Tag Archives: Wine

Reds, Whites, and Why I Have the Blues

Hey Dan,

Thanks to my *favourite* local supermarket (take a bow Tops ) I received an invitation to the second annual ‘Bordeaux Rendez-vous’ – a little tasting of 93 wines from Grand Cru producers in the region, with retail prices ranging from BHT1,420 (A$54) to BHT12,660 (A$478) a bottle.

I didn’t quite manage to get to all 93, but as indicated by the pricing there were a range of styles and quality on display. Highlights to my mind included a 2005 Château d’Issan (yours for a mere BHT10,530), a 2006 Château d’Armailhac (a snip at BHT6,130 – though to be fair, their château appears to be half-price too), and there was something utterly sensational when I first arrived that may or may not have been a 2006 Domaine de Chevalier (for BHT8,050), but I can’t remember exactly – serves me right for not taking notes as I did last year…

There were a few disappointments too, though had I been a man with a plan, I would have started with the more affordable wines and moved up from there. Also, as I’m not one of the fabled 1% who can afford extensive cellaring facilities (ahem), I found myself in a bit of a pickle – my limited climate-controlled space is reasonably fully stocked with rather nice Australian and Spanish reds right now (whites are definitely in short supply, but I’m not about to fix that with Bordeaux) – so no new purchases.

I did, however, have a few interesting discussions with the winemakers on hand.

Corks were one thing. Or 93 things, actually. Nothing so gauche as a Stelvin in sight here. One winemaker told me that the extra-long French corks he uses set him back €2.50 each – and that nothing could replace the sound of it being removed, nor the smell. He confided that his family also owns a winery in South Africa, and they do put their whites under screw caps, but not the reds.

I’d reckon that if you’re paying this much for wine, a screw cap adds just a little extra piece of mind. Still, it could be worse: the same guy told me that he had won a bet with his father, and the prize was a bottle of Romanée-Conti  (a bottle for which you’ll be lucky to get change from US$10k) and it was corked!

The other comment that took me by surprise was that “wine is all about marketing.”

The cynic in me thinks everything is about marketing these days, so it came as a surprise to hear someone with a Troisièmes Cru, or third growth ranking dating back to 1855 could sound so cynical – and disappointed – about it too.

But then, maybe he has a point. Even if he reduced his yield to two grapes per hectare and produced two bottles of perfect wine in a good vintage, he will always be a Troisièmes Cru. It almost seems a disincentive to invest. And the same could be said of the Premiers Crus: They’re going to sell every bottle they make anyway, so do they really need to try harder?

I guess that wine can also be a Veblen good.

That said, I’m happy to  trust my palate. I may never taste Romanée-Conti, but I’m not convinced I appreciate Burgundy enough to truly appreciate it – I could try a bottle of very good wine a day for a year for a similar price as a single bottle – even at Thai prices. That is surely a better plan, no?

Exotic Adelaide


Hi Tony,

I guess you’re basking in tapas, cerveza and all things Catalan at the moment? Got to find a time to come visit Barcelona soon.

While you are indulging in Michelin star restaurants by the dozen, we’ve been exploring the best that Adelaide has to offer.

A very brief visit to Adelaide for Sarah and Anthony’s wedding, we had a little time outside the formal festivities.

Now we’d heard stories about a mysterious place known as Africola. The rumours were that the food was on the money and the place was hitting the mark in every other aspect. But, this is Adelaide. A place where the list of the top 10 places to have breakfast in Adelaide include more than a few places which are more than an hour’s drive out of town (e.g. in the country). So, I was sceptical.

I flew in early evening and was whisked into the big-smoke by Julia. Our aim was to try and get a table at the most in-demand place in Adelaide without a booking. Something you simply wouldn’t try in Melbourne, London, Dubai, Port Moresby…well, most any place in the world.

Rolling in right on the dot of 6pm and we were seated by 6:00:05pm. Game on!

The menu is difficult to navigate, but the oh-so-hipster wait staff suggested the chef’s tasting menu. Who were we to argue? Matching wine? Alas, Julia was driving (I have an injured wing, so can’t drive).  

Africola is premised on South African food. So, to start, kingfish ceviche? Followed by a bowl of clams in a biriyani broth? Maybe it is the influence of so many cultures coming through? Hey, it was good. Could have had another bowl and been well pleased…some bread or naan please!?


