Apologies in advance to Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc fans

I enjoy drinking wine and drink it regularly.  I try a variety of different grapes and styles from different regions around the world.  I love my wine and am willing to try a lot of different wines.  However, I also value knowing I will be drinking a good to great bottle almost every time I open one.  Therefore, over the years, I have settled on a number of different grapes (or blends) in different styles and from different regions.

Upon moving to Australia almost 15 years ago, I became fixated on the Australian wines.  There are a number of different wine regions, each well suited to various grapes and each region known for producing several great wines.  To get an overview of the different regions, review my 4-series post on the Australian wine regions.  Australia makes a lot of magnificent wines and at great price points.  It is only recently that I have been experimenting and coming to enjoy a broader range of wines globally.

There are four primary red wine grapes and four primary white wine grapes:

Red wine grapes:

  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Shiraz
  • Pinot Noir

White wine grapes:

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Chardonnay
  • Riesling
  • Semillon

A majority of the world’s wines are made with these grapes and that is why they are known as the ‘primary’ grapes.  In the ‘secondary’ grape category, among the reds, we have Zinfandel, Grenache, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, etc. and among the whites, Marsanne, Verdelho, Gewürztraminer, and so on.  Some of the world’s best wines are blends of several grapes to provide some unique characteristics and tastes.

Great wine always starts with great grapes, but the effects and magic of the wine maker can also make a large difference in the finished product, starting with the wine maker determining the best time to pick the grape to get the right characteristics (often sweetness or alcoholic content) from the grape.  Then there are many other techniques the wine maker uses to craft the best wine he/she can make from the grapes.

Probably 60% – 65% of what I drink comes from the the primary red and white grape families – excluding Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.  The remaining third comes from secondary grapes.  I drink very little Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc and simply do not enjoy the grapes or what the wine maker can possibly do with them as much as most of the other grapes.  Occasionally, I may have a wine with some Sauvignon Blanc blended with Semillion, or some small percentage of Merlot in a red blend.  A Merlot can be used to soften a red wine blend, for example.

I believe the main reason that I do not drink Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc is that there is little the wine maker can do with these grapes compared to most of the others.  The impact of terroir and the influence of the wine maker is less influential on the Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc grape varietals.  Pinot Noir, by comparison, is very highly influenced by the terroir and the wine maker’s craftsmanship, which is why the very best Pinot Noirs are very high in demand and almost hallowed.  It is tough to make a bad Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc, but it is even tougher to make a very good, yet alone great one.  (I know some of the very best French Sauvignon Blancs may be argued to be exceptions to this general rule.)

Sauvignon Blanc is often described as tasting like “stewed green tomatoes” or “cat’s pee!”  When you start with a grape described like that, I don’t expect the wine maker can do much with it!  Both Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot are safe grapes to grow (resistant to changes in conditions) and are often used as an insurance policy for any given vintage to make sure some wine is available in the region.  But by definition, this is the reason the grapes cannot be influenced or crafted into truly great wines.  These two grapes are very common and middle of the road in my mind.

So what do I do for food matching when it obviously calls for a Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc?  For Merlot, it is easy as there are so many different red wine grapes and styles to be able to pick a perfect match to any food, even when Merlot is not considered. 

And everyone knows that Sauvignon Blanc is a natural for fish and seafood, right?  Wrong!  If I am eating fish, and it is a gamier, thicker, or oilier fish, I will have a Pinot Noir, especially if it is served with a tomato sauce or topping.  And if it is a lighter, flakier white fish, then I will opt for a Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon blend.  The Semillon provides some structure and character to the Sauvignon Blanc and is a great match for this type of fish.

For crustaceans or lobster, I love a rich, aged Chardonnay, such as a Montrachet.  And Semillon goes really well with scallops, and a Riesling with crab or prawns.  Therefore, I feel I have it covered and do not need to ‘compromise’ by drinking a Sauvignon Blanc or Merlot.

This blog was inspired by a comment that Merlot would go really well with pizza, and it probably would, but given the choice, I am going to drink a Sangiovese or Cabernet Sauvignon (like the 1996 Lindemans St George I had with pizza the other night).  I just cannot fancy desiring a Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc when  I have so many other choices available.

If you are a regular Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc drinker, then I apologize if I have offended you, but I encourage you to try some other grapes instead.  We have a great friend with a very good palate and she started drinking Merlot for her first wines, but quickly grew out of that and to a broader and richer spectrum of good wines.

