culture shock 3 – wine

Some of my favourite trips have been to the wineries of Victoria and beyond. It took quite a while before I even wanted to try anything but Victorian wines.

A trip to McLaren Vale with Noela earlier this year turned my head to South Australian wines. Wirra Wirra earned a star in my firmament, and I have a handful of other lables laid down for a special occasion.

A couple of bottles of Hurley vineyard 2005 pinot noir are just about to be cracked open, I think, whilst we are holding onto a couple more bottles of vintage Chandon bubbly for a really special occasion.

Hanging Rock winery’s winter luncheon is a landmark on the social calendar, especially if I keep winning magnums of their best-selling Heathcote shiraz.

City Wine Shop is my “local” bar, a place where I am happy to pop in alone for breakfast, coffee or a drink after a meeting – not to mention their legendary wine tasting evenings.

That all said, I managed a birthday trip to Rutherglen – home of amazing fortified wines and wonderful reds – without so much as one purchase. Orlando was proud of me. At last his plea to write the names down and buy them at a discount in Dan Murphy’s has been listened to.

visiting noela & the mclaren vale wineries

My friend Noela moved back to Adelaide in the New Year. We miss her! So much so in fact that I went to visit her for the weekend about a month after she had moved there. 

We ate at an amazing Italian restaurant in the city, Rigoni’s, where I was actually served one of the best Spanish paellas I have ever tasted. This Adelaide institution has been open for almost 30 years and it is a real institution.

Next day we spent the evening at the market – what a civilised way to do your weekly shopping. Strolling aisles through cheeses, deli items, good coffee and fresh fruit and vegetables, followed by a fantastic and ridiculously cheap dinner of noodles in the laneways of Asian restaurants surrounding the market.

The highlight, of course, was the day spent wandering the wineries of McLaren Vale on the Saturday. In Noela’s little Fanta can of a car, we buzzed down the freeway to the McLaren Vale region – only about an hour away from the city and overflowing with good wine. Starting at the very first place we came across, the wine flowed and the people welcomed us.


Simon Hackett is a great little winery with a friendly lady in the tasting room who pressed an open bottle of red wine on Noela for free because she loved it so much and it was the last one. We could have stayed there all day in the cool air, putting the world to rights. The crowds of weekend tasters had not yet descended and it seemed like we were the only two people in the McLaren Vale. We left with about six bottles between us, which is not too alarming until you remember that the car was TINY, we were only at the first winery and I had to carry all my purchases onto a plane later that day…


My favourite winery had to be Wirra Wirra, where the red wines just kept coming. For months now, my mid-week regular has been Wirra Wirra’s Scrubby Rise – a shiraz cabernet petit verdot which should cost lots more than the $17 they charge me at Dan Murphy’s. The Church Block cabernet shiraz merlot is a slightly more robust and sophisticated wine, but my heart still goes back to the Scrubby Rise again and again.

At Dowie Doole (how could I drive past with a name like that) we sat in the courtyard in late afternoon, five glasses in front of us, and tasted our little hearts out accompanied by some rather good cheese. Marvellous.

Dowie Doole glasses

A coffee and a nice sit down in Market 190 finished off our day, along with the purchase of some wonderful condiments such as a decent chilli jam as we paid our bill. How sad that I had to run back to Melbourne so early. But I am already looking forward to my next trip.

food & wine show 2007

You would be so proud of us, Mena and me.

This year we had a plan. We took heed of the advice we gave ourselves last year.

– We bought a trolley.

– We started the day with a substantial breakfast.

– And we didn’t make any plans for the evening.


Amy (second-eldest niece) and Mena’s mate Kay joined us for the day, which we started with breakfast and a game plan discussion. More rules: no stopping at stalls selling non-food items. If the stall doesn’t grab your immediate attention – MOVE ON. Don’t spend all day in one corner of the hall and miss out on other fun stuff. No wandering into the drinking area before 3pm.

We were like a military attack group. Mena grabbed handfuls of Frangelico with lime, while Amy tried anything resembling a chocolate mousse. No showbags were purchased as they were likely to slow us down. We divided and conquered every new aisle. it was marvellous.

We had tickets to the celebrity chef performance – Donna Hay at 12.30pm. An hour earlier we were close to the entrance and heard whoops and cheering coming from the auditorium: Ainsley Harriott was in town. Orlando would be horrified. We considered waiting like groupies for him to come off the stage so we could get a photo with him but decided our time was too precious.

