It's our favourite time of the year - truffle season!
What is it about these buried treasures that just get our feathers so truffled?
Firstly, that smell. It's unmistakeable. It's earthy, musky and a little bit sweet. For us, our winery is near the Kowen Forest which is Canberra's largest pine plantation and truffles remind us of the forest floor, thick with pine needles, after fresh rainfall. Like other exotic foods, truffles can be an acquired smell and taste but we for one, are addicted to them!
Secondly, their rarity just makes them oh-so-irresistable. Truffles are finicky to grow and they're very elusive, especially in the wild. They love to play hard to get (they're an aphrodisiac after all) and we're always up for the chase. By the way, did you know that truffles have a symbiotic relationship with their host trees? So truffles grow on the roots of trees like oak and hazelnut trees. The trees provide the truffles with sugar and the truffles provie the trees with extra water and nutrients. How cute is that?
Thirdly, truffles pair best with fatty foods, creating luxurious, decadent food experiences . Think butters, creams, chocolate, foie gras...and it's not a 'fatty food' but truffle + wine = match made in (our) heaven. At our Truffle Dog Hunt n Lunch, we'll be serving a pumpkin ravioli with sage butter and truffle, chicken breast with chestnut mushroom and truffle cream sauce and truffle-infused chocolate mousse (a collaboration with Jasper & Myrtle). Take the option to add on paired wines and you're in for a real treat of a day.
We're running this Truffle Dog Hunt demonstration (a peek into what a real hunt would be like) on Saturday 19 June, 26 June and 3 July.
Or go all into the truffle season and join us at our Annual Truffle Gala Dinner on Saturday 31 July. Join us for a FIVE-course dinner with paired wines. The mood will be set with classical music (it's quite an indulgent night after all) and there'll also be a truffle talk so you can ask everything you've ever wanted to know about these fascinating funghi.
Truffle season only comes around once a year so we look forward to diving right in with you for 2021.
PSA. Mother's Day is on Sunday 9 May 2021 and is just around the corner.
Because Mums are the real superheroes (especially since the Rona), we've got a few ways you can celebrate her, regardless of whether you find yourself in the Canberra wine district or not.
Mother's Day shopping fair
Over the Anzac Day long weekend (24-26 April), come by our winery in beautiful Wamboin for a Mother's Day shopping fair with free entry.
Sample a selection of Contentious wines, condiments and ketchups, Jasper & Myrtle's award-winning artisanal chocolate and cheeses and nibbles.
And if you like what you taste, purchase some for Mum with gift-wrapping available on-site to create bespoke hampers.
Mother's Day gift hampers
Want us to make gifting even easier?
Or separated from your Mum this Mother's Day but want to send her something special, delivered straight to her door (with shipping on us**)?
This Mother's Day, we're offering three types of gift hampers for Mum.
At 99 dollars, our hamper includes a bottle of our 2019 Rosé (Stop and Smell The Rosé), a large MOJO French Pear candle, a Loveshak Red Wine soap bar and a block of Jasper & Myrtle White Chocolate & Sour Cherries chocolate.
At 159 dollars, our hamper includes a bottle of our 2019 Rosé (Stop and Smell The Rosé), a large MOJO Wild Basil & Cucumber candle, a Loveshak Pink & Sparkling soap bar and two blocks of Jasper & Myrtle artisanal chocolate; White Chocolate & Sour Cherries and Orange Cinnamon & Cayenne Dark Chocolate. And there's more! Mum will also receive a jar of Contentious loose leaf tea and a boxed trio pack of Contentious condiments.
If you're feeling creative or if Mum's a wee bit fussy, you can even order a customised hamper. Simply let us know your budget then we'll contact you and help make your selections.
**We're offering free shipping on all Mother's Day hampers until 28 April
Mother's Day lunch
And finally, for the big day on Sunday 9 May, join us for Mother's Day lunch.
Mum will be greeted with a complimentary glass of sparkling because she's the VIP.
Then, choose to lunch à la carte or feast on our seasonal 4-course tasting menu of burrata, wild mushroom gnocchi, Korean-style beef short rib and your choice of dessert. If mum's a wine lover, add on paired wines for an afternoon she'll love.
We can even arrange for a gift to be placed on the table to surprise Mum on arrival. After booking, just give us a call and we'll take care of the rest.
From Canberra Wines:
Grapes have been grown and wine made in the Canberra District since the 1840s, although in common with a number of other smaller Australian wine regions, the industry went into decline for several decades from the turn of the 20th Century.
Interest in viticulture and winemaking in the Canberra District was rekindled in the 1970s and 1980s with a number of what are now highly regarded vineyards and wineries. Our district, which spreads across Canberra, Hall, Murrumbateman, Yass, Bungendore, Lake George, Wamboin, Gundaroo and Collector has grown considerably over the past 50 years it is now estimated that there are some 140 vineyards with approximately 450 hectares under vine, and upwards of 40 cellar doors.
Canberra District Wine Week 2021, is not only a special year of celebration due to a disastrous 2020, but we’re recognising and celebrating 50 years of the first plantings of vines and subsequent production of wine within the district, cementing our place as a premium cool climate wine region in Australia.
And we want you to celebrate with us.
Here is how you can celebrate Canberra Wine Week at Contentious Character:
Join us for an Indulgence Wine Tasting experience with a 2-course meal
Over the weekend of 20-21 March and 27-28 March, enjoy an intimate group Indulgence Wine Tasting experience, hosted by a Contentious Character, followed by a 2-course lunch or dinner.
