7 Apr 2013

New site

If you have found your way here via another site, welcome! This blog was created as a chronicle of my 16 month trip around the world back in September of 2011. I have returned home to Melbourne and am continuing to write about a great many things vinuous, but have started a new site which you can find here.

Don't worry, I have transferred the entire library across and it will now be much easier to find different articles and tasting notes from one site. If you have been a follower for some time, many thanks for joining me and I look forward to welcoming you on the new site. Don't hesitate to contact me and ask me about anything, and of course comment and follow as often as possible.

Best regards,
James Scarcebrook
The Intrepid Wino

25 Mar 2013

Where's the beef?

Being an Australian wine traveller gets you in a lot of doors around the world. For one thing Australians have been loved as travellers a long time as they tend to be open-minded, fun, aware and generally up for a good time. I'm concerned that this positive image is starting to lose its sheen but that's another topic. As one of the world's major producers and the largest exporter outside of Europe you would struggle to find anyone in the global wine industry that isn't aware that Australia makes wine.

In fact most are aware of the meteoric rise of Australian wine in the '90s in Europe and North America thanks to the strong marketing and communications of varietal labelling. Not to mention the major strides made in large-scale commercial production reducing costs whilst making clean fruit-driven wines. Australia became the number one country imported into the United Kingdom and in many cases second only to Italy or France. It's brands seemed indestructible.

Undoubtedly with a certain amount of glee the rest of the world has watched Australian wine fall from grace over the past five or more years. Numerous experts both within Australia and without have looked at figures and attempted to explain this incredible reversal of fortune. Having made some of the most important advances along with the United States in the '70s and '80s, Australia has seen other wine-producing countries in South America, Europe and Africa beat them at their own game in terms of value/quality and cost.

15 Mar 2013

Mornington Peninsula - 10/3/2013

When I was young my grandparents owned a holiday house that our family made use of at least twice a year, particularly during summer. The house was pretty old, the beds weren't very comfortable and worst of all there was no television. In spite of this I always looked forward to holidays there. The house was in Rye on the Mornington Peninsula between Rosebud and Sorrento, and I have fond memories of beaching, fish & chips and the summer carnival. They sold the house when I was in my early teens and suddenly there was a hole in my heart where those experiences used to be. Once I became interested in wine that hole was filled in a different way when I discovered it as a wine region. Over the years I was introduced to many other wines and regions in Australia, especially in the Yarra Valley where I worked for quite a while, but Mornington always remained my favourite region in Australia. So it seems fitting that the first region I visited since my return was to the Mornington Peninsula.

At Main Ridge Estate, my favourite producer in the world

7 Mar 2013

Felton Road

Back in 2011 not long before I left for my trip I attended a media lunch at Vue de Monde with Blair Walter from Felton Road, by accident. I should have been there the day before at the trade lunch but got mixed up, and somehow was able to stay with the illustrious likes of James Halliday, Jane Faulkner, Jeni Port, Dan Sims, Ben Edwards, Matt Skinner and a number of other Melbourne-based journalists and educators. Feeling very guilty and intimidated I then had the fortune of sitting next to Blair himself for the tasting of the entire range of new releases and then the insane lunch prepared by the Vue staff on the hundred-and-whatever floor of the Eureka Building. Over the many courses we were all regaled by tales from the god of Australian Wine James Halliday working the classic 1983 vintage in Burgundy, which not only put me further in awe of his legacy but also look forward to my trip in the hopes I would have even half the experience. That surreal afternoon will stay with me and created quite the connection with Felton Road wines. This week I had the chance to catch up with Blair again as he was in town for the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, and taste a few of the wines.

Blair Walter

Interview with Jacopo Cossater

Jacopo Cossater is a very prominent wine blogger in Italy based in Perugia. Amongst the many publications he contributes is the website Intravino.com, one of the most important and most visited wine-related websites in the country. Shortly I will be writing a piece about Jacopo and how we crossed paths as I think he is one of the most singular and fascinating people I met on my trip, not to mention incredibly generous and humble. He showed particular interest the unique nature of the journey I took, and my overall impressions of Italian wine, and so he interviewed me for the Intravino website. Google Translate doesn't really do it justice so here is the original English version.

Jacopo Cossater in action

5 Mar 2013

Luciano Sandrone

One of the things I want to write in summarising my trip is to talk about some of the amazing people I met who imparted some of their wisdom and experience in wine and life. I am still in the process of looking back upon my blog archive which is taking me a lot longer than it should. But as it happens one of the people I intended to write about is making his first ever visit to Australia and I was lucky enough to be invited to a masterclass showing his wines here in Melbourne by the importer Bibendum Wines. This man is Luciano Sandrone, and after introducing him I will talk about why he had such an effect upon me.

Luciano Sandrone and myself when I visited in April 2012

21 Feb 2013


It's an odd feeling looking back on a sixteen-month trip and trying to remember the places and experiences. Of course the further back I go the blurrier it tends to be, but there are still very clear and strong memories right from the beginning. I also have the benefit of a chronicle to refer to, which I am now in the process of doing. With roughly 200 entries to read through that's likely to take me a while, and so I'm going to ask you to be patient as I'm also trying to organise my life and try and find sources of income.

Petaluma Riesling 1998

14 Feb 2013

Return to Oz

A few days ago I stepped onto Australian soil for the first time in 500 days. It is a pretty surreal experience returning home after having been on the move for so long, and seeing so many amazing and different countries. Firstly there is the fact that I have returned from sub-zero and icy temperatures in South Korea to warm and dry 30+ temperatures in Melbourne, and I can actually walk around in shorts and T-shirts like a proper Australian. I am also experiencing a kind of reverse culture-shock, as I had got so used to being in foreign and fascinating cultures and being somewhat out of my element. It probably doesn't make sense to feel so out of place in my own home town.