Charred baby leeks. Did I mention I really don’t like leeks? But these were served with some pork sausage, like chorizo and some delectable white anchovies. Bless. We did need a steak knife to cut the leeks though.


And…meat. So much meat. Smoked, bbq’d beef short ribs and some bbq’d peri-peri chicken served with an array of pickles, a salad of endives and bitter leaves and a bowl of hearty, tangy polenta with fermented tomatoes. No, that wasn’t an accident. The tomatoes were meant to be fermented and I, for one was pretty happy about it.

Meat a plenty

At this point I could barely sit on the bar stool (which weighed more than me). But there was dessert to come. Chocolatey, minty, curdy, a good finish to the meal…but ended my glass of wine in a single bite.

Minty goodness

The wine list is obscure, but short. Clearly the wines are designed to match the menu and the staff were pretty happy to help point in the right direction.

As is typical with Adelaide, it’s hard to charge much (people won’t come), so the whole thing was pretty reasonable.

Would I recommend you go there? Heck-yeah…but only if are already going to be in Adelaide. My tip, bring an appetite. This is not a place with modest helpings.

When we left the place was heaving. Good on them. Adelaide needs places like this to excite more innovation.

Looking forward to the scoop on Barcelona…in manageable portions.



Pre-wedding diet


G’day Tony,

Ok, so I had to dust off the cob-webs (pardon the pun) and put some electrons on virtual paper. Humblest apologies for being off-line for so long, that’s if you missed me. If you didn’t miss me, sorry I am back.

Winter left in a hurry, replaced by all that is good about spring…except the snow melting, strong northerly winds, hayfever, the smell of dynamic lifter on the garden, changing clocks forward (daylight savings time) and school holiday madness in the city. Other than that, I love spring and all that it brings!

Our final weekend at Mt Buller brought together a great group of friends for a little bit of skiing and a lot of eating and drinking. A boisterous group at the lodge on the Saturday night partook in an array of goodies lovingly BBQ’d by Jim…chicken pieces marinaded in rosemary, garlic, chilli, olive oil and lots of fresh lemon zest and juice, slow braised pork belly (bbq’d to give a really nice caramelisation) courtesy of Alex and lamb rissoles with cumin, turmeric, smoky paprika, sumac, parsley and feta cheese…yep, fetta crumbled through the mix. Much, much goodness!

Some salads and freshly baked bread to round out the meat feast. Oh, and wine. Lots of wine!

Dessert was a surprise. I whipped up a chocolate self saucing pudding, while someone mixed together the fixings for a sticky date pudding. Confusion, wine, not sure which, but flour was inadvertently left out of the sticky date. Unsurprisingly the mix didn’t set. It was only then that the error was picked up. So, I did what any hungry (I was stuffed the gunnels, but still wanted sticky date pudding) I added a half amount of self raising flour, mixed and popped back in the oven. The comments when served surprised me…best sticky date pudding ever! Score!

The last few weeks have been a blur of pre-wedding diet food. Some stand out meals. Nah, who am I kidding. The stuff is okay, but is never going to substitute for real home cooked food!

Julia and I have an agreement. We must visit one nice restaurant a month. Not a big ask in a city like Melbourne. But being away every weekend and both of us super busy during the week, it simply hasn’t happened for a while. About to make up for it, though.

Was taken to Zia Rina’s Cucina by Phil from Armadale Cellars the other day for lunch. Phil’s been around the block a few times and he rates chef/owner Rina as good as any Michelin stared chef he’s seen on the continent. Must admit, the food is blindingly good. So much so, heading back there this week with a good friend who will be in town from Dubai. If any place can float Nick’s boat, this should do it. Oh, it’s BYO too, so I am going to hit Nick up to dust something off from his Arabian cellar…no doubt I will be doing the same from my cellar.

Honey-moon is fast approaching (next week). A few nights in Bangkok, to get into the groove. So, I booked us into Nahm and Gaggan. Both are listed in the top 50 restaurants in the world, but are they that good?

Sure, you can live it up in Thailand without spending a bomb, but I fail to understand how Nahm (rated #12 in the world) can cost BHT2,000/person (~AUD75.00) for degustation dinner, while the highest rated Australian restaurant, at #32, is giving you their experience at AUD190/person. I know, I know, this opens a Pandora’s box of arguments.

