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Riesling Tasting with Somms Australia

Last Monday (10 Feb 2020) Sommeliers Australia hosted a Riesling tasting at Mother Vine in Adelaide’s East End. There was a group of about 15 of us, including John Hughes (Mr Rieslingfreak himself) and Phil Lehmann – who were on-hand to offer some of the more technical insights into the wines.

We started off on some very familiar territory, with John’s 2018 No 2 Clare Valley Riesling and the Pewsey Vale 1961 Block 2017 from the Eden Valley. This pairing prompted the obvious question from the somms in the group about how to pick the difference in a blind tasting. The thoughts on the day were that Eden Valley is often more delicate, showing jasmine, green lime and even Bickford’s lime cordial, often a little more saline and showing more talc, while Watervale wines (in particular) are more powerful and edge towards the lemon end of the citrus spectrum. That’s not noticeably reflected in my tasting notes from the day but if you are training yourself up for blind tastings, those little differences (eg lemon vs lime) are good ones to remember and look out for. And it’s definitely going to be an excuse for me to open a Watervale and an Eden Valley Riesling side by side some time in the near future!

The next (bonus) bracket was another couple of SA Rieslings – Petaluma’s Hanlin Hill (Clare) and Phil’s Max & Me (Eden Valley) – both 2019s . In this bracket, I felt the Max&Me did show more of the chalky/talc character.

We then moved on to ‘Other Australian Riesling’ – the 2018 Pooley Margaret Pooley Tribute from Tasmania (my pick in this bracket, and possibly in the whole tasting, possibly as I’m not familiar with Tasmanian Riesling and this was great!), the 2017 Frankland Estate Poison Hill from Great Southern in Western Australia (also delicious – and my notes suggest it may look even better with oysters) and the 2018 Seppelt Drumborg from Henty in Victoria.

Next up, on to NZ and Austria. This was an interesting line up – the 2017 Framingham Classic from NZ was noticeably different from the two Austrian wines. There was definite sugar weight on the palate (I haven’t been able to find exactly what the RS is on this) and the fruit was almost swerving into stone and tropical fruit. The sugar was (as you’d expect) perfectly balanced by the acidity – and this was another great discovery for me.

The two (dry) Austrian wines, 2016 Nikolaihof Vom Stein Federspiel from the Wachau (say that three times fast!) and the 2015 Weingut Bründlmayer Heiligenstein 1er Alte Reben from the Kamptal were much more challenging wines. Both took a little while to open up and while I felt the Nikolaihof was a really interesting wine, it wasn’t really my cup of tea – although it did have some big, big fans at this tasting. The Bründlmayer was quite a bit more savoury and probably another good food wine.

Now, talking of wines taking a while to open up … we moved on to the German bracket and there ensued a really fascinating discussion about the use of sulphur. That probably warrants a whole other blog post but our first two wines were LADEN with it AND THIS IS NOT A BAD THING. Sulphur is in everything (and generally in far higher concentrations than in wine) – if you have a sulphur allergy, you will know about it. If you get a headache from wine … it’s not sulphur. Both the 2016 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Kabinett and the JJ Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett needed a good lot of glass swirling and time in order for the sulphur to blow off. But blow off it does and you are then well-rewarded. I’m not sure I can write in an unbiased way about either of these wines as I have plenty of very positive memories associated with both producers – but I’ll give it a go. The Müller was all green apple, apple skin, a touch of saltiness (maybe think preserved lemon) and amazing length with a touch of smokiness on the finish. I’ve tried a few vintages of this now and it always seems to be such a beautiful, ethereal wine.

The Prüm was more sherbet, lemon curd and floral (honeysuckle) but again with great length.

The final wine in this bracket was a bone dry 2017 Keller Dalsheim Hubacker Trocken GG from the Rheinhessen, Germany’s warmest Riesling producing area. Much, much less sulphur and a bone dry wine with searing acidity and a spicy, green apple skin, pithy palate. Given that the tasting was geographically grouped, I understand why it sat next to the Müller and Prüm but I think a really interesting comparison would have been to have it alongside the first two South Australian Rieslings, with whom it probably had more in common style-wise than the other two German Rieslings.

The last bracket was a look at aged Rieslings from a few places – Germany, the Alsace (France) and Oregon (US). The pick of this bracket was the 2013 Georg Breuer Berg Schlossberg from the Rheingau in Germany. Apparently this winery uses a lot of old oak and a very traditional approach to winemaking – amazing length, with lots of Granny Smith apple, without the super aggressive acidity of the Keller in the previous bracket. The last two wines (2010 Trimbach Cuvée Frédéric Emile from the Alsace and the 2009 Tunkalilla Vineyard from Oregon) were both a little underwhelming. I wondered if the Trimbach had hit something of a flat spot although someone commented that they thought there was some premature oxidation (prem-ox for the cool kids) as it had a definite touch of the bruised apple character about it. The Tunkalilla felt a little simple – pleasant enough but not wowing anyone in the way some of the other wines had. Someone mentioned ‘spiced pear’ which I felt was close – think apple crumble or frangipane (the pastry, not the flower!). However, this assessment is pretty brutal because this wine actually sits at around $40 retail … considerably cheaper than some of the other wines!

