Rules for winning $100 bottle of wine give-away!

First off, there will be two individual prizes of a $100 bottle of wine.  That’s right, two separate bottles for give-away and you will have the right to win either one – just by following the SAZ in the Cellar website and blog or by following the Facebook SAZ in the Cellar Fan page.  Not one, but two bottles of wine will be given away!  In my next blog post, I will be describing this great and impossible to source wine.  But for now, I wanted to tell you how to enter and the rules for being eligible to win.  They are very simple to follow:

SAZ in the Cellar website:

To win the bottle of wine give-away for following the SAZ in the Cellar website, all you need to do is enter your email address in the field to the right of the website page you are currently looking at.

Snipped Follow Me for SAZ in the CellarYour email address, of course, will be kept confidential and not shared with anyone outside of the SAZ in the Cellar administrators.  By doing this, you will be entered into the draw for one of the $100 bottles of wine.  (If you are already following, there is no need to follow again – you are already eligible and entered!)  The obligation of doing this is that you will receive an email alerting you to my wine blog posts as they occur, usually about twice weekly.  And hopefully, you will be glad to receive them if you have an interest in wine.

For the $100 bottle of wine to be given away, we need to reach 100 followers.  Once we do that, I will officially open the draw and keep it open for 30 days.  You will be alerted of when that time starts and finishes.  Anyone who has already followed, follows to help us reach 100 Followers, or follows during the 30 days following reaching our goal of 100 Followers is entered and eligible to win!  Sound easy?  It is!  Make sure to follow now if you have not already.  And share this around as the sooner we achieve 100 Followers, the sooner we will be able to give the bottle of wine away!

Snipped SAZ in the Cellar Facebook pageSAZ in the Cellar Facebook Fan page:

To be eligible for winning the second give-away, all you need to do is to ‘Like’ the SAZ in the Cellar Facebook Fan page.  By doing so, you will be automatically entered and eligible to win.  Similarly to following the SAZ in the Cellar website, but once we get to 200 SAZ in the Cellar Facebook Fan page likes, we will then officially open the draw for a period of 30 days.  Anyone who has already ‘Liked’ the SAZ in the Cellar Facebook Fan page, or does so on the way to achieving 200 ‘Likes,’ or ‘Likes’ SAZ in the Cellar Facebook Fan page during the 30 days following that is eligible to win.  Again, “easy!”  And all it obligates you to is the occasional posting of SAZ in the Cellar status updates to your wall.  (If if you really don’t want to see them, you can hide them!  But why would you want to do that if you are interested in the wine anyway?)

There are just a few other rules you need to follow:

  1. You must be of legal drinking age in the country where you reside to be eligible and win.  If there is any doubt, I may require you to provide proof that you are of legal drinking age.
  2. You may reside anywhere in the world and I will mail the wine to you.  However, I will not mail wine to a country that forbids the import of alcohol.  But, if you win and are otherwise eligible, and you provide me an alternate address for shipping that does allow the import of alcohol, the wine will be shipped there.
  3. Each drawing will be done by assigning a number to each entry and then using a random number generator to select each winner.
  4. You may (and are encouraged) to follow SAZ in the Cellar both through the website and Facebook and may enter both drawings for a chance to win.  However, if you are extremely lucky and are the selected winner in both draws, you will only be allowed one bottle of wine.  The remaining emails in SAZ in the Cellar website will be randomly drawn again to determine the second winner.
  5. If for some reason, you do are a follower of SAZ in the Cellar website and Facebook Fan page, and have won, but do not wish to receive the bottle of wine, you may decline and we will then draw again to select an alternate winner.
  6. Once the winner is selected in each drawing, we will make every effort to notify you via email or Facebook and you have 72 hours to accept the prize.  If you do not respond within 72 hours, you will forfeit the bottle of wine and another drawing will be held to select an alternate winner.
  7. Once accepted, you will need to provide a mailing address for us to mail the bottle of wine to.

