Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Climate Change

The ABC and Climate Council of Australia are, of course, joined at the hip.  Amongst meaningless headlines ex the ABC we find ‘Farmers are really on the frontline of the risks of climate change’, ‘The latest research indicates 90% of global fossil fuels, and that includes 90% of Australia’s coal reserves, we cannot afford to burn, to maintain a reasonable chance of not exceeding two degrees.’  Are they serious?

But it’s the comment regarding grapes that really caught my attention, namely that reduced yields and earlier ripening of grape crops are already evident.  So far as earlier ripening is concerned, it’s true of some regions, but not others, and it is absolutely untrue that there have been Australia-wide reduction in crop levels over the past five years.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Climate Change

I’m back on my hobby horse once again. By ignoring fluctuations in climate prior to 1860, the IPCC is freed from the need to look at the cyclical pattern of alternating warm and cool periods since the 11th century. From the start of that century through to the late 13th, European temperatures were 1˚C above those of the late 20th century. During this period, known as the the Medieval Warm Period, vineyards were established throughout England and in the cooler parts of Europe, and sea ice was largely absent around Iceland and southern Greenland. Viking settlers grew cereals in both regions, and in Greenland they buried their dead deep in soils that became permanently frozen until the late 20th century when, to the hysteria of the global warming acolytes, the permafrost has retreated sufficiently for the soils (and burial grounds) to reappear. These are facts that do not require scientific modelling: they are what they are.

From this time through to the present, the 11-year cycle of decreased solar activity of the sun has been observed and has been the subject of numerous scientific papers. The problem has been, and presently is, that over periods of time the resumption of activity has not occurred, with periods of significant cooling. The first was between 1270 and 1340, and is known as the Wolf Minimum. Temperatures then rose rapidly to a level close to previous highs before the Spörer Minimum between 1410 and 1480. By 1600 temperatures had risen again, and stayed high until the Maunder Minimum between 1670 and 1710. This gave rise to the Little Ice Age when the Thames River remained frozen throughout the year, widespread famine occurred in Europe, Chateau Latour made no wine between 1693 and 1702, and in 1709 the temperature in Marseille dropped to 17.5˚C below zero.

There is only one explanation for these rises and falls, and it’s not anthropogenic. It has been explicitly accepted by the chairman of the IPCC that there has been no global warming since 1997, and for its part the British MET Offices have reported that their will be no warming prior to 2017, extending the pause to 21 years.

Once again, there is little doubt about the proposition that warming ceases and cooling begins when solar activity and irradiance (sunspots) decrease significantly.

Enter the first Russian commentator, Dr. Habibullo Abdussamatov, one of the world’s leading solar physicists, and head of space research at the Russian Academy of Sciences. He believes the world is well on the way to another deep freeze that will hit a low around 2040, and last the rest of the century. He has also shown that Mars has global warming and cooling patterns following precisely those of Earth. Now, mathematics professor, Valentina Zharkova, from the Northumbria University in the UK, has presented a model that can forecast the duration and intensity of solar cycles, and claims she can predict their influence with an accuracy of 97%.

She has extrapolated a geophysical theory that explains how the motion of the earth’s outer core moves conducting material, such as liquid iron, across a weak magnetic field to create an electric current. This also interacts with the fluid motion below the surface of Earth to create two magnetic fields along the axis of its rotation.

Zharkova applied the same theory to the sun and delivered a paper to the National Astronomy meeting where she said ‘We found magnetic wave components appearing in pairs, originating in two different layers in the sun’s interior. They both have a frequency of approximately 11 years, although this frequency is slightly different, and they are offset in time. Combing both waves together and comparing to real data for the current solar cycle, we found that our predictions showed an accuracy of 97 percent.’

Looking at these magnetic wave patterns, the model predicts that there will be few sunspots over the next two 11-year cycles – called Cycle 25, which peaks in 2022, and Cycle 26, which runs from 2030 to 2040.

She continued ‘In cycle 26, the two waves exactly mirror each other – peaking at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the sun. Their interaction will be disruptive, or they will nearly cancel each other. We predict that this will lead to the property of a “Maunder Minimum”.’

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Dinner at Estelle by Scott Pickett

I was lucky enough to crack an invitation for one of the dinners celebrating the establishment of Estelle by Scott Pickett. The dishes were:

Cod Roe & Potato Soufflé
Jerusalem Artichoke & Saltbush
Parmesan & Lemon Myrtle

Spanner Crab, Cauliflower & Vadouvan
Kingfish, Ink & Burnt Carrot
Black Truffle Risoni
White Rocks Veal, Mustard Leaf & Hand Rolled Macaroni
Violet, Milk & Chocolate

Lemon Aspen Doughnut
Raspberry Vinegar Ganache

All were right up to the standard expected of Scott Pickett, two of truly exceptional quality: the Black Truffle Risoni and the White Rocks Veal, Mustard Leaf and and Hand Rolled Macaroni.

