Testalonga Cortez El Bandito 2009 Swartland

testalonga cortez

I’m a big fan of Craig Hawkins’ Testalonga wines. They’re very brave and distinctive. He works pretty naturally, so the big question: how do they evolve? This one had evolved very well indeed, and was spectacular.

Testalonga Cortez El Bandito 2009 Swartland, South Africa
This Chenin Blanc was made with no added sulphites, so how does it look at age 7? Tight, reductive and pure with pristine lemony fruit and some matchtick minerality. Intense lemony fruit here belies the age of this wine, which is linear and pure. It’s picked up some complexity on the way, too. Stunning. 96/100

Kutch-Dury: the inaugural Chardonnay from Jamie Kutch is a stunner

jamie kutch chardonnay

I’m quite a fan of the wines of Jamie Kutch. This is the first release of his Chardonnay and he has completely nailed it. It will be hard to find, but it’s worth seeking out.

Kutch Chardonnay 2014 Santa Cruz Mountains, California
12.75% alcohol. This is the debut Chardonnay from Jamie Kutch and it is fabulous. Complex, rich, but still very fresh nose of hazelnut and lemons with plenty of matchstick minerality, as well as spice and fennel. Complex pear and lemon fruit on the palate with a taut, intense, spicy character. Balances some ripe fruity notes with a bright lemony core and keen acidity. So mineral. 95/100

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[Kutch-Dury? It's a reference to Coche-Dury, those highly sought-after white Burgundies - probably the most highly sought after? - where matchstick reduction is mastered beautifully.]

Fall From Grace: natural wines from McLaren Vale

Fall From Grace

Gill Gordon Smith is an ex Quantas flight attendant, who fell in love with wine. Now she has her own wine label, Fall From Grace, which she cells from a cellar door that doubles up as a wine bar/retail shop, based in Aldinga, McLaren Vale. The wine list here is quite brilliant, with a natural focus – but it’s a highly curated selection of natural wines, with a mix of top European and Australian bottles. The great thing is that everything is normal retail price, even if you drink in. Gill also does wine education here.

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I was there on Friday night. It’s pizza and wine night every Friday, with a different guest winemaker presenting their wines. On this occasion it was the turn of Wes Pearson from Dodgy Brothers. As well as trying Wes’ wines, I tried through Jill’s four current releases. She works quite naturally, and I really like the wines.

She’s been using some clay pots for the last five years for fermenting and ageing some of the wines. They are 300 litre capacity. Some grape varieties work in them, some don’t apparently. Montepulciano is good in amphora but Carignan isn’t.

Fall From Grace ‘Mazerine’ Carignan 2015 McLaren Vale, Australia
Supple, bright and elegant with sweet cherry and plum fruit. There’s a sweetness and lushness to the fruit, but it’s always kept in check. Smooth and bright, this is hugely drinkable. I like the purity of dark fruits it offers. 92/100

Fall From Grace ‘Margarita’ Montepulciano 2015 McLaren Vale, Australia
This is made in 300 litre clay pots, constructed by a local potter. This ferments, spends 80 days on its skins in the amphorae, and then goes to old oak. Juicy, spicy and detailed with lovely floral red cherry fruit notes. Bright, with just a hint of earthiness. Fine, expressive and very pretty with some spicy complexity. 93/100

Fall From Grace ‘Boudica’ Nero d’avila 2015 McLaren Vale, Australia
Vivid, juicy, bright and vibrant with nice sweet cherries, raspberries and plums. A very fresh wine with some sweetness. Lively, juicy and pretty. 93/100

Fall From Grace ‘Lolita’ Arneis 2015 McLaren Vale, Australia
This spends 6 months on its skins and then goes to barrel. There’s a hint of mint on the nose. Fresh and textural with some direct citrus notes and a distinctive stoniness. Real interest. 92/100

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Does organic wine taste better? A study whose findings have been widely misinterpreted

does ecocertified wine taste better

Are organic wines better than conventional ones? An interesting study from researchers at the University of California Los Angeles suggests that they might well be. However, the difference in point scores between eco-certified wines and conventional wines is actually much smaller than press reports on this study have stated, because they haven’t read the paper carefully.

This study examined critic ratings of almost 75 000 Californian wines, with vintages ranging from 1998 to 2009, from just over 3800 wineries. The scores were taken from The Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, and Wine Spectator. The researchers then checked to see whether any of these wines were certified as organic or biodynamic from those wineries (in those vintages), to create a subset of what they call eco-certified wines which they then compared with conventional wines.

