Britain is for Beer!

Royal OakI’m not even going to try to find local British wine when they have such great beer! The local ales here in Dorset are incredibly enjoyable. Went to the Royal Oak Hotel in Weymouth. A friendly local pub on the waterfront with a nice selection of locally brewed ales on tap and free pub wifi.

Beers on Tap

All the local ales have minimal carbonation and are smooth and very drinkable.

Smoking Block

The Smoking Block 6% was my clear favorite

“Smokin Bock” (bold). 6% Dark amber colour. Lovely malty and treacle nose. Lovely rich mouthfeel, slight sweetness and strong malt and molasses flavours. Great mouthfeel and nice bitters on the finish…..had to have a second.

“Midnight Blinder”. 5.1%. Black! Great richness with malt, anise, molasses, and smoked meat. Nice refreshing bitterness on the finish that suited such a rich ale.



“Chesil” 4.1%. Light amber. Honey, hops and a little sweaty socks on the nose. Lighter and softer than the previous ales and lacked their warmth. Good mouthfeel with light malt and nougat. Nive long slightly bitter finish.

“Flanker”. 3.8%. Light amber colour. Nice hoppy, floral nose. Soft and pleasant ale.


Istanbul… searching for wine… but finding great sights

Sultanahmet – Blue Mosque, for its extensive blue tiles inside

After 3 days of searching for a good wine in Istanbul, I’ve failed! Been to several restaurants and asked for a good Turkish red or white wines and tried at least 6 syrahs and cabernets and unfortunately most were very average. I know Turkey can make some good wines but have failed in my quest to find any.

Spice Market - dozens of stalls full of exotic spices

Spice Market – dozens of stalls full of exotic spices


However, the food and antiquities in Istanbul are amazing. It really is a place where East has met the West. The people are quite friendly, although very little English is spoken. And if you like lamb, you are in luck! My favourite places have been the Spice Bazaar, Hagia Sophia Museum, the Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque), Topkapi Palace, Kariya Mosque (or Chora, an ancient Byzantine Church), and the Military Museum and Culture Centre. 

Getting around is surprisingly easy on the tramway system, or you can use a cab if you don’t mind the frenetic driving and gridlocked traffic much of the day.

Turkish Delight – No wine to be found, but great sweets!!

Mosaic in Chora, Byzantine era church

Mosaic in Chora, Byzantine era church


After the madness of a late night check-in and security its nice to escape to the airline lounge. The QANTAS LAX Lounge is one of their busiest and sometimes seems busier than the outside terminal. However….they do usually have some reasonable wines to taste, so while waiting for the QF94 back home to Melbourne, I had time to try 3:

2007 Campo Viejo, Rioja Reserva Tempranillo, Spain. An easy to drink wine although a little dull. Nice dark brambly fruit and mocha on the nose with a savory fruit driven palate. Nice savoriness and mouthfeel, but abrupt finish. 86/100

2011 Hess Select, Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, California. Nice bright fruit on the nose with cassis, perfume and violet notes. Good red fruits on the palate with mocha and cedar notes. Clean and well put together. Needs some time in the cellar. 89/100

2010 Jacobs Creek Reserve Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia. Dark purple colour with beautiful aromatic nose of dark fruits, mocha, vanilla, pepper and spice. Lovely creamy mouthfeel with dark berries, coffee and spice. A big wine with a long finish that would complement a hearty steak……not something I was contemplating close to midnight! Good drinking and will cellar well for 5-8 years. 92/100

There was an interesting looking central coast pinot, but its time to board…..

Food and Wine in Canada’s Capital

Beckta menu2008 Riesling

I was in Ottawa last week and got together with 2 sommelier buddies, Astrid and Perry to try some local wine and food. Naturally I had to bring some Aussie reds to compete. We selected the Beckta dining and wine restaurant on 226 Nepean Street, Ottawa. A great restaurant with great food and friendly service. We enjoyed sharing our wines with the Beckta’s sommelier.

We started the evening with a Riesling from Ontario – a 2008 Henry of Pelham, Speck Family Reserve. The wine opened with a soft nose with some secondary kerosene characters and soft apple and citrus on the nose. The palate was broad and flavoursome without that steely backbone evident in many top Aussie Rieslings. A very enjoyable wine that complemented my Root vegetable soup. A good pairing!

Aussie CabernetsNext we tried 2 aged Aussie cabernets from my cellar: a 2004 Balnaves from the Coonawarra district in South Australia that is famous for its cabernets and a 2005 Chapel Hill from McLaren Vale in South Australia that’s probably better known for its big shiraz reds. Both wines were stunning and were tasted after one hours decanting.

Quebec Duck Magret
The Balnaves colour was a dark plum with a purple hue and the nose was redolent with blackberry and blueberry fruit, earth, and cedar. The palate was soft and mouthfilling with spicy berry fruit, cedar and tobacco leaf. The tannins were nicely integrated and the wine would easily cellar for another 5+ years. I enjoyed the wine with the Quebec Magret Duck that was cooked medium rare to perfection and the flavours worked well with the wine.
The Chapel Hill was a monster wine with bid fruit, and big tannins. Even though only a year separated the two wines the difference was palpable. My view is that the stelvin enclosure on the Chapel made the difference. The wine was young and fresh and still quite primary, with rich spicy black fruits, anise, pepper and cedar. The palate had not integrated fully and the wine definitely needs more time in the cellar! However, Perry said it worked well with his Wellington county beef striploin that was most enjoyable.

My scores: Riesling 91/100, Balnaves cabernet 95/100, Chapel Hill 93/100.
The reds cost approx $35 each when purchased.

Clonakilla….always a delight

ClonakillaSingapore, 3 October 2013. Farewelling a special friend in Singapore, we gave him a gift of a magnum of 2008 Clonakilla Shiraz Viogner To all our surprise he insisted we open it immediately so we could share the wine. What a great gesture and what a delight! The wine opened with wonderful dark berry fruits on  the nose, a hint of perfume and dusty oak. The palate displayed lovely cherry/red fruits and great texture. It was plush on the palate, balanced and a little musky. Soft chalky tannins evident and a long lifted finish. Very young, but what a great future ahead of it! Sadly the magnum disappeared all too quickly…. Highly recommended.


Japanese Sake

Today I am in Japan, the home of cherry blossoms, Kobe beef and sake.
For a wine drinker, once you try a high quality sake you’ll be amazed at the flavours, balance and complexity of this ancient Japanese drink. I sampled two Niigata sakes last night, both delightful and excellent drinking. The Niigata Omashi was slightly sweet with great balance and flavours of juniper berries. A soft and lingering finish made for great enjoyment with prawn and vegetable tempura. The Niigata Matsunoi was a little drier with plush mouthfeel and long finish. Both highly recommended.