Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Melbourne Wine Afternoon

I love visiting Melbourne.  Not sure I could live there as I am a 'cold frog', but I definitely enjoy every visit I have to this vibrant cultural hub.  Although this particular trip was primarily for a weekend conference with little free time, I did manage to make the most of my one free afternoon to check out a few wine bars with a good friend of mine (luckily she drinks wine).

Having limited knowledge of the 'go-to' places and being even further limited by the fact that it was a Sunday afternoon (some places on my to-do list were closed), we managed to wing our way pretty well.  Our first stop was Campari House on Hardware Lane in the CBD. It was miserable, drizzly weather on this particular afternoon, so we were definitely keen for some comforting Italian-inspired fare, making Campari House a welcoming option.  

St Hubert's Chardonnay was a nice surprise, as I was not sure of the wine's origin, it being the blackboard special of the day.  Turns out it is a highly rated Yarra Valley specimen.    The wine was elegant enough and ballsy enough at the same time, displaying complex oak aromas to complement fruit flavours of crisp nashi pear. 

We were sitting on outside benches and cooling down slightly, so the next choice was a Tuscan Sangiovese which we enjoyed with chicken liver pate and califlower/gorgonzola croquettas.  Definitely a food wine, it was lovely and savoury.  In a past life I would have avoided this choice and called it 'watery', but thanks partly to my friend Jody being partial to a lighter red style and also to the fact that I think I am developing a much broader appreciation of wine styles, it came off a treat.


Our next destination was a bit of an unknown.  I had noticed a cute little wine bar just around the corner from the hotel at which I had been conferencing, so we headed to Bourke Street to check it out.  The facade is so tiny, it is very easy to miss Ombra Salumi Bar.  On entering, I was interested to learn the difference between 'salumi' and 'salami' from an excerpt on their rustic wall.  Salumi refers to salted and dry-cured meats, whilst salami is a sub-set of salumi, being a cured sausage made from ground pork.  In saying that, both are traditionally foods that maximise the use of every part of the animal and also extend the life of the meat.  This is part of Ombra's philosophy of preservation (both food and culture) and enjoyment.

We decided to start with a white wine (Falanghina) accompanied by Pizza Bianco. Falanghina is reputed to be the grape variety behind the most famous ancient Roman wine 'Falernian'.  It is known for its aromatic, citrus notes, however our example was quite a surprise.  I found it aromatic, but savoury, rather than crisp with acidity.  

Following from our ancient Roman encounter, our red wine of choice was a tangy Barbera d'Alba, kindly served with a free plate of aperitivo to keep us going.  Again, a very red, the conjured up dreams of enjoying a bottle at a small Osteria in Italy, overlooking the Piedmont countryside.

Pelligrini's Espresso Bar
To maintain our Italian theme, we decided to stop in at nearby coffee institution: Pelligrini's Espresso Bar.  Like everyone else, we crammed in at one of the wooden stools and ordered our coffee straight across the bar.  I was transported back to my visit to Italy a few years ago. Coffee was just what we needed to balance out our afternoon of wine and tapas indulgence (plus I was flagging and it was only 6pm)!