Unless you’re James Halliday or a proper wine snob, you’ve probably got the wrong ideas about wine.
Because we like to be contentious – and in fact are Contentious – we’re going to explore some of the things people often get wrong. At times, we make mistakes but that’s part of being successful.
PICTURED: One of our two pavilions; perfect for your small group celebrations. Book here.
“Wine is bad for you”
Says who? It turns out lots of people say this...but that doesn’t mean they’re right. Hippocrates, famous for his early medical practices, recommended wine as part of a healthy diet. He said you could use it to disinfect wounds, ease diarrhoea and reduce the pain of childbirth.
In 1991, a study found regular red wine drinkers had better cholesterol. According to the French Paradox, French people can eat more saturated fat, thanks to the resveratrol in red wine. In 2008, resveratrol was said to protect against dementia, fight obesity and Alzheimer's, lower lung cancer risk, and keep hearts “young”.
The British Heart Foundation and University of Cambridge upset the wine cart when they said drinking ten glasses of wine a week can shorten life expectancy by two years.
Meanwhile, a Spanish man then died in northwest Spain after a lifetime of drinking four bottles of homemade red wine every day...at 107 years old. He never drank water.
The answer is clear: make up your own mind.
“White goes with fish, red goes with steak”
This is one of those aphorisms that get wheeled out in restaurants all over Australia and perhaps the world. We may even learn it slightly before we’re even old enough to drink the stuff. But it’s wrong! It’s out of date.
You have to look at the cooking technique and the sauce before choosing a wine – not just whether it’s fish or meat. For instance, steak tartare or steak with béarnaise sauce goes very well with white Burgundy.
Another thing to consider is texture. If a fish is grilled, the smokiness passed on in the fish is often best paired with a red.
It is also a matter of complementarity. A seared tuna steak with red wine goes with a Pinot Noir and a meat carpaccio with capers and citrus goes with Sauvignon Blanc.
So just don’t say it again. It makes you look old.
PICTURED: Our vines looking lush!
“Organic wine is healthier”
The debate about organic versus non-organic rages in the food sector so why not the wine industry? You’ve seen those wholesome looking bottles of organic wine - you know the type, even the labels look healthy enough to eat.
The arguments for organic wine are much the same as for organic food: fewer pesticides and heavy metals, more omega-3 fatty acids, more antioxidants, no antibiotics or synthetic hormones.
But the real “problem” in conventional wine is sulphites. These are preservatives added to wine to prevent it from spoiling, oxidising or aging too quickly. Wine made with organic grapes can have sulphites up to 100 ppm, but conventional wine can have up to 350 ppm. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to make wine that smells, looks or tastes like what people demand, without them. Very few people are actually allergic to them.
In this case, rather than be contentious, we take a balanced approach to the addition of sulphites.
“Only men like big reds”
It’s true; some men like big reds, because they enjoy admitting to liking things that are big. But there are women who like them too. And the converse; that women only like soft, subtle reds like pinots or whites like chardonnay, is wrong too.
In the US, for example, men and women prefer red wine over white, but a higher percentage of men choose red. Women have more sensitive taste buds. So they tend not to like highly tannic or highly acidic wines. Men like to show off and boast with highly regarded and competition-winning wines. Now that is surprising (sense our sarcasm here please).
At Contentious Character, we don’t succumb to these generalisations. We know all types of people like all kinds of wine. So that’s why we grow all kinds of wine for all kinds of characters.
“Canberra wine is only for politicians”
Wow, you did not! How contentious. Our wine at Contentious Character is too good to waste on just one small segment of the population, no matter how discerning they are. We are very inclusive and we welcome everyone, even if everything they think about wine is wrong!
When looking for wine gifts and local Canberra produce gifts, Contentious Character have got you covered for your 2020 Christmas gift ideas. Make it a day with your Christmas shopping and book a wine tasting at our cellar door in Wamboin or order online (we ship Australia-wide).
Here are 8 Christmas present recommendations, brought to you by us Contentious Characters:
For the guzzler of reds and ONLY reds
The perfect wine gift for the red wine drinker is a bottle (or case - imagine that under the tree on Christmas Day) of our 2018 Merlot. This is a full bodied wine with dominant plum and black cherry flavours with hints of graphite and earthy undertones. (PS. Our 2018 Merlot also makes for a respectable corporate gift for your colleagues and clients.)