Why am I doing this and being so generous giving away two $100 bottles of wine?  It is simply because I love drinking wine, writing and talking about wine, and I want you to also enjoy similar experiences.  I also want to help build a brand and a following to make people be aware of the my upcoming book publication Wine Sense.  Hopefully, if you like wine and have enjoyed my blog writing over the last two years, you will be interested in buying the book once it is published.

And by following, you will also be aware of other giveaways in the near future.  I hope you enjoy SAZ in the Cellar and follow us at our website and blog and also on Facebook!   And share this around so we can quickly get the drawings open and officially underway.  I wish you the best of luck and hope YOU are the winner.


Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2013.  Steve Shipley
SAZ in the Cellar on Facebook
Wine Pinterest Boards
Twitter:  Steve Shipley @shipleyaust;   InkIT Publishing @inkitpub


Is a red wine diet a real diet?

There are many forms of diets available and frankly, I think most are crap.  Anything that is counter to your normal lifestyle is not sustainable.  I believe you need to change your lifestyle and your choices a little bit at a time, and then make sure they are sustainable.  When I have tried dieting previously, I have seen quick results only to backslide after some period of time.  I love drinking wine, I love eating great food and I have always loved my snacks, be they potato chips, popcorn, ice cream or chocolate.


Over the last two months, I have lost 13 pounds (6 kgs) and have been happy about the results.  But I have done that before only to have backslid sometime later and put the weight back on again.  But this time, I have notice something different.  I am still eating the same amount of food for a main meal, but I have been able to substitute my previous poor choice of snacks with healthier ones and be content doing that.  The giant Kit Kat bar with 900 calories or the bowl of microwave popcorn with 500 calories has been replaced by an apple at 45 calories.  If I feel the need for a small sweet treat, I have one piece of chocolate at 70 calories, or a small piece of homemade baked banana, zucchini, or carrot cake with about 125 calories.  I am not munching on the six or so biscuits I used to eat every day at work, nor am I eating multiple chocolates or having multiple treats in a single sitting after dinner.  That’s it – that’s all I did and I have dropped 13 pounds.

Fortunately, I did not require eliminating wine or even cutting down on wine.  I am drinking the exact same amount of wine I had before.  Wine is not high in calories.  150 ml glass (about 5 ounces) is 125 calories.  This means an entire bottle of wine is only 625 calories on average.  I can have half a bottle wine every day and  consume only about 300 – 325 calories which is about the third the caloric intake as the giant Kit Kat bar I mentioned earlier.  Once I knew this trade-off, I gave up the mass consumption of unhealthy snacks and allowed myself to keep drinking wine.  Wine is satisfying and it is also good for you, if you are drinking two or three glasses per day.

In my upcoming book, I recommend a lot of other books for reading, including two on wine diets.  There is good science supporting a wine diet along with other healthy foods.  For me or almost anyone else to lose weight, there are many other things you should give up or constrain before you need to consider limiting your wine intake.  I won’t go into the details here as they are presented in the books.  I have included excerpts from my upcoming book which describes two wine diet books.  a description of them follows:

The Red Wine Diet (Roger Corder): The Red Wine Diet credibly explains the health benefits of red wine. It shows how to use appropriate amounts of red wine to provide an increase in antioxidants and lower hypertension to improve overall health. It goes further and provides healthy food recipes into an overall lifestyle plan of which wine and particularly red wine are an integrated component of that healthy lifestyle. I found this book useful, if a bit detailed in the science, but it is the explanation of the science which makes it credible. Minimally, this book reduced guilt associated with drinking a bit of wine almost every day and has encouraged me to continue to enjoy wine as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Age Gets Better With Wine: New Science for a Healthier, Better & Longer Life (Richard Baxter, MD): This text is similar to The Red Wine Diet, but an easier and more enjoyable read. It focuses less on the scientific understanding of ‘why’ to follow the diet and focuses more on ‘how’ to follow the diet and what to do. However, it is still very credible.

Either one of these wine diet books is a great read. Since it involves your health and your passion for wine, I recommend reading both as they provide somewhat different perspectives, and the combination of both provides a number of useful tips, some which may work best for your situation.


Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2013.  Steve Shipley
SAZ in the Cellar on Facebook
Wine Pinterest Boards
Twitter:  Steve Shipley @shipleyaust;   InkIT Publishing @inkitpub


My last Blogger post, but not my last SAZ in the Cellar post

After 18 months of using Blogger, I have decided to switch over to WordPress.  This decision was based primarily on the ability to easily build out a more proper website.  It will continue to be used for blogging, but also used to start describing and promoting my upcoming wine book.  I can also easily create additional web pages to provide links to anything and everything wine-like.  The blog is stilled called SAZ in the Cellar, but just has a new URL.

SAZ_BC_SnippedAll Blogger posts have been imported into WordPress and still available!  However, the internal links to other previous posts still point to Blogger, so I will keep Blogger reference-able until all links are changed.

I am very excited about both my upcoming book and the capabilities provided within WordPress.  Using WordPress should allow me to significantly grow the usefulness of SAZ in the Cellar.  For regular updates, please also like my Facebook SAZ in the Cellar page.  And the book, Wine Sense(s) should be available around the end of 2013 or very early 2014.

I am integrating my wine and writing brand into SAZ in the Cellar to make it easy for you to follow and continue to partake in the wonderful world of wine with me!

Thanks to all of you for your tremendous support and to Google Blogger for making it possible.  We had over 33,000 page views since launching about 18 months ago.  But it is time to expand and do many new things.  And WordPress provides a brand new vintage for doing that!


Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2013.  Steve Shipley
SAZ in the Cellar on Facebook
Wine Pinterest Boards
Twitter:  Steve Shipley @shipleyaust;   InkIT Publishing @inkitpub

My new book “Wine Sense”

I have been blogging less recently as my writing efforts have been focused on my full-time job and a book on wine.  I am very excited and have the book well structured, have written about 20,000 words and expect the book to be 75,000 – 100,000 words in length.  This has had an impact though by reducing the time and energy for blogging.

I originally was writing a blog post on how to appreciate wine and how wine interacts with the human senses, but it quickly grew to several thousand words without being close to complete.  I thought about segmenting it into a series of blog posts, but even that would have been a lengthy serial.  Therefore, I decided to turn it into a book which I am thinking of calling Wine Sense.  The book is well structured and I am about a quarter complete with the first draft.  I am taking a four-day long weekend over ANZAC Day week after next, and taking two weeks off from my day job in July to focus on competing the first draft.  I am getting about 3,000 – 4,000 words written per weekend, and when focused, I can write 5,000 words per day.  Therefore, I am pretty comfortable to have a first draft complete by end of July.

But then the real work begins providing sources, footnotes, links to other resources, and finding 50 – 75 pictures to include.  Then re-writing, editing, and formatting for electronic publishing.  This may take an additional 4 – 6 months.

I think Wine Sense will serve a real purpose and be of interest to a large audience.  I have read a number of books on wine appreciation, wine tasting, and the philosophy of wine, and I believe my book will fit into a nice middle ground and be of use for the novice and experienced wine drinker alike.  It will offer pragmatic advice as to why and how to to learn to enjoy and appreciate wine drinking, and to provide you with confidence and the ability to drink far better wines on a reasonable budget.

I wrote my first book Still Stupid at Sixty a year ago under the pseudonym Blake Stevens.  I have received good feedback on Still Stupid at Sixty plus learned a lot about book writing and publishing.  That effort was 75,000 words and a book I had to write.  It was only published independently and electronically and can be found on Amazon.  My book Wine Sense will be published in both physical and electronic format and I am considering using a traditional publishing house.  I love writing and am passionate about wine, so it is a good combination.

I have turned my life around financially in the last few years as presented in Still Stupid at Sixty, and am now far better off and moving on.  I present it as a gift (and at $3.99, the book truly is a gift!) for others to learn from my mistakes and what to do to avoid making them.

Therefore, I will be publishing a few less blog posts over the next few months, but also taking some excerpts from my new book as preludes and hopefully to get some good feedback on the concepts before final publishing.

I love drinking wine and writing about wine and looking forward to sharing that with you even more in the near future.  Please follow and enjoy the journey with me.


Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2013.  Steve Shipley
SAZ in the Cellar on Facebook
Wine Pinterest Boards
Twitter:  Steve Shipley @shipleyaust;   InkIT Publishing @inkitpub


Wine education – Lesson 1

There are a lot of ways to learn how to appreciate wine drinking more, but there is one lesson that stands above all others, and that is to keep on tasting different wines.  I could have you read books, attend courses, read wine reviews and participate in a number of other activities, but there is no better means to learning about wine than by trying a number of different wines.

I have a lot of author friends and they sometimes get distracted focusing on marketing, social media, taking classes on creative writing and participating in a number of other activities that seem like writing, but are not really writing.  They have to keep reminding themselves that there is no other activity that makes you a writer than to just sit down and actually write!

Therefore, wine education Lesson 1 is to taste a variety of different wines and understand what you like and what you don’t.  And Lesson 2 will be on the difference between tasting and drinking.  I want you to taste wine, not just drink it.  That would be an incredible waste.

Having said that and gotten Lesson 1 out of the way, there are a variety of different things that comprise a simple wine education that should increase your pleasure of drinking wine.  These include:

  • Reading a variety of different books on wine
  • Attending tastings with other people and sharing your tasting experiences
  • Trying different wines with different foods, including different wines with cheese and chocolate
  • Writing down tasting notes
  • Participating in vertical and horizontal wine tastings
  • Attending some specialty sessions on glassware, decanters and other wine paraphernalia
  • Learning a bit about how to make wine
  • Experiencing and thinking about what wine does to your senses

I have written over 125 blog posts in the last year and plan to write plenty more.  Many of my posts have been about reviewing specific wines, matching wine with food, and enjoying the wine lifestyle more.  Some have been educational.  Therefore, I am not going to label any of my future posts as ‘educational.’  many will be, but hopefully many of those already written have been also.

The key thing is that with a little more understanding of wine, you are likely to enjoy tasting and drinking wine a lot more.  And it makes it easier to share the experience and talk about it with others who enjoy drinking wine also.  I have certainly found that to be the case for me and many of my friends.  Let’s learn a bit more together.


Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2013.  Steve Shipley
SAZ in the Cellar on Facebook
Wine Pinterest Boards
Twitter:  Steve Shipley @shipleyaust;   InkIT Publishing @inkitpub


A wonderful week with wine

My life does not revolve around wine, but my appreciation and enjoyment of wine is integrated into my lifestyle.  I enjoy drinking it, I enjoy sharing in fellowship over a good glass of wine and I enjoy reading and understanding what makes wine so special.  I sometimes refer to it as ‘living the wine lifestyle!’

As I look back over this week and forward to the weekend, I reflect on how wine has made my life better.  It started last weekend by reading several books on wine and philosophy and making me think about how wine fulfills all five human senses.  I have always been curious about which senses are the most important and how they effect our enjoyment of life in general and wine in particular.  (Separate blog on this to follow.)

Then Monday after work, I met with a work colleague and client at deVine, one of my favorite wine bars and restaurants.  They client had asked a favor and I was glad to help him out which was why I brought my other colleague along.  Then after that meeting, my colleague and I caught up on his project status and a few other things.  And upon leaving, I saw another contact who is a Partner at a Big Four advisory firm, waved and later that evening received an email from him asking to meet to discuss a large project we may consider doing between his firm and mine.  In 90 minutes, that was quite a good amount of business to get accomplished made more enjoyable by a good glass of wine!

I did not drink wine Tuesday or Wednesday as we were going to a Riedel wine glass masterclass Thursday evening which would include tasting, and then out for a big birthday lunch on Friday at our favorite restaurant in The Hunter Valley, Bistro Molines, where we would be drinking some of my wife’s very favorites wines.

Both the Reidel masterclass and lunch were brilliant and among two of the finest events I have ever enjoyed.  Georg Riedel, 10th generation glass maker took us through a brilliant dissertation and tasting on the pleasure of drinking different varieties from different types of glasses and the very noticeable difference in taste and pleasure involved.  I have written on this previously (in total in about seven different posts as I am so impressed with Riedel glassware and their impact on improving the wine drinking experience) and will certainly do so again in the very near future!  Georg also discussed how the shape of the glass effects our smell and taste senses and reinforced what I had been studying over the previous weekend.  It was an amazing two hours spent with a master in like company and was both educational and entertaining.