Therefore, if you think Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc are your main and easy choice for wine, then you should experiment a bit and I expect you will be happy with the results.

1996 St George makes great pizza even better

I love making a good pizza and drinking a great wine to go with it.  My lovely bride asks me if we aren’t over-doing the wine we sometimes have with pizza and I tell her simply, “no!”  We often drink a Chianti or a Cabernet Sauvignon with pizza.  And tonight, the Cabernet Sauvignon was the 1996 Lindeman’s St George, one of my all-time favorites!

I remember tasting a bottle of this in 2000 and then securing four dozen bottles.  This was one of my all-time great buys and the wine has improved and served me well over its lifetime.  I was running down to my last few bottles several years ago and topped off my holdings by buying four more and six of the 1998 St George (an even slightly better vintage).  We also have a couple dozen of the 1997 St George which is a great wine, if not quite as complex as the 1996 or 1998.

This wine has large berry flavors, most closely to raspberry or sweet (over-ripe) blackberry.  It is beautifully balanced.  However, this wine is starting to show its age and should be drank in the next year or two.  I think I have about three or four bottles left, so this should not be a problem.  The fruit is not as lively as it was three or four years ago.

I have always liked the St George Cabernet Sauvignon as one of my go-to Cab Savs.  An even better one (but with more variability vintage to vintage) is the Wynn’s John Riddoch.  The Wynn’s John Riddoch also tends to cost about 50% more per bottle, but for great vintages, can be worth it.  But my love affair with the Lindeman’s St George has served me well year-to-year and I have bought so much volume that I am always able to get quite good prices for it.  In totality, I have had the 1989, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003 (only available as a clean skin), 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2009 vintages.

Is this too good a wine to drink with pizza?  I don’t think so.  “Yes,” I could have a decent and much cheaper Chianto to go with pizza, or a cheaper Cab Sav, but why should I when I have a bottle of the 1996 St George staring me in the face when I open the Vintec?  If it needs to be drunk in the next several years, there is no time like the present!  And I can guarantee that it makes a great pizza even better!

Great success with Wickman’s Fine Wine Auction

As many of you know, I have been clearing wine out of my cellar.  Once I had inventoried the total amount I had, and also realized that my tastes had changed somewhat over the last decade, I realized I needed to get down to a more reasonable sized cellar.  Plus I made a commitment to myself that I could not buy any more wine until I I had cut the cellar in half or down even further.

This is really a bad time to sell wine, as there are far more sellers than buyers and prices are quite depressed.  I have been fortunate to sell about 1,500 bottles direct to friends who know I have done a good job buying quality wines in the past and storing them well.  For the first 600 bottles I sold, I was getting between 90% and 120% what I initially paid for the wines.  Yet, my friends were getting a good deal as (1) I usually secured the wines at a better price point than they could have, and (2) I put some age on the wines and these were now some special wines not available through normal retail, or only available at higher price tags at auction.

I then move an additional 900 bottles by offering a 25% discount on the wines and sold quite a lot over a one-month period.  With the discount, I was now getting between 70% and 95% the price I had originally paid.  I also sold about 50 bottles through the Wine-Ark Exchange (now run by Langton’s), and got about 90% what I paid and had to pay an additional 12.5% commission over that (as did the buyer).  And the wines on the Exchange did not sell fast at all.  I think I have cleared about 35% of the wines and have been doing this for eight months now.

I had been following Wickman’s Fine Wine Auction for 18 months and was impressed with how much stock he moved and how he achieved the best buy and price point for buyer and seller.  I worked with Mark to go through my inventory, and he gave me an appraisal of the likely Reserve prices he would establish and the range each bottle would likely sell for.  I then packaged up 400 bottles to send to him for his October auction.

Mark was also insistent about the provenance of the wine to ensure it has only been stored under the best conditions.  He asked me to take pictures of the how the wine was properly stored, and provide the history of where I bought and stored the wine.  For 95% of my wines, he gave me the second highest rating he has.  Had I worked harder, and pulled from my files the purchase records of the wines I bought direct from the cellar doors and their receipt in Wine-Ark (where I store all my wine), I expect I could have got the highest provenance rating he had for about 85% of my wine.

Mark then sent me a final listing of Reserve prices and while lower than I was hoping for some of the wine, it was clear that he knew the market far better than I did and how to move the most product in a tough market.  Therefore, I went with his recommendations (except in one case for two bottles which did not sell BTW!).