To our dismay, the Donna Hay session conflicted with the “easy weekday meals” session at the Australian Good Taste magazine kitchen. Now, Mena and I spent a wonderful hour or so at a similar session last year, and decided that Michelle Southan (AGT’s chief editor) was our best friend because she cooked all our favourite foods and laughed a lot. After a moment’s thought, Donna lost out to our best mate Michelle and we sat and watched the show.

Mena and I frantically trawled the stalls looking for the divine dips we bought too little of last year; mercifully at the last moment before we were sucked into the wine area, we found Yumi’s and stocked up on their divine smoked trout mousse and tuna dip and all the other amazing flavours they have.

Then the onslaught began. We split up in the wine section, the better to cover more ground. Again, last year’s rules applied:

– Only taste one wine per stall

– Less talking, more drinking (yes, even Doyles can adhere to this at times)

– Don’t buy ANYTHING after the first half hour – you are drunk by then

– Have a chat to people you come across at the counter, but MOVE ALONG QUICKLY

– Ask the nice man to write the name of the wine down. You will not remember anything (much)


By closing time we were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. We had bought some bread, some dips, some books and Mena had somehow purchased two cases of wine after the first half hour (it turned out to be a Good Decision). Exhausted, we walked slowly down to E Gusto (sounds much more fun if you say it with a Yorkshire accent and not an Italian one) and had one for the road with some antipasto and – yes – dips.

Home before nine o’clock, more or less in one piece, and we remember everything.

Oh, and we accosted Michelle Southan after her cooking show, told her she was our best friend, and she told us to email her anytime! Not that we are stalkers or anything…

Food & Wine

We have the annual Taste of Slow festival on in Australia at the moment, organised by the Slow Food movement. It all culminates in Melbourne this weekend with a Slow Food event over two days. There will be a market place, a honey room and a tea room. There will be an Ark of Taste Crypt, where we can go and taste foods that are in danger of becoming extinct, and learn how to save them. There will be a wine library and a cheese tasting area. There will be a slow food canteen and a beer garden. There will be a Generations Room dedicated to the sharing of inter-generational stories, foods and recipes from across the country and across all cultures.
I will be there of course, with an empty backpack to fill with food, and I will tell you all about it when I return.

More Food and Wine
I have updated the website’s Melbourne Living pages with more restaurant listings, for those of you who live local to me.

Food & Drink I Miss

Food & drink I miss about Ireland

Decent sausages
Decent brown bread
Smoked cod from the chipper
Tayto and King crisps
Corned beef
Red lemonade
Irish cheddar cheese
Decent apple tart (preferably made by my mother)
Decent fruit scones
Bernard’s meatballs and spaghetti

Food & drink I miss about England

Egg mayonnaise ready-made from the supermarket
Kettle Chips sea salt and back pepper
Walkers roast chicken or prawn cocktail crisps
Diet ginger beer
Diet ANYTHING (it’s not that easy to find unless it’s Diet Coke)
Moet & Chandon champagne at UK prices
Diet tonic water for my gin!
Proper toasted bacon sandwich from a proper London caff
Decent hummus from the supermarket (with the number of Greeks here wouldn’t you think it would be everywhere?)
Spotted dick and custard
Clotted cream
Real Cornish pasties
Suzanne’s mushrooms on toast

Food & drink I miss about Europe

BANANAS (when we get them here we don’t have to worry about Fair Trade bananas – they are all Aussie-grown – but at $15 a kilo I don’t think so)
Kit Kats (haven’t had one here but Orlando says they are not the same chocolate as European ones)
Spanish manchego cheese (you can get it here but it is more expensive than bananas)
Spanish Vina Albali or Pata Negra red wine

Australian food & drink I Love!

Cherry Ripe chocolate bars
Fat-free semi-sundried tomatoes
Shark from the chip shop
Red Rock Deli lime & black pepper crisps
Fresh healthy food for lunch anywhere (I work in the equivalent of Blanchardstown or Watford and can get gluten-free fat-free dairy-free anything at my local caff)
Proper fruit toast (the one with more fruit than bread)
Lemon lime and bitters
Decaf coffee and soy milk EVERYWHERE!
All the Australian wine they keep for themselves and don’t export

Blogging by Mail

I came across something really interesting on another blog today. is a great food blog by a woman in Dublin. Following her link to, I have signed up for Blogging by Mail.

Here’s the idea:

Food bloggers from all over the world swap treats and baked good, recipes and more, sending care packages to new friends. Cookies, breads, preserves, condiments, teas and coffees, music, cookbooks, photos…anything you want.

Everyone who joins is paired up with a swap partner to whom they’ll send a package.

I’m in… are you?

I’ll keep you posted on the outcome!