Where’s the best Chinese restaurant in Melbourne? Serious question.
I’m hankering for dumplings, mapo tofu, hot and sour soup and coral trout; everything steamy and spicy, rich with soy and fragrant with spring onion and chilli.
In Melbourne, opinion in wine circles is divided between Supper Inn and Ling Nan*. Both are in Chinatown, open late and offer BYO. I rate both but I’m expecting some suggestions and heavy debate. Have at it.
Last year I was gearing up to go to Yum-Cha with the good folks at Shaw + Smith. Each year they duck around the country, lining up their newly-released wines for industry people alongside the best Asian-inspired flavours. Past venues have included Sydney’s Mr. Wong, and Melbourne’s Supernormal and Spice Temple.
The story by now is pretty much part of Aussie wine lore. In 1989 a couple of cousins, Martin Shaw and Michael Hill-Smith MW set about making the best wine they could out of fruit from the Adelaide Hills. 30 years on they’re still at it, now with two vineyards (Balhannah and Lenswood – 55 hectares in total), a stately cellar door plus a couple of satellite labels (The Other Wine Co., Tolpuddle). Their aim? To continue ‘to make better and better wine’.
The Yum-Cha tradition has been going for over twenty years (no one seems to remember when precisely it began) and is the one trade-tasting event that no one wants to miss.
But this year the Yum-Chas were cancelled. (There was a reason…Global something or other, I forget.)
Every year of attendance I’ve done a little write up of the wines served, and whilst I’m missing the company I’ll be damned if I’m not going to put my thoughts to paper. You may take my Yum-Cha, but you won’t take my freedom!
Shaw + Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Adelaide Hills ($29)
Is this the best thing to come out of 2020? Sun-kissed fruits, mango and guava on the nose with gooseberry, green apple and grapefruit sorbet, this is one marvelously aromatic wine. The palate is fresh but with enough texture and grip to support some richer stone fruit and give it outstanding length, tangy acidity and a savoury finish.
Shaw + Smith M3 Chardonnay 2019, Adelaide Hills ($49)
A difficult growing season left winemakers with small yielding vines but the fruit that came in was exceptional. Whole bunch pressed, lees maturation and French oak mean the M3 is a chardonnay made to go the distance, but it’s sure drinking mighty well right now. Almond butter, toasted walnut, mandarin and ripe peach on the pungent nose suggest power, a suspicion confirmed when you drink it. Acid is front -focused, bleeding down the tongue in balanced lines of peach and nectarine flesh whilst creamy, honeyed textures make themselves snug on the sides of the palate. A wine of great potency and precision.
Shaw + Smith Shiraz 2018, Adelaide Hills ($49)
Violets, crushed peppercorn husk and blue fruits casually waft from the glass; no one’s in a hurry here. There’s an easy sweep of tannin and sweeter, darker fruits, almost creamy in its course down the tongue, leaving traces of prickling sweet spice in its wake. The wine is giving, concentrated and bountiful, but not too serious. It sits there, balanced, chilled out, relaxed – perhaps just what we need in a year of otherwise nervous energy.
Tolpuddle Vineyard Chardonnay 2019, Coal River Valley ($84)
A little bonus for you, just like when your order three pieces of Xiao Long Bao but they bring out four.
Shaw + Smith took control of the site, planted exclusively to pinot noir and chardonnay, in Tassie’s South East in 2011 and have since then been turning out some pretty phenomenal wine. Under vineyard manager Carlos Souris the team continue to make astounding progressions in soil and vine health.
I’ve seen most of the previous releases of the Tolpuddle chardonnay – this may be the best yet.
The oak is there but it’s pretty and fresh and ready to go – think multigrain toast slapped with soft butter. The nose shows mandarin spray, lime peel, lemongrass and tangerine with some richer apricot and white peach emboldening it. Crystals of minerals and pure fruit oils seems to form on the palate before melting into this invigorating, alive acidity. It’s generous and lengthy but with a delicacy of touch. Like drinking the morning sunlight on seawater.
Regrettably, the pinot-noir was slightly affected by smoke taint in 2019, leaving the chardonnay to fly solo. Still, Tolpuddle is one of the country’s great vineyards, with an easy north-easterly slope which I’ve heard described as ‘Burgundian’, a moniker I can’t abide. I prefer to call it ‘Tasmanian’.
*Sadly, due to the ongoing restrictions, Ling Nan was forced to permanently close.