South Bank Regional Flavours Round-Up

Last weekend marked what I hope is the start of something special. It’s not every day you get to sample your way through 80 local producers covering the best of Queensland’s regional food and wine. Add to this some tasting and education sessions and you have what was in my opinion the best food and wine event I’ve seen in Brissy to date.

And it was free.

For those of you who skipped it, I suggest you stop reading now as by the time you’ve finished you’ll probably be bashing your head against the desk, and will have to come to realise your blinding stupidity at missing this great opportunity.

South Bank Regional Flavours is a South Bank Corporation and QLD Government initiative to showcase the great food and wine to be found in our state. Most of the exhibitors were from the Granite Belt, Darling Downs and South Burnett regions, but blah blah blah you probably don’t care about that. It started at 10am last Saturday (13/6) and if you went from one end of the strip of tents to the other and tried everything, you would have ended up both full and pissed without spending a dime. My kind of day.

To make sure you know what you are tasting, and to give you the ability to appreciate it, wine education sessions were running throughout the day for the low entry price of $5. My wine knowledge is limited: I can pick a red from a white and determine whether or not something has bubbles in it. After a couple of sessions with Paula Tewksbury on Chardonnay, Verdelho and Viognier, however, I was dissecting and analysing with confidence, comparing acid, oak and texture. I even learnt how to correctly pronounce their French names (Viognier is “vee-on-yay”). Definitely the best $5 I’ve ever spent on wine.

Armed with this new knowledge I hit the tents and met many of the friendly and helpful winemakers who were happily offering their wares left, right and centre along Little Stanley St.

At least half of the 80 tents were showcasing something alcoholic, which is probably a reflection of Queenslanders’ remarkable ability to imbibe. All bases were covered, from Shiraz to Chardonnay, to fortified wines and apple cider, including something called Grappa. Distilled from apples, it tastes like rocket fuel and has the weighty alcohol strength of 40%. There was also a fair selection of food and other products including meats, soaps, chillies, jams, tea, coffee, spiral donuts, cheeses and bees wax candles. Cooking demos were being conducted as well but for me (and I think most other people) it was all about the wine.

Now the main reason for my disinterest in wine to date is that it seems so hard to know what you’re buying when you’re actually buying it. How do you know what a ’06 Verdelho from the South Burnett tastes like when you see it on the shelf at the bottle-o? So this event was the perfect opportunity to spend some time and identify the characteristics that I like in a wine and how to verbalise them. Many of the wines I tried had strong acids and not a whole lot else, but after an exhaustive comparison over the course of the day I was able to find three that were a cut above the rest:

Bridgeman Downs Cellars Stump Block Fortified Shiraz ($19~, 375ml)
My first comment on tasting this was “oh, it’s a port”, which resulted in a quick lesson from the winemaker: ‘port’ is in fact a reserved word, similar to ‘champagne’ and it can only be used to describe wines originating in Portugal. Point taken, knowledge expanded. Irrespective of this, the Stump Block is an amazing concoction. Fortified with Brandy, it has a sweet, juicy, full flavour that really fills your mouth with happiness. There are lots of berry tones and I wish I’d appreciated how good this wine was when I tasted it, as I would have bought a bottle there and then. I was punished for this mistake as by the time I realised this was a standout, the Shiraz had long sold out.

Granite Ridge Wines 2004 First Oak Chardonnay ($18~)
I don’t normally like Chardonnay. I find it very acidic and dry, and if a wine maker tries to add some oak I end up with a mouthful of tannins. Bleh. Because of this I normally stick to sauvignon blanc when I want a white. My earlier chardonnay appreciation session had all but confirmed that chardonnay and I and were just not going to be friends.

So when I asked the Granite Ridge Wines winemaker what he suggested I try, it was with some reluctance that I accepted the 04 Oaked Chard. Boy was I wrong. Instead of being everything bad that I was expecting, this was rounded in flavour, creamy in texture and all-round delicious. I was floored. On the basis of this wine alone I will be rethinking my entire position on chardonnay.

Barambah Wines 2007 Rack Dried Semillon ($24, 375ml)
After missing a bottle of the Fortified Shiraz, I needed to find something else for dessert on Saturday night and the guys at Bridgeman Downs Cellars sent me to Lyn at Barambah Wines and her rack-dried Semillon. I barely know where the Semillon grape fits in the wine world, so when someone adds ‘rack-dried’ to the mix I’m well and truly lost. However, Lyn was only too happy to bring me up to speed on the term, which means that some of the fruit (50% in this case) is picked and dried so it looks like sultanas. The fruit becomes very sweet, and is then combined with the ‘normal’, drier Semillon grapes, to produce a fantastic product.

This dessert wine didn’t have the sickly sweet sticky taste that I’ve experienced in the past. It really struck a great balance on the sugar and a little bit of oak to give a creamy texture while managing to leave a clean taste in my mouth. So I snagged the last bottle there and then and my friends were suitably impressed with it at dinner later that night.

I really, really hope the South Bank Regional Flavours becomes a recurring event as it a great way to spend a Saturday in the winter sun. After trying some great stuff I’m feeling quite motivated to jump in a car and head on up to South Burnet and explore some cellar doors. Hopefully you were one of the clever ones who made it on the day, but if you weren’t I’d recommend you check out the South Burnett and Granite Belt wine regions and plan a weekend away. You won’t be disappointed.

South Bank Regional Flavours

Bridgeman Downs Cellars
Barambah Rd
(07) 4168 4784

Granite Ridge Wines
157 Sundown Rd
07 4684 1263

Barambah Wines
79 Goshnicks Rd
07 4168 4766

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