CLARE VALLEY BY BIKE – WELL, THAT WAS THE PLAN…

The weekend plan was to do 20 kms of the Riesling trail by bike … 8 friends in need of a weekend break.

The weather was grey and storms had started in Adelaide as we left the city, but we soon hit the country side on the drive to Clare which remained dry and yellow and truly majestic.  There is something  magical with the way the light hits the hay bails and the dry landscape at dusk and you can’t help but to feel a true sense of calm and begin to relax and leave the working week behind you …

We booked 2 heritage cottages for the weekend in the town of Clare; Roscrow cottage and Wishing well. Ian really has the B n B experience mastered and in the 12 years he has been running ‘Roscrow’ he has never had a weekend where the cottage has been vacant ! And you can see why when you arrive there, an old Masons Halls which was restored into 2 bedrooms each with private bathroom and a large open dining area which was a perfect social base for the 8 of us over the weekend.  Contact him directly via search on www.southaustralia.com under the Clare accommodation section you will find Roscrow and  his phone number.

Unfortunately, because of the unseasonably rainy weather, we were unable to ride our bikes on the Saturday and instead had to opt for the alternative and take 2 cars (and the most noble had to come forward and offer to drive).  We still drove to the main wineries along the bike trail and the first stop was Skillagalee.

Skillogalee – famous for their Riesling (especially the late picked Riesling) the cellar door is lovely and quant and the staff always friendly.  This trip I noticed they now make a sparkling Riesling which is something I have never seen before and also a Gewürztraminer (a sweet style wine with German origins).  My favourite has always been “The Cabernets ” a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (70%) and Cabernet Franc (18%) blended with a small amount of Malbec.

Mitchell Winery– an old favourite, has a lovely cellar door and happens to be an old apple orchard which has been beautifully restored.  There are 9 wines to try (4 whites and 5 reds) and their Watervasle Riesling is consistently delightful year after year.  The GSM is a good reliable red but my favourite in their selection is the 2001 McNicol Shiraz.  At $40 a bottle it is definitely worth it and everyone else in our group agreed and we stocked up on this gem! Their sparkling peppertree shiraz is also fabulous and I often buy a few bottles and find them very difficult to part with even on special occasions.

Kilikanoon– this winery is my favourite in South Australia and I have been coming back year after year because their reds are fantastic.  The quality has remained consistent and although I have seen the prices go up and up but I can never resist temptation for the prodigal grenache, blocks road cabernet sauvignon and my favourite the oracle shiraz (currently priced at $75).

I was pleasantly surprised on an earlier visit in April this year to find they now produce a sparkling “champagne” white called ‘VOUVRAY’.  This wine is maade in Vouvray, France… $25 this stuff is excellent

We all dropped in next door to Penna Lane Winery for some platters for lunch which are a ploughman’s style with a few cheeses and home-made bread and chutney. 

The last winery of the day was Seven Hill Winery – which was established by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1851 to produce sacramental wine.  This cellar door is like a museum with old equipment and photos on display as well as a fascinating dusty old cellar underground.  I am unable to make recommendations on wines for tastings, however I always take visitors to this cellar door – it is a must !

On the sunday we visited an old favourite of mine – Pikes  this winery is famous for their riesling, however this is not my favourite … I have a particular fondness for the LUCCIO SANGIOVESE.  I can also recommend the ‘LUCCIO’ PINOT GRIGIO, the red mullet and the white mullet.  If you are lucky you might even be able to score a great deal on some cleanskins from the cellar door ! 

The next winery we visited was a new one for me Paulett Wines and this place has a fantastic view of the valley and was a pleasant surprise.  Pauletts have a unique product – they sell all their sparkling wines in a piccolo bottle which is excellent for picnics and ‘cinema in the park’ each of these bottles is 2 standard drinks.

We then drove to the small town Mintaro and visited Reilly’s which was a pleasant old restored cottage, the menu here looked great but dining here will have to wait for another visit …

Crab Tree Winery was the next destination and we were fortunate to have the wine maker serving us at the cellar door which was great.  The tempranillo was a highlight for me. 

The final stop was Mount Horrocks which is a highly reputable winery with a delightful cafe and  you simply must taste the cordon cut riesling …

Conclusion:

There are many more wineries to explore in this region and the tourism office provide excellent advice.  There is 2 places to rent bicycles in Clare for $25 a day and close to the riesling bike trail. 

Sparkling Wine … testing the theory that how you clean your glasses impacts on your bubbles

The Experiment

To test the theory that the method you use to wash your glasses has an impact on your sparkling wine, i.e flatten your bubbles.  A good quality sparkling wine will visibly retain its bubbles (or “beads”) in the glass 15 minutes after pouring.

The Panel

Joe Phillis – Wine appreciator and good friend.  A true sparkling wine devotee.

Tanya Denning – Wine appreciator and good friend.  A true sparkling wine devotee.

Mary Seely – Wine appreciator and good friend.  A sparkling wine enthusiast.

Caroline Offord – Author of this blog and a wine appreciator.  A sparkling wine enthusiast.

The Wines

Domaine Chandon N.V Brut  $24.95

Janz Premium curvee N.V   $24.95

Veuve Amiot (Loire Valley, France) $13.95


The Process

Three glasses were presented for each panel member.  Each of the glasses had been cleaned in a different way.

  • Wine flute #1 – Dishwashing detergent in the sink, rinsed and left to air dry.
  • Wine flute #2 – Placed into the dishwasher on rinse with hot water, no detergent and air dried.
  • Wine flute #3 – Hot water in the sink, no detergent and dried using a tea towel.

The Results


  • Wine flute #1 (detergent, rinsed) – within one minute of pouring the wine the bubbles began to flatten in the glass
  • Wine flute #2 (no detergent, air dried) – the wine remained vibrant and alive for the 15 minute trial period (we couldn’t wait any longer to drink it!)
  • Wine flute #3 (hot water, towel dried) – a slight reduction in ”bead” quality compared to flute #2 (no detergent, air dried)

Conclusion

The best cleaning method for sparkling wine glasses is to wash them in hot water (no detergent) and leave them to air dry or use a good quality linen tea towel.

Does putting a teaspoon in an opened bottle of champagne work to preserve your bubbles overnight ? – Tanya

” When a team of Stanford researchers put the idea to the test – all in a thirst for knowledge, and digging into their own pockets for research funds – they found that the spoon theory falls flat.”

http://news.stanford.edu/pr/94/941221Arc4008.html

Summary

My article titled “Wine tasting tips” (published 8/11/09) discourages the use of detergents but recommends washing your glasses in hot water and if a quick dry is necessary then a good quality linen tea towel is acceptable  (regular tea towels can leave lint or residue which can also flatten your bubbles).

The key points to consider are:

  • Allow enough time to prepare and clean your champagne flutes prior to use.  If they have been in the cupboard for a while than re wash them.
  • It is ideal to have good quality glasses, ie crystal flutes
  • A good quality sparkling wine should display excellent “bead” 15 minutes after pouring and beyond … and be able to store in the fridge overnight for drinking the next day.

On this last point I would have liked to have tested this theory but the sparkling wines were all excellent and completely consumed on the night !