For the one-week auction, I was amazed at the results!  We sold 56% of the wine at an average price of $44 per bottle.  I had evaluated my stock overall at $50 per bottle and it is true that Wickman selected and was trying to move some of my more expensive wine, but overall this was still a great result.  And I sold almost $10,000 of wine in one week, which would have been far harder and taken more effort to sell doing it myself.  I was hoping to move between $2,500 – $4,000 worth and did far better than that.  And I still have the November auction to sell most of the rest.

I am definitely looking forward to the results of the November auction, and may also look at sending Wickman another 150 – 200 bottles for his auctions starting up again in 2013..  It is very tough selling wine in today’s market and receiving a good price for it, but Wickman understands the market extremely well and certainly knows how to move wine!  I had far better results than expected because I trusted in him and his knowledge of the market.

If you need to move some serious volume and have been having trouble with Langton’s, or other big-named players, then I suggest you give Wickman’s Fine Wine Auctions a call!

Masterchef, with master friends and wine!

We had a great dinner party last evening.  As usual, the most important ingredient was great people full of life, fellowship and great conversation ranging from food to work, charity work, working out, finding a partner and much, much more.  But there were also some other great ingredients including having Masterchef and cook extraordinaire, Jay Huxley, cooking for us and some very nice wines to match.

But let’s start with the people.  We had all worked together before, doing amazing things together and with great respect for each other.  While we all had some overlap with each other, there were also a few new relationships formed last evening which is always nice to see.  I love being around really nice, fun and funny people who are all so charitable.  And while we told everyone not to bring anything, they brought magnificent chocolates, a bottle of Bollinger champagne, and ordered flowers (which I need to check with concierge on as we did not get any today).

Jay cooked up a magnificent meal, starting with a Alaskan king crab and prawn bisque which was to die for, followed by osso bucco for some of us and ‘fish and chips’ (Balina Mulloway with taro chips!) for others with caramelized pineapple with lychee sorbet for dessert.  Simply fantastic.

And why is Jay’s food so good?  Bisque from scratch, lychee sorbet from scratch, 15 kilogram Mulloway caught and cleaned by Jay himself – well, you get the point!  And he is an amazing chef who connects with his audience through his food and his personality.

And the wine line-up to match was something also.  We started with the 2006 Annie’s Hill Riesling upon arrival, followed by the 2008 Little’s Gewürztraminer to go with the bisque, the 2004 Thompson Estate (Margaret River) Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2005 Stags Leap (Napa Valley) Cabernet Sauvignon to go with the osso bucco, and then the 2007 De Iuliis Late Harvest Semillon to match off against dessert..

And if that was not enough, we then cracked into some 1980 Lindeman Vintage Port and had great affogados using the Rutherglen Buller Tokay.  For the late stragglers who still had not had enough, we finished off the magnificent 2007 Maurice O’Shea Shiraz from the night before, and then opened yet another bottle, this time the 2006 Coldstream Hills Cabernet Savignon.

But the amazing thing is that I was so relaxed and comfortably just drinking and enjoying the fellowship, food and wine, that I really did not take the time to think about how the wine tasted in any particular detail.  It was all just really great!

I do remember the 2006 Stags Leap being more complex and like a traditional Bordeaux than the 2004 Thompson Estate, which was lighter, and both being very well balanced and with big fruits.  But that was from a tasting of both wines when I decanted them before the guests arrived.

Therefore, there is no detailed analysis of the wine in this post.  Just a remembrance that with the right people, right food and right wines, you too can have a perfect evening even if you cannot remember much of it!

A super red – the 2007 McWilliams Mount Pleasant Maurice O’Shea

I got quite excited this evening picking out the wines for tomorrow’s Master Chef dinner being prepared by Jay Huxley and attended to by a great group of work colleagues.  I am so excited about the friendship, wine and food!  All the ‘work’ selecting the wine line-up (in a post soon to come!) got me excited to have a nice drop of red while blogging tonight.

That nice red ended up being the 2007 McWilliams Mount Pleasant Maurice O’Shea Shiraz.  WOW!  What a wine!  Having had glasses of the 2005 and 2006 Maurice O’Shea in the restaurant associated with McWilliams Mount Pleasant winery in the Hunter Valley, I had the impression that the Maurice O’Shea Shiraz was not worth the bottle price and was another over-priced red wine living on its previous reputation.

