2009 Fine Wine Festival Masterclass Round-Up
I am by no means a ‘Cadbury’ (glass and a half of grog and you’re done for the night). Nor am I a hard-ass who has a casual shot of whiskey with the morning paper. However, last Saturday, I found myself feeling very giggly at three in the afternoon. I blame the Brisbane Wine Festival’s delicious wines. I blame Martin Duncan, Freestyle Tout creator/owner. I blame the intoxicating pairing of sweet Rieslings and Ports with chocolate, tarts, and custard. I mean, seriously – what do you expect me to do when you pour sugar and alcohol down my throat? A quiet recital of Act II of Hamlet? No, I am going to get a little bit tipsy, and I am going to learn a thing or two about wine, damnit.
I was at the ‘Stickies and Dessert Wines’ Masterclass, one of a series of classes with food and wine matches that ran in conjunction with the Festival. For $25 we were served eight wines from a variety of winemakers, and five teeny tiny desserts from Freestyle Tout.
Sweet wines are all quite different; think of them as a bevy of young beauties, all with their own quirks and differences. I am by no means a wine aficionado; the main reason I took the Masterclass was to broaden my very limited education. I’ve tried to focus just on my personal tastes, but if I’m incorrect in any technicalities, feel free to pull me up.
1. The Blondes
My favourite, hands down, was the 2008 Allandale ‘Anna’ Semillon Sauvignon Blanc. It’s similar to Ice Wine, a style popular in colder climates like Canada. Malcolm Stopp, of Peter Lehmann Wines recommended this one with a fruity dish, but I tried it with the Passionfruit Tart and it was perfect; the peanut butter and jam sandwich of the wine world. It was the sweetest wine out of the blondes, but it also had the cleanest finish, with no sickly aftertaste. The smell of it was also fantastic; I stuck my nose right on in there and had a good ol’ whiff.
The 2007 Barambah Rack Dried Semillon was my second favourite. This cheeky girl was a ‘sticky’ wine, but wasn’t as sweet as the Allandale.
Peter Lehmann’s 2008 Botrytis Semillon was definitely the sweetest of the four light wines on offer.
The 2008 Spring Vale Sticky Gewurztraminer wasn’t as sweet as its sisters. It had a very fruity flavour, but had a clean finish that meant it wasn’t overpowering when paired with one of the desserts.
2. The Brunettes
Ah, the brownies. I’m a bit partial to these dark haired ravens. The wines aren’t too bad either. The N/V Pfeiffer Wines Classic Rutherglen was a perfect match to the richer desserts. While I enjoyed the heavier flavour of this Victorian muscat, the Topaque (formerly Tokay) version of this was by far my preferred drop. I tasted very strong honey flavours, and I found it to be the sweetest-tasting wine out of all eight offerings.
3. The Redheads
Pfeiffer described his 2005 Christopher’s Vintage Port as “more feminine and delicate” than the final wine sample, Peter Lehmann’s 1997 The King Vintage Port. It was certainly not nearly as heavy, which meant it could accompany a dessert and not be too overpowering. Pfeiffer agreed, saying “You can have a bit more…very quickly the bottles are empty.” The 1997 Port is 60% shiraz and 40% Touriga Nacional, but more importantly, it goes with chocolate.
“I love port and chocolate,” Martin Duncan declared. Amen, brother. Both ports paired very well with the chocolate desserts, although I preferred the 2005 with the fondant. The 1997 was the least sweet out of all the wines, perhaps because Peter Lehmann thinks wines that are “the rougher and dirtier, the better”.
4. The Accompaniments
The desserts had been carefully selected for their complementary properties to the wines, and I think the choices were perfect. I’ve reviewed Freestyle Tout in the past and, while some elements had gotten me down, I knew that they still churned out high-quality sweets and was looking forward to what they had to offer the Festival. The Chocolate Truffle was definitely my favourite, and had a dark chocolate shell encasing a slightly whipped centre. The Chocolate Fondant came a close second, and also had a slightly bitter taste. The Brulee with Raspberry was surprisingly good, as usually I’m not a fan of Brulee. My only complaint is that the shell was too thin-I wanted to crack the baby open, not easily dip into it with a spoon! I also loved the Passionfruit Curd Tart – the filling had a slight bite to it, and the shell tasted just like a shortbread cookie. Slightly disappointing was the Citrus Ricotta Cannelloni. The ‘ricotta’ tasted just like custard, and I didn’t taste any citrus flavours at all. The shell was also quite tasteless-perhaps a little on the stale side. Plus I was a bit confused – I thought it was cannoli, and cannelloni was the pasta version? Perplexing.
5. The Boring Bits
The organisation of the Masterclasses could have been improved. I was expecting something with a bit of structure – suggestions for which desserts to have with which wine, going through the wines in order, etc. Instead everyone seemed to dig in straight away, and then the winemakers casually took turns talking about their wines. I suppose I wanted a bit more of an educating experience, but perhaps the Masterclasses are aimed at people who already have a bit of wine knowledge under their belt.
I’m not sure if I’d take a Masterclass again, simply because I’d rather see the rest of the Festival instead. I think the $25 price tag was well worth it for eight generous mouthfuls of quality wine and a plateful of desserts from an upscale dessert venue. If you love sweets and can tell your stickies from your racks (sorry, I had to do it), this Masterclass would have been ideal for you.
Brisbane Fine Wine Festival
Held 26-28 June, 2009