Vue de monde in Melbourne: theatrical expression of Australian ingredients

The gastronomy in multicultural Melbourne is now sizzling with experimental dining. The locavore fever has reached its distant shores, turning the so far native ingredients ignoring Aussie chefs into intrepid foragers. We ended eaten at Vue de monde because Attica, Australia’s version of Noma, they say, was closed for a holiday break. Foraging, simple decoration, yet charging astronomic prices and casual approach to the dining room have sailed from Copenhagen to the distant Pacific waters. What may seem like a dichotomy is now fused together in the high-end gastro world.
Kangaroo meat at Vue de mondeContemporary egg dish at Vue de monde in Melbourne
contemporary Australian cuisine at Vue de mondeAustralian oysters at Vue du Monde
In the height of the Rialto building downtown (CBD as the Aussies call it), ultra contemporary design with Nordic au nature clean lines assist the open kitchen and the magnificent “vue” or worldly view of the city. In Vue de monde terms the seemingly understated interior translates as no table clothes but a kangaroo skin surfacing the dark dining tables, and stones assuming the roles of knife holders as well as salt and pepper dispensers.
One gets also a sense of rather raw theatrical indulgence in Vue de monde’s food. Well defined as “desire to evoke emotion through simplicity, purity and to present a balanced and satisfying experience that is a gentle progression of flavour. Yet with a sense of theatre, a sense of fun and sometimes a sense of irony…” As the elevator dispenses you in the 55th floor and you pass through the restaurant’s own Lui Bar, the setting changes only slightly – people sit, with their serious facelifts reflecting the high cost of the meal, in a less crowded well-designed room, and they eat, not just socially chit chat with the other gender.
With no disclosed exact tasting menus and sweeping city views, the restaurant’s concept is daring. A bold statement that may not please some, while it excites others. Open kitchen, that looks more like a bar in a night club, with a backdrop of a neon conceptual art piece by seminal artist Joseph Kosuth interpreting one of Charles Darwin’s sketches.
The multiple-course meal that reaches up to 10 courses degustation is not a menu per se since you will not see it. It changes daily and its seasonal tone is set online where a sample menu is provided. You will be asked about your allergies and dislikes prior to the arrival of a string of surprising dishes on your cloth-bare table. One must be that open type of a foodie adventurer to like it. The food is very interesting, intriguing through the flavours and the presentation itself, but you must be in the mood for surprises.
Green asparagus at Vue de monde
A kangaroo steak was served almost raw on a warm stone, with even a more bare sprinkle of edible flowers and dollops of orange sauce, that you just guess might be tinged by turmeric, a mango or something very Aussie? Indigenous? Foraged? Ask the waiter and he may know, in our case though he was in the blind and the kitchen was too busy to inquire. Roo on charcoal with beets may be too much for a reserved diner, but another course of Matsutake, noix, cresson, consommé infusé à la Cona is more approachable. Who does not like porcini mushrooms, walnuts and  little greens? The French titling just makes it sound more ‘haute’ and confusing. The author, restaurateur cum Europe-trained (Ducasse, Albert Roux, Marco Pierre White, …) chef Shannon Bennett, who like most business minded chefs today rarely cooks at the restaurant as he is busy with other activities, handed over the apron to a skilled bunch of young chefs who execute the platings very well. Naturalist and mostly light dishes from mostly local organic produce define the kitchen.
Sea meets land in many of the signature plates such as WA marron, served with beef tongue and brown butter emulsion and the meaty fried duck egg, lamb sweetbread, with pickled onion and truffle. The delicious local barramundi fish and succulent Black lip abalone also often feature on the menu.
Contemporary cheese plate at Vue de mondeDessert at Vue de monde restaurant in Melbourne
In the grand tasting, there are there desserts right after a plate of cheese, the ashy and firm goats cheese from Tasmania was just superb! The sweets are unique, a veggie gelato; Persimmon and tea tree; Macadamia and fermented apple; Jerusalem artichoke, pear, and white chocolate; or Smoked chocolate, last year preserved cherries, and rosella flowers; all evoke Australia and the new popular direction of a surprise element in desserts.
The wine is marked up high. Many bottles come from Australia so our choice was straightforward, while pricey. Giaconda is the uncrowned queen of Aussie Chardonnay that, like a Burgundian Bâtard-Montrachet possesses liquors-evoking oaky depth, but enough mineral freshness to enchant a sophisticated palate. Wine can be matched to each plate by the in-house sommelier so if you cannot decide, go for yet another adventure.
Australian Pinot Noir
Vue de monde prides itself to be “Australia’s most sustainable restaurant.” An E-water system, ‘cold kitchen technology’ (no exposed flames or gas), using recyclable products, seasonal homegrown (Burnham Beeches farm in Sherbrook Forrest) heirloom and organic vegetables and fruits and small-farm organic produce wherever possible. The meat and seafood are local and sustainably raised.
The restaurant was one of the pioneers in Melbourne, where also the non-indigenous chefs proudly use the native Australian ingredients. Noma’s sucess in Danemark encourages also more Australian chefs to venture into the native bush and collect its bounty. I raise my thumb up to this sustainably-minded palate-pleasing trend.
  55F Rialto Towers, 525 Collins St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
+61 3 9691 3888
  Lunch Thurs-Sun: 12-3pm; Dinner daily from 6pm.