But one Sunday morning about 11 am having just finished breakfast in their restaurant (and complaining about how the Maurice O’Shea was overpriced!), Nick (who was the restaurant manager at the time) brought me a glass of red to try.  It was magnificent!  He then told me that it was the 2007 McWilliams Mount Pleasant Maurice O’Shea and was about to be released in the next few days.  I bought four dozen on the spot.  I then found out a few days later that Campbell Mattinson rated it as the best Shiraz that year (2010/11) in his great book, The Big Red Wine Book.

I have been laying it down in the cellar to develop over the last two years, but decided it was time to try one of the bottles.  This wine is spectacular now, but will probably be even slightly better in a couple of years.  Within minutes of decanting, it really opened up.  It is smooth, perfectly balanced, with good tannins.  It has very big, fresh fruit tasting of blackberries and chocolate liqueur.  The hue is a vibrant, deep red, almost purple color.

The only problem now is figuring out the best time to drink this wine!  I expect it will last a long, long time, but is so approachable now.  I will probably have a bottle every three months until I can’t stand it any more and then make this my every day drinking wine until it is entirely consumed.

I bought a lot of the 2007 Hunter Valley Shiraz’, including the Tyrrell’s Vat 9, Tyrrell’s Stevens, the De Iuliis Limited Release Shiraz, the Meerea Park Alexander Munro, the Thomas Kiss, the Pokolbon Estate (made by Andrew Thomas), the Brokenwood Graveyard, the Tulloch Hector, the Glandore Hamish, the Tintilla Estate Patriarch, and about five more to be able to do a side-by-side comparison.  They are all excellent, but the only one I think can compare to the Maurice O’Shea is the De Iuliis Limited Release Shiraz.  I just need to do a comparison of those two wines, and do it soon!

I was hoping to save some of this great wine for one of my American friends who is coming to dinner tomorrow night, but I am afraid, I might just drink the entire bottle tonight.  WOW! What a wine!

What wine to match with Korean BBQ?

What is Korean BBQ?  It is a meal where you select some meats to cook on an in-table BBQ until cooked.  Then you wrap the meats in a leaf of lettuce and add some chili sauce and roasted garlic slices to taste.  The meats can be a variety of pork, beef rib, beef brisket, or tenderloin.  You can also choose to cook some prawns or other types of seafood or vegetables such as mushrooms or eggplant.  Additionally, you are usually provided some sides of kimchi, garlic potatoes, pickles, and other Korean delicacies which you probably do not want to know what they are!

Given that assortment, you may wonder how it is possible to match any wine with Korean BBQ! 

I have tried a number of wines with Korean BBQ previously which were ok, but not a great match for the food.  I have tried a Gewürztraminer, Semillon, and some spicy Shiraz’.  But then I realized that the secret was not to match up the wine with the meat, but rather to match it to the chili and garlic flavors which my wife, my friends and I tend to enjoy in quantity.  Therefore, we had two quite different Rieslings and a Grenanche which were all perfectly matched to the food.

While I love an aged, kerosene type of Riesling, it would not be a good match for Korean BBQ.  Korean BBQ has powerful flavors coming from the chili and garlic, but is also delicate and cooling from the leaf of lettuce and other cold side vegetable dishes.  Therefore, a younger to medium aged, crisper Riesling is far better suited.  I had about a half bottle of the 2006 Annies Lane Clare Valley Riesling from the night before and knew it would do nicely.  This was an older, richer Riesling, perfectly balanced and a joy to drink on its own and with Korean BBQ.  It still had a crisp edge to it, but had developed some complex flavors and a beautiful texture on the tongue and cheeks.  The important thing was that there was no oily taste that I often love on a Riesling when drinking it with cheese, or with certain types of seafood.

That was followed by a much younger, lighter Watervale Riesling, the 2011 Mount Horrocks.  This was a highly recommended Riesling gifted to us a few nights previously as we selected some other white wines to drink that evening.  This wine certainly lived up to its reputation!  After attacking the food with the 2006 Annies Lane, we took a breather with the much lighter Watervale Riesling.  The 2011 Mount Horrocks had a citrus lemon-lime flavor and was sustaining and refreshing at the same time.  I usually try to go from lighter whites to heavier reds during the course of a meal, but tonight we started with the heavier Riesling (primarily because it was already opened) and then onto the lighter one.  This really worked well!  It was similar to the middle movement in a symphony where you are taking a bit of a breather (an adagio or andante) between the opening usually brisk declaration (allegro) and the final movement where everything comes together in a resounding climax.  The 2011 Mount Horrock Riesling was our ‘andante’ that evening!  (And you probably were thinking I was just a wino!)

