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The Beauty in the Beast

Welcome to our April newsletter, featuring wine and seafood.

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Now, please sit back and take a little time to enjoy your April newsletter. In this edition, we get our hands wet with a look at the culture of the oyster in Australia. We have a look at what Australian wines are good to drink with oysters and review a book all about - you guessed it! - oysters.

Oyster Bed

Barilla Bay OystersIs your passion with Pacifics or do you simply love Rock? If you're crazy about oysters this doesn't always matter as oyster lovers simply love oysters - there are those of us who will always have preferences and luckily here in Australia we have an abundance of oysters to seduce and tempt us.

Pacific oysters were introduced into Tasmania from Japan in 1947, and into South Australia in 1969. Oysters planted in Tasmania and South Australia successfully spawned and now each state has its own thriving Pacific oyster industry producing delicious oysters virtually year round. The Rock oyster is native to Australia and is farmed along the Queensland and NSW coast. Rocks thrive in warmer waters.

Native oyster populations were overfished as far back as the 1860s (the increasing arrivals of Europeans saw their stocks quickly depleted) and by 1870 oyster farms had been set up along the NSW and southern Queensland coast. This merely scratches the surface of an enormous history, and there are now 'Sydney Rock' oyster farms in NSW and South-East Queensland.

These two varieties are the most common types of oysters available in Australia.

Rocks!

  • The Sydney Rock oyster has a shallow shell; it's a small oyster compared to the Pacific beauty and can take up to four years to mature. It has a natural sweetness to it; complex and bold more than subtle, both in texture and mouthfeel. Sydney Rock oysters are renowned for their lingering finish that hints of minerality. Moreton Bay in South East Queensland has some special rock oyster farms among them including Kooringal Oysters where rock oysters are farmed.

Pacifics…

  • The Pacific oyster's popularity is partly due to its supply and mostly due to its fleshy texture and coupled with its delicate, fresh flavour. These beautiful bivalves only take a couple of years to mature and are grown mainly in South Australia and Tasmania.

    Full mouthfeel, salty middle palate, a mineral finish - this oyster walks the line of robust delicacy on the palate; there is a punch of flavour that is countered by a sweet gentle finish. Freshly shucked, you can even taste the ozone air by the sea....

    An example of good Tasmanian Pacific oysters (and there are many) are Barilla Bay oysters just on the outskirts of Hobart. This farm is so close to the airport it's hard not to take a quick detour en route interstate, to collect a coolpack of freshly shucked oysters for a special treat at the other end of your journey. Pick up a bottle of local wine to enjoy also. Fabulous! The Barilla Bay Oyster Farm was established in 1980 by the Forrest family and they opened their oyster-themed restaurant and shop in 2004, with views over their oyster beds. Other Pacific oysters are grown in the clear Tasmanian waters of Pipe Clay Lagoon, Coles Bay, Little Swanport, Bruny Island, Pittwater, St Helens and Smithton. Throw in crayfish (lobster), scallops and abalone - our island state certainly is spoilt for fresh seafood choices.

    Coffin Bay Oysters in the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia also produces Pacific oysters; test your palate (and your friends!) by purchasing a regional selection and see if you can name the provenance - it's as much fun as tasting wine.

Wine with the Oyster?

Oysters Wine TastingWhat to drink with oysters is a little like choosing what to wear on hot day; what feels good, what feels comfortable and what makes sense. There are classic matches that are timeless like Spanish manzanilla or fino sherries, or Chablis from Burgundy - minerally, tight, dry and structured.

There is also a delectable choice of Australian wines with dry structure and enough flavour on the middle palate to lift the briny bivalves from their pearly sleep. Rieslings may be an obvious choice, but you can try a fragrant sauvignon blanc as well as the more unctuous pinot gris or grigio.

We've chosen a handful here that are dry, structured and with differing characters, highlighting differing regions and tastes.

Jancis Robinson MW, with her assistant Julia Harding MW (referred to as JH below), has given us exclusive permission to reproduce some of her tasting notes of Australian wines, from which we have chosen some that well match seafood:

These wines were tasted at the Australia Day tasting in London. If you have already signed up to JancisRobinson.com via our subscribers-only special offer, you can have a look at more than 250 of her recent tasting notes of Australian wines.

Jancis Robinson uses the 20 point wine scoring scale, also used by the Australian wine show societies in awarding their medals (gold medal = 18.5+).

    Outlook Hill: Pinot Gris 2007. Yarra Valley, Victoria.
    Delicate, slightly floral. Fresh, pure, clean and well priced. 14% (JH) Points 16.5 Drink 2008-2009

    To find out what the Outlook is click here

    Ten Minutes by Tractor: Pinot Gris 2005. Mornington Peninsula, Victoria.
    Memorably named producer comes up with utterly convincing Italianate flavours and some floral aromas. Lightish. Points 16.5 Drink 2006-07 (JH)

    To find out where the name and the wine comes from click here

    Grosset-Hill Smith: Mesh Riesling 2006. Eden Valley, South Australia.
    Very firm and mineral - almost twangs as it's poured. Tastes bone dry and a little severe for the moment. I'd be most happy drinking it with food from the beginning of 2008. 12.5% Points 16.5 Drink 2008-10

    To read more about the Mesh, click here

Not reviewed by Jancis, but included here as a delectable seafood wine:

