Advent Double Dozen Recipe Match

An Advent Calendar is a special calendar used to count or celebrate the days in anticipation of Christmas. Since the date of the first Sunday of Advent varies, falling between November 27 and December 3, it is most often celebrated from the 1st – 24th December, with a gift for each day.

So 24 days, handy then that it’s the exact  amount of bottles in 2 dozen wines, and if the wine isn’t gift enough, we’ve also given you a food match for each and every day!

Click here to purchase the Advent Double Dozen at a very special price 

Day 1 SSBRecipe from Gourmet Traveller click here to view it.

Day 2 CuveeRecipe from Gourmet Traveller click here to view

Day 3 SangioveseRecipe from Gourmet Traveller click here to view

Day 4 VerdelhoRecipe from Eat Love click here to view

Day 5 Private BinRecipe from taste.com.au click here to view

Day 6 Pinot GrisRecipe from Tulloch Wines blog click here to view

Day 7 RoseRecipe from Tulloch Wines blog click here to view

Day 8 BarberaRecipe from Gourmet Traveller click her to view

Day 9 VerscatoRecipe from Yottam Ottolenghi click here to view

vegetables set

Recipe from the Tulloch Wines blog click here to view

Day 11 VS ChardonnayRecipe From the Tulloch Wines blog click here to view

Day 12 JYT SelectionRecipe from the Tulloch Wines blog click here to view

Day 13 Late PickedRecipe from Gourmet Traveller click here to view

 

Day 14 Tempranillo.jpgRecipe from Gourmet Traveller click here to view

Day 15 JY TAwnyRecipe from Gourmet Traveller click here to view

Day 16 VS VerdelhoRecipe from Gourmet Traveller click here to view

Day 17 88 RedRecipe from Gourmet Traveller click here to view

Day 18 HUnter River WhiteRecipe from Gourmet Traveller click here to view

Day 19 HectorRecipe from Gourmet Traveller click her to view

Day 20 ViognierRecipe from Gourmet Traveller click here to view

Day 21 CDVRecipe from Gourmet Traveller click here to view

Day 22 EM ChardRecipe from the Tulloch Wines blog click here to view

Day 23 JY VintageRecipe from Gourmet Traveller click here to view

Slow roasted lambRecipe from the Tulloch Wines blog click here to view

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Cottage Pie (using everything from the bottom of your crisper)

Let me set the scene for you.  It’s 6pm on a Friday night in the middle of Winter. You’ve just arrived home after being away for work for 2 days.  The inevitable is waiting for you as you walk in the door, luggage in hand.  It’s cold, it’s dark, the house is a mess, you’re tired and need a glass of wine, stat….. but still the question is posed.

“What’s for dinner?”

Of course no one has done any shopping while you’ve been away, so while it would be awesome to come home to this…..

Instead you open the fridge with trepidation and discover a range of limp,  half dead vegetables languishing at the bottom of your crisper and some mince, which has a use by date of yesterday, but hey it hasn’t been opened yet, so it should (fingers crossed) be fine.

Rummaging:

Really any old vegetables will do, but I tend to find the following at the bottom of my crisper: celery, carrot, zucchini, leek or onion and garlic.  Dice them all up, no need to spend too much time on this, just so they are all roughly the same size.

I also throw in some frozen peas and of course you will need potatoes, milk, cream and butter for the mash.  Stock, mince, tin of tomatoes (optional), white wine and herbs, dried or fresh, whatever you’ve got, but I quite like a bit of dried oregano and parsley. EVOO and S&P.

Cooking (like you can be bothered….):

Peel your potatoes, cover them with cold water, add lots of salt and bring to the boil and simmer until tender and ready for mashing.

Preheat the oven to 180.  In a large fry pan, add a glug of EVOO and sauté your veggies till they are soft and translucent.  Add the mince (I tend to always use a blend of pork and veal instead of beef, but any red meat mince would be fin), dried or fresh herbs, season well and brown.

