Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Climate change implications for Australian viticulture

I was interested to hear the chief IPCC scientist with responsibility for Australia and New Zealand holding forth on the implications for Australian viticulture, and, in particular, prophesising death, doom and destruction for regions already warm.

Well, the cool regions of Southern Victoria and the Adelaide Hills have just finished a vintage with yields somewhere between one-third and one-half of a normal harvest. And, no, it was not the heat in March, but the protracted cool and wet weather last spring which catastrophically interrupted flowering, leading to tiny bunches with small full-sized berries. When you have to choose between weather which is too warm, and weather that is too cold, vines and humans react in similar fashion.  More people are killed by cold weather than hot, and the same is true of grape vines.

Turning to warm regions, it is passing strange that the Hunter Valley had a truly excellent vintage in 2011, but one that pales into insignificance compared to that of this year. Most of the winemakers I have spoken to agree it (2014) is the best since 1965. Mind you, this is rear vision stuff, because few, if any, were actually making wine in 1965. This is where wine is such a wonderful thing, because anyone with Lindemans Bin 3100 or 3110 in their cellar know they have wines which are still in the prime of their life, and, if recorked, will cruise through to 2065. Any other shirazs from 1965 are also worth their weight in gold.

One obvious answer to the IPCC riddle is that global warming has inconveniently ceased since 1997, notwithstanding significant ongoing increases in CO2 emissions.

Another take on the subject came when I visited the Gold and the Incas – Lost Worlds of Peru exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia. The beautifully illustrated and detailed book available at the exhibition is a treasure in itself, however much it makes you realise the unbelievable extent of artworks of all kind that were destroyed over the following centuries. The Moche civilisation in the north of Peru, and which prospered between 100AD and 800AD was ended not by invasion, but an altogether different cause, which might give the IPCC pause for thought. Quoting directly from the book ‘The downfall of the Moche is linked to the disastrous consequences of a severe El Nino in the 6th century, which caused 30 years of flooding, then 30 years of drought. Such disruption undermined belief in the supernatural power of the rulers.’ I wonder whether these supernatural powers of the IPCC might also be called into question.

Finally, those watching ABC television recently, will have seen the patterns of the last ice age a mere 8000 years ago. The northern half of present day Australia was covered under a deep mantle of ice. This ice age ended quite abruptly, with rapid warming chronicled, but not understood.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Charity initiative from Bibendum Wine Co.

Bibendum Wine Co. – one of Australia’s leading distributors of fine wines – has supported a number of charitable organisations over the years, but has always wanted to do something within the industry to raise funds for the disadvantaged in the community.

Bibendum then goes on to explain:

And so Glass Half Full was born. Here’s how it works. We invite donations of wine (or discounts) from quality producers. We then offer those wines for pouring to a select group of restaurants and sometimes to certain retailers. All the proceeds Bibendum collects go to charity. Simple!

To participate in Glass Half Full all the restaurant/retailer needs to do is agree to pour (or stack) two or four cases (depending on the donation size) of the chosen Bibendum wine for that fund raiser (we do one every two months). Our customer gets the normal pouring discount, works on their normal margin and pays the  Bibendum invoice on normal terms. There is no financial commitment from the restaurant or retailer – the only commitment is agreeing to pour the wine. And they can participate on a wine by wine basis – i.e., they might choose to participate in one fund raiser, but not the next, based on the quality or style of wine on offer each time. And that’s it!

Our first Glass Half Full producer, for the month of April, is Toolangi Vineyards. Our first restaurant supporter is Rockpool Bar & Grill Sydney.  Our first charity recipient is Fareshare.”

