David Pike has started the search through his wardrobe to find his best ‘wine-drinking clobber’ in preparation for the State’s wine show and tastings circuit.

FOOTIE finals time towards the end of August coincides with the start of the wine show and tastings circuit in and around Perth, running through to the Margaret River wine festival in November.

It is a challenging time of the year – trying to co-ordinate your performance so you don’t run out of puff coming into Christmas. It also challenges your ability to juggle your bank balance, so don’t raid the Christmas club account before its December expiry date.

The tastings coming up here in the west over the next few months are world class and those who are passionate about wine are urged to seek out a ticket to as many as possible.

Here’s a question for you ... magical merlot, just where is it headed? Merlot or merlot blends now account for a significant slice of red wine sales in Australia. Nonetheless it would be a brave commentator who would stand up and try to explain the definitive style of Australian merlot. In what will be one of the year’s most intriguing tastings, Xanadu Wines will present its second annual international merlot tasting on Saturday August 23. In all, 21 merlot from around the world will be at Xanadu to demonstrate how spectacularly this variety can perform. Examples from world leading merlot exponents Chateau Petrus and Chevel Blanc will be on offer, as well as offerings from wineries such as Duckhorn and Pahlmeyer from California. Hometown certainty Xanadu will be joined by the likes of Irvine and Petaluma as examples from our own backyard. The team at Xanadu has enticed notable wine critics Jeremy Oliver, James Halliday and Ben Canaider back this year to entertain those in attendance. Each an expressive and entertaining scribe, they will no doubt add to what should be a memorable experience.

The tasting and four-course lunch will be held in the surroundings of Xanadu’s recently renovated cellar door and winery facilities. The all-inclusive cost is $150 per person and you need to contact Xanadu on 9322 8533 for further details.

A few weeks should be enough to recover from the drive back from Margaret River, leaving ample time to prepare for the 11th annual Peel Estate shiraz tasting and lunch. Saturday September 14 is the date to set aside for this event, to which I have made an annual pilgrimage for the past six years. This year’s special guest is Trevor Mast, winemaker at Mt Langi Winery in Victoria, who, with Peel Estate winemaker Will Nairn, will preside over 20 shiraz from around the world. This tasting always concentrates on six-year-old wines, so this year it looks at the 1996 vintage, one of Australia’s renowned vintages.

It promises to be an impressive line up of wines, with a sneak preview showing not only Penfolds Grange and Henskche Hill of Grace in the line up, but a stunning selection of wines (with a few surprises) that you should not miss. Each year there is a mad scrum for tickets to this sell-out tasting. Tickets cost $225 per person and include the tasting and lunch, which will be prepared by multiple Gold Plate winner Andrew Peaston of Chanterelle fame. Contact Peel Estate on 9524 1221 for more information.

For those who want to see spring in the regions, my advice is to leave the city behind and head for one of the premier wine tastings on the Western Australian wine calendar.

Now in its 16th year, the Cullen international chardonnay tasting promises to be a highlight of the year. This year, Vanya Cullen and a dedicated team have tasted through more than a few samples of chardonnays from around the world to select 21 wines from the 1998 vintage for the tasting, which will be held on Saturday October 19. Alongside the Cullen chardonnay will be the likes of Giaconda, Devil’s Lair and Yattana from our sunburnt shores; Te Mata from NZ; while the Italians make an appearance for the first time with Isole e Olena. There will also be other stunning examples representing the US and Burgundy in France.

“Everyone is a special guest,” Vanya said. “And we have invited the band ‘Love Bites’ as special guests to provide entertainment after the tasting and lunch – it might help keep my brother Rick away from the microphone.”

For further information on the tasting, which is priced at $275 per person inclusive, contact Cullen on 9755 5277.

Following the Cullen event I will endeavour to prepare myself and my bank manager for the last of the year’s annual tastings. Well, this is actually the biannual return of the Cape Mentelle cabernet tasting. Mark down Saturday November 30 in your diary. The wines for this outstanding tasting have been independently selected by leading Western Australian wine judge John Hanley and focus on the 1998 vintage from around the world. The opportunity to taste 14 stunning cabernets – such as Chateau Lafite, Ducru Beaucaillou and Leoville Barton, Italy’s Isole e Olena and Te Mata Coleraine (the first ever entrant from New Zealand) – as well as a vertical tasting of six of the best from the past decade at Cape Mentelle – should be ample temptation for any serious cabernet lover.

To book for this tasting and relaxing long lunch at $220 per person inclusive, contact Cape Mentelle on or phone 9757 3266.

While I don’t have intimate knowledge of all the wines in the tastings I have talked about, one thing that you can be sure of is that each represents great value.

A number of these tastings are sold out well in advance but I would urge all lovers of fine wine to keep in contact with the wineries, as each of these tastings offers a discovery of the good oil you won’t often find, no matter where you are in the world.

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