Tasting the best commercial wines at a Wine Masterclass with Andrew Caillard

Good wine does not necessarily mean expensive wine. At a wine masterclass with Andrew Caillard, held on 10 July 2017, we learnt that you can often find good wines at bargain prices if you know what to look for.

The tasting took place inside the head office of Pinnacle Drinks in Surry Hills. Guests experienced a very informative wine tasting of 22 wines ranging from champagne, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, rose, pinot noir, shiraz, and port. Pinnacle Drinks has a room set aside for tastings with a long table in the middle and glass cabinets filled with wine bottles all around it. The table was covered with platters of fruit, cheese, breads and cold meats prepared by Morgan Ferguson from Grazing the Table. Guests were also served with pizza during the night.

Pinnacle Drinks was established in 2012 and partners with winemakers, growers, brewers and distillers to deliver some of the world’s leading brands across the wine, beer and spirits categories. Pinnacle Drinks a division of Woolworths Liquor Group. Their head office in Surry Hills, Sydney, centrally manages the brand and marketing activity for the wine, beer and spirit brands. Pinnacle Drinks exclusive supplies alcohol to BWS, Dan Murphy’s and the ALH Pub Group.

Andrew Cailliard is a leading figure in the Australian wine industry. He is a Master of Wine, one of only 355 people in the world (18 in Australia) that have qualified to obtain this feat. He founded Langton’s Sydney, Australia’s leading wine auction house. Langton’s is responsible for the Classification of Australian wine (now in its 56th edition), a reference for wine collectors and observers of the fine wine scene. Andrew has chaired a number of wine competitions, written for various wine publications and in 2011 won the Australian His wines are also exported to China, including Hong Kong and Singapore. When a man of this calibre is recommending wines, you know that they are going to be good.

All the wines tasted were commercial wines: wines that are mass-produced for a wide market of consumers and made according to a set formula, year after year. These wines tend to emphasize broad appeal and easy drinkability. However, we learnt that due to their high quality, it is difficult to distinguish them from fine wines: wines of the highest quality. Andrew taught us that the best wines are not often the most expensive and it is important to know where to find good value.

The wines tasted included:

  1. Minchinbury Crisp Classic Brut $8.99
  2. Porta Dante Prosecco Superiore Docg $23.99
  3. Champagne Duperrey $39.99
  4. Balliamo Pinot Grigio $9.99
  5. Craftsman Style Series Pinot Grigio $11.99
  6. Lobster Reef Sauvignon Blanc $15.99
  7. Baily & Baily Venture Series Sauvignon Blanc $10.99
  8. Isabel Estate Sauvignon Blanc $23.99
  9. Baily & Baily Folio Chardonnay $16.00
  10. Nature’s Harvest Chardonnay $11.99
  11. La Plancheliere Cabernet D’Anjou Rose $12.99
  12. Cat Amongst The Pigeons  Jazz Cat Rose $23.00
  13. Gerard Betrand Cotes Des Roses Rose $19.99
  14. Frontera Pinot Noir $9.99
  15. Twelve Degrees Pinot Noir $15.99
  16. Casillero Del Diablo Carmenere $12.00
  17. Cat Amongst The Pigeons Barossa Shiraz $14.99
  18. Chris Ringland CR Shiraz $24.99
  19. Craftsman Winemaker Series Clare Valley Shiraz $13.99
  20. Parker Coonawarra Estate Coonawarra Series Cabernet Sauvignon $22.99
  21. Chris Ringland Reservation Shiraz $49.99
  22. Cockburn’s Quinta Dos Canais Vintage Port $59.99

The wines were all great and most were under $20!

So what is Andrew Caillard’s favourite wine out of the lot? It is Gerard Betrand Cotes Des Roses Rose sold for $19.99. La Cote des Roses is the name of the seaside between Narbonne and Gruissan village in France, and the bottle is beautiful with the bottom shaped as a rose flower.

All these wines are available for purchase at either Dan Murphy’s, BWS or both. Check online at: https://www.danmurphys.com.au or https://bws.com.au/

Wine Tasting the best of Mudgee at the Pyrmont and Mudgee Region Festival; Wine, Food and Art

There is no better way to taste the wines of Mudgee than at a wine tasting event at The Pyrmont and Mudgee Region Festival: Wine, Food and Art weekend which occurred on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 May 2017 at Pirrama Park, Pyrmont.