Tasmania: stalking the Tasmanian Devil

As a child I had been always fascinated by the Warner Bros. cartoon of the Tasmanian Devil. Taz had his allure. With mouth wide open in most scenes, his teeth dripping saliva suggestive of his ravishing instinct, for some reason he was not scary at all. And, in reality, this little bear resembling carnivore, is indeed cute.
Tasmanian devil
As our recent trip to Tasmania was approaching I harassed my husband that we must make sure to see some Tasmanian Devils when out there in the Southern hemisphere. How could I, after all, travel so far, and not see the Tv star of my childhood? Live and screaming! I could not put my eyes off him from the first moment he flapped his belly flat on a warm rock. Like a pancake, his four legs were stretched wide and his head comfortably rested on the boulder.
Tasmanian devil

The wildness for Tasmanian Devil challenged

Alive he was, well, they since we were observing a group of Devils as they assembled together in anticipation of food. Yet, Taz might soon only become a rare reminiscence of our generation. Our children may just be allowed a shadow presence of him materialized through the cartoon or in videos like mine:
Tasmanian Devils video
 Tasmanian devil eating
We have not seen any wild Tasmanian Devils. This is not unusual since this endangered carnivore has been dying overwhelmingly in the past decades. A terrible face cancer has been killing the majority of the species since the 1980s. Who knows if they will still be around in a couple of years?
Luckily, Australia recognised this imminent threat and acted upon their protection. A number of refuges had been set across Tasmania, so the healthy animals are separated form the infected ones. Since no vaccination has not been invented against the disease so far, this is the only chance for their survival. Their human protectors are striving to create the most pleasant living conditions for the Devils. We visited one of these sanctuaries.
Tasmanian devil
The native mascot of Tasmania entertained us at the property of the luxurious Saffire Lodge, where we stayed.
The lodge is not just the nicest accommodation on the island, but its owners created a safe refuge for a small group of Devils on their land. You can arrange a visit to see them with an experienced guide who daily feeds these scavengers.
These marsupials are like hyenas, they will eat anything at any time if it is around them as you saw in my video. And loud they are, but not as much in captivity. Usually, their screeching voice cords sound as if someone was struggling their throats.
The ravenous hyenic behaviour contrasts with their huggable round little appearance, but this is nature. A pretty girl might not be a kind, peaceful human beeing, so why would a Tasmanian Devil be any different?
Like many childhood dreams, seing the Tasmanian Devil alive in nature was one of those moments you knew were extraordinary and will remain deeply imprinted in your memory. The little girl’s dream came true, and I must say, back here in the Mediterranean I miss the little Devil, very much!
I hope, that the future endows us with his continued survival.
Saffire Lodge 
 2352 Coles Bay Rd, Coles Bay TAS 7215, Australia
+61 3 6256 7888

Tasmania: windswept beauty of a remote Australian island

Spending time in Tasmania, the rocky, rural and remote mass of land in the Southern hemisphere, shifts one’s race car powered engine into a historic automobile’s phlegmatic attitude. In a slow motion, your hands waving across the Southern Ocean to the Arctic, you savour the crisply cool air. The natural ripples of fossil-stamped earth surrounding you were once submerged underwater, but resurfaced from the sea some 11-12,000 years ago creating the shallow Bass Strait, the islands and the later named Tasman Sea.
Tasmania nature

Who are the Tassies?

A conundrum of natural resources, exploited in part during its infamous convict labour past, is ironically the poorest Australian state. Discovered by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in mid-17th century, his name bearing Tasmania is barely inhabited these days. Most of its human capital of convict British bloodline fled across the Bass Strait to the mainland in search of better work opportunities and more action powered lifestyle. While the aboriginal people are long gone, some are returning now and with them increasingly foreigners settling in its safe remoteness.
With the new arrivals, Tasmania became a fledgling foodie destination. The island’s abundance of fish, seafood (the lobster, oysters and sea urchins are divine!) as well as farm produce are sold directly at the fisheries and farms, but most is exported. Despite a scantly fertile soil farming was reborn recently as it became more trendy. Now dairying, cattle and any berry farms as well as apple orchards dot mainly the northern coast and the southeast.
Art and death theme

