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.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Northeast v West Victoria Wine Challenge

For the past two years I have been one of the judges for the Northeast v West Victoria wine competition. It’s a relatively low key affair, but very enjoyable because of the interaction between the judges and the 30 or so people attending the event at Union Dining.

This year the event was held in late November, and the preference ranking for the wines in the four classes were completely at odds with each other; it may seem strange, but this is the best possible outcome for the event – every winery gets to take home some good news.


1.       2010 Mt Langi Ghiran Blanc de Blanc

2.       2012 Seppelt Original Sparkling Shiraz 

3.       2010 Michelini Chardonnay Cuvee
3.       2006 Anderson Sparkling Shiraz

1.       2006 Anderson Sparkling Shiraz

2.       2010 Michelini Chardonnay Cuvee

3.       2010 Mt Langi Ghiran Blanc de Blanc

4.       2012 Seppelt Original Sparkling Shiraz


1.       2011 John Gehrig RG Riesling

2.       2014 Seppelt Drumborg Riesling

3.       2014 Bests Riesling

4.       2013 John Gehrig Riesling

1.       2014 Seppelt Drumborg Riesling

2.       2011 John Gehrig RG Riesling

3.       2014 Bests Riesling

4.       2013 John Gehrig Riesling


1.       2013 Dog Rock Shiraz

2.       2012 Baileys of Glenrowan Shiraz

3.       2013 Brokenwood Indigo Vineyard Shiraz

4.       2013 Mt Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge Shiraz

1.       2013 Brokenwood Indigo Vineyard Shiraz

2.       2013 Dog Rock Shiraz

3.       2013 Mt Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge Shiraz

4.       2012 Baileys of Glenrowan Shiraz

Other Red

1.       2012 Pyren Yardbird Union (Cab Sauv/Cab Franc/Malbec/PV)

2.       2013 Eldorado Road Nero D’Avola

3.       2012 A Rodda Cuvee de Chez (Cab Sauv/Merlot/Malbec/PV)

1.       2012 A Rodda Cuvee de Chez

2.       2013 Eldorado Road Nero D’Avola

3.       2012 Pyren Yardbird Union 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Margaret River Gourmet Escape

I attended the Margaret River Gourmet Escape held on 20-23 November; the press release that follows gives some idea of the magnitude of the event, which was incredibly well organised given the multiple activities going on up and down the region. For much of the time I was based at Leeuwin Estate doing masterclasses, so was in the centre of the village activity that attracted over 13 000 people over the three days. It was striking how very few of those attending showed any signs of being even mildly intoxicated. I guess the large number of children trailing in the wake of parents and friends acted as a natural break. - JH

The 2014 Margaret River Gourmet Escape, presented by Siemens home appliances, saw 21,917 tickets sold – more than double the number of the first Gourmet Escape in 2012 and cementing the event as a must attend for food and wine enthusiasts the world over.
8,288 people attended the 20 satellite events set in picturesque and unique locations including forests, beaches and wineries where 49 international and Australian chefs, food and wine experts engaged with audiences and showcased quintessential produce and wine from the South West.

13,629 food and wine lovers soaked up the vibe of the Gourmet Village at Leeuwin Estate where they sampled and sipped their way around Margaret River and greater WA through the 170 exhibitors and restaurants showcasing their wares.

“Each year we aim to up the ante and deliver a truly unique and exceptional program of events which have evolved as well as the creation of new ideas to ensure we are properly representing the region and all it has to offer to international, interstate and local audiences,” says Margaret River Gourmet Escape Event Director, Naomi Wilson.

“This year we pulled out all stops to create a massive weekend for lovers of food, wine, music and fun which is evident from the new additions to the program including Matt Preston and A.A. Gill playing quizmaster at the Gourmet Food Trivia Night; sundown wine tastings and DJs on the beachfront at Sunset Beats and Bites and the high end International Cabernet Celebration at Cape Mentelle, to name a few. We also saw an exciting fusion of local and native ingredients with an international twist. Unique dishes on the menus included:  

  • Saltwater crocodile, fermented mangrove seeds, black ant (Jock Zonfrillo at Land to Vine)
  • Kangaroo tartare, sandalwood miso, ants and sea herbs (Matt Stone at Farm, Forage, Graze)
  • Poached West Australian marron, cauliflower cous cous, finger lime, vas el hanout broth (Clare Smyth at Michelin Greats at Voyager Estate)
  • Pan seared sea scallops in red curry sauce (Sam Leong at East Meets West)
  • Botrytis Cinerea dessert dish incorporating 66 ingredients (Heston Blumenthal & Jonny Lake at Michelin Greats at Voyager Estate)
 “Similarly we incorporated new interactive features at the Gourmet Village such as the Regional Pavilions, a new wine attraction and food photography classes, which undoubtedly contributed to its huge success and large visitation – much to the delight of visitor, exhibitors, sponsors and celebrities in attendance such as Layne Beachley, Kirk Pengilly, Adam Garcia and Simon Le Bon.”