The Pyrmont and Mudgee Region Festival is a family-friendly event with live music, local artists, rides and children’s entertainment. It is in its seventh year and there was over 100 stalls where the public could meet the wine-makers, participate in tastings and sample a broad range of fine foods. Admission was free. Tasting tickets started at $20 with a glass and 5 tickets, and for the first time this year, there was also a beer garden.

For our wine tasting event we started with a crowns and cocktail workshop, where we made floral crowns with real flowers and cocktails using Wellstead Shrubs. A shrub is a sweetened vinegar based syrup. This drinking vinegar is infused with fruit juice, herbs and spices and used to mix drinks.

Then we met representatives from three major wineries and tasted some award-winning wines. From the Petersons Winery we sampled the chardonnay and Jamie’s Quatro (vintage 2015) wines and heard about the history of this Hunter Valley family-owned business that also has a vineyard in Mudgee. From the Burnbrae Winery we sampled the 2016 Burnbrae Cuvee and 2017 Bella’s Moscato. It is the oldest vineyard in Mudgee and still has the original winemaker’s cottage. From Botobolar Winery, we tasted the organically grown The King 2006/7 (made from cabernet sauvignon and shiraz), the Shiraz 2013, and the Shiraz 2016 (preservative free). Botobolar has been making organic wine for over 40 years and is the first fully certified organic vineyard in Australia.

Mudgee Region is the third largest grape growing region in NSW and one of the oldest too. They have been grapes grown here since 1850 and there are more than 110 growers and over 30 cellar doors to visit.

Mudgee specialises in Chardonnay. Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon also benefit from the temperate climate of vineyards high above sea level allowing the berries to slowly ripen in the rich red soil.

The Mudgee Region is also well-known for its food. The area includes Mudgee, Rylstone, Gulgong, Kandos, Hill End, Soffala, Hargraves, Glen Davis, as well as other villages and towns. Food products include honey, free range lamb, pork and beef, hazelnuts, pomegranates, olive oils and chocolate (where the beans are sourced from Vanuatu). The High Valley Cheese Company is making some award-winning cheeses and you can visit them for cheese tastings.

There is also a micro distillery. Baker Williams Distillery, that is making spirits and liqueurs focusing on regional flavours and influences. Their range includes Moonshine, wheat Vodka, Gin, Cumquat Liqueur and even Limoncello and Butterscotch Schnapps. They also make a Rouge Vert Jus-spirit.

Mudgee is only a 3.5-hour drive from Sydney. For more information about Mudgee, go to: https://www.visitmudgeeregion.com.au/

For more information about The Pyrmont and Mudgee Region Festival: Wine, Food and Art, go to: http://pyrmontfestival.com.au/

Wine Tasting the 2017 Top 100 Wines of the world

Wine enthusiasts got to taste a stellar line up of wines from the 37th Sydney international Wine Competition of the blue-gold, gold and Top 100 Wines during two tasting sessions at The Novotel Central Sydney on Saturday 11 February 2017.

The public tastings featured a record diversity of wine regions and wine varieties, with 100 different grape varieties and blends represented in this year’s Competition. The wines that enter the competition are from around the world and wine lovers tasted over 280 wines awarded TOP 1OO™, Blue Gold, and Gold medals, including trophy winners.

This is the best wine tasting event that I have ever been to with such a huge selection of great wines to free pour (but it is recommended to taste and spit but not swallow). The first session cost $44.00 and the second sessions cost $55.00, but most people preferred to buy the all day ticket for $77.00 and taste the white wines in the morning and red wines in the afternoon.

The Sydney International Wine Competition is about helping wine consumers make more pleaseing wine choices for their dinner table. There are fifteen categories and for each category a number of wines are selected to give the consumer a range of wine options. Although all the wines are winners, in most cases I found the first wine from each category to be the best (but not always).

The categories consisted of: Sparkling Wines; Aromatic Wines; Sauvignon Blanc Wines; Rose Wines; Lighter Bodies White Wines; Medium Bodied White Wines; Fuller Bodied White Wines; Pinot Noir Wines; Lighter Bodied Red Wines; Medium Bodied Red Wines; Fuller Bodied Red Wines; Sparkling Red Wines; Semi-Sweet Wines; Dessert Wines; and Fortified Wines.

A variety of judges are selected that not only choose the wines based on the technical aspects of how the grapes are grown and the winemaking process, but also on how the wine will complement appropriate food. The competition is unique because a team of chefs is hired to produce appropriate food to help judge the wines.

