Run Forrest

Sommeliers Australia appoints a new President.

The first Annual General Meeting of the official national association of Sommeliers Australia was held on Sunday 29th November 2009 at The Westin, Melbourne. After a co-Presidency of two years, which was occupied by the State association heads of New South Wales and Victoria, Ben Moechtar and Ben Edwards respectively, it was Ben Edwards that was elected the new President of Sommeliers Australia.

Sommeliers Australia is a not for profit hospitality industry organisation that began life in the early 1990s in Victoria and New South Wales as separate associations. In August 2007, the two associations merged to form a national body, renamed ‘Sommeliers Australia’. In 2009 Sommeliers Australia has extended Chapters to all States, and this Annual General Meeting was the first since the official establishment of the national body. Those present at the Annual General Meeting also appointed members who will take up roles on the National Executive, led by President Ben Edwards.

These individuals are:

> Ben Moechtar (NSW) > Franck Moreau (NSW) > Tim Stock (NSW) > Tony Venn (NSW)
> David Lawler (VIC) > Chris Crawford (VIC) > Dan Sims (VIC) > Peter Marchant (QLD)
> Ed Wolkowinski (WA) > Louise Radman (SA) > Joseph Burton (TAS)

The first meeting of the National Executive will be held in early 2010, and at this meeting a key agenda item will be to fill the remaining roles of Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer.

Ben Edwards was elated with the result. ”We’ve put in such a lot of work to take the association up a notch. The next phase is very exciting, and I was very keen to continue to drive the strategy with a committed team. It was actually quite a proud day to see all of our State Chapter representatives in the one room at this meeting. We’ve come such a long way, and this meeting was quite an important event in the history of our association,” noted Edwards.
The President’s Report and Minutes from the Annual General Meeting will be available for download at shortly.


Filed under: sommeliers australia, wine, , , , ,

Sommeliers Australia committee member aces the Best Sommelier of Asia-Oceanic competition.

After Sommeliers Australia’s recent acceptance as a member of the prestigious Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI), Sydney-based Sommelier Franck Moreau of Merivale Group (Sydney Australia) was awarded second place, at the inaugural Best Sommelier of Asia-Oceanic competition held in Osaka, Japan, on November 18, 2009.

Franck competed alongside David Lawler, Vice President of Sommeliers Australia and Head Sommelier of Rockpool Bar and Grill, Melbourne. Franck and David were selected by Sommeliers Australia as the best candidates to represent Australia in this formidable competition. The two were among twenty Sommeliers from ten different countries. In addition to the rigorous assessment process, all applicants needed to conduct the entire competition in a second language. Franck was able to compete in English as it his second language, and David chose French.

The competition comprised:

  • Fifty written questions
  • Two blind wine taste-tests (where each wine’s region, grape and suitable matching dishes were required)
  • Tasting of a dish (where each Sommelier had to select a wine to complement the food and provide a rationale for the choice)
  • Three blind spirit taste-tests (to be completed within three minutes)
  • A practical exam (opening and aerating a wine which was to be served to five people within four minutes).

After the semi final round there were just three candidates left standing – Saturo Mori and Nobuhiro Tani, both of La Tour d’Argent (Hotel New Otani, Tokyo, Japan) and our own Franck Moreau. In front of an audience of around 500 people, these three candidates had to face six practical scenarios:

  • Serving champagne promptly to two guests waiting for their friends
  • Recommending beverages to match the food from a set menu to four guests
  • Decanting and serving of a bottle of Chateau La Lagune 1985 to ten guests
  • Proofing a wine-list and correcting its errors
  • Blind-tasting of white, red, and dessert wine
  • Identifying five spirits and specifying the type and the brand.

Shinya Tasaki, chairman of the Technical Committee and Vice President of the ASI in charge of the competition noted, “The members whose nation or region an applicant Sommelier came from and participated in the contest could not be a judge of the assessment panel. Thus, the contest was truly fair. Any applicant could win. It was a close contest.”

