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The season for white wine in the sun is over for now, at least in southern Australia, where it's already frosty and fading dreams of sun, sand, surf - and red wine - keep us warm on colder nights. But it's still 28C in Queensland and elsewhere north, so enjoy the sun while it lasts - these start-of-the-dry-season evenings are perfect for a cool wine sundowner. And of course if you're in the northern hemisphere, you have all of summer beckoning...

This month we head west to sample some delights of the Margaret River region, which has both red and white and all that any wine and food lover can dream of in abundance. The region’s undeveloped natural beauty makes it the ideal autumn escape for lovers of wine, food and nature. Margaret River is acknowledged as the home of some of Australia’s finest premium wines, especially cabernet sauvignon and cabernet blends. The region is renowned red wine country - but surprisingly only just over half of its total vineyard area is planted to red wine grapes. Whites, especially chardonnay, semillon and sauvignon blanc also prosper here. Within a few kilometers' radius of the great Caves Road you can find arguably Australia's best chardonnay and some of its most highly awarded reds as well.

So let's make sure they don't keep it all to themselves. We hope you enjoy exploring the wines and cellar doors of Margaret River this month, and your chance to pick up some Margaret River beauties at great prices, or even win a few in this month's competitions (see below) - including Leeuwin Estate's Art Series Chardonnay itself....

 

 

In this edition:


Quick Links:


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Quick Poll:

Q1. What’s the cheapest bottle of wine you’ve bought lately?


And was it any good?
Yes No

 

Q2.Are you concerned about the environmental impact of glass wine bottles?
Yes No

Would you buy wine in plastic bottles if you thought they were better?
Yes No

If you've tried wine in a plastic bottle yet, what did you think of it?




Explore Margaret River

Discover the best of the west, Margaret River's winemaking history and the wonderful cellar doors with our regional overview and itinerary recommendations.


Tasting Notes - great cabernet sauvignons in 2009

Sick of economic gloom? When only the very best is good enough you can't go past our Top 10 Australian cabernet sauvignons - and one suspects they'll outperform the stock market. You'll need a special place in the cellar for them to mature, but if you're patient you'll have the time of your life with these beauties, including one of the greatest vintages of all time from Moss Wood »

More tastings and pairings:


WIN some great wines, wine and beer books and more in our regular monthly competitions

Red wine, white wine and amber ale - find, taste and enjoy. We have seventeen more prizes in May for both our subscribers and Members, including some beautiful wines for winter. Read more and enter today.

 

 VisitVineyards.com SUBSCRIBERS - it's FREE to enter and this month there are 11 prizesSavour pinot, research amber or taste your way around a wine region in one Melbourne evening »

  • 6 lucky first prize winners can contrast, compare or simply sit back and sip on pinot noir from Tasmania's ultra-boutique, gold-medal winning Milford Vineyard in the Coal River Valley, and wine from the esteemed Voyager Estate in the heart of Margaret River. We have 6 two-packs to give away, each containing one Milford 2008 and one Voyager selection The 6 Voyager Estate wines we have to give away are the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon,  recommended to drink with prawns, scallops or marron; 2008 Chenin Blanc to drink with Asian salads; 2006 Chardonnay which particularly suits smoked salmon and other seafoods; 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot for beef fillet or lamb; the 2006 Girt by Sea Cabernet Merlot, to enjoy with quail or duck; and the 2006 Shiraz, which would match most red meats or game, and even spicy Middle Eastern dishes. It will be first in best dressed - those winners who reply first will get first choice.

  • For second prize 3 subscribers can research some of Australia's best boutique beers, then find out just which international beer will tap-dance across your taste buds with one of three copyies of The Beer Bible by Willie Simpson (and it's guaranteed to surprise you!)

  • Two lucky third prize winners can take a fellow wine-lover along to the Fed Square Victorian Regional Wine Showcase and taste your way around one of Victoria's wonderful wine regions - in June the feature vineyards are from the Geelong region.There are two double passes worth A$50 each to be won (valid for use up to and including the July showcase, 2009). Don't forget, if you're a regular attendee, all VisitVineyards.com Members receive a A$5 discount on the $25 single entry each month throughout 2009 »

 

VisitVineyards MEMBERS can also taste from West to East this month. It's a great time to join - as a new Member you are automatically entered into the draw:

Existing Members simply click on the link and fill in the form to enter the draw if you wish to win these prizes »

All Members can enter the subscriber competition also »

 

Are you an April winner?   Someone has to win these great prizes and we're sure you deserve to win so please check! We had a record number of  unclaimed prizes in March - 13 of a total of 20 - and after much chasing, we managed to find homes for most of them (sadly we can't drink them ourselves, we would have loved that half dozen Mornington Peninsula reds...). But best if you check now and don't miss out »

 

NEW TO VISITVINEYARDS.COM?