Amongst the wines that will be available for tasting are two surprise medal winners – the debut Shiraz and Rosé wines blended by talk-show TV celebrity Graham Norton in association with New Zealand’s Invivo Wines.

While Australian and New Zealand wines dominated the competition, European wineries from France, Italy and Spain were also amongst the medal winners.

For the sparkling wine category, the French dominated this year with six of the ten wines coming from Champagne, France. The other four came from the cool climate of Tasmania, Marlborough, Central Otago and an interesting sparkling Riesling from Waipara.

For more information about all the winning wines, go to: http://www.top100wines.com/



Sydney Cellar Door Returns to Hyde Park

Wine o’clock officially starts this Friday 26 February 2016 at 5pm at the 2016 Sydney Morning Herald Cellar Door and extends to 5pm Sunday 28 February 2016 in Hyde Park, South.

Sydney Cellar Door brings together winemakers from all over New South Wales to create a microcosm of the State’s diverse wine regions. This year, more than ever before, Cellar Door will put a spotlight on specific regions, celebrating the local wineries, producers and food from Mudgee, Orange and the Hunter.

Joining from Mudgee will be 16 wineries including Burnbrae, Huntington Estate and Robert Stein Winery.

From Orange, Cumulus, Logan, Philip Shaw and Tamburlaine will be joined by 13 of their peers to give a real taste of the region.

The Hunter will have 21 wineries both boutique and larger, including Brokenwood wines, Mount Pleasant, Tempus Two and Tyrrell’s wines alongside a TAFE NSW and Pukara Estate food offering. From outside of the Hunter, Mudgee and Orange regional offerings,

Sydney Cellar Door will also welcome a host of individual wineries including the likes of Moppity Vineyards from the Hilltops, Warburn Estate from Riverina, Warrumbungle Wines from the Northern Slopes and Vale Creek Wines of Bathurst from Bathurst’s Central Ranges.

Alongside the NSW wineries involved, Sydney Cellar Door will welcome some of Sydney and the participating region’s best restaurants, growers and artisans. The ever-popular local crew from Surry Hill’s Porteño will return to serve up barbecue pork belly sandwiches with jalapeño aioli and leeks, and their barbecue Porteño sausage served with grilled peppers with chimichurri. The trendy Newtown bloodwood are joining the food line up this year to offer up polenta chips and delicious cheese and meat boxes, and will also be joined by PaperMill with their creative new fresh rice paper rolls, ‘spurritos’ (spring roll burritos) and Portuguese chilli lamb rolls.

With the 2016 emphasis on the regions, this year’s celebration of local cuisine will see Mudgee’s Baxter & Bird appear to offer up delicious buttermilk hotcakes using local Mudgee produce to enjoy with your wine. Hailing from the Orange region, Franklin Road Kitchen will serve up tender marinated chicken skewers with rice and a rich kasundi sauce. Also from Orange will be Greentrees Gourmet Preserves with jams, jellies, marmalades and preserved fruits to take home or enjoy onsite.

Major Partner, Castello will be offering a deliciously different experience at Cellar Door, the Castello Cheese Bar where visitors can bring in their glass of wine to be paired with one of their complimentary cheeses including Castello Creamy White which goes well with a NSW sparkling or Chardonnay.

Beyond the incredible wine and food on offer, there is truly something for everyone at this year’s Sydney Cellar Door including an opportunity to get involved in some Mudgee grape-crushing. This feet tingling experience of stomping grapes in purpose-built oak barrels will offer a ‘real-deal’ experience of wine making. Head to the Mudgee region area at Cellar Door on Saturday or Sunday between 11:30am – 12:30pm or 3:30pm – 4:30pm to join in the fun.

Over 78,000 wine and food lovers attended the three-day festival in 2015 to enjoy the diverse offering and this year’s crowds are expected to love the grouped regional offerings. ‘

Stay informed by visiting the website www.sydneycellardoor.com.au/, following us on Facebook www.facebook.com/sydneycellardoor and Instagram @sydneycellardoor and joining the conversation using #SydneyCellarDoor. –

For ticket prices, go to: http://www.sydneycellardoor.com.au/tasting-glass-tokens/

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Public tasting of top 100 wines from Sydney International Wine Competition – 6 February, Menzies Hotel Sydney

 A stellar line up of wines from the 2016 Sydney International Wine Competition (SIWC) will be available for two public tastings on Saturday 6 February at the Menzies Hotel Sydney.

