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News from Mount Terrible

Vertical Tasting

I was consolidating pallets in the cellar the other week when I came across 12 cases of my first vintage, the 06, that weren’t supposed to be there. I thought I had only museum stock left. Naturally, I opened a bottle. I was very pleased with it. So I got an empty box, put a bottle of the 06 in it and arranged beside it one each of my best vintages. I took another sip of the 06.

                                 I surveyed all that I had wrought. And, behold, it was very good.

So, in quest of le gout du terroir, I’ve decided to put together a few ‘Vertical’ cases. The cost will be $240 per half (X6) case.

Vertical Tasting – in contradistinction to Horizontal Tasting if you happen to be lying down – means same varietal, same vineyard, different years. It gives you the chance to see common features (imparted by the terroir, as the French have been saying since they came up with the concept in the 1920s) while simultaneously appreciating how each vintage is distinctive. It also shows how the wines evolve in the bottle, getting more complex and nuanced, and also less tannic, as they age.

You knew all that, didn’t you? And terroir, you know about that too? Ah, terroir, ow I adore the orotund French rs. You can roll the word your mouth like – case in point, like a glass of 06. Let’s not get pedantic about what it actually means. Sounds good, that’s the main thing. A signature style brought forth by the mystical union of the minerals in the soil and the winemaker’s art, how about that?

It is a truism that every vineyard and the wine it produces are unique. But do I really believe you can taste in a wine the inherent qualities of the soil? Perhaps even the culture and the passion of those who made it? When I use it at all I prefer to confine the word terroir to a collective term for the environmental givens: rainfall, temperature, hours of sunlight, soil chemistry, drainage, the geographical location and slope and aspect of the vineyard. I draw a distinction between natural factors and things like canopy management, yield reduction, spray regimes and above all winemaking practices which are under my control. But strictly speaking a lot of what one tends to think of as immutable components of terroir can actually be modified.

When I started the site of my vineyard was a Wellington-sucking swamp. But the location was terrific. It took something over 40 tonnes of dolomite and a lot of earth-moving to make it fit to grow vines. I have put in drip irrigation to cope with long dry summers. If I could afford it, I’d install frost protection fans. In short, I have seriously mucked around with my terroir. And I take full responsibility.

You’ve had The Bible; this is James May: terroir (French) = (English) cobblers.

The 2015 Vintage

was the culmination of a very good season. A wet winter ushered in a mild spring with below average rainfall. Generally dry conditions persisted throughout the summer, but without the killingly hot days that shut down vine metabolism. There was little disease pressure and the grapes ripened steadily. We picked 5 tonnes in the second week in March and another tonne and a half a week later. All the fruit was in excellent condition; for some reason this year we completely escaped the attentions of our feathered friends and Grant McRostie’s war on wasp nests delayed their annual population explosion until after the vintage was safely in.

Bad Language

We went to a famous restaurant recently. $350 a head degustation with matched wines. Appalling extravagance, but a friend knew the owner (which was how we got the booking) and they had a winelist it would’ve been nice to get on, so I put it down as market research. The dishes we were given varied, in my entirely personal opinion, from the sublime (the majority) to the slightly-too-out-there-for-their-own-good. But I liked that. It’s how it ought to be if you’re a chef bent on pushing the boundaries.

The waiters and waitresses were charming and attentive, but the one less than pleasing feature of the evening was them coming up to the table and reeling off a carefully memorised pretentious description of each thing we were about to eat just before we ate it. There were fifteen menu items; for each spiel we felt obliged to stop talking and feign interest and nod politely. Several of my best funny stories got fatally interrupted. If I were more forthright and assertive I might have said something, but it was their job and the staff were so nice I couldn’t bring myself to be discourteous. But after the bottle of champagne we started with and the seven wines the dishes were matched with my attention began to wander …

Cue hovering waiter:

“A petit pate of finely diced, delicately seasoned, char-grilled prime Angus steak, nestling atop a fresh-baked bun crafted from superfine boltered flour and sprinkled with hand-polished, roasted sesame seeds, enwrapped with 100% dairy Illinois farm cheese, overshadowed with selected, market-foraged iceberg lettuce leaves, slices of vine-ripened, locally harvested tomato, deconstructed onion and medallions of dill pickle, drizzled with a swirl of Dijon mustard and a coulis of spiced, acidulated heritage tomatoes. Temptingly accompanied by to-die-for triple-fried batons of Maris Piper potato.

