Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Langham Melbourne Master Class Recipe Book 2009 - Wine

The global wine experience - in a weekend

By Robyn Lewis
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James Halliday, wine expert and author

James Halliday, wine expert and author [©]

Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Melbourne, Victoria
Melbourne skyline and Yarra River, Melbourne, Victoria

Every March the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival brings together a selection of leading international winemakers, where in the Langham Hotel – in tandem over the weekend with master chef culinary demonstrations  – they present global trendsetting and classic wine styles alongside select local counterparts.

The lineup of international winemakers included - from Austria:

•    Bert Salomon - Salomon Undhof, Kremstal
•    Lenz Moser - Laurenz V, Kemptal


•    Pierre and Sophie Larmandier – Champagne Larmandier-Bernier, Champagne
•    Michel Chapoutier – M. Chapoutier, Rhône Valley
•    Alex Moreau – Domaine Bernard Moreau, Chassagne-Montrachet


•    Roberto Anselmi – Anselmi, Veneto

New Zealand:

•    Larry McKenna – Escarpment Vineyard, Martinborough
•    Helen Masters – Ata Rangi, Martinborough

The Australian counterparts were the venerable James Halliday speaking on ‘50 years of Australian wine’ (from a personal perspective), Ben Edwards and Dan Sims from Sommeliers Australia, Judy Sarris, Editor of Gourmet Traveller Wine, and winemakers Mac Forbes (Mac Forbes Wines), Dan Buckle (Mt Langi Ghiran), Tom Carson (Yabby Lake), Michael Dhillon (Bindi), Timo Mayer (Mayer Vineyards), Kate McIntyre (Moorooduc Estate), Matt Harrop (Shadowfax), James Godfrey (Seppeltsfield) and Stephen Chambers (Chambers Rosewood), plus various wine importers.

With such an impressive selection of speakers and panelists, you can expect some pretty serious wines to taste, and the MFWF Masterclass weekend does not disappoint wine lovers. The dozen Austrian wines presented – which we rarely see in Australia – were from the country’s top makers, including Rieslings, six grüner veltliner, zweigelt (a red grape variety developed in 1922, now the most widely grown variety in Austria), Burgenland’s native grape blaufränkisch, which produces a red wine similar to pinot noir, and two superb botrytis wines.

New world shiraz was tasted alongside old world syrah, provoking considerable discussion. With recent vintages from Torbreck (Barossa), Mitolo (McLaren Vale), Shaw and Smith (Adelaide Hills), Mt Langi Ghiran (Grampians), Clonakilla (Murrumbateman) and Bilancia (Hawkes Bay NZ) against several of M. Chapoutier’s wines of similar age, it was interesting indeed, in particular to see a Cambrien from Heathcote which is the result of a joint venture between M.Chapoutier and Jasper Hill.

Chardonnay also told a tale of terroir, with some of Australia’s finest including Yabby Lake and Kooyong (Mornington Peninsula), Brookland Valley and Leeuwin Estate (Margaret River), and New Zealand’s Escarpment (Martinborough) and Craggy Range (Hawkes Bay) telling their own stories of soil and terrain alongside 2006 Billaud Simon (Chablis) and Bernard Moreau (Chassagne-Montrachet).

Debate was more heated in the pinot noir session with Larry McKenna pursuing the Kiwi (Escarpment, Martinborough Vineyards and Ata Rangi) vs Australian (Bindi from Macedon and Mayer from the Yarra Valley) line – are Australian pinots ‘minty’ due to our eucalyptus trees, and if so, does it matter? (not so, according to Jancis Robinson MW). This is one argument that won’t be settled any time soon – there are after all plenty of eucalypts growing in New Zealand, some in close proximity to vineyards. Viva la difference, perhaps?

There was a divine tasting of Champagnes from various sub-regions of the area: Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côtes des Blancs and Côte de l’Aube. What a way to start a Sunday!

Robert Anselmi spoke of garganera, the much-maligned white grape variety grown widely in the Veneto which clearly responds well to elevations well above the plains – like tea, the higher the altitude the better the grapes, and the wine. It’s not all about pinot grigio, for sure, and what we in Australia call ‘alternative’ varieties - including soave, arneis, friulano and white blends from other regions including Campania, Fruili, Piedmont, Alto Adige and Soave -  also shone.

The 50 year retrospective by James Halliday was a real highlight and will be the subject of another article. The logistics of putting on this tasting were apparently amazing – not only locating the venerable lineup of aged wines, but persuading makers to part with them, then having them carefully shipped and experiencing in one instance one of out two remaining bottles in the world broken in transit – it was a never-to-be-repeated experience which I felt most privileged to attend.

The weekend of wine was completed by a superb tasting of aged fortifieds, from Seppeltsfield fino and Rutherglen amontillado and oloroso through tawny ports from the Penfolds cellars to four Chambers muscadelles (tokay) from Rutherglen. A superb way to end the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Masterclasses, with some of Australia’s most magnificent contributions to the wine world.

The ‘recipe’ book contains many of the makers’ wine tasting notes and of course space for your own – an invaluable reference indeed to look back on some lineups of very special wines from old and new world.

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2010 will be held from 6-22 March 2010 – see our calendar for further details as they are announced.


  • Melbourne (VIC)

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August 08th, 2009
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