Pretty soon, we in Melbourne will play host to The Fat Duck. Yep, that Brayside stalwart which boasts a number of Michelin stars. For 6 months and 45 seats, that means 16,000 people will be served while they are in Melbourne. Getting a table…forget it. Ballot it will be, but at north of $525/person (ex-booze), it is almost cheaper to fly to England and experience it in its home location!

How much are you willing to spend (not including tip) and a meal to remember? Does it need to be a restaurant that is rated by Michelin, or S. Pellegrino or whichever is your go to restaurant reviewers?

For me, that memorable meal may be as simple as some hawker food on the foreshore of somewhere tropical, but it’s not going to stop me visiting Nahm and Gaggan. In the meantime, it is back to the microwave to “cook” dinner for tonight *sigh*

Catch you soon!



Apple a day


G’day Tony,

It certainly looks we do nothing but eat out, doesn’t it?

The truth be told, 3 weeks of eating in the US has caused a malfunction (that’s what I am going with) of our bathroom scales. In much need of shedding some pre-wedding pounds/kgs, we have resorted to eating not a calorie more than is required to sustain the vital organs.

I’ve been relegated from the kitchen, as apparently you can eat lettuce leaves raw. Not entirely so, but the duck fat, pork belly and russet potatoes are nowhere to be seen. Sad, but true.

Speaking of pork belly, what does wild pig belly taste like? Have you been fattening them up on your freshly planted garden? Do they like your coconut cream?

Can you at least get take-away on the island?

I have a vision of you going “Survivor” and living off the land and sea. It’s not a comforting vision.

Ok, in keeping with our holiday schedule, the lovely Julia and I set off for Beechworth (central Victoria) last weekend. A Christmas gift from the parentals was a weekend at a B&B. Must admit, pretty fine present as I do so enjoy a well-run B&B. Barnsley House fit that bill in spades. Great time of year to be up there too, autumnal colours (fall colors for our US readers) a plenty!

I know you’ve been to Beechworth before and had mixed reviews. I’m no different. Some of it was great, some of it ok and some of it just annoyingly touristy. I’ve got a few friends who hail from the area, so got a few pointers on where to eat and what to see and do.

We arrived Beechworth a little later than hoped, so headed out almost immediately after check in to find some food. Curiously we tried the Ox and Hound only to be told “I’m the only one on, so we can’t serve you tonight”, by a clearly distressed waitress. We retreated quickly.

Moving on, we venture almost next door to the Tanswell Commercial Hotel. Yes, a pub. Pub food, beer, Laminex tables and a wine list. I can almost hear you scoffing from here. The food was, well, I didn’t leave hungry, but half a cabbage with some charred “pork belly” (hint: there was no way it was pork belly, rather rolled pork flank) was just too much.

Now to the wine list. Stunned, as I scanned the offerings, I barely noticed the average (at best) food. The usual house wine offerings ignored, I found myself looking at the pricey end of the spectrum, only it wasn’t pricey. It must have been a misprint, surely. An ’01 Savaterre Chardonnay for a mere $85? ’06 Giaconda Cabernet Sauvignon for a pittance more? This is half what I would expect to see these at a bottle shop, but at a “restaurant”?

The next day was all apples and autumn colours before a night dining at Provenance. A couple of “chefs hats” from a large Australian media company? Sure. Degustation? Sure. Matching wines? Sure. Expensive? You bet. Would I go back? The jury is out.

Yeah, the food was interesting. Some stand out dishes. The sake and wine accompaniments were, at times, challenging and I am not sure worked as desired. The stain on the night though was the intoxicated, loud and downright inconsiderate group that arrived shortly after us. Staff spent more time apologising to other diners in the room that should have been necessary. Some less than discreet “shhhh-ing” from staff was heard, multiple times. Finally, and I mean finally, the group was able to be moved to another (empty) room.

A pet hate? You betcha! These are my top 5 things that irk me most in fine dining establishments:

    1. Intoxicated patrons who never learned the difference between their “inside voice” and “outside voice”;
    2. Overly attentive staff (please, please let me enjoy spending some moments with my dining companion(s));
    3. I’m sorry sir, that was the last bottle of that wine. Well, why was it on the list?
    4. So glad we could participate in the conversation of the table 3cm from ours; and
    5. Let’s stop and get a pizza on the way home, I’m famished.

No doubt you’ve got some to add to this?


P.S. Definitely heading back to Beechworth, perhaps during morel season!