Hobart: strange art, English port and the Race

The human hub of the island is Hobart, a well-established port and the state capital, that has been for over three centuries tended by the European seafaring nations. Her Majesty Britain settled here before taking under its wings the main Australian peninsula. If you heart about Hobart, it was either the legendary and trecheous Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race that captivated your memory or your are a scientist interested in climate studies, but recently its gastronomic side has been catching up. There are around 30 wineries scattered just around the city, so you may be seduced to join the vinous trail.
seafood in Tasmania
Before you imbibe perhaps too much wine elsewhere, most sold only locally, stop at the Museum of Old and New Art. MONA is also a winery, microbrewery and local events centre. This massive and rather out of ordinary project was founded by David Walsh, an online gambling prodigy, that made millions through his passion. Perhaps more than the eccentric mostly contemporary art, the booze displaying bars inside, lawn live music parties and gluttonous bbq’s, the ‘death wall’, where your cremated ashes can be interred, rises the brows of conservative visitors. Death is the reoccurring theme in the permanent collection. Yet, the shock effect has become the essence of contemporary art globally, and the floods of art-centric individuals pouring into the museum from as far as New York and London, prove the owner’s domain-nonspecific acumen. Entertained, he wants to be, but together with the people passing through his land. His welcome exceeds any museum that was ever created. nine ways to get to MONA – from a bicycle hire, through luxe coaches, to a fast ferry with a ‘posh pit’ option including complimentary nibbles and luscious beverages.
Tasmania nature

The beauty of untouched corners of the world

The southwestern hostile area is uninhabited. As “one of the three great temperate wilderness areas remaining in the Southern Hemisphere” the rain forests and lakes are protected by UNESCO. Ironically, this former convict holding of the British, today more resembles Canada or Switzerland. For its safety, but also for its crystal studs made of lakes. The green surface on its western parkland, also drums in its political soul. The birthplace of the Green Party now mostly relies on its ecological hydroelectric power.
From an aerial perspective, Tasmania’s wildness of its east coast can seem bare. As we flew in a red rescue helicopter towards the eastern most tip of the island, we marvelled at the scorched landscape. “There, you see the fire?”, our pilot pointed towards the fumes puffing from a nearby mountain. As his pal showered water from another helicopter, we learned that this is what most pilots do here, tame the fires and transport travellers like us. I have never seen a wildfire, but this is still Australia, the continent known for the spontaneous fiery sparks in nature that spread fast with the local fast blowing winds.
Most days, the clouds cover the sky in dense and a rain shower promising formations, but as the wind swooshes through the airy canvas leaving only puffs of clouds in the forefront perspective, nothing happens, perhaps just a few acid ‘rain’ drops. Behold, when the sun pushes its rays through the clouds on the sand, the coast glistens like liquid gold, melted by the solar heat. The mild, moist yet whimsy climate could be compared to the Basque region in north Spain, and the strong ocean winds battering its coasts bring to the mind Punta del Este in Uruguay. A raincoat and a waterproof hood are very handy here as each time we walked out two to five quick showers poured over us.
Tasmania nature

Hiking on the east coast of Tasmania

In the outdoors the colours are tuned down, as if being faded by the proximity to the South Pole the palette is very soft. Ferns and the beach myrtle border the illusionary prehistoric Coles Bay. Here, undisturbed by urban distractions one can savour listening to the rhythms of nature. Its pristine innocence is deceiving though, as the mining exploitation need only in recent decades. Allegedly, the land provided the material for the Statue of Liberty and many of the London city buildings. The ecological movement is still strong though, banning such naturalistically barbaric activities.
The frisky diversity became more pronounced during our four-hour hike through the Freycinet National Park. Our quarantine proven boots tapped the rocky, iron rich ochre megaliths, imprinted in the fossil and sea shells carpet on the golden beaches, and collected some of the dry needles fallen off the Mediterranean ‘pineland’. Spiking out to the cold Tasman Sea the Freycinet peninsula attracts during the summer season more visitors than the total population of the island!
wildlife in Tasmania

