– With Peter Bourne

The warmer weather of our summer months lures us out of our wintery shells into the dazzling sunshine – and the heat. Cool flavours are what we seek – be it food or drinks. When it comes to food, the duo of Australia’s abundance of seafood and our incredible array of multicultural cuisines offers fresh, bright flavours that suit the balmy weather. Oysters, prawns, tuna, salmon and all-sorts of cephalopods – served a la natural or cooked with exotic spices and served with a wedge of lemon.

The barbecue becomes the focus with grilled sausages, chops and steaks served with simple salads. In fact, led by cooks like Yotam Ottolenghi, those salads are becoming more complex with healthy grains and pulses giving them the protein boost for a stand-alone lunch or for a light evening meal.

So let’s explore the amazing range of summertime wines. Oh, and remember to cool your reds on a blazing hot day…..


Outdoor eating takes on a whole new guise when it’s packed in a picnic basket, lugged for miles before being set up in a cool, grassy glade. Equally heavy is the mandatory Australian icon — an Esky brim full of cold beer and appropriately chill-able wines.

One of the best tips when matching food and wine is to balance the weight of the wine with the complexity of the food. Picnic food is fresh and tasty, so select equally refreshing whites and juicy, light-framed reds. That hefty basket may include a quiche, frittata, pâté, terrine, a plethora of charcuterie and some stinky cheese.

Pop the cork on an Angullong Sparkling Rosé to salve the thirst before moving on to a crisp white such as the Nine Yards Sauvignon Blanc.

Eschew your heavyweight shiraz and cabernets for alfresco reds that welcome a gentle chill. Pull them out of the icy Esky to allow them to come up a few degrees before serving. The savoury, spicy Colab & Bloom Grenache works well with salami or pork and pistachio terrine. Pair the raspberry and aniseed flavoured Willunga 100 Tempranillo with a Manchego cheese for a true Iberian experience.

One of the great benefits of Australian winegrower’s universal move to the screwcap is that forgetting a corkscrew is no longer the picnic disaster that it was in the olden days of cork!


Australia’s incredible wealth of seafood offers the opportunity to indulge in a feast of fresh and simply cooked crustacean, whole fish and other underwater treats. Oysters are a delicious starter and just perfect with a crisp, dry riesling from the Eden or Clare Valleys. The riesling’s citrus bright acidity replaces the need for a squeeze of lemon. Semillon is another wonderful seafood white — try a zippy young Hunter Valley semillon with a salt and pepper squid. Sauvignon blanc is equally seafood friendly – try the Leura Park Estate Sauvignon Blanc with a Thai style prawn and glass noodle salad.

Whole fish makes a great centre point to a seafood feast. Pair breezy white like the Buller King Valley Pinot Grigio with a snapper spiced with lemongrass and ginger or a delicate pinot noir with a whole baked Tasmanian salmon. The pinot’s mildmannered tannins and tangy acidity will cut through the oily (Omega 3 rich) texture of the salmon like a hot knife through butter. Speaking of butter, if the budget allows, split a fresh crayfish and grill it with a smothering of herb infused butter. Serve it with a buttery ‘old-school’ chardonnay for a marvellous food and wine match. Salmon also lends itself to Japanese dishes like sashimi or sushi – serve with lightly chilled sake for a nice (nationalistic) match. Salmon also shines as the base for Nordic-inspired gravlax. Damien Pignolet, of Claude’s and Bistro Moncur fame, marinated the salmon in sauvignon blanc for his legendary gravlax – so there’s an obvious synergy in serving a savoury sauvignon blanc.

Bouillabaisse is the ultimate seafood dish, its gusty (saffron) spiced flavours typically paired with an acid-etched Beaujolais Nouveau. An alternative is a frisky rosé with soft redcurrant flavours and an incisive acidity to cut through the seafood rich bouillabaisse and its garlic-laced aioli. Serve by lapping water to emulate a truly Mediterranean experience.


