Sometimes, things are far greater than the sum of their parts. A friend of mine who is a well travelled food, wine and fashion type was trying to explain why a dinner she experienced recently was one of the very best, “It just made me smile the whole way home.” As with many expressions of greatness, it was hard to identify precisely what made it so wonderful. As we all know, you can eat perfectly good food but still have an ordinary night, have outstanding service yet little-to-no atmosphere or you can note that everything was perfect but nothing quite right. Such alchemy in food and wine matching is sometimes known as the elusive ‘third flavour’. For others, the only way to explain it is to say that it makes you smile.
I shared these wines with food and friends and they had the very same effect. Similarly, they are all made from great component pieces but with all of them, there just seemed to be that little something extra.
Gaelic Cemetery Riesling 2012
There are many reasons this wine is so brilliant. In essence it is a mix of winemaking pedigree, outstanding site, minimal winemaking and a region rightly lauded for its ability to produce world class Riesling. Made by Neil Pike of Pikes Wines, the brief was to craft “small volumes of a super premium, single vineyard, single varietal Clare Valley wine that best reflects the vintage, varietal and uniqueness of place”. The wine has aromas of talc, citrus, flint and blossom with an enlivening crisp, dry palate with citrus, minerality and excellent length. At a recent dinner, a glass of this did what a glass of Champagne would normally do – give a kick and announce the night as something special. One sip and it was though every single point of taste, flavour and sensation were being brushed with fine gold braid. Like sipping a wine with a minute current that shimmered all the way down. If that’s not enough to make you smile and make you wonder what else is involved, I’m not sure I can help.
Domaine Bellegarde Jurançon Sec “La Pierre Blanche” 2009
I enjoyed this wine on one of those lovely autumn afternoons when the temperature was still warm and the trees dripping with golden leaves. Jurançon Sec is a dry white wine style from South West France that sits somewhere between the excited shrill of a Sauvignon Blanc and the luscious complexity of a worked Chardonnay. This La Pierre Blanche is a lovely wine with a complex nose of honey, wet stone, chalk and stonefruit continuing on the palate. Excellent acidity gives the wine pace and race all the way down. It made me smile, but so the lore and legend goes, not nearly as much as this style of wine made the French poet Colette smile. A fan of the white wine varieties of Manseng she was once quoted as saying, “I was a girl when I met this prince; aroused, impervious, treacherous as all great seducers are.” Don’t take my word there’s something else going on here; lift the lid and take a turn with the Prince yourself.
S.C. Pannell Tempranillo Touriga 2011
Tempranillo: the Spanish grape variety famed for making the great red wines of Rioja, and Australia; the sometimes drought-affected, winegrowing country in the Southern Hemisphere, have quite a thing going on right now. Tempranillo is one of those varieties able to endure warm dry conditions, making it well suited to some of Australia’s top wine regions. Steve Pannell of S.C. Pannell Wines is all about finding these ideal regional and varietal pairings. “I try to create wines that suit our climate and way of life – wines to drink with the food we grow, make and eat in Australia.” A bright and lifted bouquet of dark berries and spice, the ride continues on the palate with spice, berries and an earthy richness. It’s a luscious and lovely savoury wine. Oh and that something else? That’s the dollop of Touriga, the red variety from Portugal that also does well in Australia, added to this wine to give the wine a little bit of well, something extra.
Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Merlot Cabernet Franc 2008
There are many reasons this wine could add something to your meal. Tapanappa is winemaker Brian Croser’s venture in which he aims to make very special wines by matching all the component parts exceptionally well – climate, soil, geology, varieties with impeccable winemaking and viticulture. The Whalebone vineyard was planted in 1974 and is so named because of the whale skeleton found in a limestone cave on the property, a reminder of the scale and age of Australia’s geological history. After three decades of struggling on the site, the vines have finally penetrated the deeper limestone layers to extract the nutrients and moisture that help to make such a significant wine. It’s a rich, heady, complex wine brimming with aromas of blackcurrant, spice, violets, earth and minerality, all woven together with acidity and freshness.