Like most of the rest of the western world I was swept up in a flurry of overconsumption over the Xmas period. The location for this fiesta of eating and drinking has been Adelaide, as once upon a time Mrs Like This Love That and I both hailed from the land of the reversible one-way freeway and pie floater.
In the interests of suffering for my art, I thought I’d combine all of the moderately wine-related experiences of the Xmas period into a moderately cohesive post about the good, the bad and the ugly of the last days of 2012. This, my friends, could get messy. Better get yourselves a drink and settle in for the long haul cause I have a fair bit of ground to cover and a few tasting notes to write!
The Xmas break started seemingly innocuously with lunch and tacos at Touche Hombre on the 21st. Lunch melded into afternoon drinks before a trip to the airport where we ran into friends and drunk a thoroughly forgettable bottle of fizz while waiting to depart. Upon landing, first night fever took over in earnest as we went to see friends at the Kings Head Hotel in Adelaide and were overcome with Christmas spirit (I believe Gin is the Christmas spirit…). The Kings do a great job at serving an SA only food and drinks menu and have a great wine list, packed full of small volume, great value booze (and is miles away from most of the boring ‘big red only’ wine lists one finds in Adelaide). On this occasion I tried three fantastic wines. Following up my fantastic introduction to them at the Young Guns of Wine tasting, I tasted the Ochota Barrels 2011 Arneis and 2012 Surfer Rosa (Rose). Both wines were excellent; the Arneis is a textural, savoury beast while the surfer rosa is all lift and cherries with sweetness coming from the fruit and I suspect also a tiny touch of residual sugar. Continuing on my ‘summer of rose’ I tried the 2012 La Prova Aglianico Rose. You may remember that I singled out another aglianico rose by Chalmers in my best of 2012 post, and it looks like this is a great grape for the style. Strawberries and very light spice/herbs with a medium body and touch of tannic grip, this is a fantastic wine.
It’s fair to say that the 22nd didn’t get off to the greatest of starts. I’d posted a box of wine to Adelaide for Xmas drinking and Xmas presents but it hadn’t arrived in time for the weekend so I was forced to take my elephant-killing hangover down to Dan Murphy’s to find some replacement presents for the family members that I was seeing over the course of the weekend. This situation is tantamount to purgatory for me. I passionately despise the big supermarket ‘liquor barns’ with their terrible layouts, non-existent service and gazillion-bottle range that is comprised 99.99% of wines that aren’t worth drinking no matter what the discount. After walking around the store about 3 times and being offended by the lack of decent wine, I settled on a few bottles and left the store. After this trying retail experience, I pulled the drinks out of the car to watch the box they were in disintegrate in my arms and all my carefully chosen replacement presents smash on the ground around me. Pulling glass out of my feet, having not had a shower yet and expecting family to arrive in under 15 minutes I exclaimed a particularly spirited ‘Faaaaaaaaaark’ and started the cleanup. How’s that for instant karma for supporting an organisation that profits significantly from the misery of gambling addiction?! After that, things started to look up with a couple of bottles shared over lunch, the highlight being an 08 Mt Horrocks Riesling that was showing some wax and a tiny bit of kerosene on the nose but had a palate that was rippling with piercing acidity and pure lime juice flavours.
The 23rd dawned with more family commitments. It was forecast to reach about 40 degrees eliminating all unnecessary movement was paramount. We opened a disappointing bottle of 10 Rockford Eden Valley Riesling at lunch (over-developed, flat), but the undoubted highlight of the day was going to an afternoon 30th birthday party and drinking Coopers Pale ales while standing in a kiddy pool filled with ice. Bliss.
Christmas eve is always a big day. We have ‘Friends Xmas’, a long lunch that reunites all the SA exiles and rolls into the inevitable night-time family events for everyone. The first wine of the day was an 11 Howard Park ‘Flint Rock’ Chardonnay from the Great Southern region of WA and it showed a nice balance while retaining some decent acidity and drive, although much fruiter and it would have been a bit too much. We jumped next to the 12 Twelftree Grenache Rose which was plump, fleshy and full of candied raspberry fruit before drinking the excellent 11 Shaw and Smith M3 Chardonnay, which saw out the tough 2011 vintage with style and looked quite Chablis-like. It’s always a ‘fully worked’ style, with loads of winemaking influence to draw out complexity – but the higher acid / lower ripeness of the vintage added a more natural spine to the wine. Great stuff. Nothing of note was consumed at dinner, aside from a load of sangria and some (literally) homemade Calvados which was brought into the country by some French in-laws in the extended family. Deadly stuff, but quite a decent flavour.
Having slowly regained my sight as the effects from the Calvados wore off, it was Xmas at last.