Add the white wine and reduce.  Add the tinned toms, stock (I use beef, but chicken would also be fine) and simmer for 15 minutes or so till there is just enough liquid left to keep the pie moist in the oven without it being too sloppy.

Drain and mash your potatoes adding as much milk / cream / butter as your diet allows and plenty of salt.

Pour the pie mixture into a big dish, cover it with a thick layer of mash and dot the top with dobs of butter.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes till topping is crisp and brown.

Serving:

Stand in the kitchen and yell, “Dinner is READY!” and pour yourself a large glass of Tulloch Cab Sav to match.

Chicken, Mushroom & Bacon Pot Pies

Who doesn’t love a pie in the depths of winter?  This is an absolute winner in our household and if you cheat like I do and use frozen puff pastry, it is also very simple.

You’ll Need: (all approximate amounts, trust your taste-buds and instincts.)

Chicken thigh fillets (1 pack) cut into bite size pieces, 1 leek, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 cup of sliced mushrooms (plain old button mushrooms work well), 3 sprigs of thyme, speck or bacon (equivalent to 3 slices of bacon), 1/2 cup of thickened cream, a large glass of white wine, 1/2  – 1 cup of chicken stock, 1/1 – 1 tablespoon of flour, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, EVOO, S&P and the yolk of one egg.

Cooking:

Take your frozen puff pastry out of the freezer to defrost and pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius.

In a large non-stick fry pan heat some EVOO and fry off your chicken pieces till they are just cooked and then set aside.

Add the bacon to the pan and brown, then add a knob of butter and toss in the leeks, garlic, mushrooms and thyme and cook till soft and fragrant. Add the chicken back to the pan and bring back to the simmer.

Add the white wine and reduce, then add the stock (enough to create a sauce), and a bit of flour to thicken and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes till thick and rich.  Add the cream, dijon mustard and season well, stir to combine.

Don’t worry if the sauce is too runny as it will be going into the oven which will reduce it further.  Even if it doesn’t reduce all the way, it should be rich and yummy and perfect for soaking up stray bits of pastry. If in doubt, pour a bit of the liquid off.

Use your pie dishes to cut out pastry lids (I like my pastry lid to sit within the dish, but my husband likes it folded over so there is plenty of it!).  Spoon the filling into pie dishes or ramekins, about 3/4 full (you don’t want it to bubble over in the oven) and pop on the pastry lids.

If you are folding the pastry over the edge of the dish, make sure you tuck it around neatly and score the edge with a fork so it is pretty.  With a sharp knife poke a few holes in the top of each pie so the steam can escape.  If you are feeling creative, cut out shapes from the left over pastry so you can personalise each pie.

Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the pastry with beaten egg yolk.

Put in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes until the pastry is cooked and has turned a golden brown colour.

Warning:

Let the pies cool before you dig in.  There is nothing worse than burning your mouth on the first bite and not being able to taste the rest of the deliciousness.  Take it from my experience!

Spring lamb cutlet salad with tangy yoghurt dressing


There is nothing quite so simple and as pleasurable as lamb cutlets on the bbq. Combine them with this tangy yoghurt dressing and some spring greens and it’s perfection.

The beauty of this dish is in the plating.  Just by serving it in a pastel coloured shallow bowl with a thrown together look,  turns lamb and three veg into an unexpectedly decadent mid week meal.

If it takes longer than half an hour, it won’t be getting a showing on my dinner table on a school night!  I like to serve this alfresco in spring so the kids can burn off the last of their energy outside while the cutlets are bbqing.

As with everything I cook, use what you have available at the time or the season.

Shopping:

Lamb cutlets (I allow 3 per person), lemon thyme, broad beans (fresh if possible, but frozen will do) , frozen peas, asparagus, green beans, natural greek yoghurt, feta, honey, lemon juice, garlic, mint, EVOO and S&P.

