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Wine tasting guide – How to taste

Wine tasting guide – How to taste wine

Wine tasting is an analytical approach in assessing the appearance, smell and taste of the wine.


The best way to judge the appearance of a wine is to hold the glass by the stem on an angle against a white background.  As a general rule, lighter coloured wines will be lighter in body.  This applies to both red and white wines.   The colour can hint what grape variety it may be and also the age of the wine.  Most wines are clear but it is becoming more common to see cloudy, unfiltered wines or natural wines in the market place.  The legs or tears that form on the glass can give an indication of high levels of alcohol or sugar present in the wine.


The individual aromas from the wine make up the overall bouquet.  Before smelling the wine, give it a good swirl to ‘open it up’.  Oxygen reacts with the wine, releasing aroma and swirling also creates more surface area on the glass, amplifying the aroma.  There is no need to swirl sparkling wines as the bubbles of carbon dioxide bring the aroma to our noses.  The bouquet can give an idea of the grape variety, region and oak influence in the wine.  It is also possible to determine if there are any flaws present, such as cork taint.


The standard taste at a cellar door in the Hunter Valley is 20ml – about 3 sips.  The first sip will react with the previous wine you have had and so it is the second and third sip that give you a better indication of the wine.  Hold the wine in your mouth for about 6 to 8 seconds and roll it around to coat all corners of your mouth and tongue.  You can suck in a little air to help bring out more flavour in the wine.  Then either spit the wine out or swallow and then think about the lingering flavours that follow.  Tasting allows us to detect sweetness, acidity, bitterness and texture.

  • Don’t ruin your palate before wine tasting.  Avoid coffee, mints, chewing gum, spicy foods, garlic etc.
  • Also avoid perfumes, aftershave, smoking, lip gloss and other smells that will affect a wines delicate aroma.
  • Drink water or eat plain crackers to neutralise your palate .  Also give your palate and glass a rinse between white and reds, reds and dessert wines.
  • Take notes as you taste.


For a more detailed look at tasting wine visit Wine Folly.

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Emerson’s Seafood Paella


Located in the heart of Lovedale, Emersons Cafe and Restaurant opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Below is a classic seafood paella dish from their lunch menu.  This popular venue is a regular stop for our Gourmet Wine Tour.  Bookings are recommended – please call 0249 307 029

Seafood Paella –  Serves 4


16 green prawns
12 fresh black mussels
16 fresh cockles
3 fresh squid
1 chorizo sausage
250g short grain rice
1ltr of chicken stock
200g smoked cured pork
1 Spanish onion
1 small red capsicum
2 cloves garlic
pinch of good saffron strands
salt & pepper to taste


Clean squid and slice into rings, peel prawns and de-vein, wash cockles and de-beard mussels. In a medium paella pan or medium frying pan sauté the dice onion and crushed garlic on a medium heat. Add capsicum, chorizo, pork and sauté for another 5 minutes then add your rice, saffron and add ¼ of chicken stock. Keep adding the remaining stock and all the seafood until rice has absorbed all of the chicken stock. Season to taste and serve.

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diVine tours Shiraz – history and tasting notes

diVine tours Shiraz


Even before launching the tour company in 2006, I’ve had an interest in viticulture and winemaking. Since then, I’ve volunteered to help pick and prune in the vineyard as well as work in wineries.  As a result, an opportunity came about in 2011 to make my own wine, the diVine tours Shiraz.  New and old barriques were sourced and grapes were organised from a local grower for the following vintage.  Unfortunately, the 2012 vintage ended up being one of the wettest in recent times and the grapes never ripened.  There has been an attempt to make a Shiraz every year since.



Ready to make first wine but mother nature brought a very wet vintage to the Hunter Valley.  As a result, the grapes never ripened and a wine was not made.


The first diVine tours Shiraz was made.   A ton of Shiraz grapes was purchased from DeBortoli’s 35 year old ‘Will’s Hill’ vineyard.  The grapes were picked at 12.5 baume resulting in a lighter style of Hunter Valley Shiraz.  Open fermentation was performed in two small picking bins with hand plunging daily.  The wine was matured in both old and new French oak barriques for 10 months.  


The 2014 vintage in the Hunter Valley, has been labelled as one of the best years ever recorded.  Shiraz grapes used for this wine were sourced from the Somerset Vineyard in Pokolbin, Hunter Valley.   This iconic vineyard was planted in 1968 on volcanic clay soil over limestone.  The days following veraison saw warm days with very little rain.  This resulted in flavour filled, disease free grapes with good sugar ripeness and acidity.

A 1.5 ton parcel of Shiraz was de-stemmed, crushed and cold soaked overnight in a open stainless steel vat.  The must was inoculated with a Rhone yeast strain and the ferment was hand plunged three times daily.  Maturation followed in a combination of new and old French oak barriques for 12 months.

The 2014 diVine tours Shiraz has been made in a traditional Hunter Valley ‘Burgundian’ style.  It’s medium bodied, cherry red in colour and displays hints of blueberries, mulberries and pepper on the nose.  The palate is well rounded with smooth tannins and refreshing natural acidity providing a long finish.


Ended up being a wetter than average summer. The grapes never reached optimal ripeness and hence no wine was made.


Supposed to be a great dryer year with the strong El Nino.  Yet record amounts of rain fell and a few hail storms too.  

The future

Plans are underway to make a similar sized volume of diVine tours Shiraz in 2017.  This will be released midway through 2018 and sales will be available online as well as some restaurants and independent bottle shops.

Thank you again to Matt Burton from Gundog Estate and winemaker Nick Connaughton for their guidance and assistance in this project.

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