I think it’s an excellent initiative.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Easy bottle storage

I don’t know when I’m going to have time to get back into my cellar to continue some long over-due organisation and tidying up, but at least my new supply of cellar tags has arrived. If you don’t know about these, and have single bottle storage, they are very useful

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hawke's Bay and China

Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Inc, the regional organisation representing local grape growers and winemakers, has obtained funding for a $500,000 programme to increase awareness and sales of Hawke’s Bay wine into China. The money came from the Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust. If you scale that up to Australian proportions, you wouldn’t have much change out of $5million. It’s bad enough being monstered by the All Blacks, and I didn’t know that New Zealand was rolling in money for handouts. The age of entitlement seems to be alive and well there. Or, is it just that government agencies can see the net benefit flowing to New Zealand from the grant? 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Farwell to Kym Ludvigsen

Kym Ludvigsen was a gifted and totally committed viticulturist, his premature (accidental) death a loss to both those close to him and to the wider wine industry. Kym was farewelled on Friday at Ararat by family and friends. He began each day at the Ararat Pool, swimming 2kms ‘then did a heavy day in the field, or on the phone, whichever came first’. His wish was for no flowers, but a donation to the Ararat Swimming Pool Fund.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Visit of the Grandi Marchi

The Grandi Marchi, or, to give the organisation its full name, the ‘Institute of Fine Italian Wines – Premium Brands’, is a group of 19 of Italy’s most famous family-owned winemakers, the organisation very similar to that of Australia’s First Families of Wine.  Recently, 13 of the biggest names came to Australia for events in Sydney and Melbourne, including a dinner at Florentino Upstairs in the latter city which I was privileged to attend.  Those who came were from Antinori, Argiolas, Biondi Santi Tenuta Greppo, Ca’ del Bosco, Carpenè Malvolti, Donnafugata, Masi, Mastroberardino, Michel Chiarlo, Pio Cesare, Rivera, Tasca d’Almerita and Umamni Ronchi.
Carpenè Malvolti 1868 Extra Dry Prosecco Superiore DOCG NV

Toothfish Crudo
Blood Orange, Pickled Cauliflower, Radishes, Capers Isole Eolie
Ca’ del Bosco Cuvee Prestige Franciacorta DOCG NV

Smoked Petuna Ocean Trout
Tapioca, Apple, Celery, Yarra Valley Caviar, Yuzu
Umani Ronchi Vecchie Vigne Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore DOC 2008

Roasted Partridge
Beetroot, Buckwheat, Broccoli
Michele Chiarlo La Court ‘Nizza’ Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOC 2007
Mastroberardino Redimore Irpinia Aglianico DOC 2011
Pio Cesara Barbaresco DOCG 2009

Braised Ox Tail, Red Wine, Spice
Rivera Il Falcone Castel del Monte Riserva DOC 2007
Tasca d’Almerito Tenuta Regaleali ‘Cygnus’ Sicilia IGT 2010

Veal Cheek
Peroni Gran Riserva Beer, Slow Cooked, Rosemary, Shallots, Sweetbreads
Biondi Santi Tenuta Greppo Sassoalloro Rosso Toscano IGT 2009
Antinori Tignanello Rosso Toscana IGT 2010
Argiolas Turriga Isola dei Nuraghi IGT 2007

Ubriaco Di Amarone
Masi Riserva di Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2007

Il Mandarino Di Murano
Sugar Ball, Mandarin Sorbet, Shortbread, Pearl Tapioca, Mandarin Mousse, Green Tea Cake
Donnafugato Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria DOC 2010

Caffe Lavazza

A magical combination of wine and food.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Barossa Shiraz by Dr Thomas Girgensohn

Barossa Shiraz: Building Regional Identity (Wakefield Press, 2013), by Dr Thomas Girgensohn, is an interesting book.  Its nuts and bolts are 164 pages in full colour throughout, with an RRP of $39.95.  Thomas Girgensohn is a former managing partner of the Boston Consulting Group and an Australian company director with experience in a range of industries. He was educated in Germany, with an MBA from Saabruecken and a PhD in business from the University of Munich. He has been collecting Australian wine for nearly 30 years, closely observing and following developments in the wine industry over this period. He currently publishes a wine blog, in which he shares his tasting experiences: ‘Alontin’s Australian wine review – and beyond.’

I say interesting, because this whole subject of Hand of God/Hand of Man is never far from the headlines these days and is the raison d’être of Girgensohn’s book. My problem is that there is an assumption one can ascribe particular flavour profiles to particular soils, making the case so strongly that whether the shiraz (for example) has 13% or 15% alcohol, has been matured in old French or new American oak, or comes from the 2011 or 2012 vintage, the site-flavour link remains inviolate.