Vermentino and Crittenden Estate Winery

If you are a wine expert or a long time Italian wine drinker, please look away. Most wine drinkers won’t describe a wine as “versatile”. However, with hot asian spices, you do need something interesting to go with. Unless, you go with a beer or tea, they always work and work well.

There are 2 schools of thoughts on pairing with very spicy dishes; some would match with an off dry to “relieve” the spiciness, others would match with a high alcohol, high tannin red for a “head on collision”.

I have a different objective. It’s not arm wrestling here. I ain’t looking a wine with favours to co-exists with, nor compete with the spice. I am hoping for something that can add to and enhance the spiciness.

At Crittenden Estate, I found the best match today. Crittenden Estate first planted in 1982. They are also pioneers of wine tourism in Mornington Peninsula, which inspires us MP Cottages to start our holiday accommodation business today. Besides making wine, Crittenden runs a restaurant and accommodation onsite. We dined and stayed at the Crittenden Estate, had a great time. We’d recommend quality competitors, they are one of them.

Back to their wine, Crittenden Estate makes a Vermentino. Let’s begin with our proper wine notes after tasting:

“The Crittenden Estate Pinocchio Vermentino offers lively aromas of pear, white peach, and pink grapefruit with subtle notes of citrus zest. It is a refreshing medium body that could enjoy on its own as aperitif, perfect for MP summer. On the palate, it’s medium acidity and slightly on the riper side with flavors of grapefruit fresh almond. Perfect match with garlic prawns, grilled octopus, goat cheese or even fennel-spiced pork sausages.”

And we put it to a real test ….

What’s harder than pairing a wine with a Sichuan spicy tapa? Try 4. In the featured image you will see the “4 small plates” in our test. They were made with fennel, pepper, aniseed, cinnamon, clove, chili pepper, broad bean chili paste, shallots, ginger, and garlic. Enough? They aren’t dishes made so spicy which numb your lips and tongue, but trust me they have enough. The Vermentino dance in my mouth, I could taste both the wine, the spice and the freshness of the ingredients. It was like magic. I went back and forth around the four dishes and the wine, each time it gave me something new, delicious, savoury and very enjoyable.

I would love to have more. At the time of writing, the Vermentino is no longer on Crittenden’s website. Dear Crittenden (Rollo, Zoe, Garry), if you see this, I hope you haven’t pulled the vines and please continue making it.


Spaghettini with Just a Handful of Pipis

Pipi has been one of the favourite ingredients in many cuisines. Both their juice and meat add a touch of magic your dishes. Cooked together with a bit of garlic, chilli and wine, I’m in haven. You have it with your favourite carbs, no matter it’s bread, pasta or rice.

Pipis with spaghettini
The amount of Pipis needed is just what you can hold in both hands. Let’s not eat them all!

Pipis are often found in intertidal zone, in plain English, that’s the shallow water section at our beaches. They aren’t often available in markets, not alive anyway. Many people therefore catch their own.

Pipis are protected and illegal to catch in The Port Phillip Bay. It is permitted in other part of the Victorian coastal waters, in a recreational manner, and with your hands and feet only.

The Cottage Chef loves pipis like many of you, but we also want to promote a responsible way of catching them. They are important part to our food chain and marine life. Let’s protect them so our oceans remain habitable and enjoyable for many generations to come.

So in this blog we demonstrated how a little quantity caught from the ocean beaches of the peninsula, can make a great dish for two.

Find your favourite beach, not in any national parks or environmental sensitive areas of course; there are many ocean beaches within 30-45 mins drive of our cottages. Pardon us as we won’t mention nor promote a particular spot here to avoid it becoming a troubled hotspot.

All you need is just whatever you can hold with your bare hands. You don’t need a bucket, esky, nothing. Catch them, put them in a bag, put some sea water from the same beach. When you’re back at the cottage, put them in a bowl and insert a metal spoon or fork. Our cottages are well equipped with cutleries and kitchen tools. Leave them in the room overnight, the pipis will spit the sand out onto the bottom of the bowl, rather than in your mouth!

Chardonnay Fresh Dill
Don’t forget your favourite white wine, I would pair with a light oak Chardonnay from the Mornington Peninsula, and fresh dill of course!


live pipis in the shell, cleaned

2 tablespoons olive oil

half onion, finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

100 ml dry white wine

pinch of sugar

250 g spaghettini or other long, thin pasta

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill and parsley

dash of lemon juice


  1. Tip the pipis into a large saucepan, heat over medium heat and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook for 5 minutes. Discard any that have not opened. Strain the liquid into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wide shallow saucepan or deep frying pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Pour the wine into the pan and allow to bubble for a couple of minutes. Add the sugar and the cooking juices from the pipis. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook at a steady simmer, and allow the sauce to thicken. Place a large saucepan of salted water on to boil for the pasta.
  3. Add the pipis to the sauce and gently heat through. Cook the pasta for 4–5 minutes, or until al dente, drain and return to the pan. Stir the fresh dill and parsley into the sauce, season and pour over the pasta. Toss together and serve in large warm bowls.

Tip: add a few pieces of chilli to spice it up!