Beyond natural wines: Domaine Lisson in Languedoc. Help!

Mike Tommasi 2012-06-27T13:58:29+00:000000002930201206 Wine

About 10 years ago I brought winemaker and blogger Iris Rutz of Domaine Lisson from the wild hills of the Languedoc to the Slow Food fair in Turin, where I presented a workshop on what I then called “wild wines” from France. It sounds better in French: vins sauvages. I wanted to convey that these were indeed natural wines, while avoiding the pitfalls of the “natural wine movement”: the sectarian connotations of this fractured movement, the frequent correlation of “natural” with “drink young”, and the strange tastes of many natural wines.

lisson

The vines of Domaine Lisson, Languedoc

Iris Rutz makes impeccably clean long aging complex wines using traditional methods in the vineyard, with sulfur and, in very difficult years, some copper. In the cellar she uses minimum sulfite levels (these are marked exactly on the labels), with no filtering or fining and 18 months of barrel aging. Another winery that works its wines with a light hand, and yet the wines age beautifully, is Dupéré Barrera in the hills of coastal Provence. They also participated in the Turin workshop.

Iris Rutz adds two other aspects to her winemaking that, in my judgment, truly qualify her for the “wild” label.

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An Australian fondue dinner party – 1963

Martin Field 2012-06-08T05:10:39+00:000000003930201206 Food and Wine

I came across this charming picture in a book I bought for two dollars at an opshop. The book, Australia, was published in 1964, so I assume that the pics date from the previous year.

A feast in 1963

Note the guests swanky clothes. And awaiting them on the table is a fondue pot, bread and cheese and a crayfish. To accompany, two bottles of Penfolds sherry, and one each of Penfolds Dalwood Claret, Dalwood “Burgundy” and Dalwood Riesling. Needless to say the glasses are crystal.

The fondue evening and the dinner party are both on the endangered species list nowadays but they were great fun in their heyday.

Australia, published 1964, by Oswald Ziegler Publications, Pty. Ltd. Sydney Australia.

Penfolds Koonunga Hill – An historical perspective

Martin Field 2012-05-17T05:17:06+00:000000000631201205 Wine

This article is by occasional contributor Geoff Parker – Geoff looks at the history of a well-known Australian wine and seeks the origin of the name on the label.

A value for money, commemorative release

Some years ago, the local bottle shop in Blackburn had on sale a magnum of Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet 2004, for the good price of $21. It was called Koonunga Hill (Special Reserve) Claret. The entire bottle was covered in red, and the distinctive appearance commemorated the passing of thirty years of the line. The first release was the 1976 vintage which was released in 1978. I bought the magnum and reflected, “Where have the thirty years gone?”

There was a bottle of the ‘76 in my cellar at this time, but somehow it got included in a parcel for auction at Langton’s and ultimately realized $25. I should have kept it. With the magnum in my hand and thinking back to the label of the ‘76, it struck me that I’d purchased every vintage in between, and for good reason.

Penfolds Koonunga Cabernet 2010

Koonunga Hill was always a reliable, very affordable, quality red that you could freely splash about after a game of golf, or when neighbours dropped in, or when a pizza at the local Italian was a good idea. But treating it in this way was probably a little too casual, particularly during the early years, for as Len Evans said of the first release in the Wine and Spirit Buying Guide of June 1978:

“Koonunga Hill is “…very big on the palate (with) an underlying complexity which I find most appealing…reminiscent of the big Penfolds reds of the 1960s.”

He also said in this publication that the first Koonunga Hill was crafted from fruit from the Koonunga Hill vineyard in the Barossa Valley, and from fruit sourced from Coonawarra and Magill. (more…)

Top shelf drinking

Martin Field 2012-05-10T12:35:51+00:000000005131201205 Wine Tasting

Campbells Classic Rutherglen Muscat – 500ml $44 – 92/100. Shows clear golden syrup hues – a quick swirl in the glass leaves lovely ‘legs’. Bouquet of aged alcohol, raisins and ‘roll your own’ tobacco. Goluptious palate of dark fruitcake, leather, and aged wood. A superb after dinner treat.

d’Arenberg Dadd Sparkling – $28 – 87/100. Adelaide Hills, South Australia. Chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier blend. Pale lemon colour, small slow bead. Light bouquet of warm bread rolls and lemon peel. Dry in the mouth, medium bodied with toasty aspects, dried pears and a crisp citric finish.

Juniper Crossing Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – $20 – 86/100. Margaret River, Western Australia. Nose of lemon grass and tomato leaf. Fresh vigorous palate, with a lychee character that reminds me more of sauvignon than semillon fruit.