[As an aside, the analysis of scores is really interesting. The authors published the distribution of scores from each of the wine publications, and also together, and found that they roughly followed a normal distribution with the median score in this distribution being 89. But they found a rounding up effect, in that many of the 89 point scores appeared to have been rounded up to 90. There are fewer wines scored at 89 points (5153 wines) than there are at 88 (7584 wines) and at 90 (6989 wines).]

ecocertified wines scores

Only 1.1% of the wines in the sample were eco-certified, but being eco-certified increases the score of the wine by 4.1 points. But the important detail here is that we are not talking 4.1 points on the 100 point scale, and this is something that no one who has written about this has emphasized or even picked up, as far as I know. This is 4.1 points on a standardized scale devised by the authors, which has a much broader discriminatory power, because it is more spread out than the very bunched 100 point scale. This detail really does change everything. The standard deviation of the 100 point system is around 4 for these three publications, whereas it is 28 for the scaled score, a sevenfold difference. So the advantage of being organic on the 100 point scale is much smaller than 4.1 points!

It also needs to be clarified that this result doesn’t mean that converting to organics or biodynamics is going to raise the score of your wine 4.1 points on this standardized point scale. There is no evidence for causation here.

In the first instance, there is no stratification by price in this study. It could be that the average price of the eco-certified wines could be a lot higher than that of the average of the conventional wines, and as there would likely be a strong correlation between price and wine score this would be a confounder. Also, it could be a selected subset of higher-achieving wineries that makes the switch to organics. It takes an ambitious, conscientious producer to switch from conventional farming to organics. In California, organics is a very small subset of all wines.

The other problems with this study is that quality is measured though critic ratings. If you look at the particular critics who gave those ratings, then the question is one of whether you think their palates actually differentiate quality in a meaningful way (to your own particular palate).

Despite any evidence for a causal link, there remains the possibility that farming organically could improve wine quality. Potential mechanisms exist, and I think that there is a lot of potential benefit to farming vines with healthy, living soils (although certified organic/biodynamic is not the only way to achieve this). But this study shouldn’t be taken to show that shifting to organics results in better quality wines, because it doesn’t.

Stability of olfactory ability over time

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This is a question that I think is really interesting, and it would be quite easy to answer. How stable is our olfactory ability over time?

We each differ in the set of olfactory receptors that we express in our nasal cavity. These receptors detect smell molecules. But there are far more smell molecules that we are able to detect than we have olfactory receptors. This suggests that we detect the majority of smell molecules (known as ‘odorants’), by recognizing patterns of receptor activation.

However, there are some smell molecules for which only one receptor is involved. When that receptor is missing (because we all have different sets of olfactory receptor genes), we can’t smell that molecule. This is called a specific anosmia, and it seems to be quite rare. More commonly, people differ in their sensitivity to certain smells, so that if you tested a group of people, some would be more sensitive to a particular smell than others. This could have to do with the level at which a particular receptor is expressed, or it could be through the different components of signalling in activation patterns of the olfactory receptors (for example, if you had 11 of the 12 receptors responsible for smelling one odorant, you might be more responsive than someone having 8 of the 12).

So each person has a different sort of olfactory ability, and this can be measured, to a degree, in a sensory lab.

The interesting question is does our ability change with time?

There’s one very interesting molecule called androstenone. It’s associated with pigs, and it’s known colloquially as boar taint. Some people find it very unpleasant (they tend not to like eating pork), whereas others find it OK, and some people can’t smell it at all.

But there’s an interesting twist. If you take a person who is anosmic for androstenone and you repeatedly expose them to it, they won’t smell anything. But for some of them, after a while, they will begin to smell it when before they couldn’t.

One explanation for this is that even though they can’t smell androstenone, somehow exposure to it is up-regulating the expression of the gene that encodes the receptor, to the point where there’s enough signal for it to be perceived.

If repeated exposure to androstenone changes someone’s ability to smell it, might this also be true for other odorants?

So this leads me on to an interesting experiment. Take students on an enology course and test them as they begin their studies. Then test them again after they finish the course, and then for those of them who end up as winemakers, test them again five years later. How stable is their olfactory performance over time?

What is the basis of their expertise? Is there a biological element? Has their olfactory system somehow adapted through repeated exposure to the aromas associated with wine? It would be an easy experiment to do. Perhaps sensory labs who work with panellists on a regular basis already have these data that could be mined?

