Pour and prattle festival

Food and wine festivals are becoming as common as hot breakfasts. While each tries to differentiate itself you can always tick the same list of (not) unique selling propositions that will be trotted out: master classes, celebrity chefs, chef Q&A, restaurant signature dish promotions, glass and a dish special, wine sensory sessions… they are all there, just dressed up differently.

It is New South Wales Wine Week this week. While someone had a backslapping aren’t-we-clever launch somewhere last week that largely went unheard the opening public gambit the “Sydney Cellar Door” was a well honed consumer wine expo in Sydney’s Hyde Park. While this wasn’t unique as a concept this one had great depth having very effectively lined up NSW’s 14 wine regions to have them all very well represented in good numbers. And that is unique. All too frequently there is a regional group display that’s all things to everyone with out much vigour or just the odd keen participant prepared to pour and prattle and wave the region’s flag.

Let’s count those 14 NSW regions – I’m sure many wouldn’t come to mind in a dinner table quiz: Bathurst, Canberra District, Cowra, Gundagai, Hastings River, Hilltops, Hunter Valley, Mudgee, New England, Orange, Riverina, Shoalhaven, Southern Highlands, Tumbarumber and Western Plains.

Orange held me the longest of the regions as it never fails to satisfy… and surprise. Even when one winery proffered a wine that’s fruit was clearly from a warm region rather than grown locally. It shouted loud and long that it was an interloper among the cool climate offerings around it. Surprise! Nothing wrong with the wine just that it was at odds with the…dare I say, terroir.

Philip Shaw master of chardonnay and pinot didn’t disappoint and his Philip Shaw No 5 Cabernet Sauvignon is a knock out. Belgravia’s Gewurztraminer was cheekily mesmerizing with its Turkish Delight characteristics that begged for some delicate Asian food…but that was way over the other side of the park and I was on a mission. Cargo Rd Wines 2004 Zinfandel thunders in at 16.5 per cent alcohol – but what an explosion of aromatics on the nose. And for those who like to read wine labels this Zin offers a different slant: “Know me stranger for I am the life’s blood and thy nectar. I shall wet thy lips parched by the winds of depreciation and nourished shall be the body desiccated by the scorching inferno of temperature. Rest thy head upon my bosom. Lose myself in the ecstasy of caresses. I am Zinfandel.”. just try and absorb that after absorbing 750ml of 16.5 per cent liquid brambles and dark berries.

Ross Hill was something of a find with a burgundian style 2009 chardonnay and a first effort 2008 pinot noir that was reminiscent in perfume and structure of earlier Mornington Peninsular pinots. And as with many of the offerings at the “Sydney Cellar Door” event – they are cellar door, direct and on-licence propositions. There were some delicious discoveries to be made in the space of about six hectares in the heart of Sydney.

NSW Wine Week will tick some of those tried and true festival offerings. There are 60 restaurants doing special lunches and dinners matched with NSW wine for under $50 while four restaurants (Becasse, Buon Ricordo, Pilu at Freshwater and Sean’s Kitchen) will run heftier Tour of the Region dinners.

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