Category Archives: Australia

Little Roo Merlot – South Eastern Australia

McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate Merlot – South Eastern Australia – 2008

Fish Eye Merlot 2010 – South Eastern Australia

Interesting Wine Facts: Fact #4 – Most Wines South of the Equator are Screwy!

Stelvin capsYes, it’s true! Although I’ve stated in a previous blog that I equate ‘screw caps’ with cheap wine and hobos the fact is that if I want to review any wines from New Zealand and Australia, to name a few, I will most likely have to swallow my pride and purchase a wine with the aforementioned ‘screw cap’.

These ‘screw caps’ also known as a Stelvin cap (named for the company that first invented them back in the late ’60s early ’70s) are predominately used on most wines produced south of the Equator such as in New Zealand and Australia. Although they were met with resistance  and phased out in the early 1980’s they were reintroduced in the 1990’s.

Since then the consumer acceptance of these Stelvin caps on wines have gone from 1% in 2001 to 70% in 2004 according to Wikipedia.The main reason, or so I am told from a wise wine instructor, is three-fold.

First off, there is the debate that Stelvin caps actually preserve the wine better and virtually guarantee that the wine will reach the customer in the condition that the wine maker intended it to. Others still argue that the slight oxygen leakage that comes from cork helps the wine age better. Who’s to say who’s right?

The second reason for the re-emergence of Stelvin caps particularly south of the Equator is cost. Cork trees primarily grow in countries that run along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, where there’s plenty of sunshine, low rainfall and high humidity. The countries that produce the most cork include Portugal, Algeria, Spain, Morocco, France, Italy and Tunisia. Because of this geographic dilemma using cork in wines produced south of the Equator adds more cost to producing a bottle of wine. When that happens you pay more for wines from these regions. (That explains that really expensive bottle of New Zealand wine with a cork I saw the other day…but I digress…)

To keep the cost of the wines down in Australia and New Zealand most wineries in those areas use Stelvin caps instead of cork. It’s easier and more cost effective to produce Stelvin caps locally then to ship in cork from all the way across the world.

The third reason that wines south of the equator use Stelvin caps rather than cork is to preserve the environment or so some are saying. I, myself, am doubtful of this. The argument is that all the cork being used for wine will deplete the cork forests however I’ve read other articles (namely this one from About.com) that state just the opposite.

Conservationist, environmentalists, and local cork regions are concerned that if wine producers stop using cork for their bottle closures then the cork forests will be discarded and the local animals and environment that depend on the cork trees to survive will also be discarded and ultimately destroyed. Being the tree-hugging vegetarian that I am I have to say that this view makes more sense to me than the former. It will make it even harder for me to buy a bottle of wine with a Stelvin screw cap.

So there you are! Your little tidbit of wine knowledge for the week. Use it as you see fit. Please feel free to comment, ask questions, and base your decision on cork versus screw top on what makes sense to you. 🙂

Interesting Wine Facts: Fact #3 – Determining the Body of a Wine is as Easy as Drinking Milk

At my recent visit to Total Wine an More’s ‘Wine 101’ class I learned a very easy way to determine what the body of a wine is. Up until taking that class determining the ‘body’ of a wine was a distant concept to me. I knew that they were talking about the ‘heaviness’ of the wine but still couldn’t figure out how everybody was coming to their conclusions so  easily and with conviction.

Well I now know that it is really easy to make this determination using something that most people have a daily experience with – drinking milk! Now I haven’t had a glass a milk in over 20 years but I am no stranger to the differences in consistency when it comes to dairy products. It was something that I wholeheartedly participated in prior to that 20 years.

Most people will agree that when drinking milk there is a distinct difference in consistency when it comes to skim milk, 2% milk, and whole milk. Skim milk, to most, has the weight and consistency of drinking a glass of water. 2% milk is slightly heavier/thicker and whole milk is the heaviest/thickest in the mouth. Knowing this simple fact is the key to determining the ‘body’ of the wine you’re drinking.

‘Light Bodied Wines’ are those that when you take a sip and move it around your mouth has the consistency and thickness of water or skim milk. It’s very ‘light’ on the tongue.

‘Medium bodied Wines’ are those that when  you take a sip and move it around your mouth has a slightly heavier weight and thickness. They are the equivalent of drinking 2% milk.

‘Heavy bodied Wines’ are those that are thick and…well…heavy on the tongue. They are reminiscent of drinking whole milk or even heavy cream. They loom large in your mouth as far as thickness is concerned.

