Thursday, 30 January 2014

Underrated Get A Leg Up

Most wine buffs have a region that they adore; but feel the wine styles or region itself don't receive the recognition it deserves. For me...? Queensland's Granite Belt.

A district that has been producing wine for over 40 years and yet often suffers from old growing pains undeservedly. In my opinion, more a reflection of the state of public perception rather than reality.

This week, James Halliday's 'The Wine Companion', features the Granite Belt. Check out the article here

I hope you find a producer that will be your new favourite.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Getting Your Hands Dirty

Many people are coming to the realisation that we live in an era of convenience and getting away from our roots of food production. For me, this issue set in when I left the food production industry in 1997 for. My concern was that too many people were leaving regional areas and we were seeing rationalization of industries like dairy production. This led to factories around the country being shut down and effectively closing down small towns as a consequence.

Newcastle City Farmers Markets
By the early 2000's there seemed to be an early movement in the "Tree Change" concept with communities rediscovering the love of their region and investing in ventures like wineries and cheese factories, farmers markets and boutique ventures that brought people to visit. It was the birth of food tourism. 

Along with this development of regional food, we also saw to rise of the Television celebrity chef and the continued promotional of regional food.  With this process now coming into the mainstream with shows like "Masterchef", "My Kitchen Rules" and even the personal favourite, The Great Australian Bake Off, the joy of home cooking has meant a proliferation of small produce markets and importantly a diversification of farming revenue streams. My local is the Newcastle City Farmers Markets which are held each Sunday at the Newcastle Show Grounds. The diversity of regional produce is outstanding. 

On the home garden angle, this historically been left to pensioners with time on their hands and to the conspiracy theorists believing there is an end of the world not far around the corner. Around  1999 with all of the guf about Y2K computer issues, the stocking up of cans in the pantry didn't seem unreasonable.

Bees doing their thing on the citrus blossom
Forums like Instagram and Twitter are wonderful environments to share the love of growing food. While it may seem fashionable it doesn't take away from the self satisfaction of producing your own goods that you have made with your own labour and just a drop of sweat. 

Eating produce in season is the result of this process and it certainly forces you to change your approach to cooking. The need to stay with a given product for a month or even two, but cook with variety, is a challenge that brings diversity to the cooking repertoire. 

This past month has seen a concerted effort to use all of my lemons in a vast array without putting thins in jars. Verdict? Enjoyed the strawberries, lemon mouse in puff pastry, topped with roasted almonds.


Thursday, 5 September 2013

Lost For Words

Calliope was the most important of the nine Greek Muses of mythology.

The Muse of great epics.

That is all.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Heritage Lost

A cellar door environment is such an amazing place to meet a diversity of people. In a place like the Hunter Valley you are  always likely to meet people who work in the mining industry and those that you meet a most likely to be at a relatively high level in the organisation.

Discussion almost always politely leads towards the balance of mining and agriculture. Sometimes I am cheeky enough to discuss environmental rehabilitation programs; always a favourite, because of course as soon as you discuss water table protection and soil profile you get a change of subject - heritage lost.

The Hunter Valley is a place of heritage lost from many different perspectives as I am certain many of the Dairy Industry could tell you. From a miners perspective, there is much money being spent to demonstrate that co-habitation with agriculture is viable long term; go to the NSW Miners Page for more information.

The corporate raiders who make decisions on our lifestyle come from many different fronts and many different eras. For a look at wine rationalization during the 20th century one only needs to look at the treatment of the Lindemans name by companies like the cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris, followed by corparate winemakers, Southcorp.

This story is best articulated by the "Best Wine Under $20" webpage; the article is titled "Death by a Thousand Cuts".

And to finish on a positive note, heritage is never lost when passionate families get behind their own region and invest for the long term. There is a no better example of this than the Tyrrell family, headed by Bruce Tyrrell http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bz_084MGzPM.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Alternate Grape Varieties

                       
Of all the subjects on wine that I have researched over the years, this paraphrased article from the 1st Century AD historian Pliny The Elder proves one thing. As humans, we remember little and we learn from nothing. Harsh, but please humour my little academic exercise in what are alternative wine varieties.


                        I cannot sufficiently express my astonishment, that some  
                        grape varieties and even their names have become totally 
                        extinct, and lost to history; while some varieties written 
                        about by various authors, have wholly disappeared from
                        modern production.


                       Despite the loss of these ancient varieties, who does not 
                       readily admit that with modern communication methods 
                       we have made a rapid progress in access to an incredible 
                       array of new alternative wine styles and varieties to enjoy? 


                       Pliny The ElderNatural History Encyclopedia (79 AD)
                     

Pliny The Elder - Wikipedia

One of the most well known wine quotes of Pliny is the phrase "In Vino Veritas" which is often translated to "in wine there is truth". Another translation which is perhaps more accurate and perhaps intended is, "Drinking wine leads to the truth".








Friday, 19 July 2013

DRINK WINE, MAKE WORDS - The Wine Cellar

Wine cellars are such beautiful places; mostly dark, quiet, peaceful places. Sometimes decorated. Sometimes neat. Sometimes messy. But always likely to present a surprise.

A wine cellar is the repository of the owner's past, present and future endeavors. Maybe it holds the wine that was inherited, or collected for old friends to share and reminisce over. On the other side a cellar whispers the aspirations of the future and places yet to have arrived at. 

Stepping into my own wine cellar, the room has a clean floor and polished walls of refrigeration panel. The wines are stacked in neatly positioned racks. Not obsessively ordered - not far from it. I feel it needs some more work; to make it authentic. But the space was previously a hen house - how more authentic does it need to be?

When the weather is cold and you need to find something to warm the cockles of your heart, accessing wine requires commitment. A trek through the garage, out to the back of the yard, through a shed and into the cellar. 2 sets of keys are required to get through this labyrinth as well as exposure to the elements - it takes commitment.

What to drink? With a large cellar, sometimes the choices are too difficult. But heading to the Pinot section is always fun. You get down on your knees searching for something elusive, something that probably disappeared long ago. 

Hold on. What have I got? Rub the dust and a little bit of mould too.  

You beauty... 2008 Giant Steps Gladysdale Pinot Noir.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Simple Joy Of Dining Out

A Simply Day at Twine Restaurant
Dining out for so many people is such a traumatic experience. Faced with the dilemma of selecting food and fighting through the jargon that litters a menu; not to mention a wine list that sacrificed several broad trees to compile it.

Food and drink are the tools to bring friends together and enjoy the moment. The challenge for a restaurant, cafe or in my case a winery cellar door is to break down the jargon appropriately to engage the customer. 

From a cynical business perspective this process is about prying a customer's money from their wallet. After all the establishment is not a charity. Each organisation will have its own style as will the more talented hospitality professionals.

The sheer volume of visitors coming to a place like the Hunter Valley does allow you to practice your technique for using a metaphor. This allows a personalising of the experience, be it for a wine tasting or selecting a menu item that the customer can relate to, on their terms.

As a creature of habit I tend to be limited in my menu selections, but my theory is that a good Creme Brulee is the measurement of an establishment. If you can't do the classics, what is the chance you can do anything else consistently well?  My latest haunt that has provided the simple joy of dining out is Twine Restaurant on Marrowbone Road Pokolbin. 

For a more articulate review of the dining experience check out the Newcastle Herald's Liz Love's review.