Remember that I am biased and tend to more savoury, medium weight wines in recent years (since chemotherapy).
- My preference is for dry as most Australians are.
- A perfect fish wine (think fish and chips on the beach, the acid cuts through the fat).
- I love aged Rieslings evolving to kerosene.
- Tasmania, a beautiful pair, medium sweet and dry, is from Frogmore Creek (sweet is labelled FGR for forty grams residual sugar).
- Clare / Eden Valley.
- Geelong / Henty.
- Far south WA.
- Alsace, France for all beautifully aromatic whites, dry → very sweet.
- Only with some oak influence. I like a creamy but mineral Chard.
- Cooler climates preferred but most places can grow good Chardonnay.
- White Burgundy.
Pinot Grigio / Gris
- Cool climates again, wherever Pinot Noir grows well.
- I prefer the more acidic Italian style Grigio, fresh, lively, almost cutting.
- Gris style is richer, sometimes with a touch of sweetness and old oak fermentation. This is the French / Alsace style suited to creamy seafood and chicken dishes (traditionally bottled in Riesling bottles).
- Not my favourite Australian white, where it is often overpowering in tropical fruit but lacks structure – too simple.
- I like the New Zealand grassy, gooseberry style.
- The French Loire style is different again, with bright fruit and structure.
- Only old ones from the Hunter Valley where the lemon curd of youth (often pleasant) develops to buttered toast under the lemon spread.
- I don’t like Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blends – often cheap and nasty.
- I’m not keen on Viognier, Verdelho or Chenin Blanc, although WA does make some exceptions.
- Never serve me a moscato!
- Alternative varieties from Italy and Spain can be very interesting:
- Fiano, Arneis, Friulano, Gavi, Vermentino often blended as in Italy.
- The Victorian King Valley experiments well with Italian varieties.
- French alternatives, Marsanne and Rousanne, often in a Rhone blend:
- Lovely aromatics that age to honeysuckle.
- Central Victoria grows more than Rhone.
- Stickies made from Riesling or Semillon (and Sauvignon Blanc in Sauterne):
- Must be from Botrytis affected fruit for concentrated marmalade/ginger/apricot.
- Ice wines are simply concentrated without the extra dimension of Botrytis and ridiculously expensive.
- I prefer the classic Champagne blend but always from cold climates.
- Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir:
- Blanc de blanc is all Chardonnay, ultra fresh, touch of citrus.
- Blanc de noir is all Pinot Noir – more meaty, masculine, deep.
- Rosé has some Pinot Noir skin contact for colour.
- Vintage means the grapes are from one year. The Champagne houses only produce a vintage Champagne in exceptional years.
- Non Vintage (NV) means grapes are from several years and base wines from different vineyards can be blended (as can be the case for vintage as well).
- Big houses tend to make more complex sparklings because they blend more base wines. Small producers make individual wines that vary from year to year.
- Ideally have 3 years on lees before disgorgement to get good autolysis character (crusty bread, dough, Vegemite).
- Tasmania vies with Champagne for the best. The UK performs well too.
- Methode champenoise best but good safe wines from transfer (pressure tanks) too.
Prosecco (and other non Champagne varieties)
- Prosecco (and other non Champagne varieties) make simple wines but non challenging and good value bubbles.
- Particularly Australian, usually Shiraz, often with Durif in Victoria.
- Often made from finished red wine that needs to be diluted before sparkling.
- Not as complex as whites and doesn’t benefit from autolysis.
- Great with Christmas dinner turkey.
- My love for elegance, savoury character and wonderful structure.
- Must be cool climate:
- Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Geelong, Macedon.
- Adelaide Hills.
- Far south WA.
- New Zealand (I prefer Martinborough to Central Otago).
- Oregon, Canada.
- Be prepared to pay >$40 for anything good. Be sceptical about second labels often sold to restaurants at <$20.
- The classic French variety, usually blended in Bordeaux but a straight varietal in Australia (sometimes middle palate softened by Merlot).
- I like the cool climate wine with a touch of herbs/greenness and an austerity that promises longevity:
- Margaret River.
- Yarra Valley in warm years.
- Big cassis, brambly flavours in Australia. Taut tannins worthy of ageing.
- To me best as a blender, too soft except in Pomerol.
- Australia’s own but the same variety as Syrah in the Rhone.
- Cool climate style is spicy and peppery, round but big tannins:
- Heathcote, Yarra Valley, Geelong.
- Adelaide Hills, Clare.
- Cote du Rhone.
- Warmer climates produce big, bold almost jammy Shiraz:
- McLaren Vale, Barossa.
- Hunter, Orange, Mudgee.
- Swan Valley.
- Blends well with Cabernet for the iconic Australian red.
- Italian varieties:
- Sangiovese Italian like from cool areas like King Valley.
- Nebbiolo likewise (tar and roses in Italy and KV).
- Primitivo (Zinfandel) bigger, broader red.
- Nero D’Avola, Aglianico, big reds from Italy’s warmer south.
- Spanish varieties:
- Tempranillo, Rioja, does well in much of Australia.
- Grenache (Garnacha) old stalwart of SA, pretty wine rather than iconic, good for rosés.
- French minors, not usually stand alone, good blenders:
- Malbec, Mataro (Mourvedre), Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc.
- Durif a very big red in Rutherglen region.
- Gamay the grape of Beaujolais but a poor cousin to Pinot Noir.
Sherry (Apera in Australia)
- Best from Spain.
- Flor (oxidative film yeast) produces flavours.
- Solera system blends over years in pyramids of barrels (done in Australia too).
- Fino dry and delicate, beautiful with a light soup.
- Amontillado, richer, try with a creamy soup.
- Oloroso coarser, sometimes sweet, it matches the hearty soup.
Port from Portugal
- Rutherglen best in Oz.
- Sweet red fortified mid ferment.
- Vintage made from one year’s grapes, bottled early then bottle aged.
- Traditionally, a bottle should be consumed in one sitting (to avoid oxidation or just the British?).
- Tawny is aged in the barrel, a blend over many years, brown from oxidation/age.
Muscat and Tokay (Topaque in Oz)
- Basically fortified grape juice.
- Rutherglen’s own from super ripe Muscat and Muscadelle grapes.
- Intensely luscious and aromatic.
- Classified into Rutherglen, Classic, Grand and Rare priced accordingly.