Nothing beats a beautiful piece of fish with some tangy homemade salsa for lunch with friends on a warm summer's afternoon. The beauty of this dish is that the accompaniment enhances the mild flavour of the fish without overpowering it.
I plucked my motivation and inspiration for experimenting and use alternative varieties in my range from my travels and work across Europe. Particularly, Spain and Italy.
Let's start with Tempranillo. Whilst working in Bordeaux in the late 80’s, which is a beautiful part of the world but a little restrained for a 20 something Aussie bloke, a friend suggested we head to San Sebastian for the weekend. Well restrained it isn’t! The food, the friendly people, the girls, the free poured G&T’s... oh dear, what a place. Anyway did I mention the wines? Well I had known about Rioja but that was my first immersion in all things Tempranillo. I’m not sure if it was just the wines or my fond memories of the above but that kick started a bit of a quest to play with Temp. One of my first jobs in my new consultancy business in 2002 was to do a report on Scott Hicks and Kerry Heysen-Hicks Yacca paddock vineyard, as the contracted winery was trying to lower the price for the fruit. My report was: I will buy it! The fruit looked amazing, and so, the 12 year odyssey began.
For 3 years I consulted to Wineries on the East coast of Italy, Marche, Abruzzo and Puglia where I fell in love with a few things: the amazing coastline, beautiful sleepy ancient towns, incredible food, and of course Montepulciano. Most of the vineyards I worked with had a mixture of Verdicchio, Sangiovese and Montepulciano as well as some Shiraz, Petite Verdot and Cabernet. But by far the standout variety was the Monte.
I was amazed with how resilient it was to disease, how versatile it was being grown with both modern viticulture trellis VSP etc and traditional Tandonne pergola trellis, how adaptable it was to being grown in the cooler northern parts of Marche along with the hot southern parts of Abruzzo as well as performing in rocky incredibly low vigour hillside vineyards, and also fertile high vigour river flats. In every case, I made better wine from Monte than any other variety made from the same vineyard.
Some speculate that Monte is actually the genetic parentage for Sangiovese as well as being related to Agioritiko (St George, Nemea) from Greece. But whatever you want to say about its parentage, Monte makes amazingingly structured, fleshy, exotic wines and I just had to make some in Australia. Enter Caj Amadio, who was born in Abruzzo and who keenly planted some for me on his Kersbrook Vineyard.
It was in Marche, also in Italy (see map below) that my inspiration for making a sticky Viognier heralded from. Here I was captivated by a similar style of sticky made by drying Verdicchio on racks in a shed, to then concentrate it, then crush, press and ferment in mostly new oak. The wine is delicious, and who would have thought! Verdicchio shares a couple of traits similar to Viognier: firstly it starts with V, and secondly, it is an aromatic variety which has a lot of tannin (almost as much as some red grapes). By drying the grapes you concentrate the sugar, acid and flavour, but unlike using botrytis to make a sticky, you get to keep the aromatics intact - making a crisp refreshing style of sticky.
Don't we just adore seafood, especially in summer? I know I do! Nothing beats indulging in some locally caught seafood paired with one of my crispy whites, like the Watervale Riesling. What's even better, is my Watervale Riesling infusing the seafood in this beautiful pasta dish. Give it a try on a hot summers night, paired with a glass of my 2013 Watervale Riesling.
150 g green prawns, deveined, tails intact
1/2 cup 2013 Mr. Riggs Watervale Riesling
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 x long red chilli, thinly sliced
1 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
Cook pasta until al dente.
Scrub the mussels well with a stiff brush. Discard any mussel that is open or has a broken shell.
Put them in a little water over low heat & cook just until their shells open.
Heat the oil in a large pan & add the garlic & chilli. When the garlic begins to turn colour add prawns.
Cook for 5 minutes then add the mussels and wine. Season with salt & cook for a further 5-8 minutes.
Drain the pasta & mix it with the shellfish & add the parsley. Toss until heated through & serve immediately.
Wine pairing: Mr. Riggs 2013 Watervale Riesling (RRP: $22.00) - use what's leftover after using in the recipe!
These are my absolute favourite morsels to cook on Christmas Day. Family and friends come from far and wide, and it doesn't matter how many show up, I always make sure there is plenty for everyone. Cooking for everyone is one of my most favourite things to do Christmas Day. So if you want to try something different to the same old traditional Christmas spread, give my dishes a try. Bon appetit!