I stopped in Seoul on the way home to visit a friend
The last seven months of my trip didn't involve a lot of wine travel, with the exception of four weeks in France, a few visits in Italy and the vintage in Germany. For this reason I am concerned that I am getting a bit rusty, so I'm keen to get back into the swing of things here in Melbourne. The problem is that I'm yet to be gainfully employed, and therefore unlikely to be invited to any trade-related activities such as tastings. Having said that, my immediate plans are to start visiting more Australian wineries and continue writing about them here on the blog. An important realisation came upon me as I travelled that I have visited barely any of the many and varied regions in Australia, and only one in Marlborough, and thus have little first-hand experience with them apart from reading talking and of course tasting. I am excited for any readers who visit this blog to learn a bit more about the great quality and diversity of Australian and New Zealand wine, particularly those not residing in either of those countries who don't know a lot beyond shiraz.

The food in Korea was the deserved highlight
Now that I am back I am trying to collect all my thoughts and experiences from my blog, and periodically I will be summarising various things, including some of my favourite people, regions and wines. I am always looking for discussions and feedback about what I write, and I encourage people to make their voices heard. I am always hoping to learn new things about wine and admit that it is impossible to know enough about wine. I also wanted to let people know that I am thinking of attempting a book about my trip, and am open to suggestions or encouragement (or discouragement) in this endeavour. It's a little bit up in the air for me at the moment as I am still trying to find my feet, but I'll keep you posted on any developments. Thanks again for taking the time to visit my blog, I have had an amazing journey and owe a lot to the people who helped me a long the way, particularly all the wonderful wineries I visited.

The last six weeks of my time in Europe were spent in Italy with my amazing parents

20 Jan 2013

Not what you think (Avellino, Italy)

One of the many things I've learnt on my journey has been to not make assumptions about things, wine or otherwise, the best thing is not listen to white noise or demons and angels on shoulders. This is one major reason I prefer to ignore a lot of wine critics and marketing hype as they can tend to cloud my judgement and enjoyment of things, in essence by not reading ‘professional’ assessment of wines or wineries, nor by reading much on wineries’ websites. What I have preferred to do is to visit a winery and establish my own impression and feel for the philosophy, approach and practices and then determine what I feel is important and good about the winery whilst avoiding the negative and generally unimportant things. A perfect example of an assumption I made was about the region of Campania, which I didn’t have the chance to visit when I was here previously, simply passing through from Puglia on the way to Sicilia when I stopped for a night in Napoli before boarding the ferry to Palermo. Not unlike every other region in Italy Campania has it’s own wine history, traditions, grape varieties and styles which it is deservedly proud of, but I was very wrong in my generalisation of this region as being warm and Mediterranean like much of southern-Europe. In fact it has a more continental climate thanks to the elevations and weather patterns provided by the mountains so close to the coast. On the only occasion that I had to visit wineries in Campania I chose to do so in Avellino which according to Jacopo Cossater is where some of the best white wines of the south come from, and I met with the two largest and most important representatives of the entire Campania region; Feudi di San Gregorio and Mastroberardino.

A model of the only thing to survive the 1980 earthquake in a nearby village, the abbey

15 Jan 2013

Polarising (Umbria, Italy - Day Three)

I have had the pleasure of meeting a great many people who work in wine over the course of my journey who have all imparted wisdom to me, and I hope that I have given some small amount in return as this is the essence of wine communication, that in travels in two directions. Most of the people have been hosts at wineries that I have visited, but a few of them I either met also visiting wineries or simply in unconnected situations, like a woman who consults business strategy and communication to small wineries in Italy whilst having lunch in Beaune, France. Someone I met whilst in Sicily was a wine journalist and blogger originally from Verona but now living with his recently married wife in Perugia. At the time he was making a much smaller version of my own journey in the south of Italy, including Campania, Calabria, Molise and Abruzzo. His name is Jacopo Cossater and he not only contributes to the most important wine magazine in Italy and the most visited wine website in Italy, but he also regularly writes on his own site enoicheillusioni. We met whilst visiting one of my favourite winemakers in Italy, Arianna Occhipinti, and shared some discussions over several meals whilst in Sicily. I was thrilled to catch up over dinner with Jacopo and his lovely wife Laura with my parents when we visited Perugia, and even more so when he invited me to visit a few of his favourite producers around Perugia in Montefalco and Spoleto. Regretfully I forgot to bring my camera so the images in this post have been taken with many thanks from the websites of the producers in question.

Vines are only outnumbered by olive trees here

10 Jan 2013

Continuing traditions (Soave, Italy)

Due to a few inconveniences both good and bad I lost at least seven days of potential visits whilst I was in Italy. Some of these interruptions were for holidays, including Easter which I spent with wonderful family friends in Milano, and who my parents and I also spent Christmas with last week. Other inconveniences were due either to the inability to find wineries thanks to inaccurate directions or addresses, or to wineries not replying to my emails. A final inconvenience was Vinitaly held in Verona, which was a fascinating insight into the world of trade shows but not a particularly good way to learn about wines and regions as not only are you simply tasting wines in a convention centre but the hosts are also extremely distracted with countless other things and therefore not able to give the best introduction to their winery. Whilst I was in Verona I did manage to visit a few producers in Valpolicella which is to the north of the city extending from the east to the west, but there are a number of other areas in Veneto that were left unexplored, including the highest volume DOCG, Prosecco. I had the chance to join a group from Australia for dinner in Verona at the invitation of their Soave producer, and being familiar with their quality I was thrilled to have the chance to take my parents there on my return.

The castle sits overlooking the village of Soave