In the space of 2 hours we tasted through 16 wines and had interesting discussions about sulphur, cork, Riesling grapes themselves, wine making … I’ve really only covered off my tasting notes in this post!

SommsAust events (and others like these) are always worth going to – it’s a very different kind of discussion than you have in consumer-focussed events and while you might find that some of the winemaking detail (and acronyms!) goes over your head you get to taste a really broad range of wines and the selection has always been thoughtfully put together.

We’re very lucky to have plenty of Rieslings in stock – including limited quantities of FOUR vintages of the Egon Müller. If you’ve got any questions about Riesling, or a particular wine you’d like to track down – then definitely let us know – either in the comments below or by contacting us.

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Cellar Door Fest 2020

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been to the Cellar Door Fest. I’m not the biggest fan of elbowing my way through crowds to have a taste of a wine (and, thankfully, most trade tastings don’t work like that!) and in general, February is a crazy wrangling of Fringe, Festival, return to school and the start of our WSET courses, so there’s not a lot of time or mental capacity to indulge in a day out.

But this year, I was very lucky and I won a couple of tickets for the Sunday from Artis Wines. With plenty of large event attending experience behind both me and my +1 we opted for an early start. If you want to avoid the bulk of the crowds, I absolutely recommend heading to the Cellar Door Fest on Sunday at 11. There was one year when Friday evening was very quiet – the year it opened on 14 February (scheduling mistakes – we all make them!) – but in general Friday evening is the crowd who are enjoying knock-off drinks. Saturday is CRAZY and Sunday – I guess people are still in bed and don’t want to be feeling under the weather for work on Monday.

I had a bit of a hit list of small wineries I wanted to check out and so the Emerging Producers was a great place to hang out. However, even the regionally themed areas had plenty of small producers. We actually headed to the Adelaide Hills to start because I wanted to say ‘thank you’ to Andrew at Artis.

We spent a couple of hours tasting, with a detour via Barossa Cheese – which was doing halloumi on a stick for $3 (surely the bargain of the day!) and finally wrapped up in The Distillery tasting through a few gins. By then it was time for food (from Flammekueche) and to call it a day, as it was starting to get pretty busy.

The spacing and layout is pretty good (after 10 years you’d hope they’d be on top of this) but sometimes the location of wineries felt a bit wonky – like they’d had one or two more wineries for a region/theme than they really had space for. And I felt that putting Flammekueche in the Adelaide section rather than the Food was a bit odd(we actually had to go out to the glass collection area and ask someone where to find it).

One thing the organisers are still not on top off are the spittoons and water stations. As far as I could tell there was just the one water station (near the food) and each aisle had a spittoon roughly at either end. This made it a challenge if you were tasting from a winery in the middle – especially as it got busier and you had to dodge people. My friend and I solved this problem by sharing our tastings. We reserved one glass for reds and one for whites, so we weren’t needing to rinse before tasting and we had a plastic cup which we used as a makeshift spittoon while talking to a winery. Setting up spittoons between the winery stands would be a great improvement, because even when the spittoon was relatively close you still had to move away and interrupt the conversation.

Some wine highlights to wrap up:

Cobbs Hill Estate Shooting Star Sparkling Pinot Noir – dry pink fizz – what’s not to like?
Salena Estate Vermentino – a BARGAIN at $20 a bottle
Artis 2016 Clare Valley Riesling – just starting to show some oiliness from bottle age – delicious!
Sussex Squire Samuel’s Block Cabernet Sauvignon – super minty and moreish

And a shout out to Red Hen Gin, for what stood out as the smoothest neat gin I tasted!

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How to Help Bushfire Affected Wine Regions

It’s been a horror summer (and it’s not over) for Australia in general, and many of our beloved wine regions have been severely impacted by horrific bushfires. Close to home for Wine Academy, Christmas got off to a terrible start with a fire ripping through Cudlee Creek, in the Adelaide Hills region. Things didn’t improve, as fires then raged on Kangaroo Island for weeks. In other parts of Australia, it’s been a similar story.

So here are my thoughts on how you can best help your favourite region.

Firstly – buy direct. If you have a favourite winery that has been impacted by fires (and that doesn’t necessarily mean fire damage to any of their assets – the down tick in tourism dramatically affects everyone) buy wines directly from the winery. I know that might sound a bit strange from a retailer – but really, buy direct and the money goes directly to the winery. Don’t have a favourite winery, don’t want to buy a six pack? Then by all means – buy from retailers (like Wine Academy) because every bit does help. And all our Adelaide Hills wines can be found here.

