With friends from the US and Melbourne in town, we had five of us for a fabulous meal at Fish on the Rocks with great matching wines Friday evening. And then the bigger affair with 11 of us on Saturday evening with an outstanding wine and food line-up cooked by Jay Huxley, Masterchef finalist and his crew. But first I want to discuss the fun I had participating in Food in Focus radio show Saturday afternoon. This is a regular Saturday feature at 4 pm which Natascha Moy has been hosting for four and a half years now on FM 89.7 radio.
We had great fun. Natascha always has three guests from various aspects of the food and wine industry. I was privileged to be on the show with Lisa Margan, owner and proprietor of Margan Estates in Broke in the Hunter Valley, and with Nick Wills, owner and Brad Sloane, the chef of The Riverview Hotel at 29 Birchgrove Road in Balmain, NSW.
I have been to Margans several times and have some of their great 2003 White Label Shiraz and their 2006 Barbera in my cellar. It is a beautiful setting for doing a tasting, having a meal, or even for getting married! I have not been to the The Riverview Hotel, but will definitely try it now that I have sampled some of these guys food! And if I remember correctly, they do a very nice pizza for $20 and on Tuesday, you can get two for $20!
I was the 'wild card' wine guy for the show. I brought along three bottles of wines as representative party wines. The wines I brought were the 2010 Vavasour Pinot Gris from New Zealand, the 2009 Tyrrell's Verdelho, and the 2005 Kelman Shiraz, both from the Hunter Valley. The winning wine among the guests was the first one we opened and tasted, which was the 2010 Vavasour Pinot Gris. It had a very smooth texture, and mandarin and a bit of grapefruit flavorings. And everyone really seemed to enjoy a New Zealand white wine which was not a Sauvignon Blanc!
So what did I have to say about party wine? It can be summarized as follows:
- You don't need to spend more than $20 per bottle for party wines and you can still impress. All three bottles I brought along were between $12 - $18.
- Don't bring Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc as everyone else is bringing those, so bring something else to provide some choice.
- Parties can get warm if there are a lot of people or if outside, so if you are only bringing one bottle, make it a white wine.
- Good white party wines can be Pinot Gris or Verdelho which are easy and enjoyable to drink on their own and go with canapes, dim sum, etc. A Marsanne would not go as well or be appreciated by a wide variety of people. A Semillon or Gewürztraminer would be ok, but not have the wide-spread appeal that a Pinot Gris or Verdelho would on its own.
- If you are bringing a red wine, try a secondary grape to treat people to something different. A Barbera, Tempranillo, or Sangiovese is different and easy to drink.
- Or bring something unusual or a bit more personal. That is the reason I brought along the Kelman Shiraz, as it can only be bought at the cellar door, and it is associated with the winery where I have a place to live.
- Don't bring a bottle of wine if you do not know how it will taste or are trying to recycle a bottle received from someone else!