The Lane Gathering Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2009 – $35 – 89/100. Adelaide Hills, South Australia. Herbal nose of lime and a hint of green apple. Smooth, mouth-filling palate with some more of the Granny Smith apple, supported by firm, lemon acidity.

Penfolds Bin 51 Riesling 2011 – $33 – 91/100. Eden Valley, South Australia. Mineral nose with delicate citrus blossoms. Classic varietal palate somehow reminds me of Rose’s Lime Marmalade – without the sugar. This white has a long aftertaste with beautifully balanced, lip-smacking acidity.

Shaw + Smith Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2010 – $48 – 90/100. Pale crimson. Heady rose water and strawberry conserve nose. The light colour belies a solid palate stacked with red berry flavours, subdued oak and subtle tannins. Illusions of sweetness from the fruit taper off into a satisfying firm and dry finish.

Angove McClaren Vale Shiraz 2010 – $18 – 87/100. Deep red hues. Warm (14.5% alcohol) and ripe blackberries on the nose. Generous palate of plums, summer berries and mild vanilla oak. Main course style for sure.

Blackjack Major’s Line Shiraz 2009 – $25 – 90/100. Bendigo, Victoria. Peppery fruity nose with a hint of anise. Pleasing intensity of flavours on the palate with sub-strata of liquorice and a hint of dark chocolate.

Zema Estate Cluny Cabernet Merlot 2008 – $26 – 89/100. Coonawarra, South Australia. Dark ruby colour. Lifted nose of mulberries and blueberries. Chewy, dry palate shows more concentrated blueberry character, along with an olive savouriness, the whole ably supported by balanced oak.

Sierra Nevada Stout 355ml stubbie – 6-pack $24 plus – 90/100. California, USA. Delicious roast coffee hints on the nose. Silky smooth and thick in the mouth, showing earthy mocha character and mild bitterness towards the finish. Though a little sweeter, this is right up there with my favourite, Coopers Stout.

Ratings

95+ – Trophy

90+ – Outstanding

85+ – Fine drinking

80+ – Good stuff

75+ – Commercial drop

Prices in Australian dollars.

Vietnam travels – Hanoi

Martin Field 2012-05-10T12:26:19+00:000000001931201205 Wine Travel

Old Quarter – Hanoi

A short flight with Vietnam Airlines takes us from Hue to Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam.

Compared to hot and steamy Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi in mid-February is cold, overcast and drizzly – one morning it gets down to 11 degrees C and we’re still cold, even wearing four layers of clothing. Other Australians in the Hanoi cold are identifiable by their outfits of shorts, T-shirts and thongs.

Our hotel is in the Old Quarter and the surrounding area is more crowded and has more dangerous traffic than Ho Chi Minh City – which is saying something. It is impossible to walk directly along any footpath or roadside due to myriad motorcycles and motor scooters.

Sweatshop counterfeits?

Wall-to-wall tiny shops line the footpaths, selling clothes, footwear, camping gear, electronics – you name it. There is no noticeable copyright law in Vietnam so many of them stock well-known brand name products, cheap. A local tells us the goods are often sourced from the same sweatshops that the big brand names use.

And there is even a relic of French colonialism as on the street corners old ladies sell baguettes by the dozen.

Fresh baguettes

In the shopping areas, it is surprising to see that Australia’s ANZ Bank supplies most of the ATMs. (more…)

Vini(d)Amari

Luca Risso 2012-05-08T09:21:37+00:000000003731201205 Degustazioni di vino, Vino @it

La partecipazione al consueto appuntamento con VinidAmare, rassegna dei vini e dei produttori liguri organizzata da AIS Liguria, mi ha lasciato molto perplesso.

Ci sono stati due grossi problemi a cui mi auguro si possa in qualche modo porre rimedio nelle prossime edizioni. (more…)

Tigulliovino Meeting 29 Giugno….

Luca Risso 2012-04-02T09:43:41+00:000000004130201204 Degustazioni di vino, Vino @it

Non si può assolutamente non parlare del Meeting di Tigulliovino. Ecco i partecipanti:

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Villa Más, s’Agaró, Costa Brava

Mike Tommasi 2012-04-01T21:38:06+00:000000000630201204 Restaurant Reviews
Villa Más, S'Agaró

Villa Más, S'Agaró

This second visit to Villa Más was prompted by my father’s 80th birthday, and since he lives a few miles away from S’Agaró, I invited my parents for lunch there. The site is quite nice, especially at this time of the year, when the weather is good but the tourists are far away. The beach is a few steps away, so the Villa Más terrace is an ideal place for Sunday lunch for five.

My blogging is fairly sparse these days, so I hesitate to refer to my friend Joan Gómez Pallarès and Vincent Pousson as “fellow wine bloggers”; anyhow, both live in Barcelona and strongly recommended going back to Villa Màs.