Wallabies, devils, platypuses and steaks

Right at the start, where the busses left the herding Chinese tourists, we were welcomed by a wild wallaby. The tender being looked so frightened by so much of human flesh around, that I was surprised it did not hop away to the bushes. Wallabies are tame. Observing his avoiding eyes, I felt a terrible guilt. Having eaten his flesh the previous day, he must have sensed my carnivorous gluttony. I wanted to try it once, since I might never be able to visit this remote island again. The gamey, juicy and tender meat reflects the mammal’s active lifestyle, jumping through the bushes, on a plant diet, it is low in fat and high in protein. You recognise it from a kangaroo through differently shaped ears, a longer tail and shorter height.
Exotic Tasmanian wallaby meat
The strangely nosed Platypuses are another rare animals on the island, but we have seen zero. To my childish disappointment, neither have we seen any wild Tasmanian Devils. This is not unusual since this endangered carnivore has been dying in large numbers in the past decades. Not in the wild, but at least the marsupial native of Tasmania entertained us at a nearby refuge of the luxurious Saffire Lodge, where we stayed (read more and view a video of the Tasmanian Devils we saw there). In its ecologically sound, contemporary and extremely comforting cabins one can indulge in her passions as an artist, nature lover, yogi and writer as I did.
Tasmania naturebeach in Tasmania
Climbing up the Hazards mountains of the Freycinet, snapping pictures from a hyper touristy lookout over the famous Wineglass Bay, excessively promoted as there are way too many people hoovering around, we were to be relieved soon. Luckily, most visitors are lazy, and as we continued on the track downhill the human presence diminished with the increasing steepness of the climb. Once we turned inland on the isthmus pass, we finally felt liberated. It was just us and the wild nature. These two kilometres are the last quite narrow and flat landmass of the peninsula. Our breath switched to a lower frequency, and we marvelled at the nothingness of the moment. Bowing our heads back from the crowns of the trees, we spotted dry branches scattered disorderly on both sides. These haunting tree skeletons reminded us that the only patch of land tended by human hands is the narrow dirt path we were marching on.
Tasmania nature
A shallow lagoon about a mid-way introduced wet marshes into our trail, but the park caretakers laid a carpet of wooden boards further easing our walk. At the end of the board path a slight climb over the sand dunes revealed a real treasure – the almost four-kilometres-long Hazards Beach. The Promise Bay fulfilled its vows. Unlike the Wineglass Bay, only crabs and an elderly couple accompanied our passage on the firm sand. Nevertheless, from the point of leaving the beach, our journey was to become more of a climb. My Mediterranean coastal walks submerged from my subconsciousness. The muted colours disappeared, more slippery rocks, and even the trees have changed from the previous segments of our hike. The long coastal path clung to the mineral-veined rocks on the base of the towering Mount Mayson.
sheep in Tasmania
One does not need to wander through the national parks to see natural wonders around. During our smooth drive (the roads are in a superb shape) to Hobart, suddenly, we had to slow down as a car in front of us pulled over to help a stranded sheep in a wire that tried to wrestle itself from this trap fronting the motorised danger of the country road. The locals care about their environment, be it an animal, clean air, soil or with their surroundings connected buildings.
Luxurious Saffire Lodge in Tasmania
Before reaching Hobart, we stopped in an authentic fishing town, from where ferries to the Maria Island and its National Park depart. An elderly couple was selling coffee from  a truck parked by the boarding pier. Offering the Aussie favourite flat-white and even soy milk for your dairy-free cappuccino, this set could have been in a rural England. The locally-born Tassies were well-travelled, yet cherished the pristine air on their native island. “The world is so polluted, I do not understand how you people can live in the cities”, shared his concerns the elderly man. Well, he had a point, I would exchange the local air with any polluted Asian metropolis, by car exhaust enrobed European city or smoggy LA. That would not be fair though, we are doomed to breath what we have excreted into the air. Now you have a reason to come to Tasmania for an organic lung therapy.
The remoteness of Tasmania feels very comforting in this millennium. While distances shrunk, opportunities for a more spread violence increased. It is comical that an island where once criminals were sent to be rehabilitated, is now an oasis of order, peace and abiding the rule of law.
Saffire Lodge 
✉ 2352 Coles Bay Rd, Coles Bay TAS 7215, Australia
☏ +61 3 6256 7888
Museum of Old and New Art
Open Wed-Mon; in January daily; closed on Tues & Christmas Day. Summer & winter opening hours differ, cheek their website
✉ 655 Main Road, Berrindale Hobart TAS 7011, Australia
☏ +61 3 6277 9971

Tasmania wine gears up for the global sparkling race

Tasmania is a much older wine producing region than you may suspect. In fact, South Australia, where today the biggest names in the Aussie wine scene nest (think of Penfolds and Torbreck of Barossa, Yalumba of the Eden Valley, Grosset of the Clare Valley), got its first grapevine cuttings from Tasmania!
Freycinet National Park
The first commercial vineyard was planted in its Southern part in the early 19th century. A broad palate of French varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Pinot Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc) had successfully rooted themselves in the local soil. Then came the gold rush and all focus had shifted to the mainland Australia. With most of the workforce following their golden dream, there were not many people to tend the vinous land. So, like in a trembling earthquake, a deep ravine in the island’s wine production had formed. Within a century mainland Australia slowly caught up with vine growing and wine making, while Tasmania remained frozen in its vinous ice age.

Current affairs of Tasmania’s winemaking

The winemaking activity resumed locally in the past decades, expanding to more than 800 hectares under the vines. More importantly, the appeal of the Tassie wines has been increasingly translated beyond its remote landmass. I remember tasting my first wine from Tasmania at a steakhouse in London. I put the wine in the same “too aromatic” bag with Australian wines, so it was probably a Shiraz. It was red, but not impressive enough for me to crave another bottle of any Tassie wine for years. It was my favourite red varietal, the queen of grapes Pinot Noir, that lured me back to sampling another wine from the island. Last year, a bottle of the award-winning Tolpuddle (they do not offer tasting) swished through my mouth, and I was quite smitten but not ravenous to sip on the entire island’s Pinot production. Tripping in the region this winter brought me to Tasmania and I could finally, open the wings of curiosity and try as much as there was, the best of course.