I need to consider other meal plans where I mix it up a bit like this instead of building continuously to a wine climax.  This really allowed us to pace the meal and enjoy the time we had together without ‘rushing’ my wine drinking.  (I did not even realize that I might have been doing that!)

We then finished the evening with the 2006 Cirillo 1850 Grenache.  This grape is most often associated with the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region in France.  The Grenache grape has a smooth soft texture to it, yet still possesses good body.  To me, it combines the best elements of a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Shiraz.  I have had a number of different wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but admittedly not some of the very best (as they can be very expensive!).  One very nice bottle I had recently was the 2006 Chateauneuf-Du-Pape Perrin & Fils Les Sinard with turkey, mash and gravy and it was exquisite!

There is not a lot of Grenache grown in Australia and this is the first one I have had.  I was blown away!  So smooth and far better than the medium range Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines I have had (the 2006 Chateauneuf-Du-Pape Perrin & Fils Les Sinard being the exception!)  It had big, fresh fruit flavors of cherry and raspberry.  The 1850 on the bottle actually is the year the vines were planted.  These are some seriously mature and hearty vines!  I am looking forward to getting some more of this wine!

I asked previously, “What is Korean BBQ?”  It is really a cacophony of flavors going on in your mouth.  That is why I believe a Grenache or a Tempranillo goes better than a primary red grape such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz with Korean BBQ.  We are more conditioned to knowing what a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Shiraz tastes like, whereas a Grenache or a Tempranillo is a discovery in new taste and therefore seems to match better with Korean BBQ.

Next time, I will try a Tempranillo unless I get my hands on more of the 2006 Cirillo 1850 Grenache – that wine would be tough to pass on with any meal!

Not a top Shiraz – the Tintilla Estate 2005 Patriarch

This is a mediocre wine that I was hoping would be better.  I remember tasting and buying six of the highly rated 2007 Tintilla Estate Patriarch Syrah.  That was a fine wine and listed among Campbell Mattinson’s best red wines that year.  As part of buying some of the great 2007 Tintilla Estate Patriarch and also some of their very nice Sangiovese, we were offered four bottles of the 2005 Patriarch for free as part of a promotional offer.

The Syrah grape is the same as what I refer to as the Shiraz grape, but Tintilla Estate explicitly uses the label Patriach Syrah for its top-end Shiraz compared to the middle of the range Tintilla Estate Shiraz.  Tintilla Estate uses this differentiation to refer to their very select Shiraz grapes.  The 2005 vintage is the first for the Patriarch Syrah and the 2007 the second (and much improved) vintage.

I can see why they were giving it away for free two years ago.  The wine is showing its age and does not have much life left.  I will need to use the other three bottles quickly (which I was expecting and that is why I brought them out of the cellar).  This wine is a little on the sweet side, tasting of over-ripe cherries and does not have much finish.  It also has a bitter aftertaste which is not pleasant.

I was going to write another couple of blog posts, but thought it best to write when the taste is fresh in my mind (if not fresh in my mouth!). This is always a good idea.  If you do not take notes immediately, you can start to run wine tasting memories together, and more recent smells or flavors can confuse your memory.  My wife always carries a little notebook to write down tasting notes so we have them for later.  Also make sure to date the entries as wine changes in taste over time.

I like Tintilla Estate as a winery.  They make some of the finest Sangiovese in Australia and I am letting my 2007 Tintilla Estate Patriarch Syrah sit for a while to reach optimal drinking age.  (2007 for The Hunter Valley was a very good year for Shiraz.)  But I need to call it like I see it, and the 2005 vintage of the Patriarch is over the hill.  I expect it was better 3- 4 years ago, but even then, I am pretty certain, it was not better than mediocre.

As a winery, Tintilla Estate is a beautiful one to visit and is located at  725 Hermitage Road, Pokolbin, NSW 2320.  We first visited it during June, 2010 when the Hunter Valley Food and Wine month was in full swing.  We had a most wonderful Italian buffet lunch and sampled a 10-year vertical of Sangiovese and Merlot-Sangiovese wines which was a real treat.