Whole Smoked Salmon Trout with my homemade Mayo
- 2 egg yolks
- Olive oil
- 1 lemon
- Frenchy dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper
Using a whisk, mix and slowly add olive oil to the above ingredients until it reaches the consistency of mayonnaise. Liberally squeeze in lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste. Add a decent serving to your smoked salmon trout, served cold.
Serve with Mr. Riggs NV Battle Axe McLaren Vale Sparkling Shiraz
- 1/3 block of butter (salted)
- Fresh mussels (allow about 6 per person)
- Olive oil
- 5-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- Bunch spring onions, finely sliced
- 2 hardfuls fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 red chilli, finely chopped
- 250ml white wine, I prefer our 2014 Ein Riese Riesling
- 1 large lemon, zested
- 1 large tomato, finely chopped
- Fresh crusty bread to serve
In a large pot, soften garlic and butter on a low heat, adding the chilli. Once softened, add the white wine and mussels. Turn up the heat, and add a liberal pinch of salt and pepper. Cover. Steam for 5-10 minutes or until most of the mussels have opened. Just before serving, add the chopped tomato, parsley and lemon zest. Serve with a large loaf of crusty bread and bowls. Forget the cutlery, use the bread to soak up the sauce - delicious!
Serve with Mr. Riggs 2013 Watervale Riesling
Pork Belly with Roast Vegetable Gravy
- Approx 2kg pork belly (to feed 6)
- Fennel seeds, finely ground
- Salt and pepper
- Lemon wedges
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 4 celery sticks, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- Fresh thyme, keep intact
- White wine (preferably 2014 Ein Riese Riesling)
Preheat oven to 220-240 degrees celcius. Score 1.5cm widths across the skin of the pork belly with a sharp knife. Massage salt, pepper and fennel seeds into the cracks. In a roasting tray, place the pork belly skin side up and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the skin blisters. Turn the heat down to 180 degrees celcius and cook for one hour. Take the pork belly out of the tray and lay the chopped vegetables in it. Place the pork on top of the vegetables. Add 1cm of white wine (I prefer the Ein Riese) or enough to cover the vegetables. Add lemon wedges and thyme, and cook for another hour. When finished, remove pork belly and serve on wooden chopping board. Mix and blend the vegetables to make a gravy, adding salt and pepper to taste. If it tastes too fatty, add more wine and lemon juice to balance.
Serve with Mr. Riggs 2012 Piebald Syrah
Ahhh, the joys and stresses of Christmas. As a dad, you have to think about what to get your boys for Christmas, reminding myself what age they are (time sure has flown by); as a husband, you have to make sure your wife isn’t under too much pressure with organising what to do with the rest of the family on the day; as a passionate cook, you have to make sure your ingredients are all ready for your Christmas spread; and as a winemaker, you have to prepare yourself for the chaos of the most busy time of the year!
I love that my youngest, who is only nine years old, is still excited about Christmas. That’s what keeps it the most alive for me. Although, I do get the inkling that he knows that Santa isn’t real, but just wants to pretend he believes in it so as to keep it alive for himself. As a kid, I think that’s fair game!
I have one simple rule at Christmas: if you want to see me, come to my house. I will cook for anybody and everybody, I love cooking and being a host, but am just fed up with driving everywhere. With my sister’s health issues and of course the inevitable limitations that come with getting old (I’m talking about my parents of course!), it’s just easier if everyone comes to us for my Christmas feast.
I’m excited about the We’ve Got Christmas Covered six-pack I’ve released, they’re some of my most favourite wines for Christmas because they just go perfectly with some of my favourite Christmas foods. The Battle Axe is a wonderful Christmas wine – good to drink before, during, and after.
With Christmas comes the warmer weather – I just love waking up to a warm morning, and walks down the beach. I do miss being able to do this with my old dog Ernie, as Dora (one of my current dogs), is petrified of the water. Then again, she’s scared of everything!
I am looking forward to Christmas, being only a month away now, but am also slightly pressured by the thought of everything I know to come hand in hand with it. I’m sure you’re in the same boat too! Alas, I hope your Christmas preparations are starting to come together well.
This recipe is perfect for spring. Lamb is typically associated with spring, as well as yummy vegetables such as asparagus. The beauty of this dish is that it slow cooks in a Dutch oven for a while, so you can kick back and enjoy a nice glass of wine and soak up the warm spring sun!
