Barossa Ben, Melbourne’d Meat and Kangaroo Cuts

Poor Perri Kane – an unlucky day for the Australian brand manager at Palette as she found herself sitting across from me at her company’s media tasting for winemaker Ben Glaetzer at China World‘s Aria. Of the dozen-plus people there, I knew the least about wine. Unfortunately, I lack the software that causes most people in this situation to meekly sip vino, laugh at wine-related jokes they don’t get and, when asked to opine, repeat what someone else said. Instead, I just say what I think… unfiltered… sort of the “two-buck chuck” of observers…

Anyway, you’re apparently clueless in the wine world if you don’t who Ben Glaetzer is. Heard of him I had not, though I’ve tried his Stickleback wines – good value for the money. He seems a nice (and patient) bloke and answered a long-standing question of mine: What wine goes with kangaroo? (See details below.)

Some notes on the four wines, which included a few grape combinations I’d never tried:

Viognier Pinot Gris 2006: The nose was balanced and fresh, like towels newly out of a lemon-scented wash. The mouth had peach and some citrus zing.

Heartland Dolcetto Lagrein 2005: The nose was slightly medicinal, with spice and dark fruit lurking. Hard to describe, the best I could do was, “smooth yet mysterious –and velvety in the mouth.”

(At this point, Palette’s Stefan Fleisher noted two things re Glaetzer’s wines: 1. The temperature is important since too much alcohol comes off them if warm, and 2. “The reds all benefit very much from decanting.”)

Heartland Shiraz 2005 : Deep, consistent fruit (plum and blackberry) on the nose, and more so after it opened up. It had a lovely mouth feel and went superbly with the beef, courtesy of guest chef Joe Vargetto, who usually cooks up a storm, so to speak, in Melbourne.

(At this point, I posed my kangaroo food/wine pairing question. “What’s unique about kangaroo is that unless it’s medium rare, it gets a bit tough,” said Glaetzer. “It needs a wine that is big and acidic, as it can get oily.” The Shiraz would work nicely. I saved my second query - about what Ben does with kangaroos that wander onto the winery’s premises - for later.)

We finished up with a Glaetzer Wallace, a Shiraz Grenache blend. Wow! This had a vibrant nose that smelled earthy, gassy and vegetal – in other words, a bit rank (or, as company literature put it, a mix of “sweet cherry, toffee and earthy characters”). Food and Wine’s Arcy Yin found it interesting and said it had some mineral tastes. I liked it, and it’s also a favorite of P. Wong and of Beijing Wine Club guy / Timeout wine writer Gabriel Suk, who called it, “the perfect blend of Shiraz and Grenache”, just before he headed to Aria’s bar for Coopers (no beer could have a better name for a wine lover).

Notes: Aria GM Danny Kane will head to Shanghai to be a judge in the International Wine Challenge there. Perri Kane says Glaetzer’s Amon-ra and Godolphin wines are available in Beijing only in Aria. Vargetto hails from Oyster Little Bourke in Melbourne. Meat and Livestock Australia supported this event. Aria uses long and narrow plates – think bowling alley dimensions – that define “form over function”. Despite there being at least a half-dozen Aussies involved in this event, nary one said “mate”.)

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