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On the Grape Trail Our April 2007 Issue

In this issue:

Australia - Wineries +
Taster's Choices
A Homie's Folly
Sydney +
Melbourne +
South Aus +


This feature of  our website will present news and views on the world of wine by our Grape and Wine Consultant Mac MacDonald.  These offerings will come from far and near throughout the year on an occasional basis.  To the extent possible, information will have an Eastern Ontario - Western Quebec slant.



general australia mapWith over 2000 wineries in this country, the visitor is never too far away from the grape when the conventional tourist paths are followed. The major centers of Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart all have wineries on their doorsteps… and there are many in between.  Because of the many options and limited time available, selecting which ones to visit can be a difficult choice.  Later, I will discuss a few wineries that are both accessible and informative, but first a little primer on tasting room etiquette that could actually apply anywhere.


Most wineries in Australia do not charge for tastings and do not expect you to purchase their product just because you have sampled it.  However, if staff have gone to the trouble and expense of opening up a special bottle or two, then I feel a purchase is pretty well mandatory.

tahbilk winery tasting roomTasting room staff in Australia tend to be more knowledgeable and easy going than their North American brethren. (In fact, I have found this to be true in both the retail and restaurant trade in general.)  Marketing staff, however, should not be expected to know every nuance of the winemaking and grape growing process and it constantly amazes me that ‘cork-dorks’ of all stripes try to display their wine knowledge at the expense of someone 30 years younger and a week into the job.  Keep the technical stuff for the winemaker who may be available at the smaller operations.


Home winemakers should leave their bottled creations at home - you can't get an honest assessment from a person who is trying not to offend and wants to sell some wine.  I have seen and heard of legends in the wine world being asked by home winemakers to assess their wine.  The Cardinal Rule for home winemakers in general is “No Captive Audiences”.  Every wine-drinker, neighbour or other captive victim has a story on this – trust me.  Keep your Chateau Chez-Nous at home and offer it to your forgiving Aunt Gluggy; she'll say it's great. (Of course, relatives get a pass on the Cardinal Rule.)


Most people traveling to Australia land at and stay in Sydney - at least for a short time.  The Hunter Valley,hunter valley dawn depending on traffic, is only about two hours away, and as a wine region is pretty much a ‘one-trick-pony’. Young and aged Semillons plus ‘location, location, and location’ make the Hunter what it is today.  Most wineries make product from grapes brought in from elsewhere like Mudgee and the Central Ranges Tyrrell's Vineyard, being one of the Hunter originals, give perhaps the most comprehensive tour with loads of history which they've experienced. Their tasting room has a huge range of wines on offer including those aged Semillons. (I've actually done a vertical tasting here of five wines going back twelve years - where else can you do this?)


Yarra_Wine-Growers_logoMelbourne is convenient hub to many wine regions.  The Yarra Valley, which can be reached by the city rail line, is one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world.  De Bortoli is Yarra’s show piece; quite a jump from its ancestral home in the Riverina in New South Wales where they produce the Sauterne-like Noble One.  

tahbilk wineryA couple of hours by car north of the Yarra, in the Nagambie Lakes Region, sits the Tahbilk Winery and Vineyard - established in 1860.  This historical site boasts underground cellars and many buildings and vines that are up to 125 years old.  The Wetlands Café, Tahbilk’s on-site restaurant on the Goulburn River is a ‘must’ stop for lunch which you can then work off on the wetland hiking trails.  Talbilk is one of those “best buy” wineries that has both reasonable prices and a broad range of reds and whites. seppelt port - barossa valley

About one and a half hours north of Tahbilk, in the Milawa Gourmet Region, sits the Brown Brothers Milawa Vineyard - another Australian wine institution.  This winery's products are widely distributed throughout the country and they source their fruit from all over Victoria.  This includes the up and coming King Valley (Italian and Spanish varieties) and the older Rutherglen district for Ports, Liqueur Muscat and Old Tokay.


wine fair - borassa valleyFinally, if there is a more beautiful winery in the world than Seppelt in South Australia’s Barossa Valley, then I haven't seen it.  This is a 'must see' paradise and a tremendous place to picnic, as well!  Many theme tours are available for the interested visitor and, naturally, wines to taste can be found in abundance. Seppelt crafts some of the world's best fortified wines and, because of current market conditions, these wines are being sold at distress prices; get them while you can!


I am presently in Queensland surrounded by sea, sugar cane and Bundaberg Rum.  Next week I will be seeking higher ground – the Granite Belt in Queensland - to explore the wine trail.  The temperature reached 2°C there the other night – fall is well underway.  Perhaps we’ll be graced with a smattering of frost as a subtle reminder of April in Ottawa.

More about down-under in May...

Mac MacDonald, Noosa, Queensland, April 16 2007


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