And to follow, a sweet reduction of Ambrosia apples hand-picked in Washington by native Americans, lovingly enrobed in a beignet of crisp pastry topped off with a kiss of locally-sourced, organic triple cream.


And to go with it, what could beat an amusing little Rose?

Roman Feast

Hey! Hey! (or if we’re striving after authenticity: Ohe! Ohe! or Eia! Eia! or possibly even Age! Age! ): as part of the 2015 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival we staged our first Roman Feast Among the Vines at Mount Terrible last February.

30 guests, 30 different dishes. Ben Davies, Mel Crow, Janene and I over-catered somewhat, from an as-it-turned-out unfounded anxiety that people would go Foedus! when served Snails in fish sauce, Oysters with lovage and honey or Liver Oxyrhynchus. So we tried to cover our clunes (go check Google Translate)  by making sure there was plenty of Roast Sucking Pig a la Vitellius and Chicken a la Fronto to keep the less adventurous happy. We needn’t have worried. Everybody liked everything. Check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YF0t9nzRL5Y&feature=youtu.be


If we’ve piqued your interest, Ben and I are planning another Roman Org – Feast, Banquet, what am I thinking of? – in a couple of months. Drop us an email if you think you might want to be there.

Or if you fancy experimenting with a little Ancient Roman cookery at home, the following 2,000 year old recipe for Duck with turnips from De Re Coquinaria by Marcus Apicius is a good place to start:

Apicius vi 2 iii

Anatem ex rapis: lavas, ornas et in olla elixabis cum aqua, sale et anetho dimidia coctura. rapas coque, ut exbromari possint. Levabis de olla, et iterum lavabis, et in caccabum mittis anatem cum oleo et liquamine et fasciculo porri et coriandri. Rapam lotam et minutatim concisam desuper mittis, Facies ut coquatur. Modica coctura mittis defritum ut coloret, ius tale parabis: piper, cuminum, coiandrum, laseris radicem, suffundis acetum et ius de suo sibi, reexananies super anatem ut ferveat. Cum ferbuerit, amulo obligabis, et super rapas adicies. Piper aspargis et adponis…

Which means:

Duck with Turnips. Wash and truss the bird and boil it in a large saucepan with water, salt, dill until half done. Cook the turnips so they lose their pungency. Remove the duck from the pan, wash again, and put into another saucepan with oil, liquamen and a bouquet of leek and coriander. Put over it one washed and finely chopped (raw) turnip and braise. When it has been cooking for a while add defrutum to give it colour. Then prepare the following sauce: pepper, cumin, coriander, asafoetida root, add vinegar, and some of the cooking liquor; pour over the duck and bring to the boil. When it boils thicken with cornflour, and add to the turnips. Sprinkle with pepper and serve.

If you want to give this a go, there’s a couple of things you need to know:

1)    Weird Ingredients: Liquamen is Thai Fish Sauce, more or less.

Defrutum is unfermented grape juice boiled down by three quarters so that it becomes a thick sweet syrup. You can do this yourself with supermarket grape juice or buy an (immeasurably superior) version made from fresh winegrapes from us.

Asafoetida (aka Devil’s Dung) is a yellow powder that smells like decomposing cabbage with an arriere-gout of septic tank. Not everyone exposed to the uncooked spice feels as strongly as I do about it – some people actually seem to quite like disgusting smells – but for me ‘foetida’ constitutes a serious understatement. In the early days whenever a recipe called for the stuff I simply forgot to remember to add it, and so it continued until an Indian friend explained that cooking, specifically frying in oil, transforms the putrid stench into an agreeable garlicky-onion aroma. And that’s exactly how it is: so if you plan to use Asafoetida, take a tip from me and FRY IT FIRST.

2)    There aren’t any quantities. There almost never are with Roman recipes. This is what I think works:

Parboil the turnips for 8 minutes (less if they’re baby turnips), then add them to the pan with the duck, part way through the roasting process. Baste generously with defrutum.

Boil duck with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp chopped dill for 50 minutes, remove duck from saucepan, reserve 250 ml of duck stock.

Put bouquet of leek and fresh coriander inside duck body cavity. Baste with defrutum. Roast duck in hot (250 deg C) oven for about 40 mins, basting frequently with approximately 4 TBsp of defrutum.

Make sauce by combining ¼ tsp black pepper, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, pinch of (fried) asafoetida, 1 TBsp of red wine vinegar, 250 ml duck stock, thickened with cornflour mixed with water.