And the placings were:

Winner: Satoru Mori (Japan)

Second: Franck Moreau (Australia)

Third: Nobuhiro Tani (Japan)

Franck, on top of receiving second place in the competition, also won the Sopexa Vin de France section of the competition, which involved thirty written questions on French wines and a blind-taste test, As a result, Moreau is now the official Ambassador for French Wine in Australia. Franck claimed that it was the hardest French test he had ever done.

The winner, Satoru Mori, is now entitled to represent Japan in Chile next April 2010 for the title of Best Sommelier of the World.

Sommeliers Australia Co-President Ben Edwards was elated with the win. “This is the very first time that Australian Sommeliers have competed in a competition of such prestige. The placing of Franck and David in the semi final, and Franck’s overall second placing, was beyond our wildest dreams. Not that we ever doubted the skill of these two impeccable Sommeliers! It confirmed our decision that both David and Franck were the best candidates for us to put forward,” noted Ben.

Sommeliers Australia Vice-President and competitor David Lawler said it was an incredible experience. “It was an amazing forum to be a part of. It was incredibly tough, and was truly a benchmark educational experience. I’m looking forward to taking learnings from this competition and applying it to the education process that Sommeliers Australia is continually evolving for our members,” said David.

Filed under: sommeliers australia, , , , , , , , , ,

mezzo [ˈmɛtsəʊ]

[from Italian, literally: half; in the middle]

Half food; Half wine.

Half front of house; Half in the kitchen.

Half Aussie; Half Sicilian.

Half Luke Stringer; Half Joseph Vargetto.

They meet in the middle. Now there’s a new place to dine.

What’s the start to a new year without making a few changes, realising a few dreams, being true to yourself?

Well, that’s exactly what Luke Stringer and Joseph Vargetto, the duo behind Melbourne’s Oyster Little Bourke will be doing. 2010 will kick off with a new look space, a new dining philosophy, a very different food and wine focus, and the launch of a whole new restaurant offer that will reignite the fire in the bellies of these two very passionate blokes.

Despite many restaurants doing it tough at the mercy of the GFC, four-year-old Oyster Little Bourke has continued to thrive. Co-founding partner Frank Wilden left Oyster Little Bourke last year to pursue other interests, and Luke and Joseph saw this as an the opportunity to review what they wanted in life too. And, that, is Mezzo.

“I felt like a fresh change, as did Joe. I wanted to get back to the type of service and food and wine offer that got me hooked on working in this industry in the first place. That spirit of generosity. Of caring yet with an informality. Some good fun and shared experience, but with quality still paramount,” says Luke.

For Joe, it was about working in an environment that allowed a more direct expression of his love for Sicilian food. “I’m keen to create and share the type of food I grew up with that I absolutely adore. There are so many similarities in climate between there and Australia, so it’s the perfect cuisine with which to utilise this country’s abundant seasonal produce,” believes Joe.

Expect more casual environs. A wine list with a more Italian flavour. A menu with impanate, stuzzichini, a salumi selection, pastas, mains and ala piastra. Shared eating. A palpable energy and a genuine passion. A bigger injection of their respective personalities in the way the place ticks.

But due to popular demand (and a guaranteed outcry from the regulars), the beloved oysters, shucked on demand, won’t be leaving the menu just yet…

Mezzo Bar & Grill.

Serves it up from Friday 8th January 2010.
35 Little Bourke Street,
Melbourne, 3000

03 9650 0988.

[Oyster Little Bourke will remain trading as usual until close of business Wednesday 23rd December 2009].

Filed under: Mezzo, Restaurant, , , , , , ,

The Two Marksmen- a dad and his Wandering son.

Gembrook Hill clicks just over twenty-five years of age this year, and continues to be a quiet but nonetheless impressive achiever in the upper region of the Yarra Valley. Vignerons Ian and June Marks give a long rein to co- winemakers, son Andrew Marks and Timo “bring back the funk” Mayer to create wines for Gembrook Hill with minimal intervention, great finesse and a much-coveted style, whilst also allowing them to indulge in their own respective projects. For Andrew, that’s his label, The Wanderer, which this year he’s taken up a notch.