Land of great sparkling wine

One has to forget the past at times. If just to allow a new beauty and discovery in. And that is exactly what happened with my rediscovery of the Tasmanian wines. Sparkling and Chardonnays as well as some of the Rieslings that I had tasted intensely over the week of my stay on the island, swayed my opinion on the vinous potential of Tasmania.
Large investments from abroad but also locally sparked up the light of the grown and made in Tasmania brand. Local money poured into one of the oldest continually runny wineries. The Moorila Estate, established in 1958, was swallowed by the $150m investment by an online gambling maverick, who built the controversial yet ultra-smart MONA – Museum of Old and New Art – underground on the property. Innovative ideas are welcomed with open pockets here in Tasmania, and this is usually where success tends to thrive.
Once you open any bottle of by the traditional Champenoise method crafted vintage Arras, you have to get more serious about what this country has to offer. Made by award-winning Ed Carr for the House of Arras, this is a proud pure Tasmanian expression of a complex sparkling wine. The sparkling wines in Tasmania bubble with an increasing resoluteness. Since 1985 Jansz has been solely devoted to sparkling wine, while the family-owned Puddleduck rolls its sleeves with their long on the lees and late disgorged Bubble Duck. I would like to taste these bubbly New World beauties blind next to the hyped up English fizz. Any volunteers?
New World sparkling wineKelly's Reserve Chardonnay 2013 for Home Hill in Tasmania

CLIMATE and other challenges fro Tasmania wine

In this southernmost island belonging to Australia, the Antarctic coolness is its only other pal. The cool and dry climate of the Coal Valley a short drive from Hobart allows for slow ripening of the Pinots, letting more herbaceous flavours in. Still the Pinot here remains a New World exuberant specimen, that I would not trade for the fines in a bottle of most even village level Burgundies. The microclimate around the eastern Freycinet peninsula brings and holds more warmth into the area in the east part of Tasmania, where warmer climate loving varietals can survive.
Not many other local wineries had been so far competitive with their Cabernets, but Shiraz is bracing its sharp teeth on the vigilant Pinot Noir territory. The Pinots are interesting, but not jaw dropping. Chardonnay, Riesling and perhaps the bubbles blended with Pinot Noir are the real juices to look for there.
Any appellation or regional distinction law has not yet been formed, but the natural diversity yielding very distinct crop should be recognised. Tasmania has been blessed with quite a distinct geography and soil composition. For example Tamar River Valley, the oldest wine producing region on the island is founded on gravely basalt as well as clay and iron-rich soil, while the south Tasmania’s Coal River Valley has so complex soil composition that each site needs to be studied in detail.  For any wine drinker, the distinctions would make decisions at least better informed.
Here in the dry southern Tasmania biodynamic viticulture requires much less effort than elsewhere. Not many pests, as well as mildew, thrive in this by strict quarantine bordered land.
Domaine A one of the best wineries in Tasmania

Domaine A sways confidence across the region

The most internationally acclaimed are the plush Cabernets by Domaine A. The current Swiss owner Peter Althaus took the reign of the original Stoney Vineyard in the Coal River to create wines requiring patience. This Campania property was established in 1973 and so plenty of years are needed to be able to appreciate the tannic wines that smoothen with age. Their Lady A Sauvignon Blanc was for me a stand out of their production since it was enjoyable right away. In an American style, you pay $8 for tasting which is redeemable on wine purchase.
The simple contemporary design of the Domaine A tasting room feels rather cold, but the location overlooking a small pond on the property makes up for the lack of aesthetic pleasure.
illustarted vineyard map

Frogmore Creek: vineyard dining “gourmandised” in Tasmania

This is by no means a small business as four wineries have been joined to form a holistic wine offering. The sparkling wine is sustainably made at MEADOWBANK as a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir by the locally popular champenoise method. Riesling is the lady of the modern organic operation at the Frogmore Creek winery though. Located in the belt of Coal River Valley, where cool and dry weather lets the Riesling shine in its acidic and mineral coat. I tasted their low alcohol (9.8%) dry FGR Riesling 2015 vintage. Floral tone, lime freshness sweetened by a sensation of honeysuckle makes a perfect light lunch companion.
Their restaurant is reputed to be one of the best on the island while the casual tapas bar overlooking the vineyards. In 2015 it was voted the ‘Tasmanian Restaurant of the Year’ so it is worth trying. Booking ahead is advisable.
wine tasting

Puddleduck winery: keeping above the water with a pinch of vinous humour

We tasted the 2013 vintage Bubbleduck sparkling wine made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir by a methode Champenoise (second fermentation in the bottle). This citrusy refreshment has a date of disgorgement as well as time on lees noted on the bottle. You cannot buy this and their other wines outside of the winery. Puddle Duck is a relaxed family outing encouraging a reversed BYO, a picnic that you bring along to enjoy with their wines.
Read more
Puddleduck winery

