Wine Experiences 2009

2009 has come to a close. Soon after the excitement, celebration and chaos of New Years Eve, it is always a good time to look back and reflect on the year. It seems a lot of people have been doing the same… I have seen so many 2009 lists floating around the internet I think it must have been the most listed year of all time! There are lists of the best and worst on subjects as useful as techno gadgets, websites, travel destinations and recipes. Then there are lists of some less useful things for me, such as the best celebrity weddings, worst concept cars and the best comic books to name a few. But the most useless list I came across was the best action figures, dolls and stuffed toys, just left me shaking my head…

With all the lists around I have decided not to do one. There are some great contributions among the blogs I have listed here. I am a big believer that wine is about experiences. To list and rate an experience is very difficult, so I will just share with you a few of the many enjoyable wine experiences I have had in the last 12 months. So in no particular order here are some of my memorable wine experiences from 2009:

Touring in the Alentejo region in Portugal

There is little not to like about the Alentejo region, if you enjoy food, wine and spectacular landscapes. In May, I travelled around this region once again, this time I tried to view the wineries, restaurants and landscapes as if I were seeing it for the first time. It is difficult to do when you know there is another fantastic view over the next hill.

The trip this year was very special however, because I took more time with the wineries to discuss their wine. I find the more you are interested in a winery the more you get from the owners or the staff working there. In the 3 days there, I managed to visit many wineries, but the best experience was settling down at the end of the day with some local hams and chorizo, cheese and olives, olive oil and bread and enjoying a great bottle of 2006 Red Reserva from Herdade do Esporão.

It helps that the Alentejo region has had a huge influence on my choice to move to Portugal in 2010. I hope to share this region with people and hope they have a fantastic experience too.

Cofield dinner in Melbourne

When I visited Australia recently, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a dinner given by the Cofield Winery. I didn’t know what to expect. I knew we would have good food and wine, which is always a good start. The rest of the experience I was not sure about. Would we have only a few of the wines to taste? Would we have a big sell to get the attendees to buy some wine? Would there be stuffy people there who wanted to show off about how much they knew about wine, but had little to say apart from sound-bites from tasting notes they had read earlier? Well obviously, as this experience is being shared with you, I had none of these negative expectations.

The pre-dinner drinks were an experience in themselves! Damien Cofield who was hosting the dinner, disgorged some of his sparkling Pinot Noir-Chardonnay. This was rather spectacular to watch. Tasting the ultra-dry result was quite refreshing after another day over 35°C. Following this was the Sparkling Shiraz, which would have been a highlight in itself if I had just come and tasted this great wine.

It was then time to eat. The company was very pleasant. I was there with my parents who were happy I was there, and the others on our table were very interesting. Damien came and talked about his wines with our table a couple of times and the food was better than I expected – and I was expecting some very good food. Over all it was a great evening and well worth it for me and I would like to thing for the winery also.

Lunching in Ribeauville in Alsace

The Alsace region in France is another place I have visited a couple of times before. This year however, I was there in the summer when The Tour de France was near by. Seeing the tour whizz by was something I have always wanted to see in the 8 years I have been living in Europe. The spectacle and sense of theatre was great as the approach of the peloton drew closer. The sponsor’s cars giving out free samples create an expectation among the thousands lining the streets. Then the helicopters tracking the cyclists come into range and everyone gathers in anticipation on the footpaths. We were lucky enough to have a break-away form just before the rider approached the small town we were in. The only negative to that was the break away of 5 riders, as well as the peloton, were at full speed. They went by so quickly it was over very quickly.

After the excitement of Le Tour, we visited the town of Ribeauville in the heart of the Alsace region. Before visiting the likes of Trimbach and Metz Frères in the small town, it was time for some lunch. A simple café in the main street was decided upon and I enjoyed an onion tart with a local Sauvignon Gris in the afternoon sunshine. It was a special experience, not because of the opulence of the meal, in fact just the opposite. The simplicity of the food and wine matching so naturally in the town where the same meal would have been served to rich and poor alike for hundreds of years.

New Year’s Eve in Paris

My last experience I wish to share happened just a few days ago. Technically half of it happened in 2010, but who is checking? We decided to visit Paris for the New Year this year. The 31st of December started with a trip to see the Eifel tower, Gallery La Fayette’s food section, the Latin Quarter and a street market with exceptional food on display. The end result was an accumulation of fantastic food and a few bottles of wine. The end result of this was the ingredients for a perfect pre-New Year’s meal. We decided to have our dinner in the hotel room due to the excessive prices for a meal on New Year’s Eve in Paris. It turned out to be a great meal with more variety and a better quality wine than we could afford otherwise.

After a rest from too much food, we headed out for the evening. It was pretty cold in Paris, so we were pretty well rugged up. We found a place in the Champ des Mars near the peace monument. We had a bit of cover from the wind, a perfect view of the Eifel tower and even a small group of people with some music playing. The park got busier and busier as the night progressed. By 11pm it was a montage of people all the way to the tower.

At 11.30 it was decided to put the beer away and get the champagne open. I had brought a 2003 Louis Nicaise Champagne from my last visit to the Champagne region (another great experience but in 2007). Thanks to the natural fridge that was the Paris night, it was a perfect temperature. It went down very well during the count-down to 2010. When the Eifel Tower changed to it’s sparkling finale at the strike of midnight it was cheers, fireworks and bonne annee all round. A fantastic experience of Paris at it’s best!

There you have it. A selection of the best experiences I have had during 2009. I wish you all the best in 2010 with great experiences with wine, food and friends!


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