Sometimes we don't taste the same wine often enough

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Sometimes we don’t taste the same wine often enough.

That seems like a strange statement, I know, but let me explain what I mean by this by using music as a comparison.

I love music. Playing it, listening to it. But I wouldn’t enjoy it so much if I only got to hear each album, or song, just once. It’s the ongoing relationship with music that makes it so rich. Some music you love first time you hear it; other music grows on you slowly. Some music you can kill: you’ve heard it so many times, it becomes really annoying.

That we should derive pleasure from music is fascinating to me. Why are some combinations of notes harmonious, while others jar? Musical taste is also intensely personal. I remember as a teenager making mix tapes for girls and hoping that they would love the music I love. Music also has the power to move emotions. Why? And then there’s the element of context. A great song is only a great song in the right context. A joyful song of happy celebration is perfect in some contexts, disastrous in others. My current favourite album is Damien Rice’s My Favourite Faded Fantasy, but put that on in a club and you’d clear the floor.

There are so many parallels with wine here. As a wine journalist I’m continually trying new wines, which is cool, and I think that I’m quite good at getting a wine, even in a tasting with lots of other wines. But there’s something to be said for repeated experiences with the same wine. In the first instance, this requires spending an evening with a bottle (or a lunchtime, or breakfast, I’m open minded).

In the second instance, and perhaps more interestingly, it requires working your way through a six pack or case of the same wine over a prolonged period. This is the richness of left-bank classed-growth Bordeaux. You buy a case, then after a while pull it out of storage, and you begin to get to know it. It’s old school, I know. But there’s part of me that thinks that I’m missing out by not having a proper cellar with a smaller quantity of different wines, but several bottles of each.

While this would be true for any wine, the strength of Bordeaux is that the leading châteaux produce their wines in decent quantities, so there’s plenty to go round, and you’ll often see the same wine on a number of occasions if you drink around widely enough. Then we can all chat about our impressions of the, say, 1996 Leoville Barton, on the basis of repeated experiences of the wine.

There’s a richness to this. As we encounter the same wine on subsequent occasions we develop a relationship with it. That’s quite cool. [Of course, though, with cork we aren’t always experiencing the same wine because of its variability, which is amplified with bottle age.]

It’s for this reason that even though I have lots of samples to work through, I still buy wines I love in six pack quantities (or 12 in the case of Champagne; you can never have too much Champagne). I want to get to know them better.

Dodgy Brothers wines, McLaren Vale, Australia

Wes Pearson at work in the sensory lab

Wes Pearson at work in the sensory lab

Wes Pearson, an ex-pat Canadian is by day a sensory scientist working at the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI). He’s also the winemaker behind wine label Dodgy Brothers. He has two partners in the business: Peter Bolte, who’s a consultant viticulturist and who initiated the project, and Peter Sommerville. Production is currently at 2000 cases annually, and they have their own winery.

Wes was a serious snowboarder, and he got into wine through working in kitchens in winter sports resorts. He then studied winemaking at the University of BC in the Okanagan, and had assistant winemaker jobs there, most notably at Tantalus. With his wife Brenda he moved to France and got a job at Leoville Las Cases, before moving to Australia where he worked as a winemaker before taking his job at the AWRI.

All the wines are sourced from the McLaren Vale. Wes doesn’t like to add acid, so he picks by acid, taking the grapes off before the acid has fallen too much. The results are very good. He’s also a big fan of Grenache, describing it as the hero grape of the region. ‘It’s the grape we all get excited about,’ he says, noting that the region has high quality old vines on their own roots.

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Dodgy Bros Pinot Gris 2015 McLaren Vale, Australia
Four barrels of this made, with 4 h skin contact and then pressed off with 30% solids to ferment in barrel. Taut and quite textural with lovely lemon and pear fruit, and some white peach. Nice focus with directness, and some pithy notes. 90/100

Dodgy Bros Archetype Grenache 2014 McLaren Vale, Australia
This is from two vineyards across the street from each other. It’s crushed and destemmed and goes to old French oak after fermentation. Supple, sweet and berryish with nice spiciness. Rich but fresh with nice sweet cherry fruit and some damsons. Has lovely fresh acidity. Juicy and direct. 92/100

Dodgy Bros Shiraz 2014 McLaren Vale, Australia
There’s a little bit of new oak here. Sweetly aromatic with a bit of vanilla spice. Sweet cherries, plums and spice. Sweetly fruited but still has freshness, and admirable purity. 89/100