If you have any of the 2005 Tintilla Estate Patriarch Syrah, you better drink it quick or consider it as a cooking wine.  Meanwhile, I will look forward to one of the 2007 Tintilla Estate Patriarch Syrah soon.  Hopefully, I will have a much more favorable blog on that wine as I remember the tasting of it to be exceptional.

Make sure to clean your wine glasses properly!

As you know, I love using Riedel glasses of the proper shape to drink my wine.  The thought of drinking a Montrachet in anything other than a Riedel Montrachet glass is less seemly than pouring the Montrachet in the toilet bowl and drinking it!  I never drink wine from any other glass than my Riedel glasses when at home and unless I am certain that I can get really good wine glassware in a restaurant, I will bring my Riedel glasses (either my Vinum or my O glasses) along to the restaurant.  There is no excuse for not wanting to get the very best experience out of wine drinking and the right glass plays a huge part in that.

And in that regard, it is important to clean your glassware properly!  When cleaning my decanters, I only rinse them out with hot water or use a little bit of soap.  I then make sure to rinse out the decanter with very hot water and refill and rinse six to seven times to ensure there is no soapy residue.  About every 8th to 10th time I clean the decanter,  I use a Polident capsule (‘Yes,’ the denture cleaner!) to remove any slight build-up of red wine film.  However, the Polident capsule will leave a minty taste to it which could effect the taste of the next bottle decanted unless you make sure the decanter is perfectly cleaned.  Therefore, after using the Polident to remove any film build-up, I wash out the decanter as usual with soap and rinsing it out six or seven times, and then I repeat the process in its entirety again.

I never put my Riedel glasses in the dishwasher as I have a concern that the dishwasher may break or in some way damage them.  I know there are newer, nicer dishwashers in the Miele line that are Riedel-safe and that is great!  I plan on buying one when I move into our own apartment unit.  In my current rental unit, I wash my Riedel glasses by hand.  I have been careful to wash the wine glasses first before using the washing implements to wash other dishes as the washing implements may contain more food particles or greasy or oily residue.  However, I was not as careful and forgotten to do this with my drying towels!

Yesterday, I had used a Riedel Vinum Shiraz glass to enjoy a most magnificent bottle of the 1998 Tyrrell’s Vat 9 Shiraz to go with some great spaghetti my wife made.  I had about a third of the bottle left that I finished off today while writing and doing other work at my computer.  However, when I pulled the glass I cleaned yesterday out of the pantry, I sniffed it and it had an slight odor.  I compared it to other glasses I cleaned previously,  which were odor-free.

But the glass I used and cleaned yesterday definitely had an odor inside the glass when I put my nose to it. I tried to think what had happened and why it had a slight odor.  I often clean and rinse my wine glasses and turn them upside down to dry.  However, I make sure to turn them right-side-up quickly so as to not trap any odor in the globe.  Then I dry them with a drying towel.

The problem was that my drying towel was over-used from having cleaned  dishes the last few days and had built up some food odors on the towel.  Therefore, when drying the Riedel glass, I transferred some of the food odors to the glass causing it to smell.  I always sniff an empty glass before use and you should too.  While rare, this was one time where I had failed to clean and dry the glass properly and it could have caused my otherwise great glass of 1998 Tyrrell’s Vat 9 Shiraz to be less than perfect due to the odor in the glass.


I never store my glassware upside down on a shelf as the rim of the glass will be sealed by the shelf.  If there is any bacteria inside the glass, it can multiply and leave a poor odor in the glass, especially if it is sitting for weeks or longer.  Therefore, I always store my glassware right-side up to allow it to breathe.  I do so inside a closed cabinet so the glasses will not collect dust.  The ideal way to store glasses is upside down (to eliminate any possibility of dust), but by hanging it by the base (see above picture).  This requires you to install a rack to slip the base of the glass into.  While this is the best way to store wine glasses, it does require you to buy and install the rack.  This is not hard, but based on your living conditions, it may be difficult to find an area to mount the wine glass rack and store the glasses.  I just keep mine inside the pantry (see below).

Make sure your wine glasses are:

  • Cleaned properly;
  • Dried properly; and
  • Stored properly

Otherwise, your drinking experience will be less than satisfactory, even with the right Riedel glass and wine!