Preparing:

Make sure your lamb is room temp before bbqing and drizzle with EVOO and season well with S&P and lemon thyme.  BBQ till medium rare  (or to your liking) and rest for 5 minutes.

Combine yoghurt, garlic (crushed), lemon juice, feta, honey and mint in a hand blender and blitz till combined and smooth.  Add a dash of EVOO and season (taste before seasoning, feta can be very salty).

Combine frozen peas, beans & asparagus (cut into bite size pieces) and broad beans in a microwave safe plastic container.  Cover with water and a lid (not all the way on) and microwave** for 3 – 5 minutes or until just tender.  Drain and refresh in cold water so they retain their beautiful bright green colour.

Plating:

In a shallow bowl or platter, drizzle over some of the yoghurt dressing and half your greens.  Arrange the lamb cutlets on top and then scatter over the rest of the greens with the remaining yoghurt dressing, a squeeze of lemon and lemon wedges and mint leaves to serve.

** I generally don’t love microwaves, and yes you could blanch or steam the greens instead, but this is just so quick and easy and saves washing up….

Slow roasted lamb shoulder on crispy potatoes

When there are men to feed, every meal must have potatoes … or is that just in my household?

I can’t remember where I first got this recipe from, but I have adapted it over time and it is a family favourite.  Plan it for a wintry weekend when you are hanging around the house and can enjoy the smells.  Serve it to the table in the roasting tin for maximum effect as it looks great when it is cooked, but not so fancy once it is served, after all it’s meat and potatoes.

Shopping:

Boned out shoulder of lamb, garlic cloves (thinly sliced), rosemary, bay leaves, equal amounts of white wine & chicken stock, EVOO, S&P, potatoes (peeled and sliced thinly)  and red onion (thinly sliced).

Cooking:

Add some EVOO to the bottom of the roasting tin and then layer the potatoes, onion , garlic, rosemary, bay and S&P until they are all used.  Season generously as you go.

Add the stock and wine (should be just enough to mostly cover, but not quite, the layered potatoes) and lay the shoulder of lamb on top.  EVOO & S&P lamb generously and put in a pre-heated high oven to brown the lamb for about 20 minutes.

Turn oven down and leave to roast for 1 – 2 hours, till the meat is falling apart. Remove the lamb and rest it (keep it warm) and pop the potatoes back in the oven (only do this  if needed to finish crisping and reduce the liquid), otherwise turn the oven off and pop the potatoes back in to keep warm while the meat rests.

Plating:

Serve to the table in the roasting dish.

This dish is rich, so keep your sides green and fuss free.  I quite like a crisp Italian coleslaw (thinly sliced or mandolined savoy cabbage and fennel, red wine vinegar, finely grated pecorino cheese, EVOO, generous amount of S&P, mint & fennel fronds to garnish) or similar to cut through the richness.

Easy lemony seafood, potato & herbs

Easy, yummy, cheap, adaptable and best served with a really good baguette with lashings of Lurpak butter.  I love to pair this dish with our G Series 2014 G4 Chardonnay** and plonk it on the table in my favourite roasting pan for everyone to rummage through (we have picky eaters in our household).

The G Series is our new top of the line range and the Chardonnay is complex and very traditionally Burgundian in its style, so it needs something that packs a punch of flavour to stand up to the layers of rich fruit characters and French oak nuances.

Which is why I don’t like to over complicate the food match…. when the wine is this good I want to enjoy it, not become a slave to it.

Ingredients:

Chat or baby potatoes, Mussels, calamari or squid, green prawns, scallops (out of shell), white wine for cooking (don;t use the G4 Chardonnay!!!), extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), garlic, red onion, lemons and lots of fresh herbs.

You can really use whatever seafood you want or can easily get, just make sure they are roughly cut to the same size so they cook evenly (quickly).

For the herbs, I use whatever is around, but generally go with lots of flatleaf parsley, oregano (fresh), thyme, rosemary, basil, chives and even a bit of mint.