Dodgy Bros Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2014 McLaren Vale, Australia
55% Cabernet Franc with 38% Cabernet Sauvignon (in new oak) and 7% Merlot. Lovely freshness here. Juicy and spicy with nice green notes alongside the blackcurrant fruit. Has an appealing sweetness to the fruit, with nice freshness. A bit of grip, too: notes of chalk and spice. Really impressive. 92/100

Dodgy Bros Archetype Shiraz 2014 McLaren Vale, Australia
Sweet, ripe and pure with attractive blackberry and black cherry fruit. Nice precision here: sweet and pure with lovely concentration and richness. Really well made in a richer style. 92/100

Dodgy Bros Grenache/Shiraz/Mataro 2011 McLaren Vale, Australia
This was the first vintage, and it was a tricky one, with cold conditions. Eventually, though, this wine weighed in at a hefty 15.5% alcohol. Sweetly fruited yet still fresh with nice spiciness under the sweet black cherry and raspberry fruit. 89/100

Dodgy Bros Grenache/Shiraz/Mataro 2012 McLaren Vale, Australia
15% alcohol. Ripe and sweet with nice spicy definition to the fruit. Slight brininess with nice raspberry and blackberry characters. Some notes of Ribena. 90/100

Dodgy Bros Grenache/Shiraz/Mataro 2013 McLaren Vale, Australia
70% Grenache this year. Sleek and fresh with sweet red cherries and plums. Sleek, attractive and ripe with lovely freshness and a hint of pepper. 91/100

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New Releases from BK Wines in the Adelaide Hills

BK WINES CHARDONNAY

It was nice to be able to drink these new releases from Brendon and Kirstyn Keys of BK Wines. I’m really impressed by them, and they’re gaining quite a reputation in Australia, and lately abroad. Working quite naturally, but with very refined, clean wines.

BK Wines Petillant Naturel Chardonnay 2016 Adelaide Hills, Australia
This Pet Nat is undisgorged, so it’s quite cloudy when you open it. It’s sweet, textural and shows lovely pear and peach fruit with a hint of spiciness. It has quite a smooth texture and is broad, off-dry and delicious. So easy to drink, this is a very successful expression of this style that’s often tricky to do well. 89/100

BK Wines Pinot Grigio 2016 Adelaide Hills, Australia
Fresh with lovely tangerine and grape fruit characters, as well as some subtle herby detail. There’s some substance to this wine. It’s dry, but it has a bit of texture and some complexity, too. 90/100

BK Wines Archer Beau Chardonnay 2015 Adelaide Hills, Australia
Super-complex, linear and taut with lovely mineral notes and well integrated, high-quality oak. Fine matchstick notes add interest with hints of pepper alongside the linear citrus fruit. Bright, precise, lemony and pure, this is superb and should develop very well. 94/100

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BK Wines Rosé 2016 Lenswood, Adelaide Hills, Australia
Fresh, lively and bright with nice sweet cherry, plum and rhubarb notes. Supple and delicious with nice strawberry and cherry fruit, and good texture. 90/100

BK Wines Mazi Whole Bunch Syrah 2014 Adelaide Hills, Australia
Hints of mint here, with nice fresh black fruits and some subtle hints of tar. Very detailed with a savoury edge. There’s such good structure here: a really interesting Syrah with massive potential. 93/100

BK Wines Remy Pinot Noir 2015 Lenswood, Adelaide Hills
Sweetly aromatic cherry fruit nose leads to a beautifully supple palate. It’s juicy and fresh with fine herbiness and some citrus fruit. Elegant and textural with hints of pepper and a fine green note adding definition. 94/100

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The social licence of wine

I’ve been at the excellent Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference this week, where I presented on two topics. The first was on whether or not we make too much of terroir, and the second was on the social licence of wine. Here’s a written version of some of the ideas that I discussed in the second of these talks, which covered some tricky territory.

Wine’s privileged place
In the wine trade we are guilty of taking wine’s place in society for granted. For thousands of years wine has played an important part in many cultures. This has largely been in countries of wine production, but other nations have also had a thirst for wine: for example, the UK has been important in the development of the wine industries of Bordeaux, Jerez and Porto. Emigrants from wine cultures have taken their wine culture with them: for example, the Dalmatians at the heart of the NZ wine industry and the Silesians of the Barossa Valley.