For the one who can never make up their mind
Red wine? White wine? There’s always one mate who can’t decide. They’re ‘Between A Rock And A Hard Place’ which so happens to be the name of our 2020 Rose. This Rose throws flavours of strawberries and cream with hints of vanilla and a touch of sweetness. This is the wine we’ll be sipping on Christmas Eve to get ready for the big day.
For the one who likes to push the envelope
Our red bubbly is an intriguing blend of red vintages from 2008 to 2014, fermented in oak barrels and freshly carbonated. It’s ‘A Mongrel Of A Dog’ and is definitely for those who love something different (but damn delicious). This sparkling red will get the party started these holidays (and it’s also a great one for Christmas morning before the mother-in-law arrives…).
For the one who puts tomato sauce on everything
On steaks, on pies, on bread. On everything including whatever you’re feasting on on Christmas Day. Our Cabernet Ketchup is housemade, big and rich and imbued with our red wine. Our Classic Ketchup is a great all-rounder. Both available in full-size at 10 dollars or in a gift pack for 20 dollars (which also includes our Apple Ketchup which goes deliciously with pork).
For the one who loves a good wine label
‘Redhead And A Lightweight’ is our 2017 Shiraz/ Pinot. We love it for its red fruit with spicy overtures on the nose and its fruity mouthfeel with good grip and length. But LOTS of our customers simply love the name and label. If you’ve got a redhead in the family, this one is a must-have for Christmas day laughs and conversations.
For the one who will drink anything (and a lot of it)
It’s BEEN a year. And we wouldn’t have gotten through it without wine (and each other, of course). Gift a mixed case of our newest wines as a Christmas present; 3x 2020 Riesling, 3 x 2020 Rose, 3 x V Red Bubbly and 3 x Reds (1 each of 2018 Merlot, 2017 Shiraz/Pinot Noir and 2018 Pinot Noir) and receive 15% off, free shipping AND a bonus Trio Boxed Contentious Ketchup Gift Pack. That should keep them happy!
You don't need to add the bonus Gift Pack to cart- we'll do that all for you when getting your gift ready!
For the one who’s always after novel experiences
Treat your loved one to a day in the rolling hills of Wamboin. We offer three experiences;
- Private Tasting with the Winemaker himself with a 3-course Lunch; tour the winery with a premium tasting held by the winemaker himself before a sumptuous 3-course lunch AND take home two of your favourite bottles
- Indulgence Tasting; 12 wines paired with a gourmet cheese board featuring our housemade condiments. Some vintages here are up to 15 years old!
- Vintage Wine Tasting with 3-course Lunch; taste a range of recent and aged vintages followed by a 3-course meal for two with a glass of paired wine
And the gift of choice...
And of course there’s always that tricky family member who you can never find the right present for. Give them the gift of choice with a Contentious Character Gift Card that can be spent at our cellar door, shop, restaurant or online.
2020’s been unprecedented (is that the millionth time that word’s been used this year?) so all the more reason to love on and spoil each other this Christmas. We wish you a safe and happy holiday season and we thank you for supporting local this year and beyond.
It is one of the most graceful words in French, and a very popular white wine. Many have called it Queen of the Grapes (cabernet sauvignon is King). Even so, chardonnay’s image in Australia has been surprisingly contentious!
It is called Grandma’s drink, chardy and even “really noice”, thanks to the ever-articulate Kath and Kim. (Kim pronounced it “cardonnay, because it has a silent haitch”!)
Chardonnay has also been unfairly associated with affluent left-wing drinkers in the terms, “chardonnay set” and “champagne socialist”. Unfair to both the drinkers and the wine. Luckily this varietal is versatile, easy to manage and high yielding, and not affected by political prejudice.
This green grape was first grown in Burgundy in France and particularly in the area of Chablis. You can now find it all over the world in Argentina, California, Chile, Italy, New Zealand and Australia. It thrives in both warm and cold climates. Many chardonnays are used to produce sparkling wines.
So much taste
While the grape itself has a neutral taste, soil, climate and aging in oak, create a wide range of enticing flavours. Most Australian chardonnays have plenty of ripe melon, grapefruit and ripe peach fruit. When chardonnay is very ripe, it tastes of tropical pineapple, guava and mango. When barely ripe, more like lemons and green apples.
Cooler regions, like Canberra, Tasmania and Mornington Peninsula have more subtle characters, with a lot more grapefruit and lime. Cool climate chardonnays tend to express the site of the vineyard, region and season.