Method:

Have a sip of your cooking wine to check it is all right, tie on your apron and pre-heat the oven to 200 (Celsius).

Add a good lug of EVOO to a heavy based roasting pan suitable for the oven & stove top.  Add your potatoes, whole cloves of garlic, red onions (quartered), rosemary, thyme (lemon thyme if you have it), lemon zest and lemon juice (don’t be shy!), a small amount of the white wine and season well with salt and pepper and put it in the pre-heated oven till the potatoes are cooked through and golden brown (30-40 minutes). Remove form the oven and turn oven to a high heat.

Turn the cook top onto high to keep the pan really warm while it is out of the oven and scatter the seafood in a single layer on top of the potatoes.  Add more white wine to the pan to make your sauce, and a bit more more lemon juice and zest and seasoning over the seafood.

Place back in the oven and cook seafood quickly (you don’t want it to stew, so if your in doubt about any of it, pre-cook it in a pan first), until it is just tender and showing colour.

Remove from the oven, season again for good luck, and splash over some more lemon juice and zest and add all your beautiful fresh green herbs.

Serve it in the roasting tray to the table and let everyone serve themselves.

One large roasting tray usually feeds 4 – 6 with bread depending on appetites and boy / girl ratios.

**The inaugural  release of our G4 Chardonnay will happen in or around October 2015.

My steak with chimichurri

Another mid week winner.  Particularly great for mid week entertaining or to have some leftovers of in the fridge. Chimichurri seems to have many guises, but this is one of my favourites.  It is also a very economical dish and looks great served on a wooden board in the middle of the table with a few salads or char grilled veg to dress it up.  And, the best part … no washing up!

Ingredients:

Steak: I tend to use rump or rib eye on the bone or a similar cut.

Chimichurri: equal amounts of flat leaf parsley &coriander, half the amount of oregano, garlic (crushed) to taste, paprika (I use smoked) & ground cumin equal amounts (round half a teaspoon of each)  and lemon juice to taste, but don’t be shy and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO).

Method:

Bring steak to room temperature, drizzle with EVOO and season well with S&P.

For chimichurri, add all ingredients to a little hand blitzer and blitz till coarse.

Cook steak on the BBQ till it’s how you like it and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Plate:

Cut steak up into strips against the grain, drizzle with chimichurri and serve the rest on the side.

Roast chicken with all the good stuff

I love chicken!  There I’ve said it.  It’s my favourite meat, the most versatile and the best to match with Chardonnay.  I cook this at least once a week and the best part is the smell that emanates through the house.  There are many fancier versions of roast chook, but for a weekday meal, it’s set and forget, puts the kids to bed and then finish it all off in the last ten minutes.  And, no, before you ask, don’t even think the pre-flavoured & stuffed marinated birds you can get from the supermarket will do the job…. they never do!

Ingredients:

A chook, a lemon cut in half, thyme (I have an enduring love affair with lemon thyme), sage, rosemary (or a variety of fresh woody herbs that you have at your disposal), extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), a head of garlic, salt and pepper (S&P), brown onion quartered or eshallots.

Sides: dutch (baby)

carrots, washed and trimmed, chat potatoes, woody herbs, butternut pumpkin, feta, sage, walnuts, EVOO, S&P and garlic.

Gravy: plain flour & chicken stock.

Method:

Put the chat potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water, season generously with  salt and bring to the boil and cook until until tender (20-30 mins).

Drain any excess liquid out of the chicken carcass and pat the top of the chicken dry. Stuff it with half the lemon, a bunch of your woody herbs, half a head of garlic (cut through the middle so the inside of each clove is exposed).  Put a bit of EVOO in a roasting dish (also suitable for use on the stove when making the gravy), place the chicken breast side up in the dish, drizzle generously with EVOO and season (don’t be shy with the salt it will help the skin go crispy).  Place the quartered brown onion or eshallots (these help give the gravy a rich brown colour) and the other half a head of garlic in the pan and put in a pre-heated oven at 180-200 degrees for an hour.