School and public holidays offer the opportunity to invite family and friends for a long, lazy lunch. Kick things off with a fruity, low-alcohol wine like moscato or an offdry riesling (labelled as kabinett in Germany) with those from the Mosel the exemplar of the style. Served well chilled, the wine’s sweet’n’sour flavours echo those of an icy lemon sorbet. Served at 11am with a platter of fresh fruit, at 5-7% alcohol, an extra glass or two of moscato won’t impede the pleasures of a lengthy lunch.

Step the pace up a bit with a Champagne or sparkling wine. Australia’s top bubbles stand proudly alongside the French stuff, as they’re made with the same grape varieties using the methode traditionelle technique. The only thing missing in Australia is Champagne’s terroir Defining chalk. Serve the Saddler’s Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir with freshly shucked Port Stephen’s oysters for the ultimate palate cleanser.

It’s time for an entrée – perhaps a retro prawn cocktail served on a bed of shaved iceberg lettuce and doused in Marie Rose sauce. A crisp dry rosé such as the Leura Park Estate Rosé is a blushing companion to the equally rosy prawn cocktail.

Turkey and ham sneak their way into many family lunches with yester-year’s roast vegetables replaced by complex salads in the Ottolenghi style. A fuller white such as Monterra Chardonnay would work with the dense protein of the turkey. However, for a curved ball, try a sparkling red with the ham. The French despise the concept but sparkling red is as Australian as an Akubra hat. Sparkling reds are traditionally made with shiraz but the Saddler’s Creek team use cabernet sauvignon as the base for their Bluegrass Sparkling — and it’s a ripper. Serve the ham with your choice of mustards and don’t over chill the Bluegrass.

Now for dessert, a rare course for a weeknight meal, but the mandatory finale to a long lunch. Grandma’s pudding is legendary, usually accompanied by a brandy infused custard. Now’s the perfect moment to serve that port stuck at the back of the drinks cupboard. Buller Tawny is lush and plush, its raisiny flavours just perfect with grandma’s pudding. It’s now time for an afternoon nap.

The French Rhône: Fatherland to the Barossa Valley

Why the Rhône region in France is commonly compared to Australia’s Barossa Valley…

James Busby kick-started the Australian wine industry with a collection of 570 grape varieties shopped from France in 1831. His catalogue listed: No 1 Carignan No 2 Grenache No 3 Mataro No 9 Hermitage.

… the latter now known as Shiraz/Syrah, the original vines sourced from the hill of Hermitage in the northern Rhône Valley. (Mataro is a synonym for Mourvèdre with both names used here). These varieties remain the cornerstone of Australian red wine due to a simple climatic synergy. Australia is a warm-to-hot continent and the Rhône Valley the warmest of France’s major regions.

Syrah is the mandatory grape of the (somewhat cooler) northern Rhône appellations Hermitage, Cote Rôtie and St Joseph – all to the south of Lyon. Grenache takes the lead in the warmer southern Rhône regions with syrah in a supporting role.

The appellations of Côtes du Rhône and, the highly revered, Châteauneuf du Pape have inspired our GSM wine style. The juicy red fruit flavours of Grenache are given focus and drive by the black-fruited Shiraz and a bit of funk by Mourvèdre’s inherent earthiness. This trio occasionally forms a quartet with the more rustic grape, Carignan.

So… What Is Shiraz Viognier (Vee-Yoh-N’yay)


Shiraz Viognier is the blend of 93 – 97% Shiraz with a small volume of Viognier white grape – normally only 3 – 7%.


Viognier is a white wine variety that has very unique characteristics. It has a floral nose, hints of apricot and almond, and is quite mineral. When a small quantity is blended with Shiraz, it enhances the colour, makes it very rounded and smooth and adds a complexity and opulence. It  an also give it a lifted, slightly floral and sweet spice aroma. Done well, these are classy and sought after wines.


Tim Kirk from Clonakilla Wines in Canberra is leading the way in this style. His Shiraz Viognier  commands around $100 a bottle. It is described as silky textured, supple, pliant, long, ripe and seamlessly balanced. It’s an explosion of red fruits.