Next – visit the region. This might be easier said than done – but for those who live in metro Adelaide, the Adelaide Hills is just a short drive up the freeway. By having lunch in a winery, and buy one (or more) bottles of wine, you’re helping ensure a region’s tourism remains sustainable. I was saddened to read that the magnificent Simon Tolley Lodge has had a run of post-fire cancellations. Simon Tolley makes great wines AND lost 80% of vines in the fires before Christmas so staying at the Lodge is a great way to support him while the business recovers from the loss of vines. But even if you can’t justify a few days away, at least head out for lunch and a winery visit. In SA, the #bookthemout campaign has recently launched to highlight just how much there is to do in both the Hills and Kangaroo Island.

Finally – donate. I’m not going to tell you where to donate BUT I do encourage you to make sure you understand where you money is going. For example, here in South Australia, the CFS Foundation supports volunteer firefighters who have suffered a loss (physical or financial) during service. Particularly if you live in an affected region, you may prefer to donate to your local brigade, which will allow them to buy otherwise unfunded equipment (defibrillators seem to be a big one). The state government administered State Emergency Relief Fund (and SA Bushfire Appeal) raises funds for people directly affected by the bushfires. And there are countless charities also raising money, not to mention gofundme (or similar) pages for individuals and businesses. I’ve not linked to any of these quite deliberately – all are equally worthy causes. Sadly, money is finite so make sure you understand the cause you’re supporting.

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Wine in a Can – Why Not?

We drink beer out of cans, we drink soft drink out of cans, we drink RTDs out of cans … and for a couple of years now, it’s been widely predicted that wine in a can is the next ‘big thing’. As with a lot of ‘big things’ it’s actually been a bit of a slow burn … with its market share remaining small and growing slowly. But, if we look abroad, we see that that might not last for long: while still small in market share, sales in both the UK and the US have seen double digit percentage growth in the last couple of years.

If you think about it, there are plenty of excellent reasons to buy wine in a can:

  • Aluminium is light – so easy and cheap to both ship and store
  • Aluminium is recyclable (10c refunds – yes please!)
  • Aluminium won’t smash if you drop it – also good for shipping
  • Smaller serving sizes mean more flexibility and less wastage – you don’t have to open a bottle that won’t get finished
  • Perfect for outdoor consumption – festivals, picnics, even parties – no need for a corkscrew (remember those?) or a glass
  • From a technical perspective – no light, no oxygen, no chance of bubbles escaping

My own experience with wine in a can has been limited. A few years ago I attended an event where we were served a glass of sparkling on arrival. Both my friend and I noted that the wine had a very distinct taste to it which we couldn’t put our finger on. Eventually, we put it down to the wine being poured too soon and left to sit around in the glass. But later, we googled the wine and discovered it had come from a can – and everything fell into place.

So when I was in England and spotted wine in a can on the supermarket shelf – I just had to try it. For the princely sum of £2.50 (approx $AU5) I was able to nab myself 250mL of Chilean Pinot Noir in a slimline can. While this works out at £7.50 (approx $AU15) for a full bottle – well above the average spend on a bottle of wine in the UK – it’s interesting because in general Pinot Noir isn’t producers’ first choice of fruit for cheaper wines. I was keen to see what I was going to get for my money …

You can see the result for yourself in this video. A significant caveat – the wine did end up travelling back to Australia so that may have had an affect on quality. Although – given that it did travel halfway around the world with not a skerrick of damage that speaks volumes for aluminium’s robustness!

What about you? Have you tried wine in a can? Do you have a favourite?

And, if you’re looking for some wines not in cans … don’t forget to get your orders in for our Wine Advent Calendar – 12 Days of Christmas!

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Final WSET Foundation Course for 2010

There’s just one week left to sign up for our final WSET Foundation course of 2010 … registrations close at 5pm on Monday 27 September for the course running on Saturday 9 October.

The course is running at the Edinburgh Hotel in Mitcham, and starts at 9am.  During the day we taste seven wines from around the world while focussing on the basics of all aspects of wine appreciation – from the vineyard through to the glass.

We wrap up the day with the exam and successful students are issued with certificates from the WSET in London.

The course fee is $200 which includes the study guide and course notes, the exam, lunch at the hotel and all wines tasted.

Don’t be worried about the exam – it’s a fun day out and, just before the Christmas party season is the perfect time to brush up your wine knowledge.  Not only will you be able to wow at parties but you should be able to find a perfect wine match for Christmas lunch.

To join us, get in contact or call Alex on 0414 562 859 – but make sure you do so by Monday 27 September.

