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Australian wineries delivered to your door!

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Wine

Introducing Kim Bickley, our new Tasting Panel member!

We’re excited to introduce our new Tasting Panellist, Kim Bickley. As one of Australia’s most highly respected sommeliers with over 10 years’ experience and an avid wine-lover, Kim is going to make a wonderful addition to our team of experts.

What first attracted you to working with wine?

I'd always had an interest in wine, but my interest truly peaked when I began a job in a restaurant while studying a degree in Communications. I worked alongside a talented sommelier who encouraged all the team to taste, read and attend tastings. I loved the anticipation of what was in the bottle, the older wines in particular, and I still do. 

You qualified through the Court of Master Sommeliers – what did that involve?

The Court of Master Sommeliers includes a 3-part examination: theory, tasting and service. You need to know about wine and spirits from all around the world, including being able to differentiate them in a blind tasting. Also, how to cellar, serve and maintain a restaurant wine list. The study never really stops if you’re really into wine, things are always changing, new regions emerging and older ones reinventing themselves. I just love it. 

You’ve since worked for some of Australia’s most impressive restaurants including Luke Mangan’s Glass Brasserie and Black by ezard – what are some of your standout memories?

I have so many, the team become like family to you; the regular customers like friends…things like that are what keep you in the game. I also enjoyed looking after some of the world’s best known celebrities and seeing what they like to drink. From Jerry Lewis (Barolo lover) to Cuba Gooding Jr (Sauvignon Blanc).

You’ve been a sommelier for over a decade, what are the top 3 changes you’ve seen in that time?

  1. When I started out, there were only a handful of true sommeliers working in Sydney, now almost every little restaurant has one. It has become accessible and easy for young and upcoming sommeliers to study and qualify now, for a long time there was very little available, aside from reading The Oxford Wine Companion, now almost every city has WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) available (and it's also possible to study online), there are multiple tastings on every week, and a great selection of truly talented Group Head Sommeliers for them to train under – it's a great time to be a somm. 
  2. Good Aussie Chardonnay has gone from over-oaked and overblown to incredibly restrained, balanced and often as good as some of the best in the world. 
  3. The increased popularity of so called 'natural wines', some of which are incredible and delicious, but many of which are faulty and horrible to drink. I find it fascinating that they have become so popular, given the risky nature of purchasing them if you don't know the producer well. 

 How has your love of wine changed over your career so far? Do you still have the same favourite varieties as you did when you started?

I still have the same favourites, plus a few more now. My love of wine has only deepened, I have been fortunate to have had the chance to travel Australia and the world to see so many amazing regions and their wines. Best of all, I have met so many great people, vignerons and sommeliers alike. 

You’re also a wine educator – what’s the most rewarding part of teaching people about wine?  Seeing people learning the basics of wine and have that 'ah-ha' tasting moment when they really get it, you know they'll be hooked for life. And seeing some of the young sommeliers that trained with me running their own wine lists in some of the world’s best venues; and a couple are even winemakers now. 

What are you looking forward to most about being on the Wine Selectors Tasting Panel?

Tasting and discovering some of Australia's best new wines with my talented Panel-mates, discussing these wines and seeing them enjoyed by the Wine Selectors customers. I especially look forward to tasting them at the airport cellar doors, next time I pass by! 

You now call the Hunter Valley home, what drew you to this region and what do you think are some of the most exciting wine styles being made there?

I always loved the Hunter Valley and its Semillon in particular. There is no other wine in the world like it. It's so delicate and yet powerful, it's flexible with food and is one of the handful of white wines that develop beautifully with age. Now with most being under screw cap, its ageing potential will be amazing to track in the next 50 years and beyond.

I also love Hunter Shiraz and am excited to see the historical blend of Pinot Noir and Shiraz making a very strong comeback. 

It's a beautiful place to live, I'm so happy to be here. 