    Clemens Hill: Sauvignon Blanc 2007. Coal River Valley, Tasmania.
    From the winners of the 2007 Qantas Trophy for their powerful but elegant 2005 Reserve Pinot Noir (the first time Australia has triumphed over New Zealand for some years) also by winemaker Julian Alcorso, comes an equally elegant sauvignon blanc, much closer to the style of Sancerre than most Antipodean examples. With the Clemens Hill vineyards overlooking Barilla Bay itself, what better provenance for a wine to enjoy with the local oysters? 12.5% Points 17.5 Drink 2008-09. (RL)

Don't forget, by subscribing to Winepros for free you have your wine library and you can also join a lively community of wine enthusiasts in more than 70 countries with our partner's VisitVineyards.com exclusive subscriber offer to JancisRobinson.com. All subscribers can become members of Jancis Robinson's website for A$109 p.a. That's an immediate saving of A$50 - 30% off her normal annual membership price of A$159 (* or variation due to currency fluctuations*).

No matter where you live in the world, if you are a Winepros Archive or VisitVineyards® subscriber, and you pay in Australian Dollars*, you are eligible for the 30% discount*. So why wait? If you haven't already, sign up now.

Jancis Advert

Tasty Extras

Purists may mock but sometimes it's lush and lovely to dip your oyster into a sauce that brings out its minerally best, or that adds to the punch of flavour. Internationally recognised chef Tetsuya Wakuda produces a delightful dressing simply called Tetsuya's Vinaigrette for Oysters - its combination of grapeseed oil, rice vinegar, soy and ginger creates a sharp, salty, bitey mix that hugs the oyster flesh, lifting the flavour of the bivalve and leaving a subtle gingery spice lingering on the palate... it's good.

OYSTER HOUSE

Book - The House of Oysters'Oysters have no head but a small, three-chambered heart and colourless blood.' To find out more obscure or essential facts about the oyster take a peek at this month's book review The House of Oysters.

An oyster farm established in 1980, on the outskirts of Hobart, Barilla Bay has shown ambition and foresight from the outset. They opened a restaurant and food store in 2004 and became book publishers this year with the release of The House of Oysters... This is a delightful little book - sure to become a collector's item - which would make a great Mother's Day gift for an oyster-loving mum, with 55 recipes by A-list chefs from around Australia to enjoy.

Read our full review on The House of Oysters here...

OUR APRIL COMPETITION: DINE AT ESPOSITO RESTAURANT

Esposito RestaurantOur competition this month follows our wine and seafood theme. First prize is dinner - valued at $200 - at Esposito Restaurant in Carlton, Melbourne. Owner/chef, Maurice Esposito and business partner, Michelle Louis, have taken what was the renowned Toofeys restaurant, kept its seafood focus and lifted it to a relevant, sophisticated experience, combining Esposito's French training and Italian heritage, into dishes that balance studied complexity with brash bravado. Esposito is a highly regarded seafood chef; he is meticulous about product and also happens to be a mad oyster lover! The restaurant also boasts an extensive and interesting wine list.

Enter now, and if you can't make it to Melbourne to wine and dine at Esposito's during 2008, this prize is transferable.

There are 3 second prizes this month! We have 3 copies of The House of Oysters to give away to subscribers - wherever you may live in the world, we can post this prize to you.

Remember that all subscribers can enter our competition each month - look out in May for your chance to win one of 3 pairs of tickets to the Mornington Peninsula Winter Wine Fest held this year on the 7th June.

WHAT'S ON AROUND WINE AND FOOD REGIONS IN APRIL?

April has Autumnal festivities throughout the country including a celebration of the oyster and a feast of seafood as well as wine tastings at Hunter Valley Semillon & Seafood from Friday 18th - Sunday 20th April.

The F.O.O.D (Food of Orange District) Week 2008 is promising to be a delicious affair. Located at Orange, in Central New South Wales this is a big week of regional tastes and celebrations, from Friday April 11th to Sunday April 20th.

Over in South Australia the Coonawarra After Dark events allow you to see into the winemakers world at the peak of harvest - a fascinating nocturnal opportunity on the nights of April 11th and 12th.

Anzac Day on 25th April often features races around the country (including in the Hunter Valley), but a special Anzac Day Wine and Food day is held annually at Avoca, in the Pyrenees region of Victoria. It might be a long way from the sea, but this year you can come and help celebrate the receipt of the Melbourne Wine and Food Festival 2008 Legends Award by Luigi and Athalie Bazzani of Warrenmang Estate, the first time since its inception in 1993 the award has gone to a regional winner, and a fitting tribute to their 30 outstanding years in the wine and hospitality industries. Congratulations from all of us here at Winepros Archive and VisitVineyards.com®

See you there perhaps!

Hilary McNevin, Editor.

PS To be in the running for some oysters - shucked to order - at Esposito Restaurant, in inner-city Melbourne, or a copy of The House of Oysters, make sure you enter this months competition on VisitVineyards.com®.

And a special thanks to an eagle-eyed reader in South Australia who pointed out the typing error in our last edition - of course the alcohol content of Giant Steps Sexton Pinot Noir 2005 is 12.8%, not a massive 21.8%.


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The header image is of Scotchman's Hill, Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria, Australia.
Oyster images supplied by Barilla Bay Oyster Farm, Cambrige, Tasmania.

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