For more information on how to address the peculiarities of Ancient Roman cooking, you might like to visit www.vinumvetustum.com.au

 

The Emperor would like to have You for Dinner

Stop Press.

As part of the 2015 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, we will be hosting a Roman Feast with authentic  2,000 year old Roman recipes accompanied by wines made from the oldest Italian grape varieties and some startling ancient vermouths. The event will take place on Saturday Feb 28 in the vineyard by the side of the Jamieson River.

If you’re up for a bit of adventurous dining, please get in touch via the Contact Us Page. The cost will be around $120 per person and places are limited to 20. Local accommodation can be arranged if you wish.

The 2014 Vintage

 

In spring 2013 a series of late frosts burnt newly-burst buds in many parts of the state. We escaped that. Bud-burst here is later than almost anywhere.

There was a cold snap around the time of flowering. Missed that too, for a comparable reason.

From December to March, no rain fell. We have a 2 MegaLitre irrigation allowance and we used every drop.

Summer was hot and wasp numbers started increasing ominously in early January – until my friend Grant McRostie found and destroyed three huge nests in the side of a nearby creek.

There were major bushfires in Gippsland and the Grampians and elsewhere, but, amazingly, not a single one in our district over the summer.

In a lot of Victorian vineyards yields were down by as much as 75%. Ours was slightly above normal. The grapes were looking embarrassingly good.

March 15, picking day, was cool with rain threatening. We got the last of 4.5 tonnes of grapes in just as the heavens opened.

So it came as no surprise when we had our first stuck ferment in twenty years. I just knew The Big Guy was lulling me into a false sense of security. I did the things you’re supposed to do, but at only 1% residual sugar, I wasn’t exactly optimistic. But it all worked perfectly and the wine’s beautiful. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I take back all those things I said about Your caprice, malice, arbitrariness and depressing lack of taste.

The Chook

Though the lyrebird whose call used to enliven my working day has gone to his eternal reward, he is not forgotten. Craig Eury cut this memorial of him out of steel plate.

The Chook may not be quite as imposing as the fifteen foot eagle Craig made to mark the city limits of Forrest (pop. 18) in Western Australia, when he was marooned there in the floods in 2011, but we’re rather proud of it.

The 2013 Vintage

The 2013 vintage went well – by comparison with the 2011 (rain!) and 2012 (wasps!@**#!!!) very well. We picked on March 16th under perfect conditions at a Baume of 14 degrees. There had been a few days of light smoke haze in late January, but in pre-harvest cold-soaked samples, guiacols were undetectable. The grapes were cooled to 4 degrees C. before crushing, 20% whole bunches and 5% toasted stems were added, and the must was held below 10 degrees C. for five days, before active initiation of fermentation. The wine has been maturing in 50% new oak for 17 months and will shortly be bottled.

It is anticipated this wine will be released for sale in January 2016, but in a new departure for our winery, it may also be purchased en primeur at $396 per case.

 

Mission Statement.

The reasons are too complex to go into here, but it is widely accepted all businesses today must have a Mission Statement. For far too long, we at Mount Terrible have been stumbling along without such guidance. It would have been nice to engage an expert to write it for us, but Marketing Mavens don’t come cheap, so taking other people’s Mission Statements as our model we offer here a modest example of our own. If we have not quite caught the tone of boastful self-congratulation veiled with difficult words of doubtful meaning compressed into a single sentence with no punctuation, please indulge a work in progress.

Mount Terrible: Hot-wired for Excellence

Interfacing with increasingly discontinuous environmental challenges we at Mount Terrible are deeply committed to context-sensitive vintage operations designed to deliver viticultural and vinificatory outcomes in agreeance with our asset footprint. We dedicate ourselves to accountable stewardship of the purity of our terroir, implementing world’s best practice initiatives benchmarked upon respect for our vines’ vegetative functionality while never resiling from the core principle of empowering yeast self-actualisation by the employment of cutting edge analytic tools to secure a holistic fermentation scenario. Our vibrant yet transparent wines deliver flexible and focused organoleptic outcomes which are a testament to our culture of continuous not-drinking-before-lunchtime.

Sheers,

John Eason
Farm labourer and CEO, Mount Terrible Wines

Cowardly Attack on our Security Staff

It is with sadness we report a vicious and unprovoked attack on a loyal and long-serving member of the Mount Terrible security staff.

 

The severity of his injuries has so far prevented C P, or Fatty as he is affectionately known, from giving a description of his assailant, who is thought to be small and black with beady yellow eyes.

(Artists’ Impression of the Assailant)