Nov 282020

Remember that I am biased and tend to more savoury, medium weight wines in recent years (since chemotherapy).

White wines


  • 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).

Sauvignon Blanc

  • 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.
Sparkling wines


  • 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.

Sparkling reds

  • 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.
Red wines

Pinot Noir

  • My love for elegance, savoury character and wonderful structure.
  • Must be cool climate:
    • Burgundy.
    • Tasmania.
    • 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.

Cabernet Sauvignon

  • 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:
    • Coonawarra.
    • Margaret River.
    • Yarra Valley in warm years.
    • Bordeaux.
  • 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.

Alternative reds

  • 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.
Fortified wines

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.