Birthday wines at Bistro Molines

We then drove this morning to our place in The Hunter Valley and went to Bistro Molines for my wife’s birthday lunch.  A pure delight and treasure!  As usual, the food and service were impeccable and the wines we drank (too much of!) were my wife’s favorites and truly outstanding.  I will be writing a review on the dessert wine, the 2006 Chateau Rieussec very soon.  And while Bistro Molines certainly has fine glassware, including Riedel to serve from, I was insistent on bringing our own Shiraz and Montrachet Riedel glasses to make sure the wine was served as perfectly as it could be.

And now onto the remainder of our four-day weekend in The Hunter Valley.  I will be reading on wine, writing on wine (I have about 15 ideas for posts and I want to build up an inventory for the next month as I will be otherwise quite busy and it is always good to have a number of posts in reserve), studying a wine appreciation and tasting course and of course, drinking wine.

While my life does not revolve around wine, it certainly is enhanced because of it!  Wine helps me with business, friendship, and fuels my thirst for continuous learning.


Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2014.  Steve Shipley
SAZ in the Cellar on Facebook
Wine Pinterest Boards
Twitter:  Steve Shipley @shipleyaust;   InkIT Publishing @inkitpub

deVine is divine for food and wine!

I have only referred to a few restaurants in SAZ in the Cellar.  While I am willing and even excited to try new places, I feel most comfortable going to where I know I will get great food, great wine and great service.  In that regard, I go to Fish on the Rocks (29 Kent Street, Millers Point) quite a bit because they have great food and I can ensure I am having great wine because they are a BYO (Bring Your Own wine).  They are also licensed for wine and beer, but there is nothing more satisfying and fool-proof than taking wine from your own cellar!

And The Cut Bar and Grill (16 Argyle Street in The Rocks) is my favorite steakhouse and meets all the criteria.  They have a great and good-valued wine list along with great food and service and while they are not a BYO, if I asked ahead (and because I bring a lot of food business to them), they will let me do a BYO for special occasions.  I don’t take advantage of this, but really appreciate that they provide me the option when I want to do a truly special dinner with special wines.

I hate and avoid restaurants which have over a 300% (and sometimes far north of 500%!) mark-up on wine over what I can buy it for retail or from the cellar door.  As nice as the food and view is from Cafe Sydney on top of Customs House and overlooking Circular Quay, I only go there at the insistence of foreign friends who marvel at the view.  A number of their wines cost two to three times what the same wine at Lord Nelson Restaurant in Millers Point does.  And I was at The Malaya at Kings Wharf a few weeks ago and they were charging $50 for a bottle of wine I paid $8 for retail!

I simply will not go to restaurants that screw you on the wine and those restaurants have lost all of my business over the last decade.  I don’t care if it is for business or personally, I want good value and refuse to do business with businesses that do not provide good ongoing value.  Restaurants I will frequent include Fish on the Rocks, The Cut Bar and Grill, Hux’s Dining, and Lord Nelson for four of my favorite outings around Sydney.

A typical guideline is that a restauranter should charge about 220% of what they paid for the wine to cover the cost, labor of serving and cleaning glasses, breakage, the ‘insurance’ risk of have a corked bottle, etc.  And I am comfortable with that.  I am glad to pay up to 250% of the price I could have bought the wine for at retail.  But I simply will not frequent or pay for wine that is over a 300% mark-up.

One of my very favorite restaurants is deVine at 30 Market Street (corner of Market Street and Clarence Street) in Sydney.  This is a magnificent restaurant, with the lowest mark-up I have ever found on wine.  I rarely pay 50% more for a bottle at deVine than I do retail.  And the service is magnificent, being both friendly and attentive.  There is always one, if not both owners, Terence and Andre, on the premises to take care of you.

