And it begins, Ozzie Odyssey at Cutler & Co: off piste varieties

I’ve just arrived at Chateau Yering in the Yarra Valley, my very distinguished home for the next week of Landmark Tutorial tastings.  After arriving in Melbourne before the crack of dawn yesterday happily, I survived the onset of jetlag for long enough to enjoy dinner at Cutler & Co, the hot and happening Melbourne restaurant de jour, whose wine list is overseen by Matt Skinner, for Brits (everyone actually!), Jamie Oliver’s wine man at Fifteen. 

As you can see, Skinner (pictured) had to sing for his supper – he’d been charged with choosing our dinner wines.  His aim?  To showcase some deadly serious but fun winemaking talents as a cheeky overture before this week’s classic kit.  Here’s a quick word on my favourites.

De Bortoli Reserve Release Riesling 2010 (Yarra Valley) – as Steve Webber cheerfully admits, Riesling shouldn’t work in the Yarra, but it does.  Sarah Fagin did vintage at Leitz in the Rheingau and for Webber, the secret to this off-dry Riesling is getting enough dappled light in the canopy to keep the focus on the fruit and avoid phenolics and second, getting the numbers (sugar/acid) out of your head – just focusing on the balance in the glass, which was exemplary (7g/l residual sugar).  Quite Pfalz like with the talc of a warm climate rizza on the nose together with greengage and stone fruits, especially on the palate, which is round and a little earthy.  Very good, good balance.

Arrivo Nebbiolo Rose 2009, (Adelaide Hills) – it’s about the clasp of (ripe) tannin, a lovely firmly textured, dry rose with rose petal and dark chocolate hints to its pretty cherry fruit.  Tensile, with good freshness – just loved that texture.  From an elevated vineyard at 450m, fermented on the skins, 4 months on the lees.

William Downie Pinot Noir No S02 2010, (Gippsland) – 100% stems provide antioxidant ballasting tannins for this unsulphured Pinot Noir.  Though quite stemmy on the nose at first, it soon blows off, revealing a super pretty floral bright nose and palate, bright and savoury actually with a tang of cool clay to its delicate red cherry fruit.  Downie uses old oak, native yeasts and niether fines nor filters.  In a word, dewy.

Freeman Rondinella Corvina Secco 2005, (Hilltops NSW) – my favourite wine of the night, a beautifully textured, digestible red made from Valpolicella vareties which have been dried in solar powered prune kiln (of course!).  Very Italian in its slightly sour dark plum/cherry/berry fruit, liquorice spice, tealeaf  and a fresh espresso edge.  A well balanced finish is long and lingering, textured with a fine spine of tannin.

By the way, the food was great too – dense, chewy, but not too chewy rye bread, King George whiting, prawn vinaigrette, broccolini and guanciale for starter, followed by pillowy sweet potatoe gnocci with almond crumble.  I nosedived by cheese course…matchsticks at the ready now for the first tutorial!

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