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Life
Sharp Thinking
Queensland mechanical engineer Mark Henry had the professional chef in mind when, as a student,   he set about developing a range of knives that were supremely functional and of such quality that they could withstand the rigours of Australia's busiest restaurants. They became so popular with chefs, they are now sought by home cooks as well. “I developed the knives for working pro chefs,” recalls Mark. “As a young student with no commercial experience, I had no idea about retail. I just wanted to redefine the working chef’s knife and eliminate all those traditional old weaknesses. “Chefs really liked the Füri knives from the beginning, then they talked about them, wrote about them in their food columns, at their cooking schools. Soon, the department stores were getting so many enquiries from consumers that they wanted Füri too. The demand was such that Füri was an immediate success, and quickly became Australia’s #1 premium knife brand.” The best metal for the best blade Most professional knives are produced in Europe, but Mark wanted to design a knife range that totally re-shaped the category. His first idea was to use high carbon Japanese stainless steel, noted for its superior durability and ease of sharpening.   For the best combination of sharpness and toughness, Mark specified the blade be between the thick, strong European style and the sharp, light Japanese style. “I was determined to use a type of high carbon stainless steel alloy that was more like the old carbon steel knives than the modern European knives,” says Mark. “Without the complex metallurgy, that means Füri knives have the ideal combination for working chefs of a blade material that holds its edge a long time, but is also easier to sharpen than the more common CrMoV alloys used in German knives, and most Japanese knives today. I would love to use full carbon steel, like the famous old French chef knives that take such a sharp edge so easily, but the corrosion would drive everyone mad these days, so it had to be also stain-resistant! Not an easy combination of features, but we achieved it.” Seamless design The next crucial element was in the seamless construction. The blade and the handle are one, so there is no place for food to get trapped, and no rivets or plastic parts to fail. So not only does it look stylish, it is the ultimate in food hygiene and durability. “I thought it was a bit silly that after 800 years of chef knife making, in the ‘90s we still had the same riveted handles, sometimes still with the same type of wood ‘scales’, or plastic more recently,” says Mark. “My chef friends and I all had knives with handles that had split wood, lots of gunk in the gaps, rivets missing, melted plastic, etc. I worked on a way to make the blade and handle into one seamless piece, while still keeping a hollow cavity in the handle for the correct balance. “Nothing beats this construction for hygiene and durability, particularly when combined with our tough steel and strong blades. The Iconic handle What also raises Füri above its competitors is its innovative handle design. The iconic reverse wedge shape means the handle locks into the hand for a safer grip, which helps reduce hand fatigue, and reduces repetitive strain injuries. “While I was still at university (QUT) studying my mech engineering degree, I put some research into the forces involved during the most repetitive and heavy cutting motions chefs use,” explains Mark. “It became quickly evident, to me, that the traditional handle shape (basically the same for 800 years) was opposite to what it should be. The traditional taper which becomes narrower toward the handle actually encourages hand slip toward the blade. Then I realized why nobody cut themselves, even with wet/oily hands: the brain automatically compensates for any small slip by making the hand squeeze tighter on the handle to produce more friction and grip. “That means fatigue for chefs  in the short term, and arthritis, carpal tunnel and other problems in the long term The Füri reverse-wedge handle actively reduces this slip by becoming thicker toward the blade, in the direction that counts, so that less hand squeeze is required for the same cutting work. This means less fatigue and less hand problems for chefs, or anyone with sore hands.” Füri’s innovative design elements and materials result in knives of the utmost quality and are the reasons Füri is the knife of choice for chefs around the world. TV chef and restaurateur Kylie Kwong is a Füri brand ambassador, while Nigella Lawson is also a big fan. Füri knives are ranged in all major department stores and independents around the country. For more information visit furiglobal.com
Food
Best of the Best RAS President's Medal
Words by Words Ed Halmagyi on 13 Jan 2017