In western societies, wine currently enjoys a privileged place compared with other alcoholic beverages. This seems entirely normal to us, now, but if we take a step outside the wine trade bubble and look inwards, then it is an unusual situation. It is in some ways a historical artefact, but it is one that we should work hard to preserve.

Wine has a privileged place on the table. In restaurants worldwide, wine and food have been linked to the point that when diners are seated they are offered a wine list. This will include other drinks, but it is wine that enjoys primacy. Food and wine matching is seen as an intrinsic part of fine dining. This is something the wine trade should celebrate, but something we shouldn’t assume will continue for ever.

At a more basic level, in most western countries people are free to buy and consume booze, with little regulation other than licensing of shops and venues, and some extra taxation. We’re able to operate.

In this article, I will be looking at some of the broader ideas surrounding the social licence of wine. This is an important discussion for the wine industry, but it’s also a complex one.

Alcohol and health
As I write I’m on a plane on the way to Australia. I remember the first time I flew to Australia, back in March 1996. Trying to find the cheapest flight, I opted for Olympic Airlines, Greece’s National carrier. It seems strange to think about it, but back in those days (20 years ago, now, but it seems quite recent) people used to smoke on planes. As we checked in, with our paper tickets, we were assigned seats in the smoking section. Our protests fell on deaf ears, and we had to fly at the back of the plane, where the 80% of the flight (mostly Greeks, practically all of whom smoke) congregated to puff away. It was pretty grim. Now of course, no one smokes on planes. It just seems a stupid idea. No one smokes in bars. No one smokes in the office. Advertising of smoking is severely restricted in many countries, and the display of cigarettes at point-of-sale is also commonly banned. This is a massive societal change, and from the perspective of me, as a non-smoker, it’s brilliant. Society has quite rightly become very anti-smoking.

Worryingly, though, society has also become somewhat anti-drinking, too. This change is not as dramatic, but for those of us in the wine trade, it’s certainly something we should be concerned about. The argument in favour of drinking is that there is a safe level of consumption, whereas any level of smoking is hazardous. This distinction is one that is now being disregarded in the UK by public health authorities, with the message being one that any level of drinking carries with it risk. Many in the public health sector would like to do to alcohol what they have done to tobacco.

The evidence against alcohol is mounting. The abuse of alcohol is widespread, and attempts have been made to quantify it. These reports make for sobering reading (apologies…). Of course, there’s no way of knowing how real the figures quoted are (and, just as with many grant proposals which begin with an assessment of the cost of the problem that the research is intended to solve, the numbers seem awfully big), these sorts of figures are likely to influence policy decisions.

The Institute of Alcohol Studies published a report in 2015 titled Alcohol’s Harm to Others. This is a quote from it:

In the UK, the cost of alcohol’s harm to others was estimated in 2004 at up to £15.4 billion including £1.4-1.7 billion to the health service, up to £7.3 billion in crime and public disorder costs and up to £6.4 billion in workplace related costs. Further, there are costs to family and social networks that cannot be quantified using available data, for example the cost to children affected by parental alcohol problems. More recent figures calculated for the European Union place the societal costs of alcohol consumption in 2010 at € 155.8 billion (£115.4 billion). In Australia, the tangible costs per year resulting from other’s alcohol consumption are estimated at AUS $14.2 billion (£7.2 billion) and the intangible costs at AUS $6.4 billion (£3.3 billion). Given limited government resources, this alcohol-related spending reflects a large opportunity cost in terms of other areas of healthcare or government spending sacrificed.

To governments in western nations, figures like this mean that the appeal of restricting alcohol availability through higher taxation, or limiting retailing or advertising, is irresistible.

Binge drinking among teenagers and younger adults is a huge problem in the UK. Chaotic drinking patterns are resulting serious liver damage – a hepatic surgeon I spoke to said that he’s regularly seeing patients with end-stage liver failure in their late 20s. And city centres on Friday and Saturday nights are turning into dangerous places. There is a strong motivation for public health bodies to do something.

Against this backdrop, the UK Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, has recently initiated a consultation looking to revise safe drinking guidelines. A consultation began in January 2016 on recommended safe drinking levels, and the new recommendations were proposed as 14 units per man/woman per week, and along with this came the announcement that there is no safe drinking level. The 14 units level was derived from setting a relative risk of death as 1%. This means that if you drink 14 units a week you increase your risk of dying by 1%, which is apparently the same level of increased risk as watching on hour of TV a week or eating two bacon sandwiches per week.

