Ah, remember the days when politicians had style?
Sir Winston Churchill was famous for his love of Pol Roger Champagne, or “Pol” as many couth souls affectionately refer to it. Founded in 1849, Pol has always been a family business and it was at a Pol function where Churchill first met Odette Pol-Roger, with whom he maintained a flirtatious – but we are told plutonic- relationship until his death many years later.
Churchill’s love and daily consumption of Pol during the darkest days of the Second World War no doubt contributed greatly to both the courage of his convictions as well as the relative impecuniousness of his affairs.
In Australia, fittingly Pol is imported by another family business founded in 1849, Samuel Smith & Sons. You might know them as Yalumba, and in the 1980’s they established “Negociants Australia” part of whose brief was to import the world’s greatest wines, and with an initial focus on those of France
Other than the aforementioned Pol, imported wine dabblers would be familiar with some other French stalwarts of their portfolio, such as Guigal Cotes-du-Rhône red, Hugel Alsace Riesling, or burgundies from the house of Faiveley.
However the breadth and depth of the portfolio is astonishing, with 125-plus producers from 13 countries, including New Zealand, Italy, Usa, Spain, Austria, Germany etc.
A back label “Imported by Negociants Australia” is an easy pro tip for confidently selecting an imported wine.
Below is but a small peek into what they have to offer from outside of France.
Weingut Bernhard Ott 2015. “Fass 4”
Grüner Veltliner, Austria RRP $40
Gruner Veltliner (“GruVee”) is THE variety of Austria, accounting for almost one third of all vine plantings.
A few years ago it was the coolest kid on the block: sommeliers recognised its extreme versatility in matching with food and their punters for Riesling, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay could find elements that pleased them. (As for Sauvignon Blanc lovers…who cares…?)
This is a pretty nice drink with airy aromas of glacé pear, fennel, and with a hint of lemon zest. The palate has great liveliness with flavours of lemon, salt, and white pepper of medium length and freshness.
Try this with escalopes of veal with a cream and shallot sauce.
2015 Two Paddocks “The Last Chance”
Pinot Noir, New Zealand $85 RRP
I refuse to mention that the man behind this outstanding south island wine is Sam Neill.
Just 150 doz bottles of this cuvée which sparkles like a perfectly cut diamond with a level of sophistication and subtlety uncommon (IMHO) in Otago Pinot.
Brilliant, medium-weight red colour. A sensational bouquet of ripe dark red and black fruits, touch of “animale”/well-hung meat, and a hint of menthol: there’s a lot going on here. Excellent attack on entry, really very lively. Delicious sour cherry fruit flavours, plush, with a hint of oak culminating in a long fragrant farewell.
This is as good as any Pinot I’ve seen out of NZ. Outstanding.
2013 Poderi Aldo Conterno “II Favot”
Nebbiolo, Italy RRP $125
This Piedmont wine drinks like a great baby Barolo. Not surprising since it is made from Conterno’s young vines in Monforte d’Alba.
Appealing mid-red colour, just lightening slightly at the meniscus. The bouquet is an absolute snoot full of violets, cherries, licorice, mineral, all with lovely airy lift and fragrance.
The medium-bodied palate is downright sexy slinky with its complex red fruit and mineral driven flavours, which say ciao with firm rounded tannins and a gloriously fragrant aftertaste.
Pricey for Langhe Nebbiolo? Yes. Expensive for this level of pleasure? No way.
Buy and drink with someone you love or would like to.
Torres 2012 “Celeste”
Crianza, Spain RRP $36
The generous flavours and tannins of the native Spanish Tempranillo grape make it an easy variety for lovers of Aussie reds to embrace.
From the Ribera del Duero region, this example by the house of Torres is no exception and pleases with its stylish middle weight palate of red and black berry fruit flavours which cloak the firm tannins. Plenty of bang for the buck here.
Enjoy with your favourite roast or BBQ nosh.
* Frank Wilden is a retail food strategist and a “lapsed” restaurateur whose love of wine began nearly four decades ago.
He believes that on the road to wine nirvana, if you don’t end up in Burgundy you have probably taken a wrong turn somewhere.
Frank is writing this fortnightly wine column for Business Insider Australia. Get in touch with him via @thefrankreport on Twitter
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