While the chats are cooking, put a glug of olive oil in another small roasting dish and add carrots, thyme and S&P and put in the oven  for about 40 minutes or until cooked to your liking.

Cut the pumpkin into wedges and place in another baking dish (a big one so there is room for the potatoes too) with a lug of EVOO and S&P, and cook in the oven with the carrots and chicken for about 40 minutes or till caramelised and soft.

When the potatoes are soft, drain and place in the baking dish with the pumpkin.  Smash them with a masher (I use a pestle), so they break up a bit, drizzle them generously with EVOO, season well, scatter over some of the woody herbs, a few garlic cloves and the juice from the other half of the lemon and roast them along with the pumpkin until they are golden, brown and crispy.

When you think the chicken is cooked, pierce the area between the thigh and the breast and if the juices run clear it is cooked.  Place the chicken breast side down on a plate and cover with foil to rest.

Put the kids to bed at this point and pour yourself a glass of E.M. Limited Release Chardonnay, a food and wine match made in heaven!

Put a handful of walnuts in the oven to toast (watch them carefully they turn quickly).

Skim or remove the excess fat from the roasting tin the chicken was in and add a tablespoon or two of flour and mix to form a paste.  Put the pan on the heat (stove top) and add chicken stock to make the gravy (I usually start with 500ml and add gradually as  necessary).  Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the roasting tray, squish the onion up and squeeze out the garlic cloves and bring to the simmer until it is the desired thickness.  If you are having trouble getting a nice rich colour in the gravy, add Vegemite or soy sauce to help.

Boil the jug and fill a gravy boat or whatever you plan to serve the gravy in with boiling water to get it warm.

Meanwhile in a small fry pan, brown some butter and add the sage when the butter is nut brown.

Plating:

Once everything is cooked, turn off the oven and put in all your plates and serving platters to get warm.

Add any liquid from the resting chicken to the gravy and pop back in the oven to keep warm.

Plate up the pumpkin, pour over the sage and brown butter and toasted walnuts and put back in the oven to keep warm. Put the potatoes and the carrots in serving dishes and back in the oven to keep warm.

Strain the gravy through a sieve into the warmed gravy boat and put in the oven to keep warm.

Take out the chicken, carve it and serve it to the table with all the sides and the gravy. Add the feta to the pumpkin at the last minute.  A family feast!

Then act really tired and make yourself scarce – there will be a pile of washing up.

I’m exhausted and I’ve just worked out why

Where did the month of November go? Straight to my hips I’m guessing!  Yes, this time of year is both heaven and hell for me. Countless dinners and drinks and the nervous wait for vintage 2015.  Here’s a quick wrap up of some of the last months highlights.

 

Family time before the madness

The silly season is a ridiculously busy time in the wine industry, so I managed to squeeze in a couple of days hanging out with my gorgeous kids in the Hunter combining business and pleasure.  Just the tonic before the silly season hit and they wondered where there mum had disappeared to.

A weekend Away

Next up, a weekend away at stunning Killcare with good mates for some fun in the sun.  I cooked one of my favourite chicken dishes for the crew on the Saturday night, pomegranate chicken with Lebanese caprese salad, roast potatoes and carrots in cumin and honey.  I love a meal that involves ripping meat off a bone with your bare hands.  Unfortunately, I was way too busy eating and drinking to get any food porn shots, but this is the cookbook the recipes came from and it comes highly recommended! Comptoir Libanais Cook Book

 

Some Serious Tasting

Work, work, work and no play. Well let’s face it, my work is quite like play as you can see from this tasting with the Camperdown Cellars Team who visited the hunter for a fine wine immersion.  My kind of immersion!