Davies did a series of media interviews, including one on Radio 4’s Today programme in which she said this: ‘There’s an old wives’ tale that we were all brought up on – that a glass of red wine protected the heart.’ This is quite an extreme statement, because it flies in the face of the consistent, reliable finding of the J-shaped mortality curve. If you plot risk of death against alcohol consumption, the curve goes down so that for a certain level of drinking you are less likely to die. This is because of the cardioprotective effects of drinking alcohol. But alcohol also increases the risk of cancers and accidents, and at higher levels of stroke and cardiomyopathy, among other conditions. But there remains this sweetspot where moderate drinkers benefit more than they lose in terms of risk of death. This is an important message: there is a safe level of drinking, if you define safety as living longer, on average, than non-drinkers. Anti-alcohol public health people want to remove this message: they want people to think of alcohol as they do with tobacco.

So we have a problem. At the moment we in the wine trade have been granted licence to operate by society, but there are moves to impose further limits on us, and even to revoke this licence. Acceptance by drinks industry of these sorts of extremely conservative recommendations cements them into societal narrative on alcohol: if drinks companies print them on back labels, as they do with current recommendations, it validates them and turns them into a ‘truth’. This could severely affect the way normal people view alcohol, and wine, and in time reduce consumption. People currently drinking a healthy level of wine, for example a couple sharing a bottle over dinner, will be scared off this pleasure. It will be spoiled for them

While the motivation behind recommendations is a good one (there is no disputing that excessive alcohol consumption is a social ill that must be addressed), they are not a fair reflection of the research. The wine industry must be seen to self-regulate and behave responsibly, but must contest misleading presentation of science. This is a difficult balance to get right.

In discussions on taxation, the wine trade needs to act not only in its own interest. In Australia there is a discussion about moving towards a volumetric rather than value-based tax. This would seem to make sense: it’s a tax on alcohol, and it would make cheap products more expensive but would make more premium wines more affordable. The UK has a volumetric system and it works well. There was a recent proposal to move to minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol, and this would have had a very beneficial public health effect. Basically, as you increase the price of booze, you reduce societal harm. The drinks industry opposed this, which I think is short sighted. It would have got rid of a lot of very cynical products that have high alcoholic strength and yet are cheap.

There is also the issue of viticulture and food security. By 2050 the global population is projected to be 9.1 billion (a rise of 34%), and 70% of people will be urban (now 49%). According to a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization, food production will have to increase by 70% to keep everyone fed. There will be a lot of pressure on land and water resources, and viticulture in good farming areas will be under threat as wine is regarded as a luxury not a staple.

If we are to maintain wine’s place in society, then we need to act now and seize the narrative agenda. People don’t listen to facts. Facts don’t change minds – stories and emotions do.

We should tell the story of wine. We should tell people about what we are doing, and explain why we think wine is different. This involves emphasizing its cultural richness, and creating positive associations with wine: gastronomy and beautiful places, for example. We also need to make the link between wine and place explicit, and this is why terroir is so important. We need to show people that wine is a heritage product. It is not just another alcoholic drink.

At the moment the wine trade isn’t having these discussions, and we are leaving the issue of the social licence of wine in the hands of public health officials, many of whom have an anti-alcohol agenda. We can’t sit back and allow alcohol to be turned into the next tobacco, because this would take down wine with it. It’s time for us to initiate these conversations, difficult though they may be.

An evening in Adelaide: Mothervine, Osteria Oggi and The Exeter

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Had a lovely evening in Adelaide on Wednesday. We began at Mothervine, which is a really good wine bar. There’s just such a good list here, which spans Australian and European, with a nice mix of conventional and more natural. First up, a lovely 2014 Kabinett from Prum, which was so taut and fine, and beautifully balanced. Then it was time for some Gamay: the Farr 2015 was lovely, with a really distinctive personality. There was some green stemminess, but it fitted nicely into the context of sweet pure fruit. Then a real surprise: a gorgeous blend of Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional from SC Pannell in the McLaren Vale.

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By this stage we were getting hungry, so we headed over to Osteria Oggi. This is a brilliant restaurant. Really brilliant.  We ate so well and drank Chianti and Barbera. The food here is perfectly executed and utterly delicious: the mushroom risotto with its generous truffling was quite beautiful. Crab tagliatelle was also fab.

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Finally, time for a good old Aussie pub. The Exeter. We met up with others and got involved in a game of darts. And drank beer. But I clearly hadn’t drunk enough – just a few more beers and my aim would have been truer and my release smoother. It was a lovely evening.