Having already fulfilled all the extended family commitments, Xmas day was spent with Mrs LTLT’s immediate family and a ‘mexican’ themed meal. The mexican thing came about when we decided to throw out the usual Xmas food rulebook and cook what we felt like, which equated to tacos, tostadas and guacamole. Yum.
Once I could front a drink, we opened with the 2011 Vietti Moscato d’Asti, a benchmark for the style. Aromatic, slightly carbonated, sweet but never cloying and altogether fantastic. It was a great, low alcohol start to the day and quickly melded into the Jacqesson Cuvee 735 Champagne, which is one of my absolute favourite ‘NV’s but unfortunately this bottle was a little below its best. The Mexican theme kicked into overdrive with a few Margaritas in the sun and a bottle of the always impressive 11 Dr Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett Riesling, an off dry German style that is at once sweet, spicy and aromatic. After a short kip, the real party started. It’s a long-standing tradition to have a Xmas night party for everyone to go to after finishing with the families and this year it was at our place. A few of the participants are people that I used to work with in wine retail and we never spare an opportunity to raid the cellars when in the same state together. The night started with the stunning 10 Benjamin Leroux Meursault ‘Les Vireuils’ (Chardonnay) which boasts an intense, candied citrus nose and beautiful palate that combines the nervous, limey acidity of Puligny Montrachet with some Meursault nuttiness and richness (the vineyard sits right on the border between the communes). We then kicked it up a notch with an 05 Bouchard Pere et Fils Corton Charlemagne (Chardonnay), a wine that leapt out of the glass with Batard-Montrachet intensity and complexity, showing hay, almond meal, citrus and minerality. On the palate it was intensely savoury and grainy, not quite as exciting as the nose but a fantastic wine nevertheless. I picked it as an 08, such was the zip on the palate. There was also an 07 Kooyong Farrago in the mix, a wine which held its own with a typical Mornington peninsula banana-peel nose and some comparatively ‘syrupy’ stonefruit notes. The 11 Ochota Barrels Arneis made another appearance and looked good even in such esteemed company. Moving through some reds, we had a 3 vintage vertical (05-07) of the Hentley Farm ‘The Beauty’ Shiraz/Viognier. Whilst an interesting exercise, the wines were a bit flat. The 05 was heat damaged and the 06 and 07, whilst well made, were lacking a bit of lift to make them memorable. We then tasted a 98 Howard Park Margaret River Bordeaux Blend which was looking great. Silky, perfumed and balanced with the Cab Franc giving it some lovely softness. Things start to get a bit hazy at this stage. We tried an impressive 08 Cantina della Valpantena Amarone which had beautiful dusty tannin, tomato leaf fruit and some roasted spice flavours (Thanks Simmo!) and a couple of other shirazes that I’ve written up at other times (10 Oakridge SVS and Salo). And we also decided that it was a great time to let people loose at a pinata… Loose.
After finding out the hard way that the local McDs wasn’t open for breakfast on boxing day (my kingdom for a Bacon and Egg McMuffin!) it was time to chill out. Thankfully, just before I was about to go to a BBQ some friends dropped in and we whiled away the arvo by the pool, enjoying a few roses before getting some indian delivered to accompany the 11 Glaetzer-Dixon Uberblanc Riesling, which blew me away with its concentration, balance, spice, acidity and complexity. I reckon this will find its way onto the LTLT stock list sometime in the future…
The 27th was, by recent standards, quite quiet but included a lunch where I tried the exceptional 11 Chalmers Montevecchio Blanc from Heathcote. This italian grape was a little bit steely, a little bit briney, showed a little bit of straw and was altogether a great match for the leek and gruyere croquettes I was eating at the time at Grace the Establishment. I also shared a bottle of the 12 Scott Fiano from the Adelaide Hills, a marked improvement on the excellent 2011; with more body, a touch of tropical fruit but still some graininess and steel. I went back to the Kings that night and after a few excellent local microbrews tried the 10 Tscharke ‘The Master’ Montepulciano, which was a bit ‘generic dry red’ (unfortunately, as that wine has been good, and will be good again in the future) before finishing with an excellent bottle of the 10 Michael Hall Eden Valley Syrah, an outstanding wine. All black cherries, dark black spice and intense granite minerality it was a pleasure to drink.
On the 28th I was done. Out. Over. Stayed home and planned a date night with Mrs LTLT so we could have some chill-out time before heading back to Melbourne. A couple of glasses of Morilla ‘Muse’ Chardonnay and an Italian Nero D’Avola blend (can’t remember the winery! was switched off…) with a great meal at Auge were just what the doctor ordered before I flew back to Melbourne to go see Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, a gig that will be covered off in a separate post.
Well that’s that, and I’m exhausted just reliving it! Hope you had a great break, I’m back on board with LTLT now and ready to stock people up for the January season so get in touch if you’re looking for some libations.
Until then, Happy Drinking,