You'll be joined by no more than 3 other couples. Wines will be curated for the group and drawn from the Founders Museum Collection, our unique collection of old world style aged vintages as well as from the Contentious Character range of new world styles.
Our Indulgence Wine Tasting was recently launched with new matched food elements as well - an experience unique to our winery and kitchen! You can check out the tastings menu here.
When it comes to lunch or dinner, we offer a wide range of tempting fresh local produce in a blend of traditional Italian flair with contemporary Australian. Our food is chosen to complement our Canberran cool-climate wines beautifully - and yes, you'll also get a glass of wine of your choice with your lunch or dinner.
Wine Tastings only
Are you all about the wine only? We're hosting Indulgence Wine Tastings on their own for Canberra Wine Week as well.
Experience the best of Contentious Character by traversing styles and vintages across 12 wines with newly matched food elements including jamon, salami, cheddarbelle cheese and housemade pate. You can check out the tastings menu here.
Available Saturday 20 to Monday 22 March and Thursday 25 to Sunday 28 March.
We are so proud to be part of the Canberra Wine District.
Hope to see you at our beautiful winery in the rolling hills of Wamboin.
In celebration of Riesling Day on 13 March, we thought we’d give you the lowdown on riesling wine from descriptions of sweet and dry rieslings, how to serve riesling wine including what to eat and pair it with and the state of riesling wine in Australia.
A quick history lesson on riesling wine
The first mention of riesling dates back to 1435 in Germany, though of course there’s contention around that.
For centuries, Alsace in France and Australia have also produced premium rieslings.
What we do know for sure is that by the 1850s, riesling had become a very fashionable wine, thanks to its popularity with German nobility.
Riesling in Australia
Riesling came to Australia in the 19th century with the first planting at Camden Park near Penrith in New South Wales. It then spread throughout Australia, especially to South Australia in the hands and hearts of German settlers.
According to Wine Australia, riesling is one of the most underrated wines in Australia. However, as of late, it is definitely on the rise in popularity, as it was in the 1960s and 70s.
The two most popular riesling regions in Australia are the Clare and Eden Valleys in South Australia. Here, their riesling is bone-dry with distinctive lime, lemon and grapefruit flavours.
But of course, we find ourselves in the Canberra district! Australian cool-climate rieslings are dry and complex, typically associated with tight, crisp finishes.
You read that right - rieslings are not always sweet; they can be dry.
Sweet riesling vs dry riesling
The most common misconception about riesling is that it is always sweet - and that it always tastes like that sugary, white cask wine (which in our opinion, shouldn’t really be called wine at all).
But riesling can also be dry and in fact, Australian cool-climate rieslings (i.e. the rieslings you’ll find out of the Canberra wine region) are known for their crispness. Dry rieslings can have notes of apple, pear, lemon, pineapple and even rockmelon.
Our 2015 Riesling, for example, is a bright riesling, with abundant fresh citrus aroma, and crisp finish, thanks to an acidity that's friendly, but firm.
Sweet rieslings typically have flavours of fruit and a lasting, sweet honey finish.
But rieslings can’t just be broken down into ‘dry’ and ’ sweet’. The riesling grape is very versatile; it is complex and has excellent ageing potential where the flavours can mellow and develop over time. In fact, it’s one of the few white wines that can be aged for decades. Knowing this, it shouldn’t surprise you that rieslings can be also be dessert wines or sparkling wines!
Serving and pairing riesling wine
Because riesling wine is so diverse (thanks to its high acidity), it comes down to selecting the right riesling to pair with your meal.
Dry rieslings are great with seafood, curries and other Asian dishes.
Sweet and aged rieslings match deliciously with rich cheeses, salty cheeses and even fruity desserts.
So to celebrate Riesling Day, start with a crisp, dry riesling and a zesty ceviche. Our 2017 Riesling, ‘Come The Raw Prawn’, features lemon and lime with a floral twist combined with a crunch green apple texture and hints of tangerine make for an enjoyable finish. As the name suggests, our 2017 Riesling works wonderfully with prawns or any seafood for that matter.
Then, follow up with a richer, dry riesling with an Asian dish (think a curry or even Korean fried chicken). Our 2019 Riesling, ‘Crisp In Your Cakehole’, is a delicate riesling with citrus and cut hay aromas, underpinned by rich lemon flavours; we love to match it with an Indian fish curry!
Finally, finish off with an aged riesling with a cheese and fruit platter. Our 2005 and 2006 Founder Museum Collection rieslings were showered with awards and are now drinking their best, with rich honey-lemon flavours.
And if you’re looking for a rounder Australian riesling, here are our tasting notes for our 2020 Riesling, ‘No Riesling to Worry’.
As a general rule of thumb, serve your riesling at 8 degrees.
Contentious Character rieslings
If you’ve been paying attention, you might’ve noticed that our riesling range spans over a decade, from 2005 to 2020!
Come visit our cellar door and book a wine tasting to sample some of our Australian cool-climate rieslings and experience the best of the Canberra wine region.
Here’s to a delicious Riesling Day on 13 March!
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 here at Contentious Character, one of Canberra's wineries serving up the best Australian wine (no contention about that), we’re going to explore some of the things people often get wrong.
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 where 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. Apparently, 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 Australian 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!