Unbottling Grape Collaborations

Being part of the wine world, I have had some amazing opportunities to collaborate – with wine makers, musicians, artists, architects and chefs. When people work together, we create a community that leads to experiences more than the sum of our parts. Why am I talking about the magic of collaborations on a wine blog? Well, it is really all to bust a myth.

I recently overhead someone proclaim a statement (quite authoritatively) that wines made from blends are not as good as single variety wines. That was certainly news to me. I was a bit confused because I hadn’t come across that view that before and several fantastic blends jumped immediately to mind to disprove that statement.

To dispel this myth, that blends aren’t as good, I thought I would take this opportunity to explore some classic collaborations that have not only stood the test of time, but that delight and excite wine lovers everywhere…

Let’s start with France and look at Champagne. Champagne is one of the most celebrated drinks in the world is often made with a blend of three noble grapes – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Both Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are red grapes and Chardonnay a white grape – blended together they form a delicious toasty, buttery, citrusy delight.

Continuing the French theme, look at the famous wines of Bordeaux. Bordeaux’s classic red varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. A classic Bordeaux pairing is Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot. Cabernet Sauvignon is a high acid, high tannin structured wine with big flavours of black cherry and cassis (blackcurrant), while Merlot is typically lower in acidity and brings red fruits such as raspberry and cherry to the blend. The soft, plush Merlot balances out the dominant tannins and pepperiness of the Cabernet Sauvignon creating an elegant and more complex wine.

Skip over to Australia and you’ll find we love our blends too. The classic Sem/Sav, Shiraz Viognier (of which the Canberra District has some of the best examples) and GSM (Grenache, Shiraz & Mourvédre – actually also originally a famous Rhone blend!) are popular. Winemakers here are also less bound by tradition (and appellation laws) and therefore are experimenting with all sorts of blends, so anything goes really - as long as you like it!

It is also worth noting that in most circumstances, blending to some extent without declaring the blend is permitted. For example, in Australia, to label a single variety, the wine contain at least 85% of that grape. It is optional for the wine maker to declare the percentages of any other grape they include. 

Blend or no blend – the wine world is there to be explored, so my advice is to try new things whenever possible, and discover what you like to drink.

A few of my favourite grape collaborations - from my cellar

A few of my favourite grape collaborations - from my cellar




Unbottling Xmas Drinks

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Xmas Drinks

Many of us will be celebrating with family and friends over the holiday period. In this post, The Pop Inn team share our favourite drinks for the summer season:

Kimberley – “While a sparkling red is my go-to on Christmas, I can’t resist a cheeky cocktail. For me, nothing says Summer like an Aperol Spritz. 2 parts Aperol, 3 parts prosecco, a splash of soda, plenty of ice and an orange wedge. It’s tangy, tasty and refreshing.”

Dan – “My favourite way to relax on a warm summer evening is with a Gin and Tonic with a splash of lime. It’s cool and refreshing, and the perfect drink to match relaxed conversation.”

Natasha - "Christmas Day for me is a jug of Pimms on a hot summers day by the beach. It’s tasty and refreshing and cools everyone down as we dig into our Christmas feast." 

Cass – “An espresso martini is my perfect way to start Christmas Day. Like my start to every day, but better.
It’s four ingredients in a blender! I don’t really stick to the prescribed quantities, but if you must:
150g Vodka 
120g Kahlua (Mr Black is better but whatever is around)
120g espresso coffee 
300g Ice
Blitz for 20 seconds and then strain over non-blitzed ice into four glasses. Or one. I go with one, because I really like coffee.”

Eldad – “Why not combine Wine and Gin, well… this is where Four Pillars have done the work for us - Bloody Shiraz Gin. I love this drink as it both refreshing and has a great taste!

Now, why spoil a great Gin with Tonic? I like mine with soda, here is the recipe: 

  • 45ml Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin

  • 100ml Soda Water

  • Orange or lime for garnish”



Unbottling Airport Survival for Wine Lovers

They say desperate times call for desperate measures. After a recent trip to Israel, known as the ‘start-up nation’ – I had to make some innovations of my own.

For anyone that has travelled to Israel, you will know that leaving the airport is a small feat. After starting with the inquisitions from airport staff, you also have to jostle with the interrupting and interfering passengers vying for top-spot in every line – it’s a gauntlet and you have really earned a drink by the time you arrive to relative safe haven of the gate lounge.

I generally like to travel in the gentleman’s style – leisurely and (as far as my budget allows me) lavishly. It was after 5pm and the flight was delayed for a couple of hours so I thought this was a good time to indulge in a pre-flight aperitif. I looked around the terminal and came to the startling realisation, there is no bar in Terminal 1 of the Tel Aviv airport. You can certainly get a beer at the kosher hotdog stand but there is no wine or sparkling to be found.

The savvy wine drinker is never disheartened in such situations and nor should accept temperance as your fait accompli. Being in an international terminal, there was one shining beacon of hope that called out to me – The Duty Free. It was an elegant solution to my problem. I could simply purchase a bottle of Israel’s finest red to consume alongside my shwarma and doritos in what passed as the food court. (To be fair, the terminal is undergoing renovations).

As my eyes scanned the curated collection of Israeli wines, I encountered my second problem… No screwcap wines… No problems, I thought. Surely there would be a touristy airport shop selling memorative bottle openers. Guess again. There were no touristy shops, and I reflected that even if there was, they probably wouldn’t sell a bottle opener given this could provide the buyer access to a small knife and pointy corkscrew – potential weapon a plane!