Stefano Lubiana: white wines expressing Italia a la Tasmania

The biodynamically operated cellars of the Lubiana family echo their Italian heritage wherever you look. There are legs of ham hanging in the cellar, homemade grappa sharing the shelves with wines and now an osteria serving rustic Italian fare. At Stefano Lubiana also sparkling wine as well as a range of Pinot Noirs are made, but their signature bottling remains the Collina Chardonnay.
Read more
Stefano Lubiana winery restaurant in Tasmania
If you hesitate to buy some of the wines because of the high shipping costs then take advantage of the “Tasmanian Mixed Dozen” freight. You can mix one or more bottles from each of the participating wineries in a dozen case. Since most wineries sell only within the country this is the only way you can give your friends or family a taste back home.
The potential of Tasmania is slowly being recognised now, when global temperatures are set to rise. Whether its wines succeed in the fierce global competition remains up to the consumers judgement. One is more capable to fully appreciate what the producers locally have achieved thus far by visiting this still in wildness dipped island [read my travel feature here].

Address Book:

Domaine A: ✉ 105 Tea Tree Rd, Campania 7026
☏ +61 (0)36260 4390
🕗 Mon-Fri: 10am-4pm or by appointment; Closed on Public Holidays
Frogmore Creek: ✉20 Denholms Rd., Cambridge 7170
☏ +61 (0)3 6274 5844
🕗 Daily 10am-5pm; Closed on Good Friday & Christmas Day
Home Hill Winery: ✉ 38 Nairn Street, Ranelagh 7109
☏ +61 (0)3 6264 1200
🕗 Daily 10am-5pm
House of Arras: ✉ Bay of Fires Cellar Door, 40 Baxters Rd, Pipers River, Tasmania 7252
☏ 03 6382 7622
🕗 Daily 10am – 5pm, except 11am-4pm in June/July/August
Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday
Moorila Estate: ✉ 655 Main Rd, Berriedale 7011
☏ +61 (0)3 6277 9900
🕗 Wed-Mon: 9:30am-5pm; Closed on Tuesdays
Puddleduck Vineyard: ✉ 992 Richmond Rd., Richmond 7025
☏ +61 (0)3 6260 2301
🕗 daily 10am-50; Closed on Good Friday & Christmas Day
Stefano Lubiana:✉ 60 Rowbottoms Rd., Granton 7030
☏ +61 (0)3 6263 7457
🕗 Thurs-Mon: 11am-4pm; Closed in July and Public holidays

Puddleduck winery: keeping above the water with a pinch of vinous humour

Generally, family-run wineries are the norm in Tasmania, so the local slow-wine scene sparks with ideas. Some are down-to-earth while others use humour to connect with their customers. Puddleduck winery is set for a relaxed family outing with a reversed BYO picnic following the purchase of a bottle or two in the cellar. The ducks are everywhere. The yellow specimen hang out on the verandah of the cellar room, as you walk in the celadon duck sculpture assures the visitor of the seriousness of the owners penchant for this lovable bird and you can buy a floating duckling for your bath at home as a souvenir. Do not be misled by such a vanity, the wines are seriously good.
wine tasting
Families, in particular, are welcome to taste their wine, honey, cheese, jams and relishes, that are all locally made in Tasmania. The owners of the Puddleduck winery have children themselves so empathy with the families was natural to them. There is a playground for the kids, a pond for the ducks and wine for the above-the-drinking-age rest of the family. An ideal setting to casually enjoyable these limited bottles.
We tasted all the wines, but the 2013 vintage Bubbleduck sparkling wine made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir by the methode Champenoise (second fermentation in the bottle) stood out. Perhaps to be as transparent as possible for their customers, this citrusy refreshment has a date of disgorgement, as well as time spent on the lees, noted on the bottle. Dry, fragrant and easy to enjoy on one occasion, this bubble beauty does not need a special occasion or perhaps just a weekend.
wine tasting
You cannot buy this and their other wines outside of the winery. Why? Simply, they sell out and many locals like to picnic (BYO in reverse=you bring food, but buy wine on the premises), enjoy the superb locally sourced cheese plate and the lovely setting that any wild duck would savor. Overlooking the pond with reeds stretching up towards the grass picnic area, some bring their mattress and hang out all day. The winery is only about half an hour drive from Hobart so fly in for a slow weekend spent in the vineyards.
✉  992 Richmond Rd., Richmond 7025
☏ +61 (0)3 6260 2301
🕗 Open daily 10am-50; Closed on Good Friday & Christmas Day

