04.Food and drink
Stocking up for the Christmas season can put a big strain on the family budget, so use our reviews to buy wisely. Here are some recent round-ups worth scanning through:
We've just put organic and Fairtrade choclates to the taste test and have some clear winners.
Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa ($3.99/100g)
Green & Black's first began in London in 1991 when Craig Sams, founder of Whole Earth – the pioneering organic food company, was sent a sample of dark 70% chocolate made from organic cocoa beans. Soon after, they launched the world's first organic chocolate. It's often on special at supermarkets, so stock up if you spy a good deal.
Alter Eco Dark Chocolate Velvet Touch of Organic Milk ($3.20/100g) This chocolate tied with the Green & Black's for top spot. Though it's called dark chocolate, its high cocoa butter content and hint of milk suggest a taste more like milk chocolate. Milk chocolate lovers are likely to like this as it's sweeter and softer than a regular dark choc.
Just Organic (Aldi) Fairtrade Organic Milk Chocolate ($1.99/100g)
This milk chocolate was the top scorer for taste compared with the other more expensive milk chocolates. It also covers all organic and Fairtrade certification bases. Our experts' verdict: it’s excellent quality for $1.99 and is the best value-for-money chocolate among those tested.
Read the full report on Fairtrade and organic chocolate. You might also want to look at our 2008 dark chocolates taste test for more options.
Lucky Smart Snax Omega-3 Four Nut Mix ($4.99/250g) You can eat it on its own or chop them into bits as part of your Christmas turkey stuffing. Nuts are great party snacks so if you're thinking of putting together a Christmas hamper, a good pack of nuts tops the order. We recommend Lucky Smart Snax'x Omerga 3 Four Nut Mix because it contains the type of nuts - almond, walnuts and brazil nuts - that's packed with omega-3 ALA (alpha linolenic acid), among a slew of nutrients including vitamin E, magnesium, copper, zinc, selenium (an antiocxident) and potassium.
Read the full report on mixed nuts.
Coles Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($5.89/500ml).
Australian, Greek, Italian or Spanish? While it's true that certain foods are better imported, this is not the case for extra virgin olive oil. Freshness is essential to the quality of extra virgin olive oils, so local oils have the edge over imported as they’re able to reach you in a shorter time. It's no surprise then that nine of the top 10 brands in our extra virgin olive oil taste test are Australian.
Coles' offering has proven food-snobs wrong: private labels can be as good). Its simple aroma, light fruit flavour and good transfer of nose to palate won our experts over. Verdict: Good and cheap. A must-have. Read the full report on extra virgin olive oil.
Our experts taste-tested 90 wines, including shiraz, cabernet merlot and sauvignon, as well as merlots. You'll often find the wines below at less than RRP, and buying by the dozen provides a further discount. Your best bet is to keep an eye on specials in your area. Read the full report on wines.
Semillon sauvignon blanc
Penfolds Koonunga Hill 2009 ($11) The Koonunga Hill semillon sauvignon blanc scored top in our taste test, beating wines almost three times the price. The 2010 has recently appeared in bottleshops so be sure it's the 2009 you reach for when you're stocking up.
Secret Stone 2009 ($20) Stacked against medal-winners and crowd-pleasers from Marlborough, New Zealand, such as the Oyster Bay and Montana, the Secret Stone 2009 is unpretentious in delivering the core of a good sauvignon blanc: complex aromas reminiscent of cut-grass and fruit, a fruity, refreshing palate and crisp but long finish.
Goundrey Homestead Unwooded 2009 ($17)
The Goundrey, from Mount Barker in Western Australia, performed outstandingly in a class that included wines around the $50 mark.