 

And …. some more tasting at Ladies Wine Options

What better way to finish a week than a good old night of options with the ladies.  The theme was Great Southern Riesling hosted by the lovely Sally Margan and what an unexpected treat.  Have to admit I had no prior expectations of this area, but I will definitely be including some of their wines on my ‘to drink list’ in the future.  Big thanks should also go to my Dad, who was kind enough to be my designated driver and pick me up from dinner way later than he would’ve liked to have been up.  Thanks dad!  Line up of wines below, with a particular mention for Castle Rock Estate, which had some very impressive drops. http://www.castlerockestate.com.au/

First Bracket – Castle Rock Estate

Castle Rock Estate is nestled on the eastern slopes of the Porongurup mountain range and is named after a prominent nearby landmark. The vineyard has a cool and elevated northerly aspect, resulting in intensely flavoured wines.

  1. 2014 Porongurup Riesling** $23 – Silver Qantas WA Wine Show 2014. 96 Points Halliday Top 100 2014 **My pick of the night
  2. 2013 Skywalk Riesling $20
  3. 2012 OD Riesling $19

Second Bracket – Judging Bracket

  1. 2014 Galafrey Riesling $20  Mt Barker I had this as a silver but it was  Gold at the Qantas WA Wine Show 2014
  2. 2014 Harewood Estate Riesling Gold $21 – Denmark Top Gold Trophy at Qantas WA Wine Show 2014
  3. 2014 West Cape Howe Mt Barker Riesling no medals $19 – Mt Barker Hallidays Top 100 2014 97 Points

Third Bracket (with cheese)

  1. 2012 West Cape Howe Tempranillo  – Frankland/Perth Hills $19
  2. 2012 Plantaganet Shiraz – Mt Barker $39.99

 

The 70th Birthday Bash (not mine!)

And on the parties and drinking and eating continued…..  Saturday night was a special night as my sister and I threw a belated combined 70th birthday party for my parents and 30 of their closest friends.  What a night! So much fun, so many great stories and just a bunch of really old mates enjoying great food, great wine and great friendship.  A truly humbling occasion and the highlight, the Imperial of 1986 Hector Limited Release Shiraz, still so very youthful, just like my gorgeous parents.

 

Educate, Drink, Eat, Taste, Learn, Play, Repeat!

The last week of November is a bit of a blur… but involved lashings of all of the above.  At this point a special shout out should go to the amazing team at the Cellar Restaurant who managed to feed me for something like 6 meals in one week.  http://the-cellar-restaurant.com.au/ Now you know why November went straight to my hips! Wednesday a presentation and meeting with a potential buyer, Wednesday night dinner for my Coraggio Advisory Board (4 courses and 4 brackets  of 4 wines each), Thursday a meeting of my Advisory board at Tulloch, followed by wine appreciation and a winery visit and you guessed it … wine tasting!  Then home, sweet home for our street party on Saturday afternoon with our fun neighbours and their families.  We’re pretty sure we are the friendliest street in Sydney and luckily for me they all enjoy a few glasses of wine too.

 

Member’s Christmas Party at Sydney Dance Cafe

Fabulous venue, really awesome vibe and what a crowd.  As always, I am genuinely humbled and overwhelmed by how lovely our wine club members are and their unwavering support.  Thank you to you all.

 

Wine Dinner at Ottimo Italian Kitchen in Hunters Hill

What a great suburban restaurant.  All proud Italians serving up deliciously authentic Italian fare with thoughtful Tulloch wine matches.  The scampi was to die for and the lemon butter Verdelho reduction sauce, ridiculously moreish.  Thank you to the chef and owner for my takeaway container of the left over sauce, I had to stop myself putting it on toast the next morning!  This place is everything I love about suburban dining in Sydney, it’s really honest and they have a wonderfully loyal local following that makes a wine dinner at a place like this instantly  convivial.