Now that I’ve learned this little comparison trick it’s been easy for me to identify the body of every wine I’ve been drinking with little or no need for second thought. It’s an immediate ‘knowing’ now which frees me up to figure out more about the complexities of the wine like the bouquet and aromas that want to be identified.

I also want to add that a wine can fall between those categories of ‘light, medium, and heavy bodied’ too. Like anything else there’s a scale where something can be mostly light bodied but bordering on medium and thus you might say that that particular wine is a light to medium bodied wine or a medium to heavy bodied wine.

Nothing is absolute. It doesn’t have to fall neatly into just one category. Just like a person can be primarily an introvert but with some extrovert qualities a wine can absolutely do the same thing. It’s a living and breathing thing just like you and I are and even though a particular wine may be described as a medium bodied wine it can still have some slight variations too.

So now armed with this new knowledge (I am assuming it’s new to you too…if not then forgive my assumptions here) I challenge you to get out there and start to get to know the body of your wines. Feel them, touch them, get to know them! 🙂

Penfolds Koonunga Hill – Cabernet Merlot 2007 -South Australia

From the back label: ‘Elegantly structured Cabernet Sauvignon is complimented by generous Merlot in this classic blend. Spicy oak seamlessly integrates with the redcurrant, plum, and summer pudding aromatics.’

Price: $11.99

This was the first time that I am aware of that I’ve drank a wine with a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon (67%) and Merlot (33%) so I didn’t know what to expect. I mean I like them both separately so I took the leap of faith that it would have to be at least decent plus the brand was a recommendation from a friend who shares similar taste in wine.

The color of this wine is a dark burgundy/garnet color and the bouquet is heavily slanted in the plum direction. It also has a very spicy, oaky aroma. It’s a medium to full bodied wine that tastes of lovely plums and chocolate as well as a slightly peppery slant. It ends with a medium lasting finish.

This wine paired very well with my warm goat cheese salad with cranberries, pears and field greens. The bold flavors of this meal stood up well to the bold flavor of this wine. The wine also paired quite well with the Lindt Milk Chocolate Truffle that I ate afterward. 🙂

Overall I found this wine to be quite nice especially after aerating it once. It does need a little breathing room to develop it’s flavors and aromas as well as to tone down the spiciness a bit. I gave this wine a score of 87. It’s a very enjoyable and nice wine.

Interesting Wine Facts: Fact #2 – Serve White Wines Cold

Well being last week’s Interesting Wine Facts was about the serving temperature of red wines I figured it would only be fair to do the same for white wines.

Most people already know that white wines are served chilled but most, like me, don’t know what that temperature actually is supposed to be. White wines should be served between 48-53 degrees F. This is usually the standard temperature that you’ll find in your refrigerator.

It’s also good to note that even though white wines are supposed to be served cold make sure you don’t serve them too cold. That can affect the flavors of the wine too.

Another good tip for white wines is to take them out of the refrigerator 10 to 15 minutes before you’re going to drink them.

If you’re serving a champagne, sparkling wine, or Prosecco it should be served between 40 to 45 degrees F. In order to get it to this temperature you may have to place it in an ice bucket filled with ice or put it in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes before serving to get it to that temperature. Of course, you should have had it in the refrigerator before that but the standard temperature in your fridge is not going to be cold enough to get your bubbly to the right temperature thus the use of the ice bucket or freezer stated above.

Interesting Wine Facts: Fact #1 – Serve at Room Temperature

Here I would like to introduce you to a new series of posts called ‘Interesting Wine Facts’. This is where I will share a few interesting facts that I’ve learned about wines recently. So without further ado here’s fact #1.

FACT #1: Red wine should be served at a temperature of 65 degrees.

Most people have heard that red wine should be served at room temperature and never put in the fridge. The fact is that in the old days in European wine country that was indeed true and for the most part is still true however, ‘room temperature’ there is different then say here in Florida. If I serve my red wine at room temperature you’re going to get a nice hot wine most of the time.

The fact is that it is best to serve wines at their suggested temperature rather than some arbitrary, nondescript instruction of ‘serve at room temperature’. The actual  serving temperature for most red wines is 65 degrees F. If you are in a cooler  climate you probably can achieve that by leaving the wine at ‘room temperature’ but if you’re in a warmer climate it’s perfectly okay to put the bottle in the refrigerator for an hour or so, use a bucket of ice to chill it for 15 to 20 minutes, or any other method to get it to reach its optimal temperature. No one is going to take your head off for doing that especially if they really know their wines.