I remembered from the previous visit how spectacular the wine list was, particularly on French wines , and especially Burgundy. What I did not remember is how good the prices are. Grange des Pères and Peyre Rose are both 70 Euro, which is amazing, considering that in France you would pay close to double that amount. Catalan restaurants have this nice habit of not charging 4-5 times the purchase price, which is standard in France.

The food at Villa Más is quite remarkable too. The chef really knows what he’s doing. My pig’s trotters (peus de porc) with sea cucumbers (esparenyes) were beautifully served – 4 circles of finely chopped meat topped with a thin disc of crackling and an espardenya. Beautiful visuals led to a wonderful array of textures, from the rich soft slowly cooked meat with its gelatinous consistency to the cracking crackling and the delicate fibrous sea cucumber, a great match, perfectly executed. Same goes for the rest of the family’s choices, like monkfish with iberic bacon, or “macaroni” with Idiazábal cheese.

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Green tea ice cream and fizz

Martin Field 2012-03-23T04:52:35+00:000000003531201203 Restaurant Reviews

Jardin Japonesque

Where to go for a light birthday lunch? We hadn’t been to Jardin Japonesque for quite a while so I grabbed a bottle of Pol Gessner from the fridge and we headed off.

On their lunch menu the description of Vegetable Domburi looked good, and so it turned out. Each generous serve included cubes of tempura tofu, silverbeet tsukudani, and  avocado – on a bed of sushi rice – accompanied by a bowl of light miso soup. Great value at $14.00.

For dessert we shared a dish of Uji Kintoki Parfait  – $9.00.

I’ll quote the menu description: “Green tea ice cream, green tea sauce, green tea sable, azuki paste, condensed milk, green tea powder, whipped cream.”

Uji Kintoki Parfait

The velvety, green tea ice cream was, to use a rare phrase, absolutely goluptious.

Glasses of mellow Pol Gessner (an inexpensive champagne from the house of Lanson) matched the food admirably.

Jardin Japonesque, BYO only. 3 Arcadia St, Noosa Junction, Qld. (07) 54480724.

 

USA Holiday Food Report – another view

Martin Field 2012-03-18T00:48:06+00:000000000631201203 Food and Wine

Joe Fogarty, writing from Chicago. takes exception to Peter Howard’s USA Holiday Report.

I’m sorry – but only a little – to read of Chef Peter Howard‘s disappointment with the food in the U.S. Bad flavour combinations in Italian dishes? Dumping on Rachael Ray? Either he’s not telling us about the very wonderful meals he had during FIVE weeks of travel here, or he wasn’t trying very hard to find them.

No doubt, I could spend five weeks in Australia and find disappointment with the food. Are there no popular food show personalities on TV in Australia offering their twist on the vegemite sandwich?

And you know, a peanut butter, bacon and tomato sandwich sounds like something that might be pretty good, at least to an American palate. You know, the palate non-American foodies like to dismiss as unrefined?

And speaking of critics and criticism, I thought you’d find interesting the food blogosphere kerfuffle that happened here last week, since it involves Italian food of the kind that Howard’s description might fit.

Eighty-five year old Marilyn Hagerty writes the “Eat Beat” column for the Grand Forks Herald. Grand Forks is in North Dakota, a windswept town of about 70,000 souls on the prairie of the Upper Midwest. No one would consider it a culinary Mecca.

Recently, an Olive Garden restaurant opened there and Ms. Hagerty offered her impressions in this review: Long-awaited Olive Garden receives warm welcome.

(Background: The Olive Garden is a chain restaurant ubiquitous in the U.S.. For some Americans, especially in small and medium sized cities – and in lots of suburbs – it is the only Italian restaurant choice.)

Hagerty’s very earnest review of the restaurant went viral and lots of snarkologists were quick to make fun of it.

But then some people put Hagerty’s review in context. A fabulous sportswriter, Joe Posnanski, had this beautifully-written take on her review – The Olive Garden – and the discussion it engendered.

Hagerty made the national news. She did TV interviews. She is as delightful and forthright and sweet as you would expect an 85 year old five columns-a-week writer to be. And she’s no rube, either.

The funny thing is, it’s simply a report about the restaurant itself and the experience of eating there – except for the food.

A former editor of hers related that when Hagerty writes about the paint on the wall and the flower arrangements, you know the food isn’t very good.

It’s a subtle approach. Maybe food critics could take a lesson!

I invite Chef Howard to Chicago for a culinary exploration filled with interesting flavours, small portions, no Rachael Ray – and a trip to the Olive Garden, just for fun.