We offer fabulous wine, dining, book and travel prizes each month in our  free monthly competitions. Both Members and Subscribers can enter the Subscribers' draw and Members can also enter the exclusive Members' competition here »


The latest and greatest offers for our Members

If you're wine tasting on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria and looking for a great place to dine then try Veraison Restaurant @ Bluestone Lane, which is one of the Mornington Peninsula's newest, most exciting restaurants, delivering modern European food in an elegant setting overlooking the vines.

As VisitVineyards.com Members you will receive a complimentary bottle - not just a glass - of Bluestone Lane unwooded chardonnay with every two-course meal. And if you go back for a second visit anytime, they'll give you 30 percent off the total price of your meal. Find out more about these great offers here. »

More exciting offers - now expanding around Australia:

  • Food and Wine Travel offers interested individuals the opportunity to make the most of their travels to food and wine regions around the globe. Their inaugural tour departs in October 2009 and will take participants on an epicurean journey of discovery through New Zealand. Members who are quick and book this or any other tours with Food and Wine Travel will receive a complimentary case of select wines upon full payment. 

  • Brooklands Heritage B&B is an 1839 self-contained cottage near Victor Harbour in South Australia, and is the perfect based for exploring the nearby McLaren Vale, or stopping en route to a trip to the Coonawarra and Limestone Coast. VisitVineyards.com Members will receive not only a warm welcome but a complimentary local cheese platter and bottle of local wine - which you can select from their small cellar - to enjoy upon arrival »

  • The Original Oz Gallery, owned and run by the lovely Peter and Christina Nolan in Mt Martha, Victoria, exhibits high quality, original Australian artwork. VisitVineyards.com Members who make a purchase at the Original Oz Art Gallery will receive a voucher of the value of five percent of the total value of the purchase »

  • Autumn is a fabulous time to visit Cradle Mountain in Tasmania and see Australia's only native decidous tree in all its golden glory, then drink red wine by roaring log fires at night. At Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village you can enjoy a natural wilderness experience without compromising comfort. Private, self-contained cottages have been carefully sited in the natural bushland so you are surrounded by native plants and wildlife. VisitVineyards.com Members are invited to enjoy an exclusive discounted rate on all accommodation (15% off) »

  • Our new Margaret River partner, the highly awarded Voyager Estate , offers our Members each a complimentary glass of premium wine, the Tom Price 2005 Sauvignon Blanc Semillon or the Tom Price 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon when dining in their award winning restaurant, or if you join a tour of Voyager Estate and take a friend, Members will receive two tour tickets for the price of one, a saving of A$25 »

 

Your FREE GIFT when you join in May:

If you are among the first 20 new Members who join this month, you'll also be among the first in Australia to enjoy a FREE copy of the CD cookbook 'Everybody to the Table with the Tuscan Mammas', full of authentic (printable) recipes from the heart of the Chianti region for you to try out some wine matching with (numbers are limited - one CD per single or double Membership). The CD (RRP A$29.95 including postage) also contains demonstration video footage from the Club 'Gli Amici di Tutti a Tavola' culinary program. If you want to go to a cooking school in Italy this season, you'd be mad not to join VisitVineyards.com and enjoy an exclusive one day or four day package with the Tuscan Mammas. (Sadly I havent been yet, but our web team have and can't stop raving about it!).

Existing Members who would like a copy please email us with your details or fax to (03) 6248 5076 - Members' special price is A$24.95 including postage within Australia »

Any mother who enjoys Italian food would surely love one of these CDs, but you'll have to be quick for Mother's Day - maybe you can tell her it's on the way.


Heston Blumenthal's roast chicken, Ferran Adria and the late, great Max Lake

How does one of the greatest chefs in the world do the family favourite, roast chicken? FoodStuff columnist John Lethlean tried Heston Blumenthal's "scientific" version of the humble chook »

More food:

  • Possibly the best farmers' market in New Zealand runs every Saturday just north of Auckland, in Matakana - an undiscovered food heaven in New Zealand's far north »

  • Uberchef Ferran Adria was in Australia late last year to promote the release of his new book, A Day at elBulli  - on winter leave from his restaurant in northern Spain where over two million hopefuls request reservations for the six months it's open each year (your chance of getting in is under 1/2 a percent, unless perhaps you are also a celebrity).  In it, he expands on the concept of pleasure and food, and an elusive 'sixth sense'. Find out what you're missing in elBulli - a day in the life of the world's best restaurant, and read Jancis Robinson's elBulli 32-course degustation dining experience »