The restaurant has an innovative configuration, with seating for around 40 people at smallish tables, and another 18 people seated on a bar running along two sides of the open kitchen.  I didn’t sit at one of the tall chairs, so can only take that on trust, but the seats that the normal tables as good as they come from a comfort point of view.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Fat Duck

In my misbegotten youth I (and wife Suzanne) ate at a crazy 13 three-star French restaurants in 12 days, and I have found my way to Australia’s best on numerous occasions over the years.  There have also been return visits, or new visits, to European gastronomic landmarks, the one miss being elBulli.

A few weeks ago Suzanne and I made our homage to The Fat Duck, and I don’t doubt that there has been much comment from professional and casual observers on all media platforms.  But, for whatever reason, I had not read any of that, so I arrived without any specific preconceptions, but certainly with great expectations.

The one thing I did know about was the wine list, having provided some inconsequential advice – inconsequential because when I first saw it prior to the opening of The Fat Duck, I had marvelled at the breadth and quality of the wines that had been chosen.  What I did not know then, was just how moderate the prices would be, every wine priced to sell, with a mark up well below the industry norm for a restaurant such as this.

But that is not what I’m on about: it is the 13 courses which (subject to dietary no-go's) are presented to all who have eaten there since it was opened on 4 February 2015.  There is a connecting chord of whimsy that rises to the surface on many of the dishes: thus Savoury Lollies, Snail Porridge, Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Sound of the Sea, Hot and Iced Tea, The Not-So-Full English Breakfast, and Like a Kid in a Sweet Shop.

You do also get more specific details of each course on the menu, and once you get started, there are elements of molecular cuisine, very clever, and interlaced with the stories behind each dish, and (it hardly needs be said) none derivative.  The presenters (‘waiters’ does not begin to do them justice) of each dish genuinely understand how it is assembled, and the reasons for the inclusion of every part in the recipe – although this is an inadequate word to describe a creation that successively lays siege to your mind, your eyes, your sense of smell, and (most importantly) what you taste.

Each dish is a visual work of art from the ground up of what it is presented on or in though to the food itself.  But there is never a sense that the theatre of the creation and the presentation of each dish is all too clever, or more important than what you eat.

And so to the evening as a whole.  We arrive shortly after 7pm. And left shortly before midnight.  The timing of the dishes flowed seamlessly: there was never an awkward pause, the service of the perfectly matched wines likewise.  The actual menu follows, and it serves no useful purpose for me to give a description of each of the dishes.  But this was, quite simply, the greatest meal I have ever had in my life, and it’s inconceivable that I will ever have a greater dining experience.

Vodka and Lime Sour, Gin and Tonic, Tequila and Grapefruit
NV Egly Ouriet, Tradition, Grand Cru (Champagne)

Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream

Waldorf Rocket, Salmon Twister and Feast
2008 Meursault, Clos des Ambres, Arnaud Ente (Burgundy)

Caviar Sorbet, Oak Moss and Truffle Toast
(Homage to Alain Chapel)

Joselito Ham, Shaved Fennel

Shiitake, Confit Kombu and Sea Lettuce
2012 Riesling Grand Cru, Rangen de Thann, Clos Saint Urbain Domaine Zind Hunbrecht (Alsace)

Mock Turtle Soup, Pocket Watch and Toast Sandwich

Endive, Vanilla Mayonnaise and Golden Trout Roe
2011 Chambolle Musigny, Domaine Comte Georges de Vogue (Burgundy)

Green Pepper and Caraway


2001 Sauterns, Chateau Suduiraut, Cru Classe (Bordeaux)




Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bloodwood takes to blood sport

The Bloodwood team aka Stephen Doyle has to be one of the most clever and amusing swipes at all sorts of people and things in the winemaking fraternity. Thus it’s recent efforts have been The Hipsters’ Guide to Making Orange Wine’ (reproduced with permission), and poking a stick at me with its comment on wine show glasses, likewise reproduced with permission. - JH

Team Bloodwood Hipster Replacement Winemaking


Read the media release here.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A tribute to Phillip John

The news of Phillip John’s death saddened me greatly. He and I were involved in wine show judging over several decades and numerous intersections with winemaking/consulting over a period of four years at Lindemans.  A handsome testimonial was released on behalf of James Kirby of Hungerford Hill Wines, and that follows. - JH
Vale Phillip John
One of the greats in the Australian wine fraternity passed away this week.