Gembrook Hill Latest Release

Gembrook Hill Blanc de Blancs 2005 [RRP: $55]
This is the second release of the vintage Blanc de Blancs and is a more complex offering than the 2004. Fruit was handpicked towards the end of March from twenty-year-old vines. It was whole bunch pressed then chilled, racked and warmed. The juice was inoculated with yeast EC 1118, fermented at 16 degrees Celsius and left on lees in barrel and stirred for five months during which time the wine underwent partial malolactic fermentation. Tirage was completed in mid November, and then the wine was left on lees in bottle for four years with a dosage of 0.5 g/l sucrose. Winemakers: Timo Mayer & Andrew Marks.
Gembrook Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2008 [RRP: $35]
This is typical Gembrook Hill Sauvignon Blanc, characterised by an elegance and austerity more commonly found in Sancerre, rather that in its Australian and New Zealand counterparts. The fruit comes from 20 year-old vines picked on 14 March 2008. The ferment started with wild yeast then inoculated with EC1118 in tank and barrel. It was racked and stored for ten months, cold stabilised, then fined and filtered.
Winemakers: Timo Mayer & Andrew Marks.

Gembrook Hill Chardonnay 2006 [RRP: $38]
This is an elegant cool climate chardonnay with restraint rather than overworked characters. Fruit was picked mid- April from the oldest vines on the estate now at 25 years of age. 50% of the juice was exposed to wild ferment, the remainder inoculated with various years in barrel (25% new French oak). It was racked off lees, blended in tank and then spent one year in oak and six months in tank.
Winemakers: Timo Mayer & Andrew Marks.
Gembrook Hill Pinot Noir 2008 [$50]
Again, a style of pinot noir that is signature Gembrook Hill. Elegant, old-worldesque, complex, very stylish. The fruit was picked 12th March from 25 years old vines. All of it was destemmed, cold soaked, exposed to some wild ferment and inoculated yeast. It was pressed and settled then placed in French oak barrels where it under malolactic fermentation. Winemakers: Timo Mayer & Andrew Marks.

The Wanderer Latest Release
Andrew’s label ‘The Wanderer’ enables him to roam about the place searching for small parcels of great fruit to make some special wines. To date, this has centred on the Yarra Valley, working with growers with whom he has known for many years. Emphasis in the vineyard is placed on producing fruit of great intensity. This is achieved by cropping the vineyards at very low levels through hard pruning, rigorous shoot thinning and crop thinning in the case of the shiraz. The result this year, his third wine release under ‘The Wanderer’ label, is three vibrant single vineyard wines with great intensity and character, and includes two pinots, which was an unintentional happenstance.
“My philosophy is to always make the best wine possible however there was no specific plan to produce a ‘flagship’ pinot. During the course of the vinification it became apparent that I had a few barrels of something pretty special, which gave rise to the creation of the Upper Yarra Wanderer Pinot,” said Andrew.

The Wanderer Upper Yarra Pinot Noir 2008 [RRP: $50]

The fruit was sourced from a single vineyard near Yellingbo, 10km north of Gembrook, from 15-year-old vines on northeastern slope at approx 200m elevation. The fruit (MV6 clone) was cane pruned, and open-fermented as 30% whole bunches. It was cold soaked for a week before fermentation commenced naturally, then inoculated with a selected yeast strain. It was hand plunged twice a day with a full body pigeage at end of ferment to squish unbroken clusters. It was pressed at the end of the ferment then racked off gross lees to barrel. 30% was placed in new French oak. Malolactic fermentation occurred in barrel. The wine remained on lees until just prior to bottling. The wine was neither fined nor filtered.

The Wanderer Lower Yarra Pinot Noir 2008 [RRP: $35]

This is a single vineyard wine from the lower Yarra near Tarrawarra. The vines are spur pruned with MV6, D4V2 and G5V15 clones on sandy loam soils with a northern aspect at approximately 140m elevation. The fruit is destemmed only, leaving whole berries for fermentation. The must is cold soaked for five days in open fermenters followed by inoculation with selected yeasts. The fermenters are hand plunged taking care to avoid over extraction from a site that tends towards a firm tannin line. The ferments are allowed to warm up to 33 degrees Celsius before they are pressed at dryness. 30% was placed in new French oak for 11 months. Malolactic fermentation occurred in barrel. The wine remained on lees until just prior to bottling. The wine was neither fined nor filtered.