Shiraz Viognier can be used where you would normally use straight Shiraz. It works best with richly flavoured dishes. Visit for a selection of fantastic Lamb Tagine recipes. The fragrance and power of the wine works well with these powerful, fruity and spicy dishes.


Both the Churchview and the Grove Estate examples of this unique and exciting blend are fantastic.

The Churchview winemaker has had a bit of fun, playing with a higher percentage of Viognier than most (14%), making it aromatic and incredibly drinkable! Churchview Estate St Johns Shiraz Viognier

Grove Estate displays more truthfully what most Shiraz Viognier’s are all about, with a small percentage of white, barely detectable. A 92 Halliday Points awarded wine. Really if you didn’t know, most would believe it to be a very rounded, smooth, complex and spicy straight Shiraz. Grove Estate Shiraz Viognier 

Region Insight: Heathcote

Heathcote is Victoria’s premium Shiraz producing region. It is positioned in the heartland of central Victoria – mid way between Shepparton and Bendigo. The countryside is truly Australian – harsh, dry, dusty and has a low rainfall. The conditions here are difficult, with some years suffering from drought and others from too much rainfall or frost. The vines are low yielding, small and gnarled. The lack of moisture and harsh circumstances sends the root structure deep into a narrow belt of Cambrian high mineral soil that runs north from Heathcote township. This unique terroir produces intense, deeply coloured and flavoured fruit – and wine with unique savoury flavours.

If you ever visit the area, there are a few standouts that you shouldn’t miss. Ron Laughton is from Jasper Hill Estate – he started the whole Heathcote journey some 40 years ago and is hailed as the pinnacle producer of the region. His wine is simply stunning. Over the road from Ron is Bob Downing, from Downing Estate – his vines planted in the same Cambrian soil. You can’t go past his Shiraz. Sanguine Estate – this winery’s outstanding Shiraz’s are regularly rated amongst the 10 best in the world, along with the likes of Penfolds’ Grange. To see a broad selection from the region (without doing the ‘hard work’ of stopping at each winery) – visit The Wine Hub Cellar and Store in Heathcote Main Street.

Check out our Heathcote pick: Dirty Boulevard Wanted Man Shiraz


What is Amarone?

So what is Amarone? And what makes it so special?

Amarone is an Italian style of dry red wine, that is all about the winemaking technique. Originating in the Veneto region in North-Eastern Italy, it is traditionally known for its strong, rich, powerful flavour. This intensity comes from the drying process…

The grapes are harvested ripe, and left to dry all winter for roughly 120 days (into raisins), resulting in concentrated flavour and high sugar content. The time, resource and space required for a winery to conquer this process successfully makes this wine on the more expensive side. The wine is mostly aged in French barriques and shows flavour characteristics unlike wines made in any other style.

Greg Hobbs’ famous Australian answer to the traditional Amarone, is the Gregor Shiraz. The fruit is handpicked, semi-dried in the Amarone style – although Greg does not tend to do this for the full 120 days as this tends to take it too a sweeter, tawny flavour profile. Instead it is dried ‘to the perfect flavour’, then naturally fermented in open vats before being aged in new French Oak for 24 months. Bottled unfiltered. The wine is simply superb. The best Amarone in Australia with 93 Halliday points & a rating of 96 points from Robert Parker Wine Advocate. It would be safe to say its close to the best Amarone in the world.

Check our the Gregor – 

Region Insight: Adelaide Hills

A cool climate region producing stunning, fruity fine wines.

Adelaide Hills’ cool climate produces vibrant whites with punchy Sauvignon Blanc and fine restrained Chardonnay being the two traditional varietals. However, with its unique topography creating several micro-climates, the region is also perfect for Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio. Some Pinot Noir is also produced here. Shiraz and other red grape varieties are grown in the lower reaches of the Adelaide Hills, but due to the cooler conditions are lighter bodied than those produced in other parts of the state.

