Saturday, February 4, 2023

So what is the Winemaker drinking this summer?

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Empty glasses
Photo: Andrey Arkusha

Here we are in the middle of a La Nina summer. On the east coast where we live the nights are warm but mild, and the days are hot and humid.

As I opened my first beer of the evening – make that afternoon – I was inspired to put fingers to keyboard and tell my half dozen or so readers what I’m drinking.

Beer

First, I must confess that I’m a terrible beer snob.

Most mainstream beers taste like they’ve been drunk before. Some would say “love on a punt”. I won’t translate. The problem is that the big brewers make their product to a price rather than a taste. The main cost of their product is the marketing spend and the packaging, but they make whatever savings they can on the ingredients. The vast majority of beer drinkers drink labels, and it’s the marketing which matters.

But a few years back the big corporate brewers saw a loss of market share to craft brewers, and to say it frightened them is a huge understatement. They responded the only way they know – by buying up smaller brewers. In some of these brands, after acquisition by a big brewer, the flavour has been compromised by using inferior ingredients to save money, but some beers are unchanged.

Beers
Photo: Ron Sumners

Balter Hazy IPA1 and Easy Hazy

Balter Brewing is now owned by Asahi Brewing, part of a global conglomerate.

I was delighted to find the Easy Hazy on tap at my golf club. It is a delicious fruity, juicy number which is just the thing after 18 holes. Only about 4% alcohol, it overdelivers on flavour and refreshment. The Hazy IPA shouts “expensive hops” and is a nice example of American IPA – closer to the New England style. Both these are available in 375ml cans.

Pirate Life is now owned by Asahi. Based in Adelaide, it started out as independent, but could not resist the $$$$$ dangled in front of it.

I have only drunk their beers on tap since the packaging moved from 375ml to 355ml cans in another cost cutting exercise so typical of the big brewers. However when I drank them the beers were excellent, and show outstanding brewing skills. The IIPA2 is loony tunes personified – a huge hit of Galaxy and Mosaic hops, supported by serious but unobtrusive alcohol.

Remember Cascade Premium Lager? The one with the thylacine on the label. It was a nice beer until the accountants at head office in Melbourne had their say. The flavour changed – for the worse – and I don’t know if they still make it. That market is now serviced by the pleasant, eminently quaffable Boags Premium.

I must put in a good word for Coopers. This well run company delivers maximum flavour per unit of alcohol, with old favourites like Sparkling Ale, Pale Ale and Stout now joined by a mid strength offering, a serious IPA, a good XPA3 and the beer I’m sipping as I write this: Pacific Pale Ale. The PPA was first called “session ale”. It comes in a blue can, or sometimes a stubby at Aldi. Melba and Galaxy hops make for a refreshing aperitif beer with 4.2% alcohol. This is a ripper for the price of a 24 x 375ml pack, cans $54.99 at Dans or Stubbies (occasionally) $49.99 at Aldi.

Wine

Now to wine: when its hot we usually have a glass of cold water at hand beside our glass of wine. Squeeze a lime or lemon into the water if you wish. Some put water or ice blocks into the wine, not to be recommended. At a gathering recently I was appalled to see a bloke putting blocks of ice into his glass of  $110 bottle Felton Road Central Otago Pinot Noir, which he swigged in between drags on a gasper.

Wine bottles
Photo: Yurok

In this hot weather I’m drinking slightly lighter reds than my usual Shiraz. I put the GSM4 in the fridge for 40 minutes before pouring.

We are treating ourselves to Sydney rock oysters. These are in top condition now. At some other times Pacific oysters from the Eyre peninsular are the go. With oysters we find the perfect match to be Watervale Riesling. O’Leary Walker make some of the very best.

With food like fish we like a good Pinot Gris, or a lightly oaked Chardonnay. From the Adelaide Hills look out for Paracombe Wines Pinot Gris, consistently among the best in the country.

We like our whites dry, where the fruit gives palate sweetness rather than residual sugar. For this reason we avoid most New Zealand whites, Central Otago Chardonnay excepted.

Even though it is warm, we still like our roast lamb and the occasional steak or barbecued chop. I have some nicely cellared Coonawarra Cabernets to wash down the lamb. Shiraz from almost anywhere in Australia is fine for any meat dish. In this weather I’m enjoying Shiraz from the south of Margaret River. Its pepper and spice and “forest floor” characters are not dulled by slight cooling. Although still medium to full bodied, the slightly lighter GSM wines from Barossa, McLaren Vale or Clare deliver lovely flavours, many of them with tarry “old vine” complexity.

1. IPA: India Pale Ale
2. IIPA: Imperial India Pale Ale
3. XPA: between and Americal Pale Ale and an India Pale Ale
4. GSM: red blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre

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