Meet the maker… Mike Farmilo

Meet the maker… Mike Farmilo, McLaren Vale SA.

Mike Farmilo is the un-sung hero behind both Monterra Wines and Colab & Bloom, the funky McLaren Vale brand he and his business partner, Norm Doole established in 2015. Indeed, Mike Farmilo has flown under the vinous radar for four decades despite an extensive career that began at Angove after he graduated from Roseworthy College in 1977. A stint at Seaview saw Farmilo fall in love with McLaren Vale, an affair that’s remained ever since. Farmilo was recruited from Seaview into the challenging role of Group Red Winemaker with the industry giant, Southcorp — now part of Treasury Wine Estates.

It was at Southcorp that Mike’s talents came to full fruition with the responsibility for the benchmark red wines of Penfolds, Lindemans, Seppelt and Wynns. Farmilo was deeply involved with crafting Penfolds’ iconic Grange and instrumental in winning two Jimmy Watson trophies, the highly prized Melbourne Wine Show’s ‘Top Young Red’ trophy. To cap off his Southcorp career, Farmilo was crowned McLaren Vale Bushing King in 1994 as maker of the Championship Wine of the Show. Retiring from Southcorp in 1997 wasn’t for Farmilo, so he turned his focus to numerous projects that have kept him busy over the last 20 years including vintages in Germany, California, France and Chile. Mike has judged at dozens of Wine Shows across the country, including chairing the Australian Small Winemakers Show in Stanthorpe.

While the Monterra portfolio includes traditional French shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and pinot noir, it’s Italianate grapes that are catching Farmilo’s attention with pinot grigio and nero d’Avola adding spice to his winemaking endeavours. Under the Colab & Bloom banner Farmilo pushes well beyond the boundaries of corporate winemaking with tempranillo and garnacha (aka grenache) shining. Farmilo is back in the zone and loving it — enjoying the fruits of his labour.

Check out our Mark Farmilo wine picks: 

Monterra Reserve Black Label Shiraz  

Colab and Bloom Grenache

Willunga 100 Tempranillo

Summertime…

– 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…..

PICNICS

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!

SEAFOOD FEAST

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.

LONG & LAZY SUMMER LUNCH

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.

Region Insight: Clare Valley

HOME OF AUSTRALIA’S PREMIUM RIESLING

Located some 100km north of the Barossa and 140km north of Adelaide, this region produces some of Australia’s premium Riesling. The fruit produced here makes delicious wines with great depth and intensity. Elevation is one of the factors that make Clare such a prime region for grape growing – particularly for Riesling and Shiraz. Although not technically considered a ‘cool-climate’ area, most of the vineyards are planted at between 400 and 500 metres above sea level, meaning cool to cold nights during the growing season. Given its distance from the ocean, the region is also quite continental, so warm to hot during the day and quite dry while the vines are ripening their fruit.

Although Clare Valley is more famously known for its Riesling, it’s the same climatic conditions that help to produce its unique style of red wine with the three top varieties being Shiraz, Cabernet and Grenache. Clare Valley reds present a delicious contradiction. On one hand they’re big and bold, yet on the other, underlying acidity creates beautiful elegance. Pikes and Knappstein are two of the better-known producers from the area.

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.

Region Insight: Orange

WHAT DIFFERENTIATES ORANGE FROM OTHER WINE REGIONS?

Wines from Orange and the Central ranges region are known to be light to medium bodied, elegant, aromatic and very fine. This is due to the uniquely harsh terroir and also the result of the heat summation.

Orange Terroir: being nestled on the side of a mountain, means two things for the wine region. The mountain affects the climate, with summers being harsh and warm, and winters commonly having snowfalls and being significantly colder than most of NSW. This combined with the simple fact that higher elevation packs flavour into wine, makes grapes from the Orange region incredibly sought after. Regions like the Hunter Valley often borrow Orange grapes to incorporate into their wines, adding some impacting flavour and complexity.

Shiraz and Chardonnay grapes are particularly suited to the terroir of Orange. Try Swinging Bridge Reserve Shiraz – a classic Orange example of a heavy, full flavoured Shiraz with incredible complexity and just the right amount of ageing. Or for those who love a white, try the incredible Cooks Lot Iconique Chardonnay. This simply must not be missed. As full-bodied as a white wine gets, with complex oak aromatics and buttery roundedness. It is an absolute winner!

Of course dont forget to check out Angullong’s Gold Medal winning Rosato Ross Hills robust Grenache Shiraz or the Naked Grape Moscato. All are true examples of what Orange has to offer.