Winter has passed for another year! If like us, you've had enough of hearty soups, slow-cooked casseroles, and stodgy puddings, it's time to celebrate Spring which calls for a juicy, tender Spring lamb dish washed down with a smooth and silky Cabernet Sauvignon. A carefully aged Cabernet is a perfect match for lamb.
The Swan Valley produce a terrific fruit driven style of cabernet - it's a softer, less astringent style to its Margaret River counterpart. This makes a Swan Valley Cabernet more accessable as a younger wine with the trademark minty/ eucalypt nose. With age Swan Valley Cabernet Sauvignon shows softer, dusty tanin which is mellow and ready to drink this Spring.
So, what exactly is Spring Lamb and why do we love it so much? Here's what our Aussie butchers have to say about why it's so good.....
"The reason we have come to associate Spring with lamb season is that this is when lambs are most plentiful and consequently cheapest in Australia.
Most of the lamb in Australia is produced in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia where rainfall and grass growth is highest in Spring. Farmers take advantage of this by having more stock on the ground during this time. As such a typical Spring lamb is birthed in Autumn and sold between September and November when it is between 50- 60 kg in weight.
Contrary to popular belief Spring lamb is not exclusively milk fed, milk fed lambs are called sucker lambs. Because lambs are able to graze on lush grasses they take up nutrients from these such as Omega 3 and 6 making Spring lamb a healthy family choice. As the lambs have not reached full maturity the meat is much leaner and tender while also having a deliciously mild flavour".
So it's official! Spring lamb is best and we've put together one of our favourite recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi's book "Ottolenghi" for you to try at home. All you need is a sharp knife, a bottle of the Upper Reach 2010 Cabernet (pour a glass to steady your hand) and a group of friends to share it with.....
Photo courtesy of Yotam Ottolenghi's book "Ottolenghi"
This list was created for those with a day or two to spend in the Swan Valley, or those with overseas visitors that want to get the most out of a day. In the Swan valley you can check off those biog ticket items, koala's and Kangaroo's, as well as a world glass wine region, breweries and fresh local produce.
So here we go, our Top Things to do in the Swan Valley, written by a local who knows!
www.thehouseofhoney.com.au Phone: 08 9296 3635
www.supagolf.com/courses-2/swan-valley Phone 08 9296 5566
www.cuddlyanimalfarm.com 0424 209 730
www.cavershamwildlife.com.au 08 9248 1984
Phone 08 9250 1588
Sample the wines directly from tank or barrels, like the winemaker.
Enjoy a relaxed 2-course lunch with sweeping views of the vineyard; one of Chef’s fabulous shared platters (your choice of 3) and a seasonal dessert, tea and coffee.
Finish up with a tasting of Tawny and Muscat dessert wines at Cellar Door and some shopping. The cellar door is full of locally made produce, honey, truffles and preserves which make perfect gifts.
There is so much to see and do in the Swan Valley- one day is not enough...we recommend at least an overnight stay at Upper Reach Spa Cottage to really make the most of your visit. We look forward to welcoming you to the Swan Valley!
Have you ever been confused about which wine should go with which food? It can be pretty daunting when you don't know the rules. But here's the rub....there are no rules!! The only rules we know of are to have fun with it, don't take it too seriously and enjoy experimenting.
Here are some tips we've come up with to get you started, however, pairing wine with food is a very personal thing and if you have a favourite combination, then stick with it and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!
So, settle in with a glass of our awesome 2015 Reserve Chardonnay and a wedge of ripe Brie and let's get the ball rolling with The Upper Reach Beginner's Guide to Food & Wine Pairing :
Rule #1 - As we pointed out in our intro, there are no rules. Be brave, try anything and enjoy the process!
Rule # 2 - When in doubt, Sparkling wine goes with everything. Try it with popcorn, fish & chips at the beach, Thai curries, roast chicken and anything salty. It's traditionally superb with seafood but is also bosom buddies with fruits, nuts and most meats. Pairing your favourite Sparkling (which would have to be our Sparkling Chardonnay) with a freshly-baked loaf of bread will enhance the delicious yeasty, bread-like aroma which comes from the secondary fermentation in the bottle.
Rule # 3 - Acidic foods are great with light-bodied young whites. Salad dressings, tomatoes, citrusy sauces – these things can overwhelm or dull a lot of wines. Light, tangy whites handle it best. Sauv blanc is a good bet, but the Upper Reach 2017 Verdelho is even better. We also love to drink our Verdelho with seafood - it's a match made in heaven!.
Rule # 4 - Yes, you can pair red wine with white meat and vice versa. Pinot Noir is great with roast turkey, salmon and other fatty fish. White wine with red meat is a bit more of a challenge, but aged white wines (and we have a few in our Museum Cellar) - or Sparkling wines - can hold their own with a steak or a leg of lamb. The rule of thumb here is "red meat, red wine; white meat, white wine" but as we pointed out right at the beginning, this rule can be defied any time you like!
