Dan's Blog


Friday, September 29, 2017

As always, there is plenty going on in the Australian wine industry, here is just a small snippet for you.

ROYAL ADELAIDE WINE SHOW:  Today is the presentation day for the 2017 Royal Adelaide Wine Show.

This show is a massive undertaking with 3,000 to 4,000 entries received, catalogued, poured, tasted, judged and then the results tabulated and pronounced. With this many wines it is challenging to work out what to try when you attend one of the two hour tasting sessions, where all the wines are available for tasting - unless you arrive late, in which case all the bottles of the trophy winners are already empty!

Most people taste the trophy winners first and then cruise around checking out gold medal winners. My “battle-plan” is different in that I go and check out all the wines in the small “Alternative (Emerging) Varieties” classes, to see who is doing what with these new and exciting varieties. Unfortunately, they are classes which are not very well supported at this show. Nevertheless, it’s well worth checking out.

Then there is the magnificent lunch and trophy presentation, which I first attended back in 1992 while working for Orlando Wines, which scooped-up a swag of gold medals and trophies that year.  This year I am attending thanks to the generosity of the winemaking team at Pernod Ricard.

All in all, a “tough day at the office” for attendees.

RIVERLAND WINE and FOOD FESTIVAL:  When I was living in the Riverland (2001-2004) the big exciting news was the creation of the “Riverland Wine and Food Festival”. A big step forward for a region which usually “hid its light under a bushel”. It was exciting, well run and well received. In those days there were three to four large wine producers in the area (Angoves, Kingston, BRL Hardys) and a handful of very small winemakers, many of whom were just starting out.

Today, the region has moved from being a bulk wine producing region to an exciting, innovative region that is bustling with progressive small producers, some of which are leading the charge with Emerging Varieties such as: Durif, Montepulciano, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot and Petit Manseng, just to name just a few.  This charge is being led by the likes of WHISTLING KITE (its biodynamic Montepulciano is a multi-award winner and one of the best made in Australia), 919 WINES (most of its wines are multiple medal winners, and the extensive portfolio only includes one or two mainstream wines), SPOOK HILL WINES (its Petit Verdot is outstanding), SALENA ESTATE (with its wide range of quality wines including a stand-out Touriga under the Ink Series). As they say in the classics – “There are plenty more where these came from!!”

The 15th running of the festival will be held on Saturday, October 21 and it should be a cracker! Showcasing not only the region’s exciting wines from adventuresome producers, but also the regions outstanding and delectable gourmet products, down on the banks of the mighty Murray River at Berri.

The Riverland Wine & Food Festival is worth taking the trip up to Berri to check out great food and wines along with some of the most innovative wineries around. For more information and to book tickets to this event visit the website:


Recently, I conducted a tasting of Aussie Zinfandel (Zin) for an article, on this variety that I was writing for WBM magazine. It is part of the series I am doing for them on emerging grape varieties. The samples that turned up, (unfortunately, you’d be surprised at how many wineries say they will send a sample and then don’t) were all excellent wines varying from lighter-style (for Zin) to muscly-monsters – almost like unfortified ports.

This got me thinking about how I first ‘discovered’ Zin and how my love of the variety came to be. I first tasted Zin in Los Angeles in the early 1980s at a work dinner – at a time when I didn’t even drink wine! “Not bad”, I thought.

The next time I tasted it was in 1992 when I was in New York on my way home from Pernod Ricard’s offices in Paris. My host ordered Zinfandel both for our lunch and dinner - and I was hooked on the stuff! It turned out to be two different Zin from RIDGE VINEYARDS. Wow! Were they great wines! When I got home I started searching for Aussie Zin – there were less than a handful available at the time.

Ever since then I have been a huge Ridge Zin fan, and although I have only tasted five out of the 13 different ones they make, they are to me the American benchmark for Zin.  Sort of California’s Grange, if you know what I mean.

This week’s wine revew is on the RIDGE VINEYARDS 1998 GEYSERVILLE – a blend of Zinfandel/Petit Sirah/Carignan/Mataro, and sadly, the very last bottle of American Zin in my cellar.


Oh, Wow! At 19-years-old, it is just starting to really hit its straps. The colour is great for a wine of its age. The bouquet is so intriguing and alluring with plenty of bottle maturation complexity, hints of leather-strap smells, and a smidge of earthiness all woven together. Then it explodes in your mouth! A melange of divine flavours, complexity, smoothness and just sheer delight.  I wish that I had more patience and waited for its 21st or 25th birthday.

What a mind blowing wine, from the “Zin Master” – Paul Draper, who made Ridge what it is today. Paul retired not that long ago, but his legacy continues. So IF you ever get a chance to try a Ridge wine, take my advice and grab it with both hands. Hang the cost! It is a truly wonderful wine experience.

By the way, like I said at the start, all the Aussie Zin that I have tried are excellent wines and I personally believe that we have our own Aussie “Zin Master” in Jo Irvine – who makes blissful Zin’s! 

If you're interested the Zinfandel article titled, "Ama-Zin", will be published in WBM magazine, in two edition's time. Cheers!