 

Time to Party Tulloch Style

First week of December, which can only mean one thing.  It’s time for the Tulloch Christmas Party.  A big thanks to the team at Emersons for hosting us for an indulgent 6 course degustation http://www.emersonsrestaurant.com.au/  I managed to only make one staff member cry (don’t ask… I’m blaming the emotional effects of Chardonnay), I didn’t forget to thank anyone in my speech, only one staff member got a bit too tipsy and fell over and I managed to convince my Dad to be the designated driver… again, so I was tucked up in bed by midnight.  Pretty good effort if I may say so myself. Big shout out to Mel and The Giant for  really interesting wine choices and exercises (matching current vintage Tulloch products with the same varietals from another region).  The Tulloch Limited Release 2008 Julia Semillon against the Peter Lehmann 2009 Margaret Semillon was a real battle of the matriarchs.  A huge thank you to the amazing team at Tulloch wines, they are all so doggedly dedicated and passionate, I owe them so very much and I am very thankful for each and everyone of them and their individual contributions.

 

5 days till holidays

Last Tulloch social event for the year …. our local Christmas Drinks at Cellar Door.  This meant it was time to get our Christmas on, and I managed to unnerve everyone when I arrived in the Hunter early Monday morning singing Christmas Carols and asking the location of our decorations so I could ‘festivise’ the cellar door.  You see I’ve always been of the, less is more philosophy when it involves anything glittery or sparkly, but becoming a parent changed all that and as my oldest is now 4 and REALLY into Christmas, I guess it has sort of rubbed off on me.  Super Brad almost had to wrestle the Christmas decorations off me for fear of the cellar door looking like Christmas had thrown up on it.  For once, some one was reminding me that less is more. Thank you to all the locals who joined us for Christmas drinks, we are grateful for your ongoing support and we look forward to continuing to put the Hunters best foot forward with you in 2015.

 

It’s not goodbye, it’s just see you later…

And now the end of my working year draws near and I will leave for 3 weeks holiday with my beautiful family, from whom I have been far too absent too often this year.  To my husband: I know when I am away and you can see my social media streams showing copious amounts of eating and drinking in various fantastic establishments, that it doesn’t look like I am in fact working.  Thank you for making what I do possible and for being a truly modern man and kid wrangler.  To my team at Tulloch, thank you for all your hard work.

And for me, it’s over and out for another year, I’ll see you all in the New Year for more adventures of the eating, drinking and being merry, kind.  Merry Christmas to you and your families and wishing you all a safe, happy, healthy and prosperous 2015.

I think I’ll pour myself a glass of chardy and have a lay down! Christina Tulloch xx

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PS. Keep an eye out for all the fabulous events and dinners we have planned in 2015 .  First out of the blocks will be a Tulloch Dinner at one of my favourite Hunter eateries, County Dining.  I hope to see you there!

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How to navigate a wine list like a pro

Wine lists are no longer just the humble keepers of social lubricants.  Instead they have become award-winning novels full of prose, descriptors and unpronounceable obscurities.  As our palates have matured and our curiosity in everything epicurean has peaked, the sommeliers of the city have upped the ante and we are now faced with some pretty big vinous decisions when dining out.  

In the days of yesteryear, an ill thought out wine selection simply ended in a bad hangover, but our modern wine waiters now assume we have some knowledge and we know how to use it.

Budget, Variety (as in grape variety), Region and Brand are key.  Know a little bit about all four and you’ll soon unlock the secret to sipping satisfaction for every occasion.

 

MY TOP TIPPLE TIPS

Get the Sommelier on side.

Wine lists are a sommeliers labour of love, they don’t need to be yours too.  You’re out to dinner, you want to relax and quite frankly, it shouldn’t feel like hard work. Don’t waste time deciphering a really serious autobiographical account of the sommeliers vinous coming of age, ask for their help.  This is what they do for a living, they can assist with all your wine wanderings and make you look good in the process. That said, be specific with your budget and if you don’t want to risk being disappointed, stick to a varietal you know you have enjoyed in the past.  If you don’t want to appear completely out of your depth or cheap, advise the sommelier of your budget or general preferences before he presents his oenological offerings to the whole table.

 

Want to go it alone?

