Vintage 2022 is getting underway in wineries all across New South Wales — and progressively in other states as well — as summer turns slowly towards autumn. All across the country, crews are out picking fruit that will be turned into our favourite wines.
But, in the wake of years of intense climate change, recently broken droughts, devastating bushfires, and a wet and humid La Nina year, how are things looking down there in the vineyards?
To get the answers, I asked some of the best winemakers from the Hunter Valley, Mudgee, Orange and the Southern Highlands wine regions their thoughts. The responses I received were as varied as their winemaking styles and personalities but consensus is clear that, given a little luck with the weather, this year should be a cracker for good wine.
Here’s what they told me…
It is a Friday night in Ettalong, not long after COVID lockdown restrictions have eased, and Safran Restaurant is bustling with activity. To be honest, it’s very easy to see why.
First opened by Chef Suleyman “Sulo” Kirbancioglua and his wife Natalie in 2013, and earning its first AGFG Chef’s Hat in 2020, Safran has become a bit of an institution for Central Coast locals. Specialising in Contemporary Turkish cuisine, Safran will be quite a revelation for those only familiar with late-night kebabs, food truck gözleme, and chips dipped in humus. Here, Chef Sulo shows us the true wonders of what Turkish food can offer.
Over the past few years, Ettalong Beach — a quiet village on the shores of Brisbane Water where it meets Broken Bay — has become quite an exciting place for new food venues. Far from the bustle of Terrigal and with ample parking, there’s plenty to love here, including wood-fired pizza, Indian, Thai, as well as modern-Australian, modern-Turkish and modern-Italian with a more casual-meets-fine dining aesthetic.
Osteria Il Coccia fits firmly into this last category: Italian food with a modern Australian twist, prepared by Chef Nicola Coccia using the freshest ingredients and with an emphasis on wood-fire cooking.
Ask most people about the New South Wales Hunter Valley, and they’ll think of the central tourist district of Pokolbin. But travel just 15 minutes south via Oakey Creek Rd, and you’ll find Mount View.
The short trip is well worth it, because Mount View is one of the most gorgeous parts of the Hunter Valley Region. It has breathtaking views and some really distinctive wineries producing exceptional wines.
Carillion Wines, at the Tallavera Grove Vineyard on Mount View Road, is one such place. The Cellar Door and attached Bistro Molines just ooze French Provincial charm and the view across the vineyards is breathtaking. But…you really should visit for more than just the vista, because the wines are something special too.
Most of the time, I’m not the one at The Grape & Grain to choose the wine. I do the cooking, and generally leave the wine pairing to my wife. She’s so much better at it than I am.
Occasionally, she’ll throw me a curve-ball and message me with a wine selection before I’ve had a chance to come up with the menu. “Here,” she says. “I’d like you to cook something to go with this!”
That’s always much harder for me: working backwards from Wine to Food. It’s not a process I enjoy and would rather just cook the food.