So, I was down to two options:

1.     Take the Champagne – well firstly, it wasn’t champagne, it was a demi-sec (semi-sweet) sparkling wine that when chilled might be acceptable but having been under the warming gaze of the bright fluorescent shop lights was going to be questionable at best.

2.     There was something with screw-cap called ‘natural, sweet wine’ – it came in an oddly shaped bottle and I really wasn’t going to chance this.

Then, like a heavenly apparition, a staff member from the Duty Free asked if I needed any assistance choosing a wine. I explained that I was after a dry red wine with a screw-cap. After establishing that in Israel, they believe that no good wine would ever come under a screwcap (a myth to be dispelled another day), I explained the true reason I was shopping for wine – so I could enjoy a glass of wine while I waited for my flight.

She gave a knowing smile and said if I purchased it, she would open the the bottle so I could savour the delicate flavours while waiting in a noisy and crowded terminal.

Her recommendation didn’t come cheap and I was flying somewhat blind in terms of what brands were good or not. It seemed to be a choice of cab sav, or cab sav. I took the recommendation of the Flam Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 Reserve at the princely sum of $44.90USD. I justified this to myself that even if there was an airport bar, I would be paying exorbitant prices for a sub-standard wine so I couldn’t afford NOT to buy it.

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I bought a sandwich and a packet of chips from the aptly named kosher “Meat and Fly” kiosk who also obliged in the provision of flimsy plastic cups to consume the wine.

I could now sit back and enjoy my wait at the airport, people watching, nibbling and sipping of my coveted red wine.

The key take-away for wine lovers navigating a seemingly ‘dry’ airport - where there is a will, there is a way.

Wine Review: Flam Cabernet Sauvignon, 2016 Reserve, Galilee, Upper Galil

This wine spends 14 months in French Oak barrels and is aged in the bottle before release. Definitive blackberry notes, blueberry, violet and a hint of earthiness and vanilla. This wine is full-bodied with a rich velvety palate which I didn’t expect given I was sipping from a plastic cup! It had a long and well balanced finished.










The Pop Inn unbottling Murrumbateman


The Pop Inn unbottling Murrumbateman

It’s not often The Pop Inn team get to enjoy the weekend away from work (although we are lucky we love what we do!) but over the Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend, we took some time out to visit the local wineries, winemakers and explore the region.

The day was a great opportunity for some team bonding. A prime example of this was when Isaac, our resident Instagram model, revealed he had actually studied viticulture at school! Surprisingly only mentioning it the day before our winery trip.

As many of you know, The Pop Inn is a big supporter of local wines, so top of the list to visit were our favourites Gallagher, Sholto and Three Lads. We also got a sneak preview of the fantastic upcoming wines from Crowe Wines and took the opportunity to explore some new favourites - Dionysus and Granitevale.

We rolled across the border into NSW in the car affectionately known by the team as ‘Bessy’. This was also a rare day off for Bessy who is usually lugging around a 3.2 tonne pop-up bar. In this particular weekend she was filled with an excited and eager crew ready to explore Murrumbateman.

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Straight from the barrel


Bill Crowe




Our first stop was to visit Bill Crowe - one third of the Three Lads, and an accomplished wine maker. We tasted straight from the barrels as Bill explained to us the intricacies and complexities of making wine. We learnt about the processes winemakers use to influence the style and use the grapes to make the best expression of their wine. While everything we tasted was not yet ready for the bottle, stay tuned for new releases from Three Lads and Crowe Wines on our menu.

Our next stop was Dionysus where we got some excellent food pairing tips from Wendy at the Cellar Door. We also met some gorgeous pups who kept us entertained as we tasted a fantastic Shiraz Viognier and Tempranillo. The Gamay was also a team favourite. 

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Onward we ventured to Gallagher Wines where we had the best sparkling and camembert pairing in the Southern Hemisphere. Those familiar with The Pop Inn menu know we love the Duet (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay) and Greg Gallagher is well known for his exceptional sparklings. 

The 2017 Gallagher Riesling won World’s Best Riesling at the International Riesling Challenge last year as well as Best Dry Riesling and Best Canberra Riesling. Sadly, you won’t find this at the Cellar Door as it was all snapped up very quickly. The Pop Inn team were fortunate to squirrel away some of the 2017 Riesling early on, so we can assure you it is amazing if you ever have the chance to try it. We can’t wait to see what the 2018 vintage brings!

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Dionysus Winery






The Pop Inn

Our afternoon continued with Jacob Carter - maker of Sholto Wines, whose Sangiovese and Fume Blanc are legendary. We can’t wait to share the new releases on our menu when they are out, but in the meantime, you can find the Sholto 2016 Barbera as a regular feature on our menu. 

Our last stop for the day was the cosy fireplace at Granitevale where we greeted by more dogs eager for pats. The team top-pick here was the Shiraz Sangiovese. We were also intrigued by the sweet wine made in the style of an ice wine.  After a great day of wine tasting the team took a minute to recline into the big comfy lounges at Grantievale and take in some Antiques Roadshow.

Before the day ended, we were warmly welcomed to Maddie’s house in Murrumbateman where her lovely parents treated us to a generous smorgasbord of cheese and meats as we debriefed on the days’ adventures.

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As Canberrans, we are very lucky to have such an amazing wine region right on our door step. At every stop our hosts were generous with their time and knowledge, which made the experience engaging, insightful and so much fun. As a team, we laughed, we bonded and learnt so much more about the wines we sell and the people behind them.

A big thank you to all the wineries we visited for sharing your time, your wines and your stories. We will be back!

Next time you visit The Pop Inn, ask our team for their top tips on local wines.