Feb 192020

The Wine Appreciation Groups

We have three wine appreciation groups, each led by Karen Coulston.

  1. Wine Appreciation – Introduction: some terms only; sometimes weekly, sometimes fortnightly. They discuss different wine styles and how they are made plus what you taste and smell in wine and what ‘balance’ means in quality wine.
  2. Wine and Food Lunch Group: monthly and only open to those who have previously done the Wine Appreciation course. This group centres on wine and food matching around the lunch table.
  3. Wine Tour Group: monthly and only open to those who have previously done the Wine Appreciation course. This is a winery tour group, where they take a community bus to different wine regions, usually making a cultural or environmental visit before visiting two wineries for lunch and wine tastings.

In August 2018, the Wine Appreciation group gathered at Karen Coulston’s house in Yarrambat to bottle some wine that they had previously made. Watch a 5 minute video of the day.

Feb 182020

In February 2020, the Wine and Food Lunch Group had a Queensland dinner at Debra Forbes’ house.

Wine notes

Our wines today were all Robert Channon wines, from the Granite Belt near Stanthorpe, Queensland – cool climate wines.

  1. Chardonnay/Verdelho 2019 – the area is renowned for its Verdelho. Bit sweet, not enough acid for Chardonnay/Verdelho.
  2. Verdelho 2019 – went very well with our fish dishes. Varietal character, rich and delicate at the same time.
  3. Rose 2019 – from Pinot Noir juice, quite nice.
  4. Pinot Noir 2015 – not as refined as Yarra Valley Pinots.
  5. Shiraz/Cabernet Merlot 2018 – easy drinking. Good even with cucumber sandwiches! Not aggressive – not too big in the mouth.
  6. Late harvest Verdelho 2014 – clean acid finish, good for dessert. ‘Late harvest’ says ‘harvested end March, for us that’s the beginning of our grape harvest in Victoria! The ginger in our fruit salad went well with this wine.
Crocodile Karen
Barramundi Vera
Prawn and avocado salad Jude
Fried coconut, crumbed prawns Deb F
Pumpkin scones Deb T
Crab sandwiches Jenny
Cucumber sandwiches Jenny
Chicken & mango Deb T
Tropical savoury salad Lizzie
Tropical dessert salad Pam


Jan 312020

In January 2020, the Wine and Food Lunch Group had a Tasmanian dinner.

Wine notes
  1. Clover Hill Sparkling – classic Tassie style. Set up in Tasmania by Taltarni, they wanted classic, Tassie style with the best fruit. Lovely marriage with our oysters.
  2. Milton Riesling 2017 – Swansea, Tasmania. Has a touch of sweetness, big enough and rich enough to enjoy with onion tart, scallop pie and potato salad.
  3. Stefan Lubiana Chardonnay 2018, Granton, Tasmania. (Makes good Pinot too). One of the best in Tasmania. Good with possum, scallops and also the pork and apple pies. Delicate oak, good Chardonnay characteristics.
  4. Riversdale Estate 2017 Pinot Noir. Coal River Region. Went well with wallaby and pork.
  5. Coldstream Hills, Tasmania, Pinot Noir 2018. Has harsher tannins, but will mature into a nice wine, still a bit rough. Went well with onion tart. Pinot is a very food friendly wine. Pinot Noir has a drying nature. The drying effect of tannins is not restricted to Pinot Noir, bigger reds are more drying but with age their tannins bind with other things in the wine not just the protein in saliva when they hit the mouth.
Tassie cheeses and nibbles Lizzie
Curried scallop pie Vera
Oysters Fidel & Jude
Smoked salmon Jenny
Possum stroganoff & potatoes Karen
Wallaby meatballs Karen
Port & Apple sausage rolls Deb T
Salads Pam
Apple Tarte Tartin Deb & Peter T
Onion Tart Jenny


Aug 012017

As a complete novice and an enjoyer of the occasional glass of wine, I and 11 others signed on the Wine Appreciation Class of 2017. What a blast it was. The fun, the friendship, the food and (of course) the wine, all with the gentle guiding hand of Karen Coulston to make the class an enlightening and enjoyable event.