Oaking chardonnay brings in flavours of vanilla, spice, toast and caramel. Meanwhile, the process of aging converts malic into lactic acid, which helps to add a rich buttery flavour.
FRUIT: Lime, lemon, apple, pineapple, grapefruit
ALSO: Honeysuckle, vanilla bean, almond, jasmine
AGING: 5-10 years in oak
ACIDITY: Medium high (unoaked cool climate)
SERVE: Oaked 12 degrees C, unoaked 9 degrees C
OTHER NAMES: Chablis, Pouilly-Fuissé and Meursault
Whether you prefer an oaked or unoaked chardonnay, it is easy to pair with your next meal.
A young unoaked cool climate Chardonnay (like Contentious Character's 2015 Chardonnay) pairs with delicate and light foods. Choose grilled fish, chicken, prawns or sushi. Chardonnay that is well aged in oak and full bodied pairs well with cheddar, foie gras, veal chops and (for the vegetarians who are so often left out of wine pairings) pumpkin ravioli.
Chardonnay even has its own International Chardonnay Day, on a date in late May. This could be the perfect time to enjoy one of the most expensive chardys in the world, Domaine Leflaive Batard Montrachet, for somewhere around $US6,000.
If you would like to treat Grandma to a bottle of her favourite, look no further than a Contentious Character 2004 Chardonnay for $33 or a lighter more contemporary Chardonnay like our 2015 for $35. But if you visit our cellar door to taste it first, you might discover Grandma (or Kath or Kim) knew something you didn’t.
Riesling is a white variety of grape sadly misunderstood in Australia. Many would remember Riesling in cheap casks at kitchen parties, that sweet stuff known as “hock” or what we had to drink before chardonnay and sauvignon blanc came along.
In fact, Riesling is one of the oldest grape varieties around and, unlike the others, it is German. The monks in medieval Germany used to cultivate the grape and were, no doubt, popular with any visitors. Much later, when Joni Mitchell sang about Rhine wine, it was probably Riesling.
Loves cold climates
After Germany, Australia devotes the second biggest area to these versatile grapes. This delicately scented white grape can satisfy the driest of tastes or offer the stickiest of accompaniments to pudding. Some say it’s the quintessential Australian summer wine. Its sharp lemony flavours can be perfect for those hot, balmy nights.
Paradoxically, it grows beautifully in cold climates like Canberra. The grape buds later than usual and its bark is naturally thicker, which protects it from frosts in Spring and cold snaps in Winter. Riesling grown at altitude, or southern latitudes like Tasmania, loves the cold nights that favour its acidity. Clare and Eden Valleys in South Australia boast the right terroir for Riesling.
Canberra is host to a longstanding wine competition - The Canberra International Riesling Challenge - attracting Riesling lovers from vineyards all over the world.
A German lesson
One advantage of our Australian Rieslings is they are easier to pronounce! If you want to understand German Riesling, its vigorous acidity may help you get your tongue around these:
Trocken – bone dry
Kabinett - sweet
Auslese - very ripe
Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese – dessert wines.
Special character of Riesling
Riesling is rarely blended with other grapes. Wine lovers say, “let the grapes do the talking”, because, like a beautiful woman, they don’t need enhancement. Unlike other whites, they enjoy being aged because of their highly acidic character.
Look for a soft, translucent colour, or golden when aged
Taste berries, apricot, nectarine, lime and lemon
Age 5-15 years for dry, 10-30 or more years for sweet
Serve fridge cold with spicy Asian or Indian food.
The priciest late harvest dessert wines are lovingly made from Riesling grapes left on the vine well past their usual harvest time. This encourages a delightful fungus called Botrytis cinerea or “noble rot”.
Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, husband of the late Zsa Zsa Gabor, claimed he had 300 bottles of Riesling in his cellar. (He also married and divorced six wives before meeting Zsa Zsa and, according to celebrity press, sold 68 knighthoods for $US50,000 each.)
He was certainly a contentious character, maybe even a noble rotter.
Considering their quality, many Rieslings are still undervalued. One wine you probably won’t buy in a hurry is the Egon Muller-Scharzhof Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese. Translated, it means vintner Egon Muller’s sweet medium bodied dessert Riesling from the Scharzhofberger vineyard – and it sells for up to $US20,000.
At Contentious Character, you can buy our best Riesling for much, much less than it should really cost. They don't come in a caska but you are more than welcome to take them to parties!