Their wine knowledge is superb.  (I also value sommeliers like Terence and Andre at deVine and Gustavo at The Cut Bar and Grill who know far more about wine than I do.  Surprisingly, the ‘wine person at most restaurants does not.)   And they have a wide range of domestic and foreign wines to choose from.  In addition to a great and often changing wine list, the owners at deVine have a collection of private wines from their own cellar and for the right occasion, they may recommend trying one of those.  I have never been disappointed (in fact – quite the opposite – I have been greatly pleased) with each and every time this has occurred, and I don’t remember ever paying more than $100 for a rare and truly great find!  Again, I am not sure they would do this for anyone, but once they quickly understood my interest and appreciation of good wine, it just became part of their superb service proposition!

The location, ambiance, service, quality, value and just about everything else is divine at deVine.  Make sure to try them out if you have not already.

When choosing a restaurant, I look for the following things:

  • great food
  • diverse wine list
  • average wine mark-up no larger than 250%
  • great service
  • ability (if I prove to be a good customer) to do BYO and pay corkage (usually about $10 – $25 per bottle is reasonable at a good restaurant and for a very good bottle of wine this is a steal!)
  • occasional food or wine choice ‘not on the menu’
  • ownership or senior operational management is on the premises
  • location helps if it is spur of the moment or I am pressed for time

The restaurants I have featured here meet those criteria.  Make sure to frequent them, and avoid the ones that are more interested in their profit than your experience and pleasure, regardless of how iconic they may be!


Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2014.  Steve Shipley
SAZ in the Cellar on Facebook
Wine Pinterest Boards
Twitter:  Steve Shipley @shipleyaust;   InkIT Publishing @inkitpub


Is Australia a great wine producing nation or not?

Australia is justifiably proud of its wine producing industry and has gained attention and success on a global scale.  I love Australian wines.  They are built to last, and there are regions for growing grapes that rival European terrain, and the hills of Napa Valley.  Five years ago, I drank 95% Australian wine, with the other 5% being a smattering from Europe and the Americas.  I also used to drink 90% red, but now drink about 70% red and 30% white.  In a recent post on Rieslings, I mention how the Riesling grape helped me transition to more whites.

I have also noticed another change over the last decade, that being that I used to enjoy red wines when they were the biggest, most robust and alcoholic.  I now prefer – more often than not – a more refined, elegant red wine.  I am starting to appreciate red wine blends using more secondary grapes, and more red and white wines from Europe.

In general, it is probably fair to say that my wine tastes are maturing and becoming more diverse.  Part of this has been through the minor study of how grapes are grown, wine is made and wine reviews in general.  But most my education has come from drinking and comparing a wider variety of wine.  I have become much more discerning of the grape used and the impact of soil and vineyard management techniques on various grapes (most prominent influence is on Riesling and Pinot Noir, but all grapes are influenced by the soil and climate they are grown in).  The influence of soil and climate makes up a big part of what is called terroir.  But terroir also has less noticeable and scientifically proven influences through the culture of the area, its accumulated history, and the small influences collectively made over the vines and wine making techniques for thousands of years.  And this is where I am starting to question if Australia is one of the best wine producing regions or not.  While some vines are 150 years old and represent the place where the grapes are grown, Australia is more known for the tastes of the grapes themselves and the wine making techniques used.

I am reading Roger Scruton’s book entitled I Drink Therefore I am: A Philosopher’s Guide to Wine.  It is available in both electronic and printed form.  I am greatly enjoying the book, finding it not just a good and enjoyable read, but also quite educational on both wine and philosophy.  Scruton is a marvelously entertaining and articulate writer.  He is also very sure of his opinions and without a doubt, believes that French wines are without peer, followed by some wines from Napa Valley.  He is also a fan of Italian wines and supportive of Spanish and some South American wines.

But when he starts discussing Australian and New Zealand wines, he quickly downplays the impact of Australian wines and spends most of his time in the region praising New Zealand wines and wine making.  One of his major criticisms is that Australian wines do not reflect a place, they reflect the taste of the grape and the wine making techniques.  He is also critical of how quickly the wine growing and wine making industries have grown and the mass popularity of the wine having repudiated the individual variety that is necessary to make great wines.