You’d rather spend the evening conversing with your guests than dissecting the wine list with the sommelier?  You also don’t want to die of thirst wondering whether the bio dynamic Blaufrankish is worth $180 and if you will make a fool of yourself trying to order it?  There are a lot of idiosyncratic, international, overpriced, unknowns on wine lists these days, but that doesn’t mean you have to order the second cheapest wine on the list and hope for the best (no one ever orders the cheapest because they think it will make them look …. well, cheap!).

If you need a chardy stat, start at the index.  The bigger the list, the more useful the contents page will prove to be and you can skip directly to ordering something to loosen the larynx while musing over that unpronounceable the sommelier is steering you towards.  Most indexes or contents pages will have the wines listed by either region, varietal or both, so you should be able to quickly navigate to an area or style that you feel comfortable with.

 

Wine by the glass or the bottle?

Wines by the glass are also helpfully usually at the front of the list.  Quite clever, because you’ll probably order a glass of something prior to perusing the list in its full glorious entirety, but you need a glass of something while you do so.  ‘Wine by the Glass’ lists, are usually short and sweet with a few familiar usual suspects.  They should principally be made up of known varietals/brands/regions or a combination thereof.  If you plan on having more than two glasses, it will almost certainly be more cost effective to order a bottle.  If in doubt, stick with a brand you have heard, chances are you’ve heard of them because they’re good at what they do.  And remember, the best wine is the one you like the most, not necessarily the most expensive one.

 

You want to look like you know what you’re doing.

You need a safe choice that signals you are ordering with an air of confidence and won’t be seduced by high priced hipster wines with fancy labels and no pedigree?  Certain varietals grow well in certain regions, certain countries are known for certain wine styles.  So, if you stick to a few basics here you shouldn’t have any issues selecting a modestly priced wine showing regional and varietal definition (that’s a good thing). You’ll also be letting the Sommelier know you have enough knowledge not to be taken advantage of, but just enough to be taken seriously. Use descriptors like; full bodied or light, sweet or dry, and indicate a price bracket so they can give you options.   Something that matches to your meal is also important, so decide on the food before you call the Sommelier over.  Try, “a medium bodied red to go with meat, between $80-$100.”

 

The best wine styles from the best regions.

By no means exhaustive, buy you will rarely go wrong with these variety / region combinations. Semillon from the Hunter Valley, Sparkling from Tassie,  Chardonnay from Margaret River or the Yarra Valley, Sav Blanc from the Adelaide Hills, Pinot Gris from Orange and Riesling from the Clare or Eden Valley for some safe, but satisfying white choices. For the reds, Pinot Noir from Victoria or Tasmania, medium bodied Shiraz from the Hunter, full bodied Shiraz and Shiraz blends from the Barossa and McLaren Vale and Cabernet from WA. Across the ditch, Pinot from Central Otago in NZ and Sav Blanc from the North Island (think Marlborough).

 

Australian or International?

Further afield and international wines can get a bit more complex.  Big lists tend to divide the main varietals by old world (France, Italy, and Spain) and New World (Australia, NZ, America, Chile, and South Africa). The Old World system is very tightly controlled and requires explanation.  The wines are usually a blend and the focus is on the region, which will dictate the style. This is definitely the time to seek counsel from the sommelier or stick with one of the well-known regions within your price bracket.   Champagne, Chablis, Burgundy or Bordeaux from France, Chianti, Montelpuciano or Pinto Grigio from Italy and Rioja from Spain.

 

Do your research!

Conveniently many restaurants now publish their wine lists on line along with their menus.  If you want to impress, but still don’t feel confident making a sound choice on the spot with an audience, do your research before you arrive.  Better yet, phone a friend.  Friends call me from restaurants all the time or sometimes even email me the list in advance.  If you can’t get hold of me, it’s time to call in the professionals and get advice from the sommelier.  If they’re good at their job and value keeping it (which is usually the case) then they’ll steer you in the direction of a fine wine, every time.

 

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