The Wanderer Shiraz 2008 [RRP: $35]
The fruit is from a single vineyard wine from 30-year-old vines on an east-west slope, located in the Yarra Valley’s Dixon’s Creek. The vines were cane and spur pruned. Fermenting took place in open fermenters with 8% whole bunches. Cold soaking took placed a week before the fermentation commenced naturally, with no yeast inoculation. It was hand plunged twice a day, and was pressed at completion of fermentation and racked off gross lees to barrel. It then went in 20% new oak. The wine did not complete malolactic fermentation until spring, so wine remained unsulphured on lees all winter. The wine was neither fined nor filtered.

Filed under: wine, Winery, , , , ,

A brief newsletter from McIvor Estate.

Here is just some information about the new happenings at McIvor Estate:

  • Jancis likes McIvor Estate. A lot: She was in the Heathcote region in February this year, and thought that the recent past vintages of Shiraz and Merlot Cabernet were two of the standout wines in the Heathcote region.
  • Design gurus dig the new look: McIvor had a makeover last year, and they’ve been featured on a goodly amount of design-focused blogs as they like our new style.
  • Like any good makeover, McIvor feel much better about life: Trade and consumers have responded to their new image direction, resulting in increased sales and interest in what they do. People certainly do judge a book by its cover (but we all know it still needs to be a good read).
  • McIvor Estate are happily indulging our inner gastronome: releasing our 2009 vintage estate-grown olive oil and hosting sell-out lunches and intimate cooking classes at their cellar door.
  • McIvor Estate’s 2009 wine releases are about to hit the market: all the details are below.

McIvor Estate Marsanne Roussanne 2009 – RRP $25.00

A blend of 85 % marsanne, and 15% roussanne, harvest was completed in March and hand picked in a single parcel. The grapes were airbag pressed, cold-stabilised and then barrel fermented in 40% new and 60% old French oak. After fermentation the wine rested on lees in barrel for around six months before bottling, when it went through a sterile filter. On the eye it’s a bright but pale straw colour with a hint of green. The palate is rich and generous, full of flavour, warm and persistent. The subtle oak treatment is well integrated. It has a clean, balanced finish for such an exotic full-bodied style of wine. And is super-good with food. Alcohol: 13%.

McIvor Estate Sangiovese 2007 – RRP $25.00

Harvest was completed in April and was hand picked in a single parcel. The grapes were open tank fermented then airbag pressed. The wine was then left to age in old French barriques for 15 months, during which time it underwent malolactic fermentation. The wine was racked prior to bottling. Medium dark red / purple in colour it has a juicy aromatic intensity with dark fruit cake and plum pudding spice and bright cherries with hints of savoury dried herbs. It has a medium weight palate with ripe chewy tannins; a bright acidity and concentrated fruit provides some attractive palate persistence. Alcohol: 13.5%.

McIvor Estate Cabernet Merlot 2006 – RRP $25.00

A blend of 60% cabernet sauvignon and 40% merlot. Harvest was completed in April and both varietals were hand picked. The grapes were open tank fermented separately, then airbag pressed. The wine was then blended and left to age in 20% new and 80% old French and American oak for 18 months. The wine was racked prior to bottling. Minimal filtration was used. Dark garnet and plum in colour, the nose is true to varietals from a warmer region, with notes of mocha, plums, dark cherries and mulberries, with a hint of rosemary herbaecousness adding interest. It’s velvety, ripe fruit glides across the tongue, tempered by firmish, fine dusty tannins and a bright acidity that adds crunch and texture. It has flavours of chocolate, damson plums and dark berries and shows an elegant fruit weight and a long finish. Alcohol: 14.5%.

