Tuesday, December 09, 2008

An Enviable Selection of Australian Wine

Where do you buy your wine? From the cellar door, a mailing list, a specialized wine store, or a supermarket? I buy from a mixture of sources, although the majority of my wine purchases are from a specialized wine shop. The reasons for this are quite simple. The selection is outstanding, the knowledge of the staff is vast and the prices are very competitive. The only problem is that much of the wine for sale is current vintage, there is a back room of earlier vintages but the selection is not all that extensive. More importantly it contains very few Australian wines. So if I want an Aussie wine with some age on it I’m forced to buy the wine and let it mature. Not ideal when you want the wine now. However I think I may have solved that little problem, at least for those times when we are in Australia.

Its all thanks to my old mate Ted. He lives at Warrimoo in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales (NSW) and Miranda and I almost always spend a week or so with him tooling around the little towns that dot the highway between Penrith and Lithgow. On our recent trip we found ourselves in Leura, a pleasant little town of about 4000 people. We had spent part of the day doing the Scenic Railway, Walkway and Cableway and decided to take a look at a few bookshops and pick out a place for dinner. For dinner we would need some wine and Ted suggested we drop by Leura Cellars. Now Ted is not a wine tragic. He certainly likes the odd glass or two and has a few bottles laid away for a special occasion, like when we come to visit. But he would be the first to say that wine is not one of the major interests of his life but he knew of Leura cellars and their wine selection because this shop in this little town caters to a wealthy clientele of mountain drinkers who know their wines.

Leura Cellar is on the wonderfully picturesque Leura Mall. The street level is a conventional Aussie bottle shop filled with recent vintages. It’s the stairway which descends to the lower level that holds the surprise. The lower level houses the Vintage Cellar, and its not just a few dusty, old bottles of wine. Here you will find Penfolds Grange from 1965, Penfolds St Henri from 1968, McWilliams Elizabeth Semillon from 1984, Petaluma Riesling from 1985, De Bortoli Noble One from 1982, and a host of others. This truly is a wonderful space to wander, picking up a bottle here and there of wine 10, 20, or even 30 years old. I defy any true wine enthusiastic to walk back up those stairs empty handed!

So what did we chose for dinner? A bottle of 1996 Mcwilliams Maurice Shiraz from the Hunter Valley for $50AUD. We dined in the courtyard at CafĂ© Bon Ton with individual appetizers (mine was the Crisp Fried Lambs Brains with Pecorino and Herb Crust, Black Pudding, Sauce Gribiche and Quail Eggs) and split the house specialty of Slow Braised Pork Cheeks with Star Anise, Cassia Bark, Root Vegetables and Shitake Mushrooms, which paired wonderfully with the Maurice O’Shea Shiraz (Corkage: $5AUD/person). It won’t take a fortune teller to predict that we will be visiting Leura again.

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