Stefano Lubiana: wines expressing Italia a la Tasmania

The biodynamically operated cellars of the Lubiana family echo their Italian heritage wherever you look. There are legs of ham hanging in the cellar, homemade grappa sharing the shelves with wines and now an osteria serving rustic Italian fare. The newly built osteria has an intentional old, traditional wooden look to transfer you into a casual eatery in Italy. It invites you to enjoy the sun outdoors while overlooking the downhill rolling vineyards or cozying up by the massive stone fitted fireplace inside. Colorful handpainted pottery hangs on the walls and a wood-carved coat hanger takes the role of a messenger whispering to your ear: ‘Welcome and linger just for a bit longer’.
Stefano Lubiana winery restaurant in Tasmania
The Italians cannot leave their country without packing along their heritage, skill and mainly the passion that is the most attractive about them.
Their Riesling was aged in the amphoras so it expresses the “untamed ness” of a natural wine. As we tasted the 2014 vintage of a still crisp Pinot Gris (alas Pinot Grigio) made like in their family’s Italian region of Friuli, often preferring longer contact with the skin during fermentation, we found our favourite in this deep coloured and expressive wine. At Stefano Lubiana also a dry sparkling wine (made by the Chamenoise method) as well as a range of Pinot Noirs are made, but their signature bottling remains the clean Collina Chardonnay. Italian style over the French oak is the outfit of choice for Collina.
Tasmanian wine
Despite the reverence to Italy, Stefano Lubiana winery embraces the modern and pure landscape of Tasmania and lets the wines express their unique local character. The produce at the restaurant is also widely locally made.
Stefano Lubiana
✉ 60 Rowbottoms Rd, Granton 7030, Tasmania
☏ +61 (0)3 6263 7457
🕗 Thurs-Mon: 11am-4pm; Closed in July and Public holidays

Cobaw Ridge: remote winery challenged by Australia's climate

Reaching the Cobaw Ridge winery takes a wild, humps and rocks mastering drive. The final miles of dirt roads that lead to the small family estate require a four wheel power and a high enough car. Our rented sedan stuck in the deep ridges of the forest way a number of times, yet our navigation was persistent, and we made it.
Australia nature
After about 1.5 hours drive north-west from Melbourne, the land pikes above 600metres inviting the cool winds to hang around. Theirs forceful exhale swipes the facade of the local scorched granitic land. Protection from this mighty wind is key to finding a successful site for planting vines as are northeast facing slopes. Seeing the pollen paint of the stone farmhouse and the winery come as a relief in the struggle, that seems far remote from any form of refuge. The wines that will soon be tasted are worth the rugged journey.
Australia nature

Victoria: legacy of the once fertile state

Macedon Ranges are underappreciated by wine tourists, which means no crowds, plenty of well-receiving wineries and fun exploring the ultra-local slow-life of nearby villages. Situated in the high ranges of Victoria, the smallest state of the Australian peninsula, its dry and dusty surface is deceptive. This is one of the coolest, and perhaps the most demanding wine growing region on the mainland (off it, Tasmania can be cooler). Once the largest grape producer in the country, Victoria’s vineyards were destroyed in the late 19t century by phylloxera, the root disease that is the worst nightmare of wine growers all over the world. Other, larger states took the reign in quantity, but the high quality and terroir diversity of Victoria remains unsurpassed.
 Australia winery

Family estate with intrepid spirit

Nelly and Alan Cooper are the owners of Cobaw Ridge. Alan is the winemaker and their son Joshua is following in his steps. His Burgundy experience at Domaine de La Vougeraie, one of our favourite producers there, furthered his grasp of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as the attachment of the vigneron to nature. Cobaw Ridge is now fully biodynamic certified. Biodynamic, naturally synced vineyards and chemicals-free winemaking now defines the house style. Their Syrah was totally sulfite-free in 2014 vintage, and the other wines received only a minimum sulphur treatment. Sustainability is close to the heart of the producers, who are constantly challenged by the whims of nature.
Coopers founded the winery in 1985 and as one of the first growers in the region refined their varietal selection by trial and error. Four grapes made it through the sieve.
winery in Australia wine in Australia

Wines made by Cobaw Ridge

We had our first bottle from Cobaw Ridge at Rockpool, a superb gastronomic restaurant in Sydney known for its off-the-beaten-path additions to the wine list. It was an intriguing earthy and floral Pinot Noir from the 2012 vintage. At the winery we taste the yonger 2013 vintage (AUS$75 per bottle) and were similarly impressed by its earthy, floral yet spicy complexity balanced by a good mineral backbone. Low yields tend to signify robust wines, but the Cobaw Ridge bottlings are quite lean since the cool climate flatters this needy varietal that needs plenty if care. Granite soil injects mineral freshness.
As most producers in the area, Syrah, known locally as Shiraz, but the winery prefers the French term, is included in the wine tasting portfolio. Since the successful  2010 vintage it was organically certified, and recent vintages jumped ahead with biodynamic conversion. The warm 2008 saw it blended with a dash of estate Viognier in the Rhone style.
In the same year, the Syrah was also blended with Lagrein in the limited edition CV1 label. Although it is their cheapest wine (AUS$38 per bottle), it is worth trying as you will not find it easily around and your palate might enjoy its unique tannic, aromatic and spicy flavours.
The northeastern Italian native red varietal Lagrein gets the loudest applause from the serious wine commentators. The pungently expressive Lagrein (AUS$60) is particularly well received because of its locally defined character. As in the other red wines by the estate the spices and mineral freshness reflect the granitic soil, but also the varietal typicity of Legrein pops out in dark cherry and liquorice supple notes.
Chardonnay is the only white varietal bottled solely, but not the lone planted as a small amount Viognier is blended into the Syrah when needed in some warmer years. It shows an individual mineral zing in a single vineyard expression.
vineyeard in Australia