A more than very fine red wine

My wife is making spaghetti tonight for dinner.  It will be tomato-based, with mince and chirizo.  And it will have lots of garlic, onions and other spices.  Therefore, I needed to select a wine with strong spice and pepper flavors, yet something delicate enough to go with pasta.  There are very few wines that accomplish both.  While many Cabernet Sauvignon are delicate enough, it would be missing the spice.  Some Shiraz’ certainly have the spice, but are often so thick with granular tannins that you can chew the wine on its own!  Very few wines are delicate and spicy at the same time.

One great exception to that is the 1998 Tyrrell’s Vat 9 Shiraz.  This is one of the best Australian reds ever made in my opinion.  For my 58th birthday, I served up this wine just before the 2001 Yalumba Octavius following that wine with the 1981 Penfolds Grange (which is a great wine!), and people seemed a bit ‘let down’ with the Octavius and Grange!  While both are tremendous wines in their own right, the finish on the 1998 Tyrrell’s Vat 9 Shiraz lasted ‘almost forever’ and had a more delicate sensuous texture than the heavier and grittier Octavius and Grange.

Some of you may think that such a fine wine is an overkill for spaghetti, but my wife, “DAZ in the Kitchen” makes a truly wonderful spaghetti well deserving of this wine!  And it has been a surreal week at work and when I arrived home, I just wanted to embrace the very best bottle of wine I could.  I knew we were having spaghetti, and wanted a wine to go well with it, but I also wanted a special treat to drink on its own as I write this blog post.  (I am well into my second glass now, so expect my creativity to continue to increase!)

The 1998 Tyrrell’s Vat 9 was the second to last vintage of Vat 9 that Andrew Thomas made while the chief red wine maker at Tyrrell’s and I remember him telling me it was one of his favorite vintages.  This is certainly one of my all-time favorite wines.  I was very fortunate to buy all remaining stock of this vintage from Tyrrell’s several years ago (21 bottles) and have about 9 bottles left for special occasions and sharing with great friends.  But tonight, I needed a special bottle to treat myself and something worthy of matching up well with my wife’s most amazing spaghetti!

And that bottle of very fine red of choice for tonight was the 1998 Tyrrell’s Vat 9 Shiraz.  Always feel free to treat yourself when you need it!  I did.

What to drink with Lebanese food

First off, Lebanese is a lot of different types of food.  From Hummus, vine leaves, and pickled vegetables to potato coriander, chicken shawarma, spicy beef sausages and much more!  What wine could possibly match up well with such a variety of food?  The simple answer is Semillon!  I had a lunch the other day with 13 different Lebanese dishes and the Semillon worked beautifully for the entire meal.

I also imagine that a spicy Shiraz could could well if you wanted to switch from Semillon in the middle of a Lebanese meal also if some of the guests really prefer red wine.  I am confident that you cannot go wrong with Semillon for Lebanese food.  I have had three Lebanese meals in the last month, and I have had the 2005 Kelman Semillon, the 2003 Terrace Vale Campbells Old Vine Semillon and also the 1994 Waverley Estate Semillon.  These are three very different styles of Semillon and they all matched exquisitely with Lebanese food.

And for one of the meals, I also brought an open bottle of an excellent Riesling to try.  On its own, most people would say the Riesling was far superior as a wine to the 2005 Kelman Semillon, but the Kelman matched far better with Lebanese food.  That is why I continue to empasize the ‘right grape with the right food.’

Both the Kelman and the Terrace Vale where a little crisper (and much younger!) than the Waverley Estate.  The best Semillon I have ever had (even superior to the iconic 1999 Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon) was the 1990 Waverley Estate Semillon.  This is among the top three white table wines  I have ever drunk.  But the 1994 Waverley Estate is very close!  It has a golden color, smooth, rich mouth feel, and tastes of orange and tangerine flavours with a touch of lemon.  It is simply heavenly and a great match for Lebanese food.

I found the smoother texture and richer taste of the aged Semillon to go a little bit better with the rich sauces for the shish barack and the yogurt.  It also matched up beautifully with the hummus with mince and pine nuts.  The 1994 Waverley Estate Semillon is just a better wine (and about twice as expensive) than the other two.  But the 2005 Kelman and the 2003 Terrace Vale Semillons are very good wines.  Most people would call then excellent wines and I have gotten great reviews from people I have shared them with.  But 15 – 20 year old Waverley Estate Semillons are in a class of their own.

There is no need to review the menu at a Lebanese restaurant to determine what wine to bring.  Just bring a Semillon and order what you like.  You won’t be disappointed.