The public tastings from the 36th Sydney International Wine Competition feature a record diversity of wine regions and wine varieties, with 100 different grape varieties and blends represented in this year’s Competition.

Wine lovers will be able to taste over 280 wines awarded TOP 1OO™, Blue Gold, and Gold medals, including 31 trophy winners.

The Sydney International Wine Competition is unique amongst wine shows in that wines are judged alongside food, making it the most relevant wine competition for consumers.

An international panel of 13 judges, led by Chairman of Judges Kym Milne, initially blind-tasted all the entrants, and then tasted the 400 leading wines alongside appropriately matched food to decide the award winners.

Chairman of Judges, Kym Milne praised the quality of this year’s entrants, singling out the impact of cool climate wines across a wide range of wine styles, particularly Riesling, Chardonnay and Shiraz varietals.

“This wine competition is all about providing the consumer with a range of wine options for a range of different dining situations, and I believe the competition has once again achieved this,” said Mr Mylne.

“A real diversity of wine styles, produced from an ever increasing range of grape varieties, has attracted Top 100, Blue Gold, Gold or Highly Commended status. It is pleasing to see not just diversity between the classes, but also within the classes, providing the consumer with some really interesting options of wines with which to experiment.”

Public tastings of the 2016 Sydney International Wine Competition award winners will be held on Saturday, 6 February 2016 at the Menzies Hotel, Carrington Street Sydney.

Session 1: 10.00 am to 12.30 pm.  Tickets: AU$44.00.

Session 2:  2.00 pm to 4.30 pm. Tickets: AU$55.00.

Bookings and full details of the Competition and its background: www.top100wines.com


Aussie Wine Month Returns with tastings, festivals, pop-up cellars and more

Enjoy 31 days of tastings, festivals, pop-up cellars and more devoted to Australian wines

This May, the country’s biggest celebration of Australian wine returns for a fourth year running as Aussie Wine Month unfolds with a slew of cool lunches, tastings, winery walks, festivals, pop-up cellars and more.

All across the country, wine lovers are invited to discover and explore the rich, diverse quality of drops from all over Australia – which boasts 65 different wine regions and some of the tastiest vintages in the world.

Among the highlights in New South Wales are:

Taste Orange Festival All through May, Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel will have  a wine list populated solely by wines from the Orange region. Guests can also enjoy pop-up wine stalls, a food and wine festival in nearby Robertson park and masterclasses about the greatness of the grape.Around Watsons Bay. Daily. Prices vary. May 1-31.

2010 Torbreck ‘The Laird’ Exclusive LaunchSerious about wine? You’ll want to get in for the first taste of the country’s most expensive wine, an $800 single vineyard shiraz made in small quantities. Your ticket gets you a $100 wine voucher to use on the night as well as a tasting plate. Unit 2/7-9 Orion Rd, Lane Cove West 2066. 6-30-9pm. $185. Wed May 6.

Pop-Up City Cellar Door Enjoy a free pop-up tasting in the wine garden at the Australia Square forecourt courtesy of Wine Australia and Dan Murphy’s. The drops are provided by winemakers from regions around the country, and there will be local produce available too. 263 George St, Sydney 2000. 3-8pm. Free. May 6-7.

Hungerford Hill Epic Tasting Experience They’ll be matching food from award-winning eatery Muse with limited-release and museum wines throughout May at this cellar door in the Hunter Valley. 2450 Broke Rd, Pokolbin 2320. Wed-Sun 11am-3pm. From $28. May 6-10, 13-17, 20-24 & 27-31.

Lowe Wines Pop-Up Cellar Door Head to Kitchen by Mike to meet David Lowe and his team, and taste wines from their organic and biodynamic vineyards in Mudgee. 1/85 Dunning Ave, Rosebery 2018. 11am-4pm. $15. May 8-10.

Wine Food Art Winemakers from the Mudgee region will be offering 120 local wines to sample throughout the ten days of this year’s Pyrmont FestivalAround Pyrmont. Daily. Prices vary. May 15-24.

Lovedale Long Lunch Bring an appetite to this progressive-style lunch that will cover off seven Lovedale wineries. Around Hunter Valley. 10am-4pm. $65-$85. Sat May 16.

Don’t forget to tag your social media posts with #AussieWineMonth for a chance to win a dozen bottles of Australian wine valued at more than $400. Visit Aussie Wine Month for more details.