Spring Racing Carnival Drops

October 27, 2015

Take the Spring Racing Carnival to the next level with these top tips on what to drink during the big events, without resorting to clichés.

Horse sweat, turf and leather; thundering hooves and screaming crowds. The Melbourne Cup Carnival is upon us! Besides the frantic wardrobe selections, choosing the running favourites and fashioning up the fascinators, there is a more serious task for the carnival. What to drink? Let’s go beyond the can of beer and bottle of plonk and match your drinks to each of the main race days.

Derby Day

Derby Day has an inherent local competition vibe, so let’s take to wines from the same location and put them up against each other. The vinous Derby winner could well be just as hotly contested as the horses on the track. For the whites, start with De Bortoli Yarra Valley Chardonnay and Oakridge Over the Shoulder Chardonnay. Wine maker Dave Bicknell from Oakridge used to work with De Bortoli, so this will be an interesting match - pair these wines with some roast chicken and see who takes out the prize. If red wine is more to your liking, put Devils Corner Pinot Noir in the ring against Ninth Island Pinot Noir, and be sure to accompany them with some succulent BBQ duck breasts and let the Derby begin.

Melbourne Cup Day

Cup Day: the granddaddy of them all and a race that, at least in slogan, stops a nation. 4 minutes of anticipation among a full day of happiness. Champagne is the obvious option, and while you may have spent the morning on Bucks Fizz and Bloody Marys, the late afternoon is a great time to open something flash. Pol Roger Brut NV fits the bill. This family-owned Champagne house makes incredible wine, and the white label is magnificent. It is fine-boned and well-built, a true thoroughbred of the wine industry. If you have had a successful day at the bookies, grab some Vintage Pol Roger, which offers a toastier and full-flavour expression. This matches just perfectly with some roasted chicken sandwiches that will no doubt be on offer.

Oaks Day

Oaks day is traditionally Ladies’ day, and while the obvious choice is to drink bubbles and loaded up with fruit and flowers, let’s make something that is a little more in line with the modern woman. Start with something local and handcrafted like Four Pillars Rare Gin. It’s bespoke and high quality and can be made into a simple gin and tonic or, to make it a little more playful, create a simple cocktail. Start with 30mls of Four Pillars Rare Gin and 90mls of cloudy apple juice, squeeze in some lemon and shake over ice before garnishing your creation with a sprig of mint. It’s a beautiful and fresh way to start the day and incredibly easy to make.

Stakes Day

Stakes Day is old school, refined and elegant. There are numerous options here, but try looking for something regal, classic and timeless. Settle down for a long lunch and have a great bottle of Chardonnay. The Chardonnay resurgence is huge, and the wines that Australia are making are receiving global attention - and rightly so. These wines are thrilling and majestic; Stonier Chardonnay and Petaluma Chardonnay are terrific value and are also beacons of the industry. Post-lunch, just before the cheese course, open a beautiful bottle of Cabernet. A back vintage Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 will be perfect, or for something younger and more intense, the Vasse Felix Cabernet will be wonderful.