Born into a famous Barossa Valley cooperage family, Phillip John was destined to be in the wine industry. He started his winemaking career with Seppelt’s straight out of school, and stayed with them until 1980 when he joined Lindeman’s. This role took him to Sydney where he oversaw winemaking in the Hunter Valley as well as their growing Sunraysia operations. Phillip ‘fathered’ one of Australia’s first successes in the US and UK, Lindeman’s Bin 65 Chardonnay, but was reluctant to carry this mantle, wanting to earn a reputation for fine wine!

Lindeman’s was acquired by Southcorp in the late 1980s, and Phillip rose to chief white winemaker for the group. This included responsibility for Hungerford Hill, which came into the group in 1990.

Phillip was a casualty of the Southcorp take-over of Rosemount in 2001. When James Kirby acquired the well-known (but by then somewhat neglected) Hungerford Hill brand, he approached Phillip to become Chief Winemaker. Phillip took this on with a passion, travelling the country sourcing quality grapes to create Hungerford Hill’s portfolio of elegant cool climate wines. He was particularly passionate about Tumbarumba, developing a close rapport with the local growers with whom he had worked since joining Southcorp.

Sadly, Phillip retired from Hungerford Hill in 2008 due to ill health, but remained a consultant until quite recently, visiting Tumbarumba and advising winemaker Adrian Lockhart on progress of the grape crop.

Tumbarumba’s growing recognition as a premium Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sparkling wine region and Hungerford Hill’s outstanding success with these wines are a testament to Phillip John’s vision and persistence. He will be sorely missed by all his friends in the Australian wine industry.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

International Wine Challenge Results

The press release which follows is interesting. It’s clear that Helen Kenny wasn’t around in the early 1990s. Australia went through a golden period at that time, winning more medals (including gold) than France, with less than half the number of entries. The success strike rate of Australia and France isn’t specified, and I’m trying to chase that up. - JH

Australia threatens France's winemaking crown, winning equal number of Gold medals at Tranche One of the International Wine Challenge


  • 26 Australian wines awarded a Gold medal at Tranche One of IWC 2015, equaling France’s Gold medal score
  • 203 Australian wines awarded medals at Tranche One of the International Wine Challenge 2015
  • Australia closes gap on France, picking up equal number of Gold medals
  • Australian Dessert Semillon created exclusively for Tesco finest* range strikes Gold
  • The International Wine Challenge judges also awarded 71 Silver medals and 106 Bronze medals to Australian wines during its first round of tasting in November.
  • De Bortoli Wines, which operates three wineries across Australia, received three Gold medals. The company, which is recognised as a Sustainability Advantage Gold Partner by the New South Wales Government Office of Environment and Heritage for its sustainable agricultural approach, received a Gold medal for its Yarra Valley Estate Grown Pinot Noir 2013, as well as for two of its sweet wines.
  • Its Deen Vat Series No 5 Botrytis Semillon 2009 and its Dessert Semillon 2009, created exclusively for the Tesco finest* range, were both awarded Gold medals by the IWC judges.
  • Morris Wines, which received the IWC Champion Fortified Wine Trophy earlier this year, continued its success at this round of the 2015 competition winning three Gold medals. Two of its non-vintage Muscats, the Morris Cellar One Classic Liqueur Muscat and the Morris Old Premium Rare Liqueur Muscat struck Gold, as did the Morris Old Premium Rare Liqueur Topaque NV.
  • Winemakers Amelia Park Wines and Domaine Naturaliste each received a pair of Gold medals. Amelia Park Cabernet Merlot 2012 and its 2012 Reserve Shiraz were both awarded with Gold medals, while Gold medals also went to Domaine Naturaliste Sauvage Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2013 and Domanine Naturaliste Artus 2013.
  • Montalto “Estate” Chadonnay 2013 and Montalto “Estate” Pinot Noir 2013 racked up two Gold medals for the South Victoria-based Montalto Vineyard.
  • This year is the second year the International Wine Challenge has split its competition into two separate tastings to accommodate the different production and sales schedules across the industry, and give winemakers greater flexibility over when to enter their wines.
  • Tranche One of the IWC 2015 competition was held last month, and Tranche Two will be hosted in April 2015, with the results being announced in May.
Australian winemakers showed star quality at Tranche One of the International Wine Challenge 2015, scooping a total of 203 medals. In a competition first, Australia also matched France’s Gold medal score of 26, although France still topped the total medals chart.