Australia’s best kept secret
Guineau Fowls resident at Arlewood Vineyard, Australia

The subject of semillon came up the other day, fresh in my mind having just posted a piece on Mount Horrocks Semillon and notes on a vertical tasting from 2001 to 2010. We, that is Master of Wine Peter Scudamore-Smith and I, were reminiscing on our formative wine days in Australia and some of our mutual mentors with the conversation leading to the Hunter Valley and the legendary semillons from Lindemans, Maurice O’Shea—McWilliams and interestingly, a shared enthusiasm for the barrel-fermented Rothbury Estate Black Label Semillons that Len Evans championed, wines of extraordinary richness and complexity in the vein of opulent Montrachet.

We both agreed it’s a curious thing that few vignerons pursued this style, in the Hunter Valley or any other Australian wine region for that matter, which prompted me to re-read an article I wrote a while back on the subject, “Australia’s best kept secret” and featuring the touchstone wine of this style in Margaret River, Western Australia – Arlewood

It’s time for semillon to step out of the shadows and into the limelight for some much-deserved recognition.

Should you ask me what is the most unfashionable or under-rated white grape variety in terms of quality, in Australia or the world for that matter, my answer would be semillon.

While semillon is acknowledged as one of the noblest of all grape varieties, it has not gained this in a global sense or as a stand-alone variety, rather it is invariably blended with its time-honored partner sauvignon blanc.

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The Standard Newspaper

The Standard is the first free English daily newspaper in Hong Kong. The popular daily publication has an audited circulation of 222,413 copies a day. It has evolved into a powerful, influential medium in Hong Kong with a diverse audience and a broad reach since becoming a free newspaper in September 2007. The paper is distributed Monday through Friday throughout Hong Kong.

Editorial quality, integrity and fairness remain guiding principles, with a diverse range of news and features presented in a bold tabloid format.

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Prince of the Barossa

There are no duds in the Rolf Binder range of wines, writes Curtis Marsh, who tracks the rise and rise of the South Australian business.

Having recently unearthed some possessions from storage in Australia, not sighted for some eight years, I am rather pleased to be reacquainted with my comprehensive collection of old wine books. When I say old, they are not antiquities, but largely from the 60s, 70s and 80s, an era of prolific wine-book authoring and publication.

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Unconventional Excellence

Self-taught winemaker David Powell is responsible for some of the most revered wines to come out of the Barossa Valley.

Among the first English colonists to arrive in South Australia in 1836, Colonel William Light was tasked with seeking a north-eastern route to the Murray River, then the strategic artery of subsistence in the vastness of terra Australis.

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Pedigreed Rieslings

For a better appreciation of the nature and versatility of this wine style, begin with the Germans.

Life is filling in time between meals, and a meal without wine could only be breakfast,” my doctrine and usual sign-off in correspondence. It often sparks facetious replies, predictably involving champagne.

Occasionally, I encounter more compelling responses, such as this from Schloss Johannisberg: “About breakfast, I can only quote former US president Thomas Jefferson on his journey to the Rhine in 1788: `On our way we lodged at Rudesheim at Johannisberg Abbey, and breakfasted the next morning on samples of Johannisberg wine. It is the best made on the Rhine and is incomparable and costs about twice as much as the oldest Hochheimer. The 1775 vintage is the best. What a delicious liquor, sir, it is!”‘

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Marlborough hits and myths

Cloudy Bay may have put a certain white wine and a region on the map but Australian expertise started the trend.

Despite being shunned by wine buffs and recalcitrant writers such as myself, sauvignon blanc remains the world’s most popular white grape variety and has been for more than a decade, dismissing any notion it is a passing trend. While there is no sign of sauvignon blanc’s prevalence waning, overconfident producers should not be complacent. As witnessed in the past, entrenched styles and fashionable varieties can easily become passe.

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Peaks of Celebrity

New Zealand pinot noir is joining the fame game with vineyards being name-dropped in the most glamorous of circles.

There is a compelling association between Hollywood and the meteoric ascent in popularity of wines from New Zealand, now juxtaposed as a chic destination for the eco-conscious avant-garde.

New Zealand born actor Sam Neill, with his exemplary Central Otago vineyards and auteurist pinot noir Two Paddocks is spreading his wine liberally among Hollywood friends, as well a luring the cognoscenti to Queenstown, the picturesque epicentre of viticulture in the far- South Island.

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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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Riesling Renaissance

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

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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