The New South Wales Food and Wine festival is an annual series of events that usually spans the end of February and continues through March. Sponsored by Fairfax Media (publishers of the Sydney Morning Herald) and Citi Bank, with strong promotion from the NSW Wine industry, the idea is to promote New South Wales within itself. Yes, showcasing what is so good about your own backyard. It seems that the New South Welshpersons prefer tipples from other states in Australia and are not so keen to fly their own flag. Wine authority Huon Hooke recently wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald that NSW wine only accounts for 15% of the listings on wine lists throughout the state.
So when the NSW capital Sydney has a chance to host a statewide “Cellar Door” in the leafy tree lined, verdant heart of Hyde Park, it is encouraging to see the crowds chancing their arm with a wine from a region they’ve never visited. Combine this with over a dozen of some of the top restaurants from across the state doing beautifully matched food….Maybe it’s enough to make them get out of Sydney and taste what’s on their door step.
The below tasting notes aren’t necessary the most successful wines or the most recognised varieties from New South Wales, but they are some of the most interesting wines I tasted. Seek them out where you can, I bet that they taste even better in situ at the cellar door!
Mount Majura Vineyards “Molli” 2013, Canberra Region
Riesling and Pinot Gris funky wild co ferment in old oak barrels. Is it Riesling with body? Or Pinot Gris with lifted aromatics? Who knows?! But plenty of lovely texture on the palate with creamy but dry, stone fruit and lemon/lime. A beautiful drink.
De Iuliis Sangiovese (Rosé) 2014, Hunter Valley
Mike De Iuliis picked this and pressed it just 4 days before the event, and brought it along as it had started to ferment. There’s not a lot of Sangiovese in the Hunter Valley, but with Mike’s Italian heritage, he’s keen to make a cracking rosé that pairs beautifully with food. The wine? Well, it was still grape juice; bright electric neon pink grape juice and only just starting to dry out. Wait for him to put it into bottle and then seek it out!
Swift Sparkling NV Cuvée, Orange
A serious investment for a future regional flagship wine style from the Printhie Winery. Gorgeous zesty mousse with full jasmine, vanilla and strawberries & cream. Cracking spine of acidity and medium long flavour tail with hints of ripe golden delicious apple. Proof that Tumbarumba doesn’t have the monopoly on quality Sparkling wine!
Charles Sturt Wines Vintage Sparkling 2009, Tumbarumba
Not many people are sure about a commercial winery labels associated with a University. Maybe they’re afraid it’ll be like getting a coffee made by the Work Experience kid…but have no fear here. The wines are well made with attention to detail. With the power of the University behind them, the CSU Cellar Door can afford to sell the wines at about half of what they’d be worth under any other label. Check out their online store for some ridiculously well priced bargains.
The 2009 vintage Sparkling with fruit from Tumbarumba. Just a hint of a blush. Bread crust aromas from extended time on lees with lovely linear lemon characters rounded out with fresh apple and finishes with a good bit of yeasty toasty-ness. The 2013 Pinot Gris is also well worth seeking out if you’re after something a little more in the textural Alsace style, with baked pear and ginger notes.
McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant B-Sides 2013, Hunter Valley
Not the sort of thing you expect to see coming from one of the bigger names in Australian wine, a bit left field…not your traditional release. But when you’ve got some of the greatest vines at your fingertips, why not let the winemakers have a play? The result might just be that little bit crazy and that little bit genius.
2013 Field Blend – Airport Block 3/46 (Paul Harvey)
Made of Chardonnay, Verdelho and Semillon (the Hunter Valley’s best white grapes). Wild ferment in old French oak and some in stainless steel, this slurpable white rings with stonefruit and lemon on the nose. The palate textural, plenty of lemony zing and a mineral water/soda water type of lingering freshness.
2013 LS8 – Semillon (Scott McWilliam)
Bright lifted lemon and florals, perfect balance of sweet/acid for a gorgeous off-dry expression of Hunter Valley Semillon. Leaves a lemon sorbet/gelato refreshment in the mouth and at 8% alcohol, you don’t need to share this with anyone else.
2013 CF13 – Shiraz/Montils (Scott McWilliam)
Montils?? What the bloody hell is that you ask? A white grape from the “Poitou-Charentes region of France” and can be known under several different names. Alongside Ugni Blanc and Colombard, it serves as one the grape varietals used for Cognac production. The Montils that is grown at McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant home block was planted by the legendary Maurice O’Shea in the 1920’s of which there is about 2/5ths of bugger all left. So in this case, it’s an ancient Australian vinous curio put to great effect here in creating an archetype “dry red” wine.
Aged in Hungarian oak which provides a particular spice note, there’s lifted red fruits and some traditional Hunter Valley savoury aromas. There’s great mouthfeel, good tannin and acid and oodles of “just right” red berry flavour. When you want a dry red wine, this is what your brain thinks of….and this is what you should put in your mouth. Wonderful drinking.
Freeman Vineyards, Fortuna 2011, Hilltops
Marcelle Freeman describes this as Pinot Gris “Plus.” That’s an understatement, along with Pinot Gris, there’s Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Aleatico. It all wraps up neatly into a wine with a rich distinctive nose. Textural with full pear and lemon-spectrum white fruits with lingering hints of white peach ice-tea. Can’t pigeon hole this wine…just a wine made for enjoying.
Artemis Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Southern Highlands
I admit to knowing nothing about Artemis before I stopped by their stall. I’m still exploring the Southern Highlands wines, though there’s some absolutely wonderfully made wines from the big names such as Tertini and Cherry Tree Hill. I’m a sucker for a good label, and the Artemis branding jumped out at me, so I took a punt. Glad I did. Along with some earthy, ethereal Pinot Noir and bath talc limey Rieslings, there was a little gem. Not my usual wording for Sauvignon Blanc.
Bright nose with fresh Asparagus, grass and a distinct smoky quartz. Holding a little residual sugar (apparently only 2 grams but it seemed higher) for some lovely roundness in the mouth. 15% of the wine was fermented and aged in 1 and 2 year old Hungarian oak which gives distinct textural quality to the wine. There’s good cool climate acidity to brace the length of the palate. Something from left field, but something worth exploring. As I was tasting, James Sweetapple of Cargo Road happened to be walking past and I called him over to taste this delightful quirk. Upon seeing the cost of the wine James, in no uncertain terms, told Mark Balog the winemaker to promptly put the price up and be proud of his wine.
And so should the winemakers that produced these wines and all the others at the 70 plus stalls at the event. Let’s hope next year, we see more wines from across the state, including the Riverina and maybe even Perricoota, near the mighty Murray River. That way, Sydneysiders will be armed with even more local knowledge and be able to “Ask For It” with conviction.
Note: I attended the Citi NSW Food and Wine Festival as a guest of NSW Wine Industry Association. All views are my own.