Rule # 5 - With spicy foods, some residual sugar is your friend. The cuisines of Thailand, India, & Mexico, for example, use lots and lots of chilli peppers in their food and breaking open your best Cabernet Sauvignon is NOT going to do your burning taste buds any favours! Aromatic and slightly sweet whites and pinks will balance highly-spiced foods best. We love drinking our Black Bream White and Black Bream Pink with our favourite Thai food. Give it a try - we can certainly vouch for it!
Rule # 6 - Tannins need fat! If you're a steak lover, this is the bit you've been waiting for. But before we start cranking up the barbie, a very valid question is "what IS a tannin"? It’s the astringent component in red wine that gives it structure. This needs fat for balance, fat will soften the tannins and bring a smoother feel. Serve a bold, beautiful red like the 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon with a nice fatty piece of Prime Rib. Salivating already? Order the wine and then call your local butcher!
Rule # 7 - Your very own quirky, personal preferences rule the rules. And, as we mentioned in Rule # 2, when in doubt go for bubbles. You don't need a PhD, all you need is a few bottles in your cellar to get you started, somebody to cook for you and a few friends to pat you on the back when you tell them you've completed the Upper Reach Beginner's Guide to Food & Wine Pairing. Enjoy!
In the cellar door, we are often asked about cellaring and storing wine, and what types of wine to age, so I wanted to answer some of your questions...
Cellaring wine has lots of advantages, the main one being that you’ll always have something to drink that ought to be at its optimum drinking. However, not all wines improve with age, if it is not good when young, it isn’t going to miraculously transform into a great wine with age. Investing in a bottle that has a proven cellaring life is the best way to start. I like to buy 6 or 12 bottles, then open a bottle after a year or so. keeping track of what you thought of each wine as you opened them (there are plenty of apps to help you do this) is a great way to learn if you like your wines younger or older.
As your wine palate matures, the benefit of giving some wines even just two or three years bottle age can open up a whole new world of wine!
If you’ve stashed some wine away and years later you discover a treasure, don’t be afraid to call the winery for guidance, they’ll be delighted to hear from you. We often get calls asking about one of our wines that have been discovered in the wine rack at home. We can give advice on whether it is going to be great now, or even if it has a few more years in it, should you want to keep it longer.
Always call the winery that produced the wine, they will have the best knowledge of the cellaring potential for the wine. (and are almost always happy to advise you)
What wines should I age?
Cellaring wines will change (and generally) improve a well-chosen wine, and this is where buying at the Cellar Door is perfect, as the person will be able to give you the very best advice about the ageing potential of that specific wine.
I’d suggest only ageing Oaked Chardonnays and white wines with higher acidity, such as a dry Verdelho, Riesling and Semillon.
If you have never thought to cellar a dry Verdelho- think again! These crisp white wines develop into the most wonderfully rich, unctuous wine with some bottle age.
The wine ought to have a solid structure, tannins, good acid and oak, plus great fruit! Generally, the less expensive wines don’t cellar for as long, the fruit may be less intensely flavoured, and hence the wine will have less oak, so the structure, essential for ageing will not be as complex.
The Petit Verdot is a terrific inclusion in the wine cellar, it is a bit different and it's not often you see a Petit Verdot on its own. Buy a couple and put away for 3-5 years. I like mine with a few years on it and served in winter with hearty beef cheeks and mash potato...or even a cheese board. I do think a Petit Verdot is a wine best served with food.
How to Store the Wines?
Believe it or not, you do not need a purpose-built wing of the house or basement to age your wines! The two most important factors for cellaring wine at home, are the stability of temperature (don’t worry too much about the actual temperature, as long as it's not hot, it is more important that there aren’t wild fluctuations) and the physical stability of the wine, so try not to move it around too much.
The level of humidity was more important when wine was sealed with corks, as you didn’t want them to dry out, and no longer be airtight. Wines with a cork will need to lay flat (on its side) to keep the cork moist and prevent air entering an oxidising the wine. Stelvin sealed wines (screw caps) can be stored upright.
Ensure that the wines are kept in the dark, as light will lead to more variation in the temperature and can trigger chemical reactions.
When Can I open them?
As a general rule of thumb, if you find a wine that you like (budget permitting) buy a dozen, put 6 bottles within easy reach, and then squirrel away the other six to be enjoyed over x years.
The best wine producers will give you an ageing estimate on the back label, this would be under good cellaring conditions, so use it as an estimate. Do ask at the time of purchasing your wines for the cellaring potential of each wine, and write it on either the bottle or using one of the many handy apps to keep track of your personal cellar.
When buying wine, you probably have a plan as to how long you’d like to keep it for, I’d suggest that you put a sticker with the year that you plan to drink the wine in, on the top of the bottle.
If your wine is an investment, do ensure that you cellar it at the appropriate temperature, about 18 degrees. A small wine fridge for the more expensive in the collection is a good idea.
The most important thing to remember is, ageing wine is a hobby, so don’t get too caught up in the technicalities, just enjoy!