1 ½ tablespoons salted butter
2 large onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1-1.5kg boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 3cm pieces
3 cups 2013 Mr. Riggs Ein Riese Riesling (enough in the bottle so that there’s a little left to drink while you cook!)
1 teaspoon rock salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
2 bunches fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut in halves
4 small red potatoes, halved
2 turnips, peeled and cut into 2.5cm pieces
6 carrots, peeled and cut into 2.5cm pieces
Salt and pepper
2 cups cous cous
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups water
3 tablespoons salted butter
1. Melt butter in a Dutch oven/large casserole dish over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan and sauté for 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Spoon onion mixture into a large bowl. Add half of the prepared lamb to the pan and sauté for 4 minutes or until browned. Remove from pan, and add to onion mixture. Repeat this with the remaining lamb.
2. Add the wine to the pan and scrape to loosen the browned bits stuck to the pan. Return lamb mixture to the pan, add salt and pepper. Combine oregano, parsley and rosemary. Add half of this herb mixture to the pan and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 1 ½ hours or until lamb is tender.
3. Meanwhile, grease an oven pan with olive oil and roast vegetables for 40 minutes or until slightly caramelised.
4. To make cous cous, bring the water and olive oil to the boil in a saucepan. Take off the head and add the cous cous. Cover and let stand for 3 minutes. Separate grains with a fork and stir through the butter.
5. Once the lamb is tender, add asparagus to pan and cook for 5 minutes or until slightly tender. Stir in remaining herb mixture.
6. Serve lamb on a bed of cous cous with the roasted vegetables.
Wine pairing: Mr. Riggs NV Battle Axe McLaren Vale Sparkling Shiraz (RRP: $24) or Mr. Riggs Piebald Syrah (RRP: $27)
For those of you unaware, there are typically four different styles of Riesling: traditional dry citrusy Australian, rich ripe slightly oily Alsatian, fine tangy low alcohol German, as well as the sweeter German-style.
In my range, I offer two Rieslings quite distinct from one another. Firstly, we have the Watervale Riesling, a traditional Australian dry style grown in the Clare Valley. Clare Valley Riesling is one of the leaders of the world’s Riesling collection; my preference being for the Watervale subregion which produces fuller richer Aussie styles. This wine is more about the richness of the grape with lovely floral fruit. So go ahead, sip on this perky little number and be dazzled by its lifted citrus persuasions balanced by full fruit sweetness.
Secondly, I offer you the Ein Riese Riesling, a German off-dry style which was my first introduction to Riesling. My parents tended to drink this style, and its actually the first I ever tried and what started my love affair with wine. After years of bemoaning the loss of this style, I decided in 2004 to give it a go myself and was one of only three producers in Australia (that I could find) to make it.
After years of damage control by telling everyone that “Riesling is dry”, when the industry tried hard to kill off Riesling by calling generic sweet wine Riesling (even though not a grape of Riesling went near the cheap sweet cask and flagons), I decided to swim against the tide and release a Mr. Riggs German Style Riesling in all of its inspiring awe. My staff christened this wine the ‘Ein Riese’ (German word for “Giant”), partly due to my stature and also because I truly believe that it is one of the superior figures amongst all other wine styles.
The Ein Riese is delicate and floral on the nose, but take a sip and be transported to your happy place – the mix of sweetness and tang with a superb length of flavour slips down easily and ends with a bright, crunchy finish. It’s possibly one of my favourite creations. Pair it with spicy food, as an aperitif (or hold on and use it in our November recipe from In the Kitchen with Mr. Riggs Monday 24th November).
Give my Riesling’s a try, I know you will love them and they are absolutely perfect for this warmer weather. King of the Grapes.
Mr. Riggs is proud to announce we’ve hit the $100,000 mark with our donations to the Flinders Medical Centre Foundation. Cheers all round – who wouldn’t celebrate all efforts to help our scientists find a cure for cancer?
Mr. Riggs has been a long-standing supporter of this foundation, and in October we hope that we can donate even more, with your assistance.
For every dozen of The Gaffer Shiraz sold during the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Mr. Riggs will donate the proceeds of one bottle to the Flinders Medical Centre Foundation.
We are so proud of The Gaffer – this top drop has enabled us to contribute to the foundation, wearing its flashy PINK cap for a decade.
So get behind this great cause and enjoy a glass of one of McLaren Vale's finest.
Thank you for your support,
Ben (Mr.) Riggs
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