By Chris Losh

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Related tags Wine magazine editor Chardonnay Wine

Peter Kealy looks to the United States for inspirational ideas that can work in Ireland. His commitment to the deli concept has paid dividends over the years
Peter Kealy looks to the United States for inspirational ideas that can work in Ireland. His commitment to the deli concept has paid dividends over the years
Each month former Wine magazine editor Chris Losh will bearming pub staff with ideas for boosting wine sales. Barossa style shows the way Of all of...

Each month former Wine magazine editor Chris Losh will bearming pub staff with ideas for boosting wine sales.

Barossa style shows the way​ Of all of Australia's wine regions, the Barossa Valley is perhaps the best-known, with names like Peter Lehmann, Seppelt and Wolf Blass producing the sort of wines that kick-started the Aussie revolution in the UK. The Barossa is a hot, low, dusty valley about 50 miles north-east of Australia's wine centre, Adelaide. Away from the influence of the sea, the valley can swelter during the day in temperatures hot enough to fry an egg on your car bonnet.

It was settled initially by German immigrants in the mid-1800s (take a look at the names of those wineries again), and it's still something of a cultural mish-mash today, with older residents speaking a kind of Gerglish. By the start of the 20th Century, the Barossa's wines dominated South Australian wine production. But then in the 1970s and 1980s, the region went through something of a crisis, with Australia's new, gigantic wine companies unhappy at the prices they were having to pay for Barossa fruit.

They abandoned the region as too expensive for their needs, looking instead to bigger, more manageable areas that could be more easily irrigated to produce cheap but unremarkable fruit. With demand for their produce dwindling, the Barossa's grape growers looked doomed. That the region survived is down to Peter Lehmann, who stood firm, buying people's grapes to prevent them from ploughing up their vineyards and determinedly marketing the wine to people who wanted more than something cheap, wet and alcoholic. Though his business has flourished, his dislike of multi nationals remains, and he recently turned down a lucrative offer from Allied Domecq for his winery.

One of the reasons that Barossa fruit was and is expensive is that the fruit is frequently grown on old bush vines with low yields that are harder to pick. But what is bad for accountants is good for wine lovers. There is an undeniable local character to Barossa reds (particularly Shiraz); a sort of fuzzy, warm brambliness that comes with grapes baking in a hot climate. It's a classic Aussie regional style and home to some jaw-dropping (if head-ache-inducingly strong) Shirazes. Your average Barossa white is just that - average, but in the Eden Valley nearby it's another story.

The surrounding hills may not be of exactly Himalayan proportions, but at 1,500ft up, they get the vines away from the baking valley floor as well as catching all the winds (and rain) that blow in off the Indian Ocean. Whites here, especially Riesling, can have both freshness and purity, and good ones will even age for 20 years. Henschke's Hill of Grace Shiraz is Australia's most sought-after red, after Grange.

Famous names:​ St Hallett, Wolf Blass, Peter Lehmann, Basedown, Seppelt, Torbreck, Yaldara, Henschke, Yalumba, Mountadam, Hill Smith.

Food and wine matching​ Chicken is, on the face of it, one of the easiest meats to match with wine. As one of the more neutrally-flavoured meats, you can straight away rule out most red wines except lighter styles such as Beaujolais. Likewise, since it has more weight than seafood, you'll probably find that it's going to be too hefty for very ethereal white wines, such as Muscadet or the more delicate ends of the Sauvignon Blanc spectrum.

So much for the basics. Where the problems come with chicken are the variety of its preparation. Its very neutrality has seen it become an integral part in just about every style of cuisine on the planet, from traditional roasts to chicken tikka masala; from chicken and mushroom pie to spicy cajun grills. All of which makes it a harder match than you might think.

PERNAND-VERGELESSES 2002, Maison Champy​ There are plenty of desperately poor white Burgundies out there, but this isn't one of them. Champy is one of the smaller negociants in Burgundy and one of the best, with modern, well-made and good-value wines. Gorgeously ripe apple and pear fruit with some lanolin richness and a little spice off the oak barrels, it's beautifully balanced and should be spot on for most hearty French chicken casseroles, full-on roasts or chicken and mushroom pies. £105-£110/case +VAT @ Pol Roger (01432 262800)

BURKHEIMER SCHLOSSGARTEN GRAUER BURGUNDER 2002, Kabinett dry​ Considering it's the nation's favourite dish, chicken tikka masala is, frankly, a bit of a bugger to match with wine: too rich for most whites, and too spicy for most reds. This wine, however, pulls off the apparently impossible. It's a lovely creamy Pinot Gris from Baden, Germany's most southerly wine region. With light smoky flavours, it has fine zippy acidity to cut through the creamy sauce and freshen up the palate, and round mouthfeel to ease the spiciness without demolishing the dish's flavour. If your menu is big on fusion or oriental food, check this out. £8.40+ VAT @ The Wine Barn (01962 774102)

NIÑO JESUS, Estecillo Legado Viñas Viejas 01​ Having said you can't really drink red with chicken, there are certain exceptions - and Cajun chicken is one of them. You're not really matching with the meat, so much as the smoky, spicy flavourings, and this fits the bill. Calatayud might be a little-known region, but it has 2000 years of winemaking heritage, and plenty of seriously old Garnacha (Grenache) vines like these. This is a supple, round wine that delivers an attractive spicy strawberry palate, wrapped up in deliciously ripe tannins. A lot of wine for the price. £5.65 + VAT @ Masterpiece Wines (01634 719109

KAHURANGI ESTATE WINERY, Upper Moutere Riesling 2003, Nelson​ New Zealand is starting to do good things with Riesling, and while the wines aren't hitting the heights that the Germans are capable of, they're drier and more food-friendly. This wine, from a small estate in the North Island (not far from Marlborough) is a lovely fresh, citrussy example with some spring blossom on the palate. Elegant and delicate, it is a good chicken salad wine - especially for warm lunchtimes al fresco. £6.00 + VAT @ Albion Wine Shippers (020 7242 0873)

This month's recommended wines​The month of March sees the England v France rugby game, which may well decide either the Grand Slam or the fate of the Six Nations championship. Initially I thought I'd concentrate on French wines, but then the nationalist blood got flowing in my veins and I thought, dammit, why not put some England stars in there as well?

Fizz​I make no apology for both my fizzes being English. Everyone knows what France can do with bubbles, but it's no exaggeration to say that when we get it right, we're every bit as good as all but the very best Champagnes. And why shouldn't we be? We can use the same grapes, have a similar climate and, crucially, across the south-east, have that all-important chalky soil that gives the wines their elegance.

NYETIMBER CLASSIC CUVÉE BRUT 1995​The Rolls-Royce of British fizzes, and still setting the standards to which others aspire, this is consistently one of the best sparklers not just in Britain, but in Europe. Two keys to its success: the lengthy bottle-age, which allows it to develop real depth and complexity, and its use of traditional Champagne grapes. All brioche and stewed apples, with a leavening whiff of honeysuckle, this is a serious, weighty wine. Give it blind to Francophiles and ask them which part of Champagne they think it's from. Then laugh loudly. £168/case + VAT. Contact winery on 01798-813989

RIDGEVIEW CAVENDISH 2000​Ridgeview, about 10 miles north of Brighton, is on classic chalky/clay soil of the sort so beloved in Champagne. Like Nyetimber, they've gone for the classic Champagne grapes; this version is a blanc de noirs made up of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the latter adding a softness and roundness to the former's gentle red fruit flavour. Fresher, lig

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