- The best thing about having the Cheeeeesy Podcast recorded in store each week is the interesting guests that feature. And, what better way to get to know the friends of Scrumptious Reads a little better than with a regular feature interviewing them about their favourite foods, recipes and more.
Without further a do, introducing Stacy Holmes of La Reserve Fine Wines. You can also listen to Stacy's episode here.
What is your favourite meal to cook?
My favourite thing to cook at home is chicken breasts stuffed with mozzarella, fresh basil, garlic and tomatoes. Then I season each chicken breast, lay a basil leaf on top and wrap it in prosciutto. I seal the chicken breasts in a hot pan on both sides and then bake in the oven for approximately 25 minutes until cooked through. I allow them to rest for 5 minutes and slice each breast into 2cm slices and serve on top of homemade potato bake and steamed broccolini. It’s divine!
What wine is the one you'd reach for most?
That’s a very hard question as I like so many. I think Riesling is the most noble of all the white grape varieties in the world. It has wonderful vibrancy and freshness when its young and it has the ability to age for many years and develop many secondary and tertiary characters when aged. If you can imagine a young Riesling, it has lots of citrus notes, especially green limes, lemons and orange peel with lovely aromas of white flowers and bright acidity. Take the same Riesling and age it for 10+ years or longer and watch the colour of the wine darken, the bright green lime has transformed into a sweet candied brown lime with cumquat and tangerine flavours, it starts to take on a slight dessert wine concept and the amazing thing is the acidity will still be vibrant and driving the finish of the wine to linger on the palate for some time.
When it comes to red wine I love Barolo from Italy, made from Nebbiolo grapes it is the ‘holy grail’ of winemaking in my eyes. Nebbiolo is intensively cultivated in South Central and North Piedmonte in the North West of Italy. It is an early budding, very late ripening variety, it has vigorous growth in the vineyard making it a high maintenance variety to grow and its very fussy about the soils it likes to grow in. It often performs best in calcareous marls such as those to the North and South of Alba on the right bank of the Tanaro River in Piedmonte.
Nebbiolo is only rivalled by Pinot Noir in its ability to express the subtleties of different terroirs (soils). It is very light in colour, turning orange with bottle age faster than most red wine varieties. To be high in both acid and tannin, and to exhibit a haunting array of expressive aromas such as tar, roses, leaf mould, dried cherries, liquorice, violets and its ability to produce age-worthy wines of great beauty makes it my most revered red wine grape. My favourite currently is the 2011 Massolino Barolo DOCG from Serralunga d’Alba!
As for everyday drinking I am loving the 2014 Blackwater ‘The Underdog’ Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch in South Africa at the moment. It is made in a way that is similar to Chablis. This 100% Chenin Blanc is harvested from selected old bush vine vineyards on the top slopes of Bottelary Hills. The fruit is destemmed and pressed, settled for 24 hours and fermented in stainless steel and concrete tanks, left on the fine lees for 6-8 months.
A wine so pure it almost feels like it should be good for you. An honest to goodness Chenin Blanc with grapefruit, bay leaf, lemon sorbet, muskmelon and sea spray freshness. So good!
What's the biggest tip you'd suggest to people for buying good wine?
If you are unsure what to buy when faced with a sea of wine labels, look for a producer that has a good track record or pedigree of producing quality wines. Read the back label of each bottle you considering and see if it tells you something about the wine in the bottle. For example “the 2008 Syrah has an intense deep ruby colour. The wine has an enticing savoury and spicy character. The palate is intense and rich with generous ripe fruit and structured, silky tannins. This wine is seductively drinkable on release but will reward patient maturation for up to ten years from vintage.” This gives you some very good information about the wine and allows you to make an educated decision on whether or not the wine is what you are looking for.
If the wine gives you a cutesy story about the cat that lived under the tractor at the winery and became affectionately known as Fluffy to the winemaking team and so on, but no factual information on the wine, winemaking techniques or vintage conditions I would pass on that wine and continue looking. Sure it has a nice story that tugs on the heartstrings, but how does it relate to the juice in the bottle, it doesn’t and therefore it kind of turns into a lucky dip situation on whether the wine is any good or not.
Finally, don’t always assume that a higher price means higher quality. Sometimes the higher scoring wines in wine shows and independent tests can be among the least expensive and there are plenty of great value wines in Australia under $20.
The best meal you've had (at a restaurant or home cooked?)
I’ve been fortunate to dine in some great restaurants around Australia and it is hard to narrow down one favourite, but recently I was treated to an excellent dining experience at Rogue Bar & Bistro in Austin St, Newstead. They had only recently updated their dinner menu and I had the Braised shoulder of beef with rosemary kipfler potatoes, pickled cabbage, rye croutons and crumbed camembert. My fiancé had the Sweet & Sour Pork Belly with barbequed pork loin, apple cider gastric, burnt pineapple sage chutney and potato bake!! Both were divine, we finished the evening by sharing two of the desserts. We ordered the Black Forest sticky rice pudding with chocolate shrubbery, frozen cherry cream and seasonal berries (you have to see this dessert, it’s plated so well you almost don’t want to eat it) and the Bubble wrap with almond chocolate and popping candy, semifreddo bubbles, matcha sponge and meringue shards.
What is the biggest misconception people make about wine?
There are several misconceptions floating around, one of the most common is people don’t like Riesling because they think it is sweet? This is because of the Moselle fad we had in the 1980’s and in most cases Riesling is dry with around 4-6gm’s of residual sugar. The human palate cannot detect anything under 4 grams and thus it is one of the driest white wine varieties on the market. Yes there are exceptions to the rule and most of those will be labelled as ‘off-dry’ or ‘medium-dry’ styles which have higher residual sugar contents and are sweeter than the everyday Riesling produced in Australia.
I wish more people in Australia weren’t afraid to buy a glass or bottle of Riesling and see how great it can be in this country!
Another common misconception is that the more expensive a wine is, the better it must be? Yes that can be very true in some cases like Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz ($650), Jim Barry The Armagh ($250) and many more but often some of the best wines can be found between $15 - $30 a bottle. The Halliday Wine Companion provides a ‘Best Value Winery’ and ‘Ten of the Best Value Wineries’ section in its guide every. Seek some of these out for great value drinking!