McIvor Estate Shiraz 2006 – RRP $35.00

The regional varietal rockstar and our flagship wine. Hand picking finished up in April. The grapes were open tank fermented, then airbag pressed. The wine was left to age in 20% new and 80% old French and American oak for 18 months. The wine was racked prior to bottling and minimal filtration was used. It is dark plum in colour and is spicy, minerally and very perfumed, with blackberries, blueberries and inky notes. Silky, ripe, brambly fruits are supported by firm, fine tannins with hints of French oak. More in the Cote Rotie, Northern Rhone vein than a brutish Aussie shiraz, it shows an elegant minerality and good acid structure. The wine will benefit from decanting and being served at a cool room temperature. Whilst just a baby at the moment with the appropriate amount of cellaring to integrate and soften it will be a really delicious drink in three to five years time. Alcohol: 14.5%.

McIvor Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil [500ML] – RRP $20.00

With a blend of two Italian varieties, Correggiolo and Frantoio, this oil is quite robust and has lovely green flavours and fruity aromatics. Perfect to drizzle on a caprese salad or to toss through a pasta with simple flavours.

Wines distributed nationally by Prime Wines – T: 1300 720 006.

Filed under: wine, Winery,

First Vanilla Crops Underway in NZ.

They said it couldn’t be grown in New Zealand, but Heilala (pronounced: Hey-la-la) Vanilla has delivered a world first. Typically vanilla only thrives in the climactic conditions afforded in countries that fall into a narrow 20-degree band either side of the equator, but Heilala Vanilla has now harvested the very first vanilla to be grown outside of the tropics, in Tauranga, located in the Bay Of Plenty on New Zealand’s North Island.

Heilala Vanilla is owned and operated by New Zealanders John Ross, daughter Jennifer Boggiss and her husband Garth Boggiss. The Tauranga operation was established primarily as a research and development site that they could access 24/7 when not in the Kingdom of Tonga, where Heilala Vanilla was first born.

Named after the national flower of Tonga (and also the daughter of the participating village family), Heilala Vanilla was created out of love and a duty of care to a Tongan village, and is a business that reaps benefits that are rare and remarkable in the commercial world. In 2002 retired New Zealand farmer and frequent holiday-maker to the village of Utungake, John Ross, mined his horticultural know-how and appreciation of the Tongan way to put to use a block of dormant land that the village had at their disposal. It then took three years to develop and nurture the vines through careful training, weeding and looping, applying organic and sustainable farming practices. With full community involvement charged by the Ross/Boggiss family (alongside the local Latu family) this has been a true labour of love. Today, the aid project has blossomed into a business that not only creates a range of the most exquisite, premium vanilla products, but also provides the local people with an income, necessary infrastructure and a sense of pride and purpose.

For Garth Boggiss it has been a long and testing road to produce vanilla in New Zealand.

“Our Tongan operation has provided us with the knowledge for growing vanilla the year round,” he says. “In New Zealand, we duplicated the key characteristics of the climate in our Tongan shade house and designed and built a computer controlled plastic house that emulates this environment. In fact we have optimised the environment based on our research into the requirements of the vanilla plant and the results have been fantastic.”

Heilala Vanilla was meticulous in its duplication of Tongan conditions right down to matching the soil and introducing computer-controlled humidity and heating using geo-thermal hot water.

“Volcanic vanilla,” says Garth, “using renewable resources. Only in New Zealand.”

Vanilla demands an intricate growing and production process and is one of the most labour intensive agricultural products in the world. As such it is a highly valued commodity, typically traded like oil or gold. The orchid flower of the vanilla plant opens up only once a year in the morning, closing again at midday, never to re-open. These four hours are the sole window of opportunity for pollination; an intricate exercise of procreation requiring nimble fingers and wooden tweezers the size of matchsticks to delicately push the stamen and stigma together – nine months on, a single bean is produced. There are no birds or bees of Tonga quite instinctual enough to play cupid, hence the need for a little human intervention.

