Saturday, May 12, 2012

Time to Thai One On

Having spent the entire day with Merlot Boy, we gave him the night off for having performed such a yeoman's job putting together our little footy adventure. Boo & I decided to just grab a quick bite of Thai to tie us over for the evening. We were staying at The Hatton - a charming, little boutique hotel - and it was in residential area that is a mere block away from the Royal Botanical Gardens and a delightful little neighbourhood corner packed with restaurants, coffee shops and local goods. It was all too convenient.

We quickly discovered another one of the joys of Australia - BYO restaurants. I know that bringing your own wine to restaurants is known all around the world - just not in Vancouver. I could get used to such a concept. Easily.

1107. 2010 S.C. Pannell - Pronto Bianco (Adelaide Hills - Australia)

One of my goals for the trip was to try a whole whack of wines that I either didn't know or that aren't readily available back home. The S.C. Pannell qualified. I'm pretty sure that I've seen the label before but I don't know that the brand is available in BC. I took a bit of a look, after the fact naturally, at the winery and found out that my choice wasn't too shabby - at least from a publicity and well-received point of view. The man behind S.C. Pannell is Stephen Pannell, a winemaker with one heckuva pedigree - International Red Winemaker of the Year at International Wine Challenge in London, winner of both the Jimmy Watson Trophy for best red wine in Australia and Max Schubert Trophy at Adelaide Wine Show for best red wine and named one of the 50 most influential contributors to the world of wine by Decanter Magazine.

Naturally, most of these plaudits are for red wines but, here, my first introduction to Pannell is white. Ah well.

Not knowing any of this when picking a wine, I grabbed the evening's bottle, just thinking it might match up with Thai food, being a blend and all. As a whole, I don't usually veer towards Aussie wines when it comes to white. If the country's reds often get pigeon-holed as "fruit bombs," I can be guilty of finding the whites to be, in general, "acidity personified." But a white made a whole lot more sense than a red and one does have to deal with what's available on the shelf.

The story on S.C. Pannell is an interesting one. The winery was only established in 2004 and its total production is around 3000 cases. That might play a part in why I'm not so familiar with it in Vancouver. It's also a virtual winery in that they own neither vineyards nor winery. They simply buy up the best fruit that's available to them - whether under contract or as a one off - and make the best wine that they can.

Stephen Pannell garnered experience as a senior winemaker at Aussie stalwart Hardy's and rounded out his knowledge working vintages in Burgundy, Bordeaux and Barolo. He's also big on trying to make wines that reflect and celebrate Australia's sense of place. Part of that effort involves a conscious avoidance of what he sees as Australia's "varietal obsession." Pannell feels that straight varietal wines are almost expected of an Aussie winemaker but his experience abroad has given him more of a desire to take the best of a varietal's characteristics and look to blend those notes with the best of other grapes.

He also sees his wines as being more "food driven." He's a force in the whole back-pedalling of over-the-top, score- and point-seeking Aussie wines. Indeed, he's even taken to the promotion of making wines to match up with foods that are grown and eaten regionally in the country. His "All For One Wine" Project promotes and urges Australians to drink nothing but Aussie wines during the month of January. He somewhat cheekily states that you're not going to see Australian wines for sale in France, Spain or Italy; so, in his opinion, why should Aussies go to such great lengths to support European wines?

Sounds like an interesting guy.

As for the Pronto, it's an interesting blend of Sauv Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris from the "cooler" Adelaide Hills district. As much as I'd hoped the wine would match up with Pad Thai and some curry spices, the wine was probably still a bit zesty with its acidity. Any hope for even a hint of residual sugar was quickly dispensed with. We weren't at any sort of a loss though. We'd already done our fair share of imbibing earlier in the day through the course of the picnic and footy game.

And, then, there was that whopping $4 corkage fee. Where the heck is BYO in Vancouver?

Maybe this wasn't the best platform for this wine but I'm not complaining. All things told, I definitely want to take the next opportunity to see what a S.C. Pannell red is like - or try the Pronto White with some local seafood or shellfish.

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