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PayPal Payment Problems

We’ve just discovered that our online payment system, which uses PayPal, has not been working.  At this stage, we’re not sure why, so we’ve removed the option from the website.  Unfortunately payments appear to ‘work’ while in test mode but not when switched to live.

I’d like to take the opportunity to apologise to anyone who has been affected by this.

This means that payments for our forthcoming WSET Foundation and Intermediate courses (Saturday 17 April for Foundation and starting Saturday 1 May for Intermediate) can only be received via direct bank deposit or by cheque.  If you need to make alternative arrangements, please do get in touch and we’ll do our best to accommodate you.

As registrations for Foundation close at 5pm this Thursday (Thursday 1 April), I would urge anyone who wishes to participate to get in touch, either through our Contact page, or by calling me on 0414 562 859 (please be sure to leave a message if I don’t answer right away).

Once again, apologies from Wine Academy for this technical glitch.  We’re fortunate that wine tasting is not dependent on technology!

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WSET Foundation Congratulations

Wine Academy’s results for its second WSET Foundation course, held in January at the Edinburgh Hotel, are in and we’re pleased to announce that all candidates passed with flying colours! Results were even higher than our first course, with an average mark of almost 94%.

Congratulations to all the students. You should all feel very proud of your achievement!

And a reminder to anyone interested in either WSET Foundation or Intermediate – registration is now open for both courses. WSET Foundation is on Saturday 17 April and WSET Intermediate begins on Saturday 1 May.

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Time Running Out to Register for WSET Foundation Course

Seasons greetings from Wine Academy!

We hope everyone had a relaxing Christmas and still has some energy left to welcome in the New Year in style!

If anyone does have a New Year’s resolution to learn more about wine, our WSET Foundation Course would be an excellent way to tick it off the list in January.  You’ll have to book your place quickly, though, as registrations close at 5pm (Adelaide time) on Monday 4 January.  There are still places left, but the class size is strictly limited to 12 students, maximum.  You can sign up online here.

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Wine Course Christmas Gift Certificates

Along with last week’s course announcement we mentioned that gift certificates are available for both the WSET Foundation and Intermediate Certificate courses that we’re running in January.

We’re so pleased with the design of the gift voucher that we thought it deserved a show-casing post of its own!


The personalised gift certificates are printed on a smart cream glossy card, making an ideal stocking filler for the wine lover in your life.

They are an ideal Christmas present for anyone with an interest in wine and would also make a fantastic corporate gift.  Of course, if you need a certificate for an occasion other than Christmas please get in touch.  We can customise them appropriately.

Bear in mind that both courses are limited to strictly 12 people.  In particular, if you are interested in the WSET Foundation course, a third of places have been sold in the first week registrations have been open.

Time to get shopping!

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WSET Wine Education Courses for January 2010

If you’ve visited the Wine Academy website over the last week you’ll have noticed that we’ve announced course dates for January 2010.

In summary, we’re running the WSET Foundation and Intermediate courses, both starting in January.

We’ll be starting the year on Saturday 16 January with the WSET Foundation course.  This is a full day course (so yes, we start at 9am) and the emphasis is learning basic wine tasting technique along with what it can tell you about a wine.  We taste seven wines with a focus on the main grape varieties used in wine making around the world and take a look at wine making and food and wine matching.  We wrap up with the exam and you can expect to be finished around 5pm.  The day is a lot of fun and offers a solid grounding in the principles of wine and wine tasting.  It’s suitable for front line retail or hospitality staff who want to gain confidence and wine drinkers who want to expand their palate and formalise their knowledge.

The course costs $200 and includes study guide, exam, all wines tasted and lunch.

Being a one day course, Foundation makes a great Christmas present and we offer personalised gift certificates.

Details about the WSET Foundation Course and sign up here.

The WSET Intermediate course starts on Saturday 30 January.  We commence with a full day on the Saturday and then follow this up with 5 Monday evening sessions (7 – 9:30pm), from February 1 through to March 1.  Intermediate is more detailed than Foundation and, again, the emphasis is on learning through tasting.  As well as a more in depth look at what happens in the vineyard and the winery we take a tour through the main wine producing countries of the world.  You’ll need to have your wine tasting boots on for this course as we taste around 50 wines, but it’s also a great way to try something (or somethings!) new.

The course is suitable for anyone who has a keen interest in wine.  It’s ideal for more experienced frontline staff or those who work with wines from around the world.  If you’re a consumer who wants to learn in more depth about wines of the world then this is the course for you.

WSET Intermediate costs $650 and this includes study guide, exam, lunch on the Saturday and all wines tasted.  We’re happy to provide gift certificates for Intermediate but please check with the recipient first, as it does require considerable commitment!

Details about the WSET Intermediate course and sign up here.

Both courses will be held at the Edinburgh Hotel and Cellars in Mitcham and class numbers are strictly limited to 12.