The lengthy eight-week curing process complements the Tongan way; unhurried. Honour and respect to the enduring nature of this crop is obvious in the end product – plump and shiny pods with a poignant aroma resulting in the richest grade of vanilla in the Asia Pacific region. Heilala Vanilla grows the Madagascar Bourbon variety, considered to be the best quality, exuding a creamy, sweet richness.

The Tongan production of Heilala Vanilla is already exported to Australia, Singapore and Malaysia with distribution about be finalised into the UK and California. There is also interest from Japan.

It has quickly become a must-have product amongst chefs both in New Zealand and overseas. Heilala Vanilla products feature on the menus of NZ ex pat chefs Peter Gordon in the UK and Jason Dell, formerly of Blanket Bay Lodge now in Singapore heading the Nautilus project.  Melbourne’s The European, Cutler & Co, Sydney’s Jonahs and Aqua Dining and Auckland’s The French Café and Antoine’s are also utilising Heilala Vanilla throughout their menus.

Heilala Vanilla’s range of products include:

Heilala Vanilla Pods [RRP AUD $14.50]

3 Grade A pods in glass tube

Cured under the Pacific sun, these pods are moist, plump, shiny and packed full of seeds and vanillin for superior flavour. Excellent when used for poaching fruits or added to slow-cooked wet dishes.

Heilala Vanilla Extract [RRP AUD $24.50]

100ml jar

Premium 100% pure Vanilla Extract using cold extraction and a unique ageing process to deliver an exceptional product. The Extract is bottled along with a single premium vanilla pod to ensure flavour continues to develop. Bin your synthetic, imitation vanilla and replace with the real thing Perfect for cakes and everyday baking.

Heilala Vanilla Paste [RRP AUD $25.50]

100ml jar

Made by reintroducing vanilla seeds to the Vanilla Extract and then adding a natural seaweed thickener to produce a paste. Each jar amounts to over twenty pods. Use to make fragrant spice rubs for barbeque meats or for crème caramel.

Heilala Vanilla Sugar [RRP AUD $11.50]

335g resealable pouch

A premium organic golden sugar that has been subtly infused with Heilala Vanilla Extract and then mixed with very fine ground Vanilla Pods. Perfect for biscuits, cakes or dusting over pastries.

Filed under: Food, Product, , , , , , , ,

The Deanery’s Tasting Menu is here!

Still grinning after a chef’s hat accolade at the recent The Age Good Food Guide 2010 awards, and a three glass gong at the recent Gourmet Traveller Wine / Fine Wine Partners Wine List of the Year awards, as well as the recent glowing review from The Age Epicure, the team at The Deanery are continuing to blaze a fresh path with the launch of a new ‘Tasting Menu’ in the wine bar, created by Chef Robin Wickens.

The ‘Tasting Menu’ is a great way to explore Robin’s acclaimed fare in a more casual way. The menu features smaller plates that are very well-priced and perfect for grazing with a glass of wine from their extensive list (owner/sommelier Anthony Jones has created a pared down ‘top 100’ wine list for the downstairs bar to best match both the style of eating and the more affable price point).

The menu has two main sections:

‘here & there’: more ‘accessible’ dishes such as ’potato & smoked haddock croquette’ ($4.50 per piece), ‘beef tartare, smoking cinnamon’ ($12), and ‘duck breast, mandarin, bubble & squeak’ ($14).

‘out there’: a chance to give yourself over to Robin’s more playful, edgier dishes such as ‘tomato explosion’ ($4.50 per piece), ‘tongue ‘n cheek’ ($12) and a favourite from Robin’s ‘Interlude’ days, his take on ‘bacon & eggs’ ($12).

The menu is available for both lunch and dinner.

The ‘Tasting Menu’ now complements the dining room menu, which showcases modern cuisine with that exquisite Wickens gilding but in a more approachable way. Robin still applies the same high standards and attention to detail and utilises unique ingredients and techniques to carve a path of noble difference.

The Deanery

13 Bligh Place,
Melbourne, 3000

03 9629 5599

Filed under: Restaurant, The Deanery, , , , , , ,

Run Forrest

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