  • I'm going to propose a toast to the late, great Max Lake OAM, FRCS under food. Although in establishing Lake's Folly in the Hunter in 1963 - the first modern boutique, family-owned winery in Australia, which set the trend for the rich tapestry of the Australian wine industry we take for granted today - Max was a wine pioneer, to me it was his exploration of taste and the senses that set him apart. Like Ferran Adria he also spoke and wrote of a mysterious extra taste, but for Max it was the fifth sense:  'umami', a pleasant savoury taste that enriches and rounds out food and is particularly predominant in seafood, parmesan cheese, truffles and some vegetables (there's even a rumour that it's been discovered in Vegemite). Max wrote fourteen books on this and related subjects, many still available and relevant today, and was writing up to the time of his death. Charge your glasses (with cabernet or chardonnay) and drink to one of life's great individuals - to Max Lake.


Where you want to be .. the top wine and food events in May

Four of the world's leading chefs will create a unique culinary experience at four of Hobart's most spectacular restaurant settings during the Savour Tasmania festival from 27 to 31 May. Tasmania's pure, fresh and diverse produce will be transformed at Savour Tasmania in a memorable four days of the finest degustations »

More events:

You've asked for it - our national wine and food events calendar will be live on our website very soon.


Quick polls: Your favourite whites, and back label quotes for a smile

We love to get your feedback in our quick polls each month, and no doubt you'd like to hear it too. It will come as no surprise that the vast majority of you buy wine on price AND quality (I'm in this camp myself) but a significant percentage are fortunate enough to buy purely on quality - let's hope you are able to stock up on the Grange 2004, which we hear is a ripper (still have not got hold of any yet - but we will, and look out for it in our future competitions!). 2009 might well turn out to be a year of wine bargains in all price brackets, so all of us should have something to smile about. Keep an eye on our new news column for daily wine updates, including stories on great wine bargains and more »

Most of you aren't afraid to experiment with new labels, either, which must be music to the ears of the wine industry at present. Your choice for white wine in the sun is sauvignon blanc, and I am pleased to see this is closely followed by the perennially underrated riesling (my personal favourite white - get hold of some Delatite and see for yourself - and STILL a huge bargain); both were nearly twice as popular as chardonnay amongst our respondents. (We'll do an article on some excellent chardys soon... I tried some world-class rippers with Brian Stonier in the Mornington Peninsula recently.) Pinot noir is increasing in popularity and is starting to be seen less as a wine for the cognescenti and more as an easy-drinking red. Perfect for this time of year, for sure.

We sure got some interesting back-label quotes, too. Some confess to never reading them, others devour them with the attention given to cereal boxes at the breakfast table. 'Enormous nonsense'  is a not uncommon theme, while others are 'too busy enjoying the contents'. One subscriber can't recall the wine, but knew that when it 'talked about the lovely region and mentioned nothing about the wine, I knew then that the wine wouldn't be any good'! I was expecting more fruity quotes perhaps, and  'drink with dappled sunlight' sure had us wondering, but mostly I'd love to know which wine 'will go with anything', so a bottle of Tasmanian pinot noir will find its way to Mr R. Black of Brisbane for that, and maybe he'll let us know what it is - it sure would be a sommelier's dream, and save much kitchen indecision.

Don't forget this month's quick poll - we'd love to know what wine bargains you are unearthing at present, and what you think of the plastic wine bottle idea (Wolf Blass PET bottles are about to hit the shelves).


Is the downturn bottoming? Travel and drink smarter...

We're now over six months into our new Membership program and we'd like to thank you all for your fabulous support to date. As we expand our Members' offers across Australia to meet your needs, we are continually striving to bring you excellent value for money. Some people say to us 'but how can you charge A$99 a year in these current economic conditions'? Well, as much as we'd like to be able to give you everything for free, in the absence of a generous sponsor, we can't - but we can make sure that you get great value for your money and indeed that you can get your money back in just one or two weekends away (and sometimes on your first purchase). People are still travelling and drinking wine - so travel and drink smarter, with a VisitVineyards.com Membership card in your wallet or handbag. Advertising guru Harold Mitchell has just assured us that his advisor Charlie 'who hasn't been wrong in 20 years' says that the downturn has bottomed, so let's all drink to that and be a little more optimistic.

Next month we'll have some very exciting wine news for you, but we'll keep that a secret for now. We'll also be unveiling our long-awaited calendar, maps and more, so you can plan your trips to wine regions and events more easily than ever.

In the meantime, good health to all, and we hope you enjoy the autumn weather (more like winter as I write this) and some lovely warming wines to match the seasonal cuisine.

Salut!

Robyn Lewis and the VisitVineyards.com team