The president’s medal is a unique prize honouring the very best in Australian food and beverage production. When John Fairley steps into the milking yard of his iconic artisan dairy at Picton, south-west of Sydney, the motley assortment of Jersey, Friesian and Swiss Red cows congregating in the early morning mist barely respond. Their udders are huge and distended, yet the cows are perfectly at ease, trustful, and content with the calm, persistent rhythm of the farm. He walks deliberately, purposefully, and with a composure that silently echoes off the hillsides. John doesn’t farm this land, he exists within it. A seventh-generation dairyman, John has a connection to land that is about as profound as it can be. He loves this country, and the cattle, and the milk they produce together. It’s a deep and abiding affection that underscores the quality of his remarkable milk. And the milk is truly remarkable. It’s rich and creamy, with a distinctly grassy note, the season’s sweet clover obvious on the nose. This is quite unlike large-scale commercial milk, for its flavour is infused with the terroir of Picton. EXCELLENCE AND IMPROVEMENT In 2008, John and his team from Country Valley Milk were awarded the President’s Medal, Australia’s highest honour for food and beverage producers. It is an accolade that recognises not only brilliant produce, but also the extraordinary people, businesses, systems and measures of environmental management and community engagement that must underpin all great agriculture and production. Food and beverage is not simply about what we bring to the table, it’s about our place in society, now and into the future, and a relationship with the environment and our communities. A broad proposition, it must be careful, respectful and manageable. To that end, the President’s Medal is unique as it not only recognises excellence, but actively encourages improvement in all areas, for the winners and their competitors. This award is about ensuring Australia will have even better food and beverages, embodying the highest levels of product integrity. Established in 2006, the Medal is managed by the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW. Open to farmers, producers and manufacturers from all over Australia, it is the distillation of the year-round competitions in Fine Food, Dairy Produce, Wine, Beer & Cider, and Chocolate. Overall champions from each division are pitted against one another in a triple-bottom- line analysis to find the very best of the best. This involves a rigorous examination of business plans, operational practices, community engagement and environmental management systems, global strategy and market acceptance. WINNING BENEFITS Many past winners are household names in fine dining – Tathra Oysters, Holy Goat Cheese, Milly Hill Lamb – while others are global brands like Bulla,  Yalumba  and Hardy’s. The President’s Medal reveals small manufacturers who think globally, and industrial players with the heart of an artisan. Benefits for all those involved are diverse. The process compels them to engage in new and productive ways with the challenges specific to their business, to find answers to stubborn questions, and to seek out new ways of marketing themselves. In addition, all competitors are exposed to a range of quality advice from industry professionals, chefs and retail experts about improvements they might consider, or ways to differentiate and grow. This is an invaluable consultation usually out of the reach and budget of most artisans. EYES ON THE PRIZE Then there’s the prize itself. A cash reward is provided by the RAS, along with a marketing package from one of Australia’s leading minds, Michael McQueen, and help with story production from Jason van Genderen, one of the world’s best film producers and filmmakers. This award is not simply about recognition, it’s engineered to help our very best produce companies grow, thrive and excel. There’s a great deal Australians can be proud of when it comes to our food and beverage industries. Diversity, innovation, resilience and excellence are all common values. Consequently, judging the President’s Medal is a daunting task, not simply because the entrants are from such diverse businesses, but because the economic, social and environmental standards are so high. But they will be judged, and a winner will be chosen. A DELICIOUS CELEBRATION To celebrate those achievements, the RAS is hosting The President’s Medal Awards Night in November, where a bespoke menu will be crafted by one of Australia’s most celebrated chefs, Christine Manfield in conjunction with Sydney Showground’s Tim Browne, using all the champion ingredients from this year’s competitors. It promises to be a delicious evening to which everyone is invited. Tickets will be available through www.rasnsw.com.au/presidents_medal. If you love great food, and want to taste Australia’s finest, this is an evening not to be missed.
Wine
Embracing isolation with Frankland Estate’s Hunter Smith
