A down under toast

Bernadette Fideli

William Sokolin, the world’s most foremost expert on wine investing, once was asked, “What is the definition of a good wine.” “It should start and end with a smile,” was his reply. There were plenty of smiles at Charlie and Cherie Snowden’s home as the Wine Stewards celebrated the end of summer and the wines of Australia. Members were assigned either red or white wines to bring, along with a short discourse on their selection.

Charlie opened the evening with an overview on wine production in the Land Down Under. The Australian wine industry is the fourth largest exporter of wine in the world. Major grape varieties are Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Riesling. The country has no native grapes, and vines were introduced from Europe and South Africa in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Australia’s most famous wine is Penfolds Grange. The great 1955 vintage was submitted to competition in 1962, and over the years has won more than 50 gold medals. The 1971 vintage won first prize in Syrah/Shiraz at the Wine Olympics in Paris. On an interesting note, although Syrah was originally called Shiraz in Australia and Syrah elsewhere, its dramatic commercial success has led many Syrah producers around the world to label their wine ‘Shiraz.’ Wine Spectator rated the 1998 vintage 99 points out of 100, and the influential wine critic Robert Parker acknowledged that Grange “is the world’s most exotic and concentrated wine.”

Among the many appetizers served such as shrimp molds and glazed meatballs, were Anzac Biscuits. Brenda McKenzie made these sweet biscuits popular in Australia and New Zealand using rolled oats, coconut, sugar, butter and golden syrup. The recipe dates from World War I when mothers and wives became concerned that their sons were not eating well. The ingredients lent themselves to shipping well without spoiling and gave the soldiers and sailors a taste of home on the front lines. Today April 25 is Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand and is a national day of remembrance that commemorates all the Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. History and sweets savored between sips of wine—what better way to end a summer evening.