed to grow the “best” Riesling in the country. These two old examples are proof that it could well be so!

Rieslings of Alsace

2010 Madder Alsace Riesling

Much drier than I expected, but still fruity and a solid acid backbone. Nice drop.

2005 Hugel Alsace Riesling

Neil had done well to source an older French Riesling. This was $85 a bottle and part of me cringes at those dollars for a WHITE wine, but it was interesting to compare with the Australians.

German Rieslings

2010 Dr Loosen German Riesling

Lower alcohol and residual sweetness made this an interesting wine. I have seen pictures of the vines growing on those very steep south facing slopes, and this wine is the result of some of that.

2007 Dr Burklin-Wolf German Riesling

Probably the most disappointing wine of the night. It lacked flavour, finish and mouthfeel. Maybe it was a bad vintage?


1999 Winstead Ensnared Riesling (sticky)

Always a winner with my wine group are the sugary wines known as stickies. The Winstead example put up here was Neil’s last effort at this style because it is economically unfeasible. But that does not stop people from liking it. It consists of raisined berries squashed and fermented, but because of the high concentration of sugars in the juice, a lot of the sweetness is left behind. This wine is a tangy and tasty example of the breed and finishes clean with no cloying.

I hope I haven’t rambled on too much for you here, but it was a good night. The wine of the night? Possible the 20 year old Leonay Riesling. Bottoms up!

Last Saturday evening, my wine group, of which I am the founder had the theme of Bubbles. Each couple brought along a bottle of bubbly, which we tasted. It was a sensational line up; not a reject amongst them. There were 4 whites and 3 reds and I could drink a lot of any of them. Actually I did, and woke up at 4am with a splitting headache. However it was worth it. I would recommend any of these wines. All of these wines were tasted blind; that doesn’t mean we were blind drunk, just that the labels were well masked.

2011 Bird in the Hand Sparkling Pinot (Adelaide Hills)

Very slight blush was a pretty good hint that it was a pinot. Beautiful yeast aroma and a lingering fine bead. The mousse was very pleasant and lead to a sweetish full flavoured mouthfeel and a long finish. A great start to the night. This was not a wine (or winery) that I had heard of before. I will certainly go looking!

2011 Bird in the Hand Sparkling Pinot

Bay of Fires NV Brut Pinot/Chardonnay

Beautiful clear golden colour. Evident hints of strawberry and cherry on the nose and a persistent fine bead. A really nice cleansing flavour that was extremely pleasant, that finished slightly dry. A long finish. This is a great wine and shows that well made Tasmanian sparkling wine can match any made in the world.

Bay of Fires NV Brut Pinot/Chardonnay

Nautilus NV Brut Cuvee Marlborough

This wine shows that New Zealand can also match anything else that is made. A lovely golden colour with a persistent fine bead. Yeast aromas hinted at some time on lees. A huge mousse that was followed by a delicious saliva making flavour. This was in fact a step up from the previous wine. A great bottle of bubbles and needs to be put on your bucket list! Photo a bit blurry, perhaps because the photographer was by then!

Nautilus NV Brut Cuvee Marlborough

2004 Winstead Ensnared Sparkling Pinot Noir

And back struck Tasmania! Winstead’s one and only bubbles to this date, but we look forward to the next one! The wine had a slight blush, but only just noticeable. Strong aromas of strawberry and raspberry on the nose and a fine persistent bead. It had a monstrous mousse that was exciting to experience. It was a full flavoured wine with finesse and elegance. It was clean and crisp with a long lingering finish that was still ther ten minutes after the wine had disappeared down the throat. A truly great wine! (Sorry about the blurry photo. Photographer sacked!)

2004 Winstead Ensnared Sparkling Pinot Noir

2009 Hollick Sparkling Merlot (Coonawarra)

Lovely rich intense colour. This wine had a big mousse, and great rich mouth-filling flavour. This wine has always been a favourite of mine but is unfortunately at $30 a bottle getting into a price range that makes it a ‘for specials only’ wine, but it is good to have for celebrations. Flavours of cherry dominate the palate and it has a long finish. It is a big wine and in my estimation a truly great wine.

2009 Hollick Sparkling Merlot

2004 Yalumba “D” Black Sparkling Cabernet/Shiraz

An intense inky black colour. Lots of pepper and spice on the nose. It was a full flavoured wine, but may have just passed its best. For an 8 year old wine it was exceptional. Rich and full flavoured and good long finish.

Yalumba "D" Black

2005 Ladbroke Grove Sparkling Shiraz (Coonawarra)

Undoubtedly the wine of the night. All boxes were ticked; fine bead, intense colour, good nose and rich full flavour with a long lingering pleasant finish. A wine I had never heard of before, but at 7 years old, this wine is still a pup.

2005 Ladbroke Grove Sparkling Shiraz


One of the aims of our recent overseas trip was to taste Champagne in Champagne. My daughter booked us a little B&B just south of Reims and on the morning of Thursday 24th August we approached our first little village tucked in amongst all the grape vines (mainly Chardonnay). It was the village of Trepail, and after a few enquiries we found ourselves at the Champagne house of Georges Maizieres, where a very friendly lady showed us through the winery and down into the cellar. The highlight of the visit was the uncorking of a bottle of Cuvee de Reserve which she generously served to us.


Rich,yeasty aromas, the bubbles were persistent and very small (fine bead) and the foam across the tongue as you sipped it was sensational (the mousse). The flavours were unlike any bubbles I had had before. clean, refreshing with a persistent pleasant finish, and the price was in the range of $25 – $30 AUD, not bad when you consider what we pay for some of the bigger known brands.

This visit will live with me until my ashes get scattered; My first glass of Champagne, in Champagne, and very nice it was!