Scruton believes that a sense of place is critical in making good wines and I think he is onto something.  You can mechanically churn out excellent wines if you use great grapes and great wine making techniques.  But think how much better wines are if the grapes come from vines that have been in the same location for thousands of years (vines never get that old, but the relationship being the soil and the vine types have existed for that long in many European locations).  The soil, the vine and the grape know how to embrace each other.  And think of the collective history and culture of the place where the grapes are grown.  Even if you have not visited those places, you have a sense of what they are about, and drinking wine from a place evokes memories and a sense of a deeper culture and appreciation of the wine.  And even if you are completely ignorant to a place, you still can taste the nuances of how the culture has defined the grapes and the wine making.

I have tasted some truly unique and excellent second growths or non-categorized wines from these European regions that have evoked great pleasure.  You do not need to buy Grand Cru wines from these regions to experience great wine.

I have tasted some excellent Australia wines and will continue to enjoy them for the rest of my wine drinking days.  They are great wines.  But the very best wines I have had come from France, Italy or Napa Valley.  Australia can be proud of its wine making industry and its wine heritage, but as a New World country that mass produces wines and has large vineyards of similar tasting grapes, you are unlikely to produce wines of the stratospheric quality that you would from a very small single vineyard parcel in Montrachet, Nuit St George, Mosel, Piedmont or Alsace.

In particular, I understand the nuances of some of the best vineyards in The Hunter Valley and can select some truly outstanding wines of unique character from that Australian wine region.  I am anxious to spend much more time in the other major regions to be able to do similar.  By being selective and narrowing my focus to a few wine makers with excellent small parcel vineyards and leveraging the cumulative history and culture of the region and the family of wine makers, I am hoping to be able to continue to buy Australian and get the very best wine it has on offer.

But is Australia in the Top 3 best wine making countries in the world – certainly not.  Is it in the Top 5?  Maybe and if not, it is getting closer.  The joy in all this is that I will continue on the journey of sampling many more Australian and foreign wines and also now have an excuse to sample both side-by-side, which is something I have not done much of before!


Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2014.  Steve Shipley
SAZ in the Cellar on Facebook
Wine Pinterest Boards
Twitter:  Steve Shipley @shipleyaust;   InkIT Publishing @inkitpub


Wine writing rightly or wrongly

I entered the Gourmet Traveler (GT) Wine magazine competition for 2013.  While excited to do so, I was also hesitant and did not completely decide to enter until three days ago when I made my submission.

I write about wine for myself as much as I do a broader audience.  I find it helps to organize and remember my thoughts about wine and I enjoy the writing experience anyway.  I am thrilled to have a good following for SAZ in the Cellar which continues to grow and am appreciative of the good feedback I get as a ‘great wine story teller.’

Each blog post takes about an hour to write with about half that time going into the initial draft content writing and the other half to establish links, find a suitable picture and to proof and edit.  Some blog posts take as much as two hours and I believe one even took four!  But in general, it is about an hour.  And I now have well over 100 posts in less than a year.  There is enough content there that I might even try to make a collection or book out of it.

However, to enter the competition, I needed to follow the competitions rules (which were not many nor onerous BTW), and I felt constrained in doing so for two main reasons.  The first is the upper limit of 1,000 words.  When I start writing, I do so without constraint to the number of words.  I focus on defining an article that I think will be educational and interesting.  It may end up at 500 words or it may end up at 3,000 words if I feel more detail is interesting and justifiable.  Had I written my competition entry as a blog post, I expect it would have been about 2,500 – 3,000 words and I probably would have actually turned it into a 3-part or 4-part blog series with about 750 words each.

The second constraint was that it need to be interesting to both wine buffs and also to people who are newly gaining an appreciation for wine.  Fortunately, I believe I have a entry that accomplished that, but I could only quickly come up with one topic where that worked, even though I thought about it for several weeks.  For blogging and not caring about the level of audience expertise, I don’t really target a topic to a particular  audience.  I figure that the audience will find me and read the post if they are interested.  But if you are writing commercially, you need to be conscious of the ‘real estate’ you are consuming in a magazine and make sure it is being used effectively to sell more magazines!  Therefore, both the number of words and audience reach are extremely important.

