Eating crow: Australian wine that I truly loved


Above: No trip to San Diego is complete without a Jaynes Burger at Jaynes Gastropub.

It was the white wine that first intrigued me and lured me in. And then it was the red — gritty and tannic but just old and wise enough — that seduced me.

For many years it seemed inconceivable to me that I would even approach Australian wine, let alone like it. When my band Nous Non Plus played in Germany last year at a Green party conference, I even tried to talk some young attendees out of drinking the famed critter wine, telling them that its consumption was diametrically opposed to their ideals.

But as some of the exchanges of the last few months have taught me, the extremes of extremism go the way of the historical avant-garde and Yale school deconstruction: after you kill the author (or the winemaker), you ultimately are left with nothing, n’est-ce pas?


Above: Chef Daniel made a wonderful yellow tomato coulis vinaigrette with his seared scallops. The pairing with the 1986 Semillon was off-the-charts good.

Well, it’s time for me to come clean: on Saturday night I hosted a wine dinner in San Diego at Jaynes Gastropub where I poured 6 Australian wines that I truly loved. Three bottlings of older Semillon, including Mt. Pleasant 1986 Lovedale Semillon, and three bottles of older Shiraz, including Hardy’s Eileen Hardy 1998.

The whites — including the 23-year-old — showed beautiful acidity and white fruit and all were at about 11% alcohol. The Tyrell 95 and 96 were still babies in the glass but opened up beautifully as they arrived at room temperature and aerated: they drink more like red wines than white.

The reds were gritty and tannic, with integrated wood, but with approachable berry fruit and woodsy flavors. The only wine that seemed a little bit “slutty,” as we sometimes say in the business, was the crowd-pleasing 2001 Tower Barossa Shiraz. But I have to say that I liked it. It wasn’t overly jammy and although it lacked the structure of the Hardy, it was fun and easy to drink and not offensive in the way that some of the commercially produced wine that I’ve seen from Australia.

So, there! Do I have to write a recipe for eating crow? What would you pair with crow anyway?

All I do know is that the 1999 Hardy’s that I discreetly opened and paired with the Jaynes burger the night before was decadently brilliant.

The bottle that started it all…

Above: the bottle that started it all… a 1968 Barolo by Scanavino got Alice Feiring interested in wine more than twenty years ago. She’s kept it all this time…

Wednesday evening of last week led me to the home of wine writer and blogger Alice Feiring for a preview party for her new book, The Battle for Wine and Love: or How I Saved the World from Parkerization (Harcourt). A group of magazine editors and other guests tasted ten wines blind and Alice talked about the genesis of her book and her fierce love for natural wine.

In the second flight of wines (five bottlings, each made with Syrah), she included a Yellow Tail Shiraz: it was striking to see the guests — most of them lifestyle as opposed to wine writers — experience that moment of enlightenment when they tasted naturally made Syrah side-by-side with one of the most industrial wines available on the market today.

Alice is known by many in the wine world as one of the most skeptical and cynical writers on the scene but she spoke that evening of what she calls “the golden age of wine making.”

“There’s a lot of bad, spoofilated wine out there,” she told the group, emphasizing the term that wine-folks use to denote “spoofed” or “tricked out” wine. “But there is also more good wine produced than at any other time in history.”

Let’s hope she’s right…

Look for the book in May, 2008…