To celebrate the Frankland Estate Riesling 2015 being our October Wine of the Month, we caught up with winemaker Hunter Smith to talk isolation, organics and a special Guinea fowl. What was it like growing up in Frankland River – WA’s most isolated wine region? Looking back, amazing! The concept of isolation was not there, we had total freedom after school (a thriving 60-student primary school) to go horse riding, rabbit trapping and yabbie catching, help out on the farm, kayak down the Frankland River, camp, fish and explore on the spectacular south coast and have big farm picnics where friends would join us at the farm and the folks would drink magnums of red well into the evening around a big fire.   Your parents weren’t always in the grape-growing game – how did that come about? Farming and the land are a big part of both my father’s and mother’s family histories in Australia. My father Barrie grew up on a vineyard in South Australia’s Riverland and his family moved to a farm in the Frankland River region back in the 50s, so I guess it was always in his blood. Fast forward a little and Judi and Barrie met in Perth and purchased a farm in Frankland River down the road a bit from my grandparents and started farming sheep and wheat. Dad was always making a barrel of wine a year and in the early 1980s, Judi and he went on a trip through France with Bill Hardy and let’s just say they got the bug to plant some vines. The first vines were planted in 1988 and, over time, sheep numbers have gone from 15,000 to pretty much just a handful now as the wine business has become our main focus. Did you always imagine you’d end up working in the wine industry? Standing in 5ºC pruning vines in the middle of a Frankland River winter would make any teenager look for greener pastures. I was adamant I would do anything but winemaking and grape growing. I spent 10 years after school in university and travelling and this made me realise how much I loved the industry and the region in which we farm our vines. A vintage with Eric and Bertold Salomon in Kremstal, Austria was probably the point in time when it all changed for me. Given how pristine the Frankland River region is, and the fact that it’s virtually pollution free, is there a commitment among local growers to organic viticulture? I think generally, viticulturists are looking to be as sustainable as possible and this region is very much that way inclined, we have a very complementary climate to help with this. While we remain the only certified organic vineyard and winery in the Frankland River region, there is a big move in this direction.
One of the more unique members of your team is Gladys – what contribution does she make to the vineyard? As a family, we don’t believe in hierarchy in the workplace, but Gladys is the matriarch of our amazing Guinea fowl flock. Every year, Barrie incubates eggs found by the vineyard workers and a breeding program sees a few hundred new birds added to the team. Under Gladys command, they help control pests such as weevils. It’s all the one percenters that help make a successful organic farming system. What difference do you think your organic approach made to the 2015 Riesling? I could bang on about organics for hours, but what I will say is, we have seen vine health improve remarkably through the attention to detail in every aspect of nutrition, soil biology and climatic conditions. As a result, we are seeing very exciting developments to fruit balance and we are finding natural acidity is retained nicely. We have also been able to increase ripening a fraction, giving this wine delicious generosity of flavour, while maintaining that delicate and a nervous framework of acidity that make Frankland Estate Rieslings a stand out. In our 2017 calendar, your Riesling is matched with steamed snapper with Asian flavours – what’s your favourite meal to enjoy with it? That sounds pretty good! Being just an hour’s drive to the Southern Ocean, I love sitting on the beach catching fresh whiting and the humble herring, these cooked over an open fire with a Riesling (with a couple of years’ age) is spectacular.   What’s your favourite wine memory? Gosh, too many great wine moments to pin it down to one, but a very memorable night was 10 years ago when our great late friend and wine importer to the USA John Larchet, with his great friend Ray Harris and a group of fellow Australian winemakers, spent an unbelievable evening enjoying some of Ray’s finest bottles in his New York apartment overlooking the NYC skyline. I remember thinking I would never see some of these wines again and I couldn’t help but think how amazing it was to be sitting on the other side of the world in a city so far removed from our Isolation Ridge vineyard in Frankland River, a special memory! What’s your favourite… Way to spend time off? With the family on the farm or at the beach. Holiday destination? Bremer Bay (south coast WA) whales, fishing, spectacular white beaches and probably even more remote than Frankland River! It’s a must see for anyone that’s never been. Wine and food match? I don’t get too caught up with that, if there’s food and wine, I’ll be there! Sporting team? Wallabies (sometimes!) Book? Something with a bit of Australian history – I always enjoy reading, nothing too dry!  I’m reading Peter FitzSimons’ Eureka right now, which is a good read.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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