A Wine, A Woman, and Almost a Song

As I mentioned on The Hungry Expat’s Facebook page, yesterday was National Sparkling Red Day here in Australia. I found out about this bubbly day through an industry newsletter but can find very little information about it outside other web forums such as this one. I will simply suspect marketing genius and leave it at that. After all, it’s an excuse to have a glass of wine, right? (As if we need another … )

So yesterday, I set out for my token celebratory glass of sparkling red at Tapavino on Bulletin Street, near Circular Quay in Sydney. Tapavino has only one sparkling red on its wine list, so my decision was an easy one: the NV Vilarnau Brut Rosé from Penendès, Spain. Described on the wine list as “light and clean with raspberry notes and a likable finish,” the drop lived up to its promise. It was a bright wine with a vibrant, beautiful raspberry colour. It had a gentle effervescence that almost had me singing “Tiny Bubbles” (the other patrons were spared), and its indeed likable flavour didn’t linger too long on the tongue.

According to Tapavino’s Frank Dilernia, the wine pairs well with the tapas bar’s jamon dishes and charcuterie. Or try it with the gravlax. Basically, he said to go for the salty, the fatty, the oily. (Twist my arm.)  And avoid the vinegary.

If you want to follow my lead, you can enjoy a glass at Tapavino for $11 or indulge in a bottle for $68. (In the interest of full disclosure, The Hungry Expat’s glass was on the house.)

Did you celebrate Sparkling Red Day? And even if you didn’t, do you have a favourite sparkling red?


Fern Fun

As a follow up to my earlier post, The Hungry Expat played co-host last night at Flights of Redfern at The Fern on Pitt Street. It was an intimate evening of cheese, wine, tapas, and lovely and lively conversation. We had our own private sommelier on hand, and Zigi Ozeri of Zigi’s Wine & Cheese Bar in Chippendale took us through a trio of cheesy goodness, served alongside Zigi’s own freshly baked (and delectably salty) lavosh.

Wanna know what you missed? Here’s a bit about the tasty tastings.

The Wines

  • 2011 Gentil Hugel: This white wine from Alsace is a blend of numerous varieties, including Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat, and Sylvaner. It’s a soft wine with notes of stone fruit (apricot and peach), as well as a hint of spice. It paired nicely with The Fern’s Latin-fusion-inspired tapas.
  • 2009 Pirramimma Grenache: Though I haven’t yet succeeded in conquering The Fern’s entire wine list (not for lack of trying), this Grenache is my favourite Fern wine so far. I am not as often a red drinker, but I love this Pirramimma Old Bush Grenache from Australia’s own McLaren Vale region. The grapes come from the winemaker’s “Prisoner of War” vineyard, and after fermentation were aged for three years in American oak. The nose calls forth aromas of cherry, chocolate, and again that hint of spice that quite nicely complemented the oak-smoked cheddar on the cheese side of things (see below).
  • 2011 Jed Malbec: Also with cherry and chocolate on the nose, this rich, medium-bodied red comes from Valley de Uco in the Mendoza region of Argentina.

The Cheeses

  • Jensen’s Red: This washed-rind cow’s milk cheese hails from the Tarago River Cheese Company in Gippsland in Victoria. Tarago River is a family-owned and -operated business founded by the Johnson and Jensen families in 1982.  The cheesemaker sources milk from its own herd of 400 Friesian Holstein cows. The Jensen’s Red cheese is named for original cheesemaker Laurie Jensen. This is a soft, creamy, mild cheese, and my take was that it was the favourite on the night.
  • Quickes Traditional oak-smoked cheddar: Though some guests found this cheese just a tad too smoky, I love a smoked cheese, and this hard cheese from the UK had just the right degree of smokiness. The cheesemaker naturally smokes the cheese for three to four hours over oak chips from the farm’s own woodlands.
  • Marte blue cheese: For those who are a bit shy about blue varieties, this is a great entry-level blue cheese. This Italian cheese is a blend of gorgonzola and Roquefort, and it, too, tasted quite nice alongside the Pirramimma Grenache.

The Tapas

  • Fresh olives
  • Chorizo skewers with apple and smoked maple syrup (Proprietor Paula Westerman admits to trying a bevy of sausage combinations before finding this winning and delish combination.)
  • Corn tostadas with fish, avocado, and chipotle mayo – a very flavoursome bite with just the right amount of kick

Other small plates on The Fern’s menu include:

  • Beef empanadas with pico de gallo
  • Chilli chicken wings
  • Pulled-pork sliders

We hope this will be the first of many such tasting nights at The Fern, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can regularly find these wines and tapas on The Fern’s menu, and you can sample the cheeses to your heart’s content (or demise!) at Zigi’s. See you there!

Flights of Redfern

For those of you in Sydney, what are you up to this Tuesday night? If you’re anything like me and love all things wine and cheese, you should join The Hungry Expat on June 18 at The Fern Food + Drink in Redfern from 6 to 10  pm. My friend and colleague Paula Westerman, The Fern’s snazzy new proprietor (she took over the reins just a couple of months ago), is hosting Flights of Redfern, a special evening of international wine and cheese pairing. For only $60, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy a flight of three delicious wines matched with lovely boutique cheeses – not to mention great music, lively conversation, and heaps of fun! (I’ve been to The Fern – I know of what I speak!) Plus, if you’re still hungry after your cheese teaser, you can sample Paula’s excellent selection of Latin-inspired tapas.

The Hungry Expat is co-hosting this inaugural tasting with Paula and Zigi Ozeri of nearby Zigi’s Wine & Cheese Bar in Chippendale – the first of what we hope will be a series of such “flights of fancy.” Zigi and his sommelier will be on hand to give you a crash course on the two tasty trios and to answer any questions you may have. Please join us! To book, please call The Fern on (02) 8399 0070. Hope to see you there.