Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wine Australia

Wine Australia held a launch of their new products at Sassafraz Restaurant in Yorkville on August 18, 2009. The purpose was to promote wines for the holiday season, even if it is several months away. It seemed odd to be listening to Christmas music on a hot August day, but when the spread is as awesome as this one, you really shouldn’t quibble.

My press kit tells me that Australia is the fourth largest wine exporter in the world, shipping 2.5 million bottles to over 100 countries annually. I figured as much, considering that everybody I know drinks Yellow Tail Shiraz. But the sheer variety of the wines on display this day couldn’t help but impress.

Wine Australia has created a brand strategy that divides wine makers into four categories. They are Brand Champions (the usual stuff that everyone buys at the liquor store); Generation Next (for people “who drink wine for social occasion and/or peer group affinity, rather than for wine attribute alone”); Regional Heroes (“These are wines from somewhere rather than wines from anywhere”); and Landmark Australia (consisting largely of expensive stuff found in nice restaurants like Sassafraz).

Typically of a tasting, one is given a glass with which to sample various brands. A tiny bit is poured, and you’re supposed to swish it around and smell it, but I just want to knock it back. I start with some chilled whites that look perfect on this sticky, humid day. The Terra Barossa Riesling 2008 ($14.95) is refreshing, as is the Leconfield Chardonnay 2008 ($22.95). Then I hop over to the red table and sample the Gemtree Vineyards Bloodstone Shiraz Viognier 2008 ($17.30) and the Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($19.95), both of which go down quite nicely. By now, I’m feeling a bit tizzy, so it was clearly time to visit the food table.

Here’s where Sassafraz has a chance to show off. The pile of prosciutto makes me happy, as does the crisp spinach salad with pumpkin seeds. Over at the hot table, a cute chef doles out the rarest rack of lamb and the biggest grilled prawns I’ve seen in ages. There is also a perfect potato salad and chocolates painted different metallic colours. I didn’t even touch the giant turkey with stuffing and cranberries, as I was just too full.

Finally, it was time to celebrate with a sparkling wine, and here is where the event went into overdrive. The Skillogalee Sparkling Riesling ($20.00) was crisp, delicious and dry, a near-perfect drink at a near-perfect event. I adore wine tasting, and when the company puts out a ravishing spread like Wine Australia and Sassafraz did on this day, it’s hard not to go home happy.