A cheese made just in time for Christmas
Vacherin Mont d’Or cheese from Jura Mountains, France

As we approach Christmas, one of my favourite cheeses comes in to production, Vacherin Mont d’Or – a exquisite washed-rind cow’s milk cheese from the Jura Mountains, France.

Only made in the winter months and perfectly timed for Christmas table after the turkey, it is presented in a spruce-wood box that keeps the cheese from oozing all over the place. Indeed, you need to use a spoon to get it safely on to your toasted country bread.

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Riecine Rose 2008 Chianti Tuscany, Italy
Riecine Rose 2008 Chianti, Tuscany

With onset of the southern hemisphere summer the mood in this half of the world is swinging towards fresh, crisp whites and rose.

The surge in popularity of rose is underpinned by the increasing number of genuine wines made in a drier style moreover, from dedicated vineyards and undergoing brief skin contact to achieve their colour, as opposed to just adding a bit of red. There are also more single grape styles being made, expressive of their varietal characteristics and region.

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Not too late for Tuscany
The Idyllic Villa Picelle, Azienda Agricole Fontodi

A hankering for the flavors of Chianti has Curtis Marsh planning a trip. In the meantime, he makes do in Wellington Street.

The best laid plans. Everything was set for the archetypal autumn holiday in Italy, two weeks in the heart of Tuscany luxuriating in the 18th-century Villa Pecille, in an idyllic vineyard panorama on the Chianti Azienda (estate) Fontodi, just south of the medieval village Panzano, halfway between Florence and Sienna.

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Whiteout in Vienna
Weingut Nigl vineyards, Austria

Curiosity gets the better of Curtis Marsh who lines up for a sauvignon blanc tasting, with surprising results.

How would you like to try no less than 50 sauvignon blanc’s before lunch?

It was a daunting prospect, even for a hardened wine professional. Personally, I am not endeared to sauvignon blanc, although I do enjoy the occasional racy, flinty sancerre blanc from the Loire Valley. Putting aside the notion of a monotonous succession of nostril-twitching grassy, herbaceous bouquets and gum nagging acidity, the opportunity to taste so many examples of this variety from all over the world got the better of my curiosity.

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Arlewood Semillon Sauvignon Blanc Sussex Loc 3991 Australia
Arlewood Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, Australia

Best Bordeaux Recipe, Barrel-Fermented Semillon Sauvignon Blanc of Year

Winery Profile

With a bevy of praiseworthy wineries, contention over the pecking order of Margaret River labels is constant and subjective. However, a small producer called Arlewood is materializing as the sleeper of the region and making infinitely more complex and refined white wines in the Graves style.

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Riesling Renaissance
Schloss Johannisberger, Germany

The recent revival of the most noble of white grapes brings back memories of sticky situations.

Cast your mind back 30 years or more, if you are old enough, when it was de rigueur to order a glass of Hock in a pub or wine bar in England. Ostensibly riesling, the trend subsequently permeated around the globe. It was Queen Victoria (1819-1901) who coined the term “Hock,” having a preference for the wines of Hochheim after visiting the region in 1845 with her German husband Prince Albert. Her abbreviation evolved to symbolize all good Rhine wines.

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Sorry, wrong number
Flaw in Wine Ratings

The wine rating system is flawed, because it doesn’t take into account the human factor.

The growing cast of wine consumers obsessed with scores – seemingly an inherent process for choosing super-premium wines these days – troubles me. It is not just the credulous trust in scores that is a concern, but the dependence of wine merchants and marketers on critics to sell wine through the blatant exploitation of ratings.

I encountered a ratings-obsessed individual not long ago when emceeing an options tasting, the entertaining – albeit masochistic – sport of identifying masked wines guided by multi-choice questions.

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Bordeaux or bust
Caroline Frey, oenologist and winemaker at Chateau La Lagune

The 2005 vintage is being hailed as among best of the past century but there is always plenty of spin involved.

Wine merchants throughout the world are ubiquitously fixated with en premeur sales of 2005 Bordeaux, blamelessly riding the wave of a frenzied market chasing a dream vintage. The Bordelaise propensity to embellish necessitates some recalibration after the vintage has sold out, the adage being “the finest Bordeaux vintage appears to be the one that Chateau owners and merchants are currently selling or have the most of in their cellars.”

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Mitchell Watervale Riesling Vertical 2000 – 2006
Mitchell Watervale Riesling, Australia

Establishing the criteria for the best-value white wine producer of the year, encompassing both the new and old worlds, is not about identifying the best cheapest white wine on the market.

Rather, it is about price-quality rapport, consistency of quality, distinctiveness, synergy in the Asian market and how it compares on the world wine stage. Mitchell Watervale Riesling over-delivers in every aspect.

Having followed this winery for over two decades I can attest to their consistency of quality. A vertical tasting of 2000 to 2006 vintages reaffirms their unfailing capabilities.

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Start Your Own Wine Bar at Home!

With the very nature of wine appreciably less intimidating nowadays and a growing familiarity amongst the populace, a glass of wine is increasingly becoming a part of everyday life around the world.

Today’s more self-assured, open-minded wine consumer has a considerably larger vinous world to explore with a myriad of regions, varieties and styles.

As any wine marketer will acknowledge, wine consumers are at their most inquisitive and adventurous in a restaurant environment or wine bar and willing to try something new, most likely served by the glass.

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