At this point, it is probably important to say that each of the four glasses in front of us were for tasting. This was not meant to be a grog fest, but a serious class.

Some of our members enjoying the class around the pre-set table:

The class was based on the assumption that different wines are best paired with particular foods. Our job was to confirm or otherwise this assumption. Well, also to enjoy the experience, of course.

Karen, who is somewhat renowned in local winemaking, has degrees in Chemistry (BSc(hons) (Monash), MPhil (London)) and Wine Science (BAppSc (CSU)), started a boutique winery along with her since-departed husband, Laurie. With Laurie now enjoying the other side of wine-making heaven, Karen allowed us and others to be educated in the appreciation of wine. It also allowed us to enjoy her quite unique property in Yarrambat.

Apparently the first classes Karen ran, whilst successful, lacked an additional ingredient – and that turned out to be food: the perfect combination with any, if not all, wine.

Our class attendees, Deb T and Peter, Jude and Fidel, Pam, Robin, Simon, Greg, Ruby, Jenny, Liz, Vera and myself (Deb F), found ourselves at Karen’s mercy. Wines and food were pre-organised, in situ or via email.

We covered red wine, white wine, sparkling wine, and wine varieties within sub groups. We learnt of flavours and smells, what is grassy, what is musky, what is fruity, and what is downright horrid. But then there were the delights of some beautiful wines which surprised us because, whilst they may have been cheap, they improved with a particular food group. For instance, the cabernet with the duck, the sparkling with the oysters and vietnamese rolls, and the chocolate with the shiraz! All amazing and brilliant.

Many times, as we all got to know each other better, Karen needed to bring us back to attention by the tingling on a glass so that she could remind us of the attributes of a wine that we were tasting.

After learning that Karen had held a previous class to make their own wine, we insisted we had to as well. So, a rosé was chosen, and our group gathered grapes from anywhere that still had enough (we were late in the season for good grapes). We learned how to press the grapes and started the process to turn these little beauties into our magnificent wine. Karen has continued the process, adding as required until bottling day (still to come).

Each week added to the previous one and the experience was better every time. The inclusion of food with the wine appreciation was a master stroke and just made the occasions truly special. Each person contributed either a prescribed bottle of wine or pre-determined food.

We loved and laughed all the sessions long. Pam, so heavy into permaculture, was able to enlighten us on more sustainable food management production. Deb T sang us into a coffee shop with her magnificent two-octave voice at the end of a day tour. Fidel tolerated the white wines when we really knew that he exclusively preferred red. Jude was stunned when Fidel told the group she (Jude) would make carbonara – her face was priceless. Robin, so quietly spoken, would put in his bid for his contribution first in the auction only to be beaten by louder voices, week after week. Liz would look with amazing grace at others when they were over-jolly with a particular approving gaze in her eye. Vera regaled us with her excited eyes and Ruby gave us her comic look of entertainment when she picked up on conversation at the other end of the table. Greg’s car broke down on the way one time with a vital food ingredient of our meals and Simon refused to eat any oysters cooked or otherwise. And Jenny excited us by saying she would bring lobster to our sparkling wine day and got hailed down to yabbies, which turned into prawns. It was all so good no matter what. Peter nearly rolled over with laughter watching Deb F’s face when served with the vietnamese rolls that flopped in a most interesting manner.

Our class was introduced to particular varietals like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Shiraz and Chardonnay. Then we looked at wine types and styles such as aromatic whites, Mediterranean reds and whites, new world reds, sparkling and (still to come) fortified wines. We had two all-day-long bus tours to introduce us to wineries of differing styles and the food that they paired with their wines. We saw sparkling wine being made and had tours to the vineyards cellars, including Dame Nellie Melba’s beautiful property, Coombe, in the Yarra Valley.

We are part of U3A for many reasons, learning, connection, community, many other personal reasons. This class with Karen embodies as close to all these elements as I and my fellow class mates have experienced. It was, and is, great, just great. As a group, we have decided to continue the friendship and meet regularly hereafter.

Thank you Karen. Most sincerely, thank you.