“What makes Margaret River Gourmet Escape different from any other food and wine festival on the planet is not only the ability to showcase the region’s offerings in breathtaking remarkable locations but also the genuine enthusiasm from the participating chefs, food and wine experts which is integral in promoting the Margaret River Wine Region to a local and global market,” says Wilson.
To this end, accolades from participating chefs have started pouring in:
“Everything’s laid on. It’s just an absolutely brilliant event from the village to amazing dinners with some of the best chefs in the world. You know there’s very few things that you can go to like that,” says Clare Smyth, Chef at Restaurant Gordon Ramsey, UK.

Similarly Australia’s own acclaimed chef and restaurateur, Jacques Reymond has nothing but compliments for the event saying, “Margaret River Gourmet Escape is one of the best events in the country. I’m very emotional to be here because it’s a wonderful part of Australia. It’s so remote but once you get here you feel at home, and it’s wonderful.”

Margaret River Gourmet Escape aims to deliver a program unlike any other which incorporates a lauded international and local line up of food and wine talent, this year including the likes of Heston Blumenthal, Massimo Bottura, Rick Stein and Peter Gilmore. Margaret River Gourmet Escape also attracts significant national and international media exposure with journalists from the UK, Germany, Singapore, New Zealand, China, USA and Indonesia attending the event.
Last month, the West Australian State Government announced continued funding for the event until at least 2017.

The next Margaret River Gourmet Escape will take place from 20 – 22 November 2015.
For event information:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Crittenden Wine Centre

Garry Crittenden, patriarch of Crittenden Estate, and an early mover in innovative marketing and energetic sales efforts in the UK in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, is looking on with approval at son Rollo and daughter Zoe as they release details of the new Crittenden Wine Centre. - JH

The press release explains the concept thus:

The Crittenden Wine Centre will give visitors to the Crittenden Estate family farm an insightful and fulfilling experience, encouraging them to taste and learn at their own pace in seated, relaxed environment.

Winemaker Rollo Crittenden said the Centre represented “a new model for wine tourism, designed to optimise the enjoyment and learning experience of an Australian winery. The Crittenden Wine Centre will be a place where people can come to learn as much as they desire about our wines and the local region at a pace of their choosing”, Rollo added.

Upon arrival, visitors will be welcomed and given an introduction to Crittenden Estate before being offered a place to sit and asked which varietals they are most interested in tasting. Visitors will then be presented with tasting notes in either written form or via interactive presentations on electronic tablet devices, and experienced and qualified wine educators will be on hand to guide them through the wines.

In addition, the Crittenden Wine Centre will be a place where visitors can learn about the many attributes of the Mornington Peninsula wine region as well as the grape growing and winemaking process.

Crittenden Estate is well known for the diversity of wine styles it produces, which makes it an ideal venue for a tasting centre of this kind, with up to 26 wines available for tasting.

Crittenden Estate produces wines from the Mornington Peninsula’s signature varieties of pinot noir and chardonnay, as well as Italian varieties under the Pinocchio label, and Spanish varieties under the Los Hermanos label. Visitors to the Crittenden Wine Centre will have the opportunity to taste and learn about not just what the Peninsula does best, but about the range of fascinating varietals from northern Italy and Spain.

Garry, who like the Cheshire cat, is slowly but inexorably fading from the scene, commented, “the time is right to create a tasting facility such as this on the Peninsula, as it is widely regarded as one of Australia’s leading wine tourism destinations".

"We anticipate visitors will leave our new home feeling relaxed, engaged, fulfilled and well-informed about our wines. It’s a more personal approach to wine tasting, and I think people are really going to enjoy it”, Garry added.

This seated, self-paced model of wine education and appreciation is virtually non-existent in Australia. The Crittenden Wine Centre aims to broaden and enrich the cellar door experience in this country.

Zoe Crittenden, who looks after the companies’ marketing, pointed out the natural synergy that will exist between the Crittenden Wine Centre and the newly refurbished Lakeside Villas accommodation suites on the estate, together with the ‘Stillwater at Crittenden’ restaurant. "We hope to provide guests with the complete package in one location”, Zoe added.

Crittenden Estate first planted in 1982 and is now home to some of the oldest vines on the Mornington Peninsula. Its Garry Crittenden is one of the pioneers of the region’s wine industry. He has been acknowledged for his work in championing Italian varietals in Australia, for which he was inducted as a “Legend” by the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Committee in 2012.

Son Rollo Crittenden is also awarded in the wine industry, being named “Young Gun of Wine” in 2010.

With Rollo at the winemaking helm and Zoe leading the marketing charge, the second generation at Crittenden Estate is poised to herald a new era in wine tourism.

For more information contact:
Crittenden Estate , 25 Harrisons Road, Dromana Ph: (03) 5981 <