Mighty climate and varied vintages

The vines do not have easy life in the Macedon Ranges. At Cobaw Ridge a huge bush fire destroyed most of the crop in 2009. Only 1 barrel of wine was made from the entire vintage. It was called F.O.G. and adorned by a hand drawn label of a hand strenuously squeezing the juice from the red grapes. The past decade also marked lower rainfall and the frosts in 2006 and 2007 decreased the overall production.
Not only frosts, droughts and bush fires threaten the grapes, but also the kangaroos like to nibble on the lush bunches as they ripen! The family winemaking team does not linger around, be assured.
Australian wine
The rustic design of the winery echoes the untamed wild country surroundings. We arrived just when the flowering season was over and the grapes were starting to form. The vintage starts in March and can extend to early May in a particularly cold vintage when the grapes struggle to ripen fully. Nelly welcomed our beaten up faces with such a warm smile, that we forgot about our bumpy ride. Luckily, it was about lunch time and she advised a restaurant in a nearby village in the other direction, where the road was better managed, so we were spared from more of the glutes massage.
Although Cobaw Range is not as well-known as the Bindi and Curly Flat, its biodynamically produced wines are better value for money. In spite of the low yielding plants and small acreage, their prices are lower than most Burgundies and similar Rhone blends, the popular Lagrein comes at a higher price than its Italian native.
✉ 31 Perc Boyers Ln, East Pastoria VIC 3444, Australia
☏ +61 (0) 3 5423 5227
🕗 Sat & Sun: 12noon – 5:30pm; Monday, Thursday & Friday 10am – 5pm

The king of Australian Shiraz: Penfolds

On his recent visit to Singapore to introduce luxury and iconic Penfolds wines to local consumers Kym Schroeter, senior winemaker currently responsible for the entire range of highly promising white wines, shared his insights about Australian wine production and specifically at Penfolds with me.

Do you think that Syrah is the most popular grape variety in Australia now?

Certainly it is the most widely planted red grape variety in Australia and Chardonnay is the white wine variety. I think what Barossa does really well is Shiraz. We are famous for it. I guess Shiraz is probably a big focus for imports. It grows there so well, it is suited to our climate in Barossa and I think that we produce some of the best Shiraz on the world.
Kym Schroeter senior winemaker at PenfoldsPenfolds Koonuga hill wines

How would you describe the soil and climate in Barossa Valley?

We have lot of sandy top soils lot of good free draining soils – it seems to be the best for Shiraz. The climate is more Meditteranean but we have very hot summers. Shiraz likes hot weather, most of our best vineyards are not irrigated and we do not have lot of rain so the grapes struggle a lot – Shiraz likes to struggle, to stress water a little bit and especially in very hot years it produces very concentrated vines.

Have you been considering planting any other grape varieties there?

Yes, we found that Tempranillo and Sangiovese does grow extremely well in Barossa. Penfolds has actually several reserves of Sangiovese. We have done it for a number of years now, but they are still relatively new vines (10-15 years). Tempranillo is very new as we have been growing most of it for about two years.
There is a bit of niche market in Australia for them. It seems that Spanish and Italian grape varieties do very well in Australia. We are very traditional but we also try to experiment and try new grapes. We also do a bit of Pinot Gris (Italian Pinot Griggio) so we are not that old school.

Do you accustom your wines to Australian market or do you think more globally?

For example in Europe you can see more tannins in wines. Is it because Australians do not like tannins?
Yes and no. We add a lot of tannin, it is not all natural tannins. Particularly in Cabernet. It is a fine line with tannins, we try to find a balance so we take of the skins from the wine before it gets too bitter (in Grange) and then add it to achieve great balance. We know that tannins are necessary for good ageing. We add them as a powder or dissolve them in a hot water as a liquid and we add it into the fermenting wine.

Do you try to achieve consistency or variety?

Definitely consistency in quality. We are multi-region sourced vineyard and that is advantage as we can achieve consistency year after year. We can choose grapes from a vineyard which does well in that particular year. That is why I think the French are a bit locked as there is inconsistency in various vintages.

Which Penfolds vineyard is your favourite?

I have three regions which I think are the best in Australia. They are Adelaide Hills, Tasmania and Tumbarumba. With probably with Tasmania producing the best Chardonnay as in our Yattarna.

What do you think about the cork versus screw cap issue?

We use screw caps, especially in white wines it is better. As soon as you put cork into bottle it becomes to change. We put some of our wines into a corked bottle and others into a screw-capped and after several weeks we could see a difference, the wine enclosed by the screw cap was much fresher.
In some very good corked bottle you will see a good slow maturation but screw cap keeps it fresh so it depends what you want. The other think is that if you buy a case of wine with a cork you can have some bed wines, with a screw cap that is not the case.

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