I’ve often mentioned in this column that there’s a few of us that sit around a table and look at the wine samples that turn up on my doorstep, our Chateau Hangover as its sometimes called. It’s a mixed bag of people but it gives me a lot of feedback from people who all look for different things in their wine, we all have such different opinions when it comes to wine. We drop the bottle into a brown bag so there is no pre-conceived ideas about the labelling or brands or even the varietal of wine.
We’ve often said this would also be a great way to host a casual dinner party with a larger group of mates, a six pack of wine, all the bottles masked, everyone brings three or four plates of tapas or share platters, and you chat about which wine you prefer with the food, which one without, which one lingers the longest on the tongue or to the big questions like why does D.Trump think that orange skin tone looks good.
Cellarmasters have taken that format to the next level with a Red Wine of the Year Finalist six pack. For $120 (plus delivery) you get a bottle of each of the red wines that Wine Judges at Cellarmasters have picked as their finalists for Red Wine of the Year 2018. Inside the box you find six Aussie reds, from different parts of the country but all from recognised wine growing areas, six brown bags, tasting booklets and a quick “how to” with ideas for food matches and more in-depth details about the wine.
What I find great about the pre-packaged concept is that it exposes you to wines that you may not normally try. It also helps train and educate your palate as you find the differences and nuances between the bottles. In some the differences are quite stark, between others it’s not quite that easy, and finally you educate yourself. Not just because you finally find out that you prefer warm climate shiraz to cool climate syrah/shiraz, but also because you learn a little about your friends and their likes too.
Enjoying and learning about wine is more than just what you taste, it’s also about the atmosphere in which you learn in. You never think about what you’re trying if you are just sitting there in front of the tv on Friday night, it’s when you start to talk about the wine that you learn more, and learn ways of describing the wine more effectively as you bounce your thoughts off the others around the table. More importantly, because your amongst friends its less intimidating than it can sometimes seem.
The Cellarmaster’s half dozen is a great idea, but here’s a few tips that I found with their six pack that might help a bit up this way:
- Remove the cap before you get to the table, it’s a dead set giveaway. And to that end also tape or place a rubber band around the bag so that you hide the metal collar too. Otherwise decant the bottle.
- Because it’s all about the wine, make sure you chill the bottle to European room temp. However double bagging on warmer days is a good idea, placing the bottle in a loose freezer bag first or two brown bags as the condensation on the bottle will wet the bag and you will see the label.
- Label the bag with a number (1-6) BEFORE you place the bottle in it, because of that condensation issue it can make the bag rip
- Have your glasses ready. Sounds obvious doesn’t it, but we’ve all been there….
Who knew you could have so much fun with a paper bag?
A couple of the wines:
The Ridge Terra Rossa Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 – one whiff and you can tell this is a Coonawarra cab sav. Those classic aromas of mint, earthy and spice with the light crushed tomato leaf or green capsicum as people find it, it even smells deep, dark and dense. On the tongue this was such a joy to drink, sessionable is not a word I would associate with wine but that’s what we found ourselves with here. Lots of dark fruit, blackcurrant and dark, jammy plums, a touch of cocoa and mint, and a wonderfully long and silky finish. About $18 and will hold well till about 2023.
Alkoomi Charlotte’s Shiraz 2016 – WA is really making a fist of things with their reds, they are almost like the opposite side of the same coin when compared to the SA reds. This is good example of cool climate shiraz and a great introduction to those that want to explore that end of the pool. Ripe, spicy dark fruits on the nose, a little white pepper, plum and chocolate. On the tongue it’s loaded with blue/black fruit, mulberry, ripe blueberry, and a long velvety smooth finish. Will cellar till about 2025 $19 btl
Mockingbird Hill Slate Lane Premium Vineyards Shiraz 2016 – Clare Valley has a bit more slate in the soil which drains water off a little quicker, its warmer during the day and cooler during the night. It gives the fruit a natural freshness and minerality, both of which show well in this wine. Dark, spicy fruit and some smooth but subtle liquorice notes, coffee and mocha, the tannins are smooth but firm in the long finish. With careful cellaring this will hold well to 2022. About $22