- Q & A
December 2002 NewsletterWines evaluated last month: 213 Rejected: 189 Approved: 24 Selected: 2
GO SOUTH, YOUNG WINEDRINKER
We've featured wines from Australia for years. They have always offered terrific value, even in the more expensive limited series. In other words, you got the most wine for your buck no matter how many bucks you spent. Most of those wines came from South Australia. This month we feature two wines from South Eastern Australia. Both are way out of the norm from what you'd expect from Australia.
Our Enrico Mercuri sparkling wine is a rare treat. It literally blows away the competition in terms of value. We actually sowed this wine up three months ago knowing that there was no way we could find anything better. We're sure you'll agree.
Our dessert wine is one of our favorites. Late Harvest Muscat is perfect for the holidays. After a big meal, it's much more agreeable than the heavier dessert wines and provides an excellent finishing touch. Don't be put off by the obtuse term they use on the label, Muscatel. It is actually a homage to the great Moskatels of Portugal that rival great Ports and Sherrys, not the jug favorite from the 1950s. To you and yours, have a safe and satisfying holiday season. We'll look forward to serving next year as we have for the last 30 years.
Sparkling SelectionIt was 20 years ago that I tasted my first Australian sparkling wine. I never forgot it. A friend had brought it back from Australia, because nobody in their right mind would try to sell sparkling wine from there because nobody even knew they made any! Fast-forward 20 years and it was with exalted anticipation that I approached the Enrico Mercuri Sparkling wine from South Eastern Australia. We were astonished. The flavors were superb and the bubble activity an amazement. Why, we asked, do we not see more of these beauties here since they represent the bes quality to value ratio of any bubbles on Earth? We were also curious about the producer; a Greek immigrant of Italian lineage making a wine that has virtually no history in either of his native lands. Enrico Mercuri is obviously a very smart man. South Eastern Australia is kind of the "no mans land" of the country. The much better known Hunter Valley borders it to the North and the Barossa Valley to the East. But, South Eastern Australia has something that neither of those areas can boast, its famed Terra Rossa soils, literally Red Earth. These soils aren't the best for growing the big bold Shiraz like Barossa, or the ageworthy Semillons of Hunter. But, they can grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for Sparkling wine that will rival anything outside of Champagne. Not only does Enrico grow the finest and most expensive grapes for his sparkling wine, he also goes through the trouble and expense to make it just like the French do. Secondary fermentation in the bottle, not in a tank. Disgorgement by hand not filtered through a machine. All in all, Champagne taste at a bargain price. Don't wait.
Sparkling Wine Enrico Mercuri
Pale yellow color with great bubble activity. Rich, yeasty flavors on the palate and a dry finish to match the spicy shrimp recipe on page 6.
Will change over the next 2-3 years into a mellower offering. Serve chilled, about hours in the fridge.
Dessert SelectionOne of the first settlers in South Australia was John Ridley, the inventor of the Ridley Reaper. Like the cotton gin in the United States, the Ridley Reaper revolutionized farming in South Eastern Australia. Mr. John Ridley built the first machine that was actually used on the farms. Many had tried. All had failed. It was a clumsy affair, drawn by a team of horses, attached to a pole that stuck out behind like a tail. It was first tested during the harvest of 1843. Other machines on better principles were made the following year, but another season or two elapsed before the defects, which caused them to break down incessantly, were remedied, and the Ridley reaper came into general use. Since then improvements by others have been introduced, and such machines multiplied by the tens of thousands. In its way, this invention has been as important as the discovery of copper, for it has rendered possible the profitable cultivation of hundreds of thousands of acres, and added incalculably to the national wealth. It was because of the importance of Ridley's machine that this winery was so named. Being in South Eastern Australia, however, made it incumbent upon the owners to grow grapes more suited to the soil than what was fashionable. This necessitated a long search for the most suitable grapes. Though not as popular as Syrah and Chardonnay, Muscat made in a late-harvest dessert style proved to be the winner. Muscat is the oldest grape known to man. It has been made into wine for over 8,000 years. Its high sugar content made a very strong, alcoholic wine when fermented completely dry and an intensely flavorful sweet wine when made in a dessert style. Ours is the perfect finish to your holiday meal. While sweet, it is also lighter in style and finishes with a touch of acidity that makes it perfect with fruits and cheeses.
Golden color with honeyed hazelnut aromas. Layers of rich white peach and honey flavors abound and scream for the Zabaglioni cookie recipe on page 6.
Great now, but will just keep getting better for 2-5 more years. Serve slightly chilled, about 2 hours in the fridge.
Adventures in Food
What better to serve our Moscato with than a dessert made with the wine? We love this combination and are sure you will, too. The little heat with the shrimp appetizer dish is quenched beautifully by our Ridley Grove sparkler. Enjoy!MOSCATO ZABAGLIONE WITH CORNMEAL COOKIES
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup Ridley Grove Muscatel
Using electric mixer, beat butter and 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in lemon peel and salt, then egg yolks. Beat in cornmeal, then flour. Knead dough just to combine; transfer to sheet of plastic wrap. Using plastic, form dough into 2x9-inch log. Chill until firm, 3 hours or up to 1 day. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice dough log into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Arrange rounds on prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart and reshaping into rounds if uneven. Bake cookies until golden at edges, about 15 minutes. Transfer to rack. Dust with powdered sugar and cool completely. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)
Whisk egg yolks and sugar in large metal bowl to blend; gradually whisk in Moscato. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bowl to touch water). Whisk until mixture is thick and foamy and thermometer inserted into mixture registers 160°F, about 4 minutes. Divide zabaglione among 6 wineglasses. Serve immediately, passing cookies alongside. Makes 6 servings.
SNAPPY RED BELL PEPPER DIP WITH SHRIMP
You can prepare this brightly colored dip up to two days ahead.
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 Seven-ounce jar roasted red peppers, undrained
1 8-ounce package chilled cream cheese, cut into pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 cup chopped seeded tomato
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped seeded jalapeño chili
2 pounds cooked peeled deveined large shrimp
With machine running, drop garlic cloves through feed tube of processor; chop finely. Add roasted peppers with their juices; purée until almost smooth. Add cream cheese and cumin; blend until smooth. Transfer to medium bowl. Mix in tomato, onions and jalapeno. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 2 days. Rewhisk before serving. Place dip in center of platter. Surround with shrimp and serve. Serves 12.