I had the interesting experience during writing for the competition that it seemed more like a job than a passion and I felt pressure to write my article ‘commercially correct’ (or ‘rightly’ as I say in the title!).  And that raised a concern or at least a caution for me. 

Many of us are often seduced by the idea of making a career out of our hobbies and passions.  We love to cook, so why not do it full-time and become a restauranteur?  Or if we love to fish, why not become a fishing guide so we can fish all the time?  Etc., etc., etc.!  But what happens when we treat our passion as a job or a career?  Well, for starters, we need to be focused and concerned about what our clients want to accomplish, not what we want to accomplish (and that is usually far less interesting to us!).  And secondly, we need to understand and manage it like a business.  And what I found happens in such situations is the passion drains away.

Dining room set I refinished in Graduate School and used for 30 years!

All my life, I have had a love and appreciation for timber and wood products.  Early on, I would refinish furniture and had the pleasure of enjoying using it day-in, day-out.  Then I got into wood turning and then making wood furniture.  I love the Australian and New Zealand hardwoods and have been working with them since 1988.  Then in 2000, when I tried to retire, I thought I could turn ‘working with wood’ from a hobby and a past-time into a profession.  In trying to do so, I found out several things:

  • What I could make financially  in 52 weeks of wood turning was the same amount I could make in 6 weeks of consulting.  Additionally, instead of turning what I wanted, I would need to turn what people wanted to buy, which would mean I was cranking out salad bowl sets and bed posts – not something I was really interested in!
  • A large capital investment was required to do the volume I would require and that combined with my skills disadvantage (to people who have been in the field all their life) meant I would be un-competitive

But what I learned the most was that when I treated it as a business, my passion drained away.  What I had enjoyed about the creative aspects and being an artisan were now replaced by managerial and administrative tasks.

Therefore, I am hesitant to turn my love of wine into a business, even just the business of writing about wine.  It may drain my passion for tasting and enjoying the wine lifestyle and I definitely do not want that to happen.  I will take it slowly, continue to blog, possibly write some short stories or a regular column if given the chance, and possibly do some teaching or being the Master of Ceremony for some corporate wine functions.  If that happens, that will be great.  But I am not going to push it because I know if I do, that I will lose my passion for wine the way I did for working with wood and I would not want that to occur!

Creating, retaining, and reliving wine memories

For me, drinking a great bottle of wine is like being at the Louvre or the Metropolitan Museum of Art and seeing an original painting.  It is an exquisite experience and even though I may never be able to experience it again, I want to retain and relive the memory.

That would seem quite easy to do in these times of social media with Instagram and Facebook.  We can take pictures of our drinking and eating experiences and immediately post them into a variety of public clouds to share with others and to retrieve whenever we want to.  But while those pictures provide great memories of the experiences we have had and the great friends and relationships we have, they do not focus on ‘the wine!’

I currently do four things currently to create and relive wine memories, and am about to add a fifth which I learned about from my good friend Dave who also has a place in the Hunter Valley.  The four I already do are:

Every time I look at an empty bottle, or a cork, I remember the experience and relive a bit of the wine drinking that went on that evening.  It also invokes memories of the friends and experiences we shared while drinking that wine.

The new thing I am going to do, is to create a wine map of the Hunter Valley and pin the wineries we have visited and plan to visit.  Dave has made one up, hanging in his hallway and we will be doing similar.  It’s a great idea.  Dave used a laminated map of the Hunter Valley, added some information regarding wineries and numbers to locate them, and pins with the coding for if they had visited them already or they were on the list to visit soon.  The back is cork board and he made the frame out of other wine corks cut in half.  This will provide more opportunity for me to use the good corks I have as my two Corkhaus boards will only hold about 110 corks and I certainly have more than that!

These activities are similar to keeping a photo album, but take a little more real estate, especially for the wine bottles.  However, it is not much of a difficulty and helps to reinforce and relive the great memories we have had. I am glad I do these things and recommend that some of them may enhance your wine drinking experiences and lifestyle.  I love having the constant reminders to prompt pleasant memories!