Who is James Halliday & What Are His Ratings?

You’ll notice that in many of our wine descriptions we include reference to James Halliday and his wine & vineyard ratings. But why should this particular man and his personal rating system shape our impression of the wines offered by Vendimia each quarter?
James Halliday is one of Australia’s most respected wine critics and vignerons. His career spans 47 years, and he is widely known in the industry for his witty and informative writing about all things wine. He was one of the founders of the Brokenwood vineyard in the Hunter Valley and Coldstream Hills in the Yarra Valley, and is an unmatched authority on every aspect of the wine industry, from planting and pruning to making and marketing. Over his career James has contributed to more than 60 books on wine, with his most notable publication being the annual Australian Wine Companion — recognised nationally as the industry benchmark resource on Australia vineyards and the wines they produce.

As part of developing the content for the Australian Wine Companion and its supporting website, James developed his own system for rating wineries and their wines. With Australia broken down into its 63 distinct wine regions, James began nominating the best wineries in each regions using a three-tier classification system.

At the very top are the wineries with both their names and their star rating printed in red; these have been generally recognised for having a long track record of excellence – truly the best of the best.

Next are wineries with their stars (but not their names) printed in red, which have had a consistent record of excellence for at least the last three years.

Those wineries with black printed names and stars have achieved excellence this year (and sometimes longer). The vast majority of wineries that supply Vendimia are Halliday 4 star rated or greater.

After rating the winery, James then rates most of the individual wines produced by them. These wines are rated numerically by him within a range from 75 to 99 points. Wines from 86 to 99 points are considered Bronze/Silver or Gold medal standard wines. The wines included in Vendimia subscriptions invariable carry James Halliday ratings of between 90-95 points.

Mataro (Mourvèdre) – The Lighter, Brighter Red

Mourvèdre (aka Mataro) is grown widely in France and Spain, where it’s known as monastrell. Mourvèdre is typically earthy with intense black fruits and lots of gamey flavours. Its tannins can be rustic unless polished by its winemaker.

Mourvèdre plays a supporting role on the Southern Rhone appellation of Cotes du Rhône and its revered stablemate, Châteauneuf du Pape— both based on grenache with Syrah, Mourvèdre and other lesser known Rhône  varieties adding character and complexity. In the neighbouring Provence region, Mourvèdre adds a lick of umami to the uber-fashionable rosés and assumes the dominant role (in the reds and rosés) in the sub-region of Bandol.

There are some ancient Mourvèdre vines in Australia planted in the mid-19th century, though it was seen (under its Mataro guise) as a workhorse variety to support shiraz and grenache. A renewed focus on Mourvèdre has seen our winegrower’s produce lighter, brighter styles unsullied by excess oak -such as the Geddes Experimental Mataro.

Grenache, however, remains the key to a plethora of Australia’s everyday, easy drinking reds in the style of Cote du Rhône. As we cannot use the names of French appellations, these red blends are nicknamed GSM—as with the Arimia Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvèdre. Winemakers may choose to switch the percentage of each variety to create a SGM or even MSG.

These Rhône look-alike reds offer a juicy, highly quaffable alternative to the traditional bold, brash Shiraz and Cabernet blends that dominate the retail landscape.

Rosé – Not quite what you think it is…

Rosé can be a misunderstood wine.

Many Australians consider it a ‘sweet’ wine, where this traditionally is not the case. Rosé is made from red wine grapes of many varieties. Where red wine gets its colour & tannin from extended skin contact, Rosé is given its colour by allowing skin contact for a limited time – typically one to three days.

In the Provence region of France, more Rosé is produced than all white varieties combined. Their Rosé is typically made to a very pale salmon colour through limited skin contact. In Australia, many of the Rosé wines are given more skin contact and therefore colour, and as a result are bolder with more flavour and tannin.

Rosé is a great aperitif or substitute for white or red wine with lighter, summery dishes. Unless the winemaker decides to retain residual sugar, Australian Rosé is not typically sweet.