I’ve done a couple of wine things for Crikey of late …
IS THIS THE WAY TO TEMPRANILLO?
When someone first mentions red, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe Julia Gillard, Red Skelton, Red Buttons (that’s a bit too Rip Torn for my liking), reds under the bed or even Red Adair (he was a Texan who fought oil-well fires and fixed blowouts and, for theatrical types, was absolutely nothing to do with Ginger Rogers. I don’t even know if Red could dance).
Mention red again and thoughts turn to the product of the grape. Shiraz, cab-sav, merlot, chianti, grenache, zinfandel, sangiovese, et al. But there aren’t too many first thoughts of tempranillo, originally a grape variety from Spain that is now going gangbusters in the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale.
Which brings me to a chat last weekend with the manager of my local Swords outlet, something I often do. Swords made its name selling resealable and recyclable bottles usually filled with a more-than-decent drop. After I had bought some pinot gris to have with some seafood pasta (it went very nicely, thank you) the manager suggested I try a new tempranillo he’d just got in … and I’m glad I did.
It’s labelled (in butt-ugly type) Siento Tempranillo 2008 from the Barossa and weighs in at a healthy 14.5% alcohol.
If you believe the notes on the back of the bottle, it smells of plum (yeah I got that) and blueberry blossom (excuse me, but I don’t know anyone who knows what the hell that smells like, and anyway, I reckon there was a hint of leather there early on). In the mouth it tastes of blueberry and vanilla (yep to both) and it is a smooth, medium-bodied drink. And it claims that the tannins are velvety (a definite yep — think cats and velvet. Yep, it’s that smooth).
In a shock twist, I drank just half a bottle and buttered up the next night for the rest. And it was definitely better for the break. If you haven’t yet tried tempranillo, do it. At $17.95 a bottle (although Swords has a two for $30 deal on it), it drinks a treat.
The seafood pasta was a chance to try a new Guy Grossi offering: squid ink linguini (it was a gift from a friend who also weighed in with some of Grossi’s olives that are yet to be tried).
The seafood was squid rings, scallops and prawns, tossed quickly in some finely diced sautéed onion softened in olive oil (flavoured with fresh oregano, lots of garlic and a couple of bay leaves), cherry tomato halves and a decent slurp of white wine (it was a fruity chardy). The black pasta cooked in about two minutes (which threw things out a bit) but the end result was worth it. A big handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley and a quick squeeze of lemon juice and it was a done deal. Life’s good.
Red Adair was a focused man who once said: “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” That’s a bit like wine. It’s caveat emptor when it comes to drinking cheap wine (three-day growth notwithstanding) — buy it at your peril and hope you get lucky.
A CLEANSKIN THAT HITS THE MARK
This week I got up close and personal with a cleanskin … a 2008 Geelong chardonnay from down Bannockburn way (not too far from the city of the Cats).
It is, I’m reliably told, made by award-winning winemaker Scott Ireland at Provenance Wines, who proves that, at about 15 bucks a bottle, he really knows his chardonnay (and probably his pinot gris, shiraz and pinot noir, which are also housed in the Provenance stable). This one is great value for money.
Yeah, a cleanskin … a tidy epidermis if you will.
I couldn’t help but lurch into the Seinfeld territory of my consciousness at the thought of that — it was the puffy shirt episode in which George Costanza embarked on an ill-fated hand-modelling career and had this exchange with his parents, Frank and Estelle:
“All right! Please, please! I cannot have this constant bickering … Stress is very damaging to the epidermis! Now, I have an important photo session in the morning — my hands have got to be in tip-top shape, so please — keep the television down, and the conversation to a minimum.”
Well, stress is the last thing that comes to mind with this cleanskin — quite the contrary — although bickering over the last glass may come into play. The colour is a relaxing pale gold (not too deep, mind) and on the nose I snorted some apple peel (no, fair dinkum, it was there for a while), a bit of peach (or thereabouts … maybe it was nectarine … I’m not a big fruit eater so what would I know?) and plenty of melons (as a drooling Homer Simpson would say, “mmm, melons”). And although I’m not wont to use this expression when I am talking wine, the mouthfeel was, well, another highlight; hints of vanilla, a little bit of acidity and then a backed-off buttery flavour. I hope that doesn’t sound too over the top. If it does, tough, that’s my call.
The bottom line is, it’s a bloody good-tasting wine … and after all, isn’t that why we drink the stuff?
But this cleanskin kicked another goal (from well outside the 50-metre arc). I’ve been having a thing of late with smoked ocean trout, which is less oily than smoked salmon and has a better texture, and it was the food match for the chardonnay on the night.
To whit: a couple of slabs of really good, toasted sourdough bread (with some big seeds), spread (OK liberally crumbled) with plenty of Meredith goat’s fetta (from a jar with herbs and some garlic in the oil), a handful of rocket leaves (a bloke’s gotta have his greens), a few slabs of the said ocean trout (10 bucks will get you a quarter of a kilo at the South Melbourne Market), some lemon-infused olive oil and a big handful of fresh dill and it was done and dusted with a glass or three of the cleanskin.
I had seven courses with matching wines at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze the weekend before last (I did my bit to save it from liquidation, but apparently, after a turnover of more than $14 million and 315,000 customersfor the year, I failed miserably) and, frankly, the trout and this chardonnay were as good a match as anything I had courtesy of he of the lesser vocabulary (that means he’s a potty mouth and swears a bit). OK, the wines at Maze, with respect to Scott Ireland, were better than the chardonnay (so they should be at those prices) — but I’m talking food and wine matches here, so bugger off if it’s criticism you’ve got on your mind. Seriously, the ocean trout and the chardonnay were like a well-adjusted marriage. OK, that’s a big call, but you get the drift.
I bought the Geelong chardonnay from Vintage Cellars. I dunno if it’s in huge supply, but give it a try … you won’t regret it. Fifteen bucks is, after all, not the end of the world.
As George Costanza once said: “You’re telling me wine is better than Pepsi. No way wine is better than Pepsi.”
Sorry George, but this cleanskin (tidy epidermis if you will) is, unlike your short-lived hand-modelling career, a winner hands down.
ME IN A NUTSHELL
- G’day, I’m Michael and I have two fantastic grown-up kids. I’m a jeans and singlet/T-shirt, cowboy boot, tattoos sort of fella, who knows a bit about this and sometimes a lot about that. I'll have a crack at most things, although having a relationship? ... well that ship has sailed. I'm past my use-by date anyway, so I'm gonna make it all about me and surviving life as I know it ... or make it.