Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Gift Suggestions

Collecting great wine labels
There are two frustrations that can beset those who want to keep the label of a particularly memorable wine they have tasted. If it’s self-adhesive, it is likely to defy all attempts to detach it from the glass bottle. If you are in a restaurant, you may not wish to take the bottle or bottles home with you, arousing amused glances from other diners. The L’Ivre d’Or is a system that I have seen used with total success in various Asian countries, and it is now being distributed on the Australian market for the first time. It involves a special plastic film which is applied to the label, and which detaches either the entire label or the printed surface of the label paper (particularly in the case of self-adhesives) and which is then transferred to a dedicated page in the smart mini album. There are 30 plastic films, and 30 double pages for the labels, with the labels on the right hand side of the open album, and a page for all sorts of notes that you might wish to make about the wine, who you drank it with, etc, etc on the facing page. It may sound complicated, but it is in fact easy, with very clear instructions on the method of use coming with the book. RRP $29.95; available through Primary Edge Promotions; email

Durand Corkscrew
The Durand Corkscrew is one of those inventions that make you wonder why no one thought of it before. Shortly put, it is a combined corkscrew and ah-so, and is amazingly effective at removing older and fragile corks. I had a firsthand demonstration with vintage port corks in bottles from 1963, ‘66 and ‘70, corks that would normally defeat the most skilled sommelier. It is a two-stage process, the first involving the insertion of a conventional corkscrew, the second bring the ah-so into play at the same time and on the same cork. Once the two components are locked in position, the cork is extracted using a simple twist and pull technique akin to that used where the only insertion is via the ah-so.

Clear ‘how-to-use’ instructions are included with the corkscrew pack.

The Australian distributor of the corkscrew is:

Grand Millesime Pty Ltd
Unit 6/40 Batman Street
West Melbourne VIC 3003
Ph (03) 9326 5737
Fax (03) 9326 6744

The retail prices is $149, post free for pre-Christmas orders, and MasterCard and Visa cards are accepted.

More information available here on their website:

The future makers: Australian wines of the 21st century
There is a delightful ambiguity in the name of Max Allen’s new book, The future makers. Are they the makers in the future, or the makers of the future? You should expect no less from someone who is a writer first and foremost, his inspiration coming form his mind; wine is more important in the abstract, the nuts and bolts of its physical creation in the winery of less interest.

He shares with Campbell Mattinson the ability to capture the reader with a few words, and hold it for page after page, chapter after chapter. The originality of his thought means even the most knowledgeable oenophile will find much to enjoy; at the other end of the spectrum, the occasional or social quaffer will never find themselves lost in technicalities.

It is a great Christmas gift for someone close to you, simply because you will be around to make off with it immediately after your friend has finished reading it.

This handsomely designed, colourful 440 pp hardback book is published by Hardie Grant with an RRP of $59.95. Available here and at all good bookstores.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Once in a lifetime trip

Somewhere in the middle of extensive PR blurb I came across this jewel:

‘At the moment, Brancott Estate is running a fantastic competition, giving one lucky winner the chance to win an exciting once-in-a-lifetime trip to New Zealand for two which will included a visit to the Brancott Vineyard, the chance to experience a dolphin encounter and a visit to the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. As part of the competition there are also 100 cases of the very first Brancott Estate to give out.’

Yes, I know, second prize is two weeks.

Rose Revolution

The momentum of the Rose Revolution is, it seems, gaining strength. Over 70 wineries are on board, with 700 followers on twitter and 700 on facebook.

The Revolution architects are inviting all and sundry to “Join Miss Pearls @ Madame Brussels on the terrace on Rose Day 30 November, from 6pm with the official tweet up beginning at 7pm. Flights of delicious savoury rose available all night. Official tweet flight $25 for 6 sexy savoury dry roses or 2 flights for $45. Madame Brussels / Level 3, 59-63 Bourke St, Melbourne, Victoria (03) 9662 2775. To book you and your friends a table phone Jill on 0418 590 196.”

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Semillon from all over

In a routine Wine Companion tasting the other day (for the 2012 Edition) there were five very good semillons, falling in the 91 to 94 point range. Nothing unusual in that, I suppose, but none were from the Hunter Valley. Instead they came from the Barossa Valley, the Shoalhaven Coast, and Margaret River. Alcohol levels ranged between 11% to 12.1% for all but one wine, a 2009 Margaret River Semillon (Fermoy Estate) at 13.5%. It happened to be one of the best wines in the tasting, which may be the exception to prove the rule. The rule? It is increasingly obvious that the best semillons have an alcohol content of around 10% to a maximum of around 12%, Hunter Valley wines typically in the bottom half of that narrow range, others in the top half of the range. Moreover, oak is at best subtle, usually absent.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chateau Tanunda triumph at International Wine & Spirit Competition (UK)

Cricket tragic John Geber was in London to receive the trophy for 2010 Australian Producer of the Year at the International Wine & Spirit Competition on 18 November. I imagine he was on the first available flight after the banquet to catch a flight back to Australia to watch the opening days of this year’s Ashes series.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Preston Peak Wines

Granite Belt winery Preston Peak Wines 2008 Reserve Shiraz has been rated in the Top 5 Shirazs tasted for Winestate Magazine over the past year. This follows on similar success in an earlier international Shiraz challenge also conducted by Winestate Magazine.

Chardonnay comeback

Firsthand reports from retailers and sommeliers have been suggesting that chardonnay is making a comeback, and the sauvignon blanc tsunami may be on the wane. Now there are figures from the statistical font of all knowledge, Nielsen, showing a return to growth of chardonnay sales in both the $14-$19 and $25-$35 per bottle categories. The greatest growth was in the $14-$19 bracket, with sales increasing 6% in the September quarter, compared to a 2% growth for sauvignon blanc.

Argentina's Vineyard frost

Argentina’s vineyards have been hit by a major frost attack in various regions and sub regions. Overall, losses are expected to range between 25% and 30%. Not exactly global warming. An interesting sidelight is that grape prices are not expected to rise, because of the record levels of last year’s grape prices, especially for premium grapes. The press release quoted various winemakers, one with the following gem: ‘I think there will not be a setback to the sprouts, they will recover but we will have to wait to see if there any damages to the fruit. I do believe it’s highly unlikable because they were in a pre-blooming state’.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lafite and the Chinese Dragon

Hot on the heels of the news of the extraordinary price paid for three bottles of 1869 Chateau Lafite (not far short of $250,000 a bottle) paid by a Chinese collector, Christie’s New York sales on November 12 and 13 included a mini vertical of eight vintages of Ch Lafite from 1996 to 2002, offered at what seemed to be a high estimate of $70,000. In fact, the lot realised $120,000, or $15,000 per bottle. (Given the approximate parity of the Australian and US dollar, there is no need to express the precise currency.) Is this the beginning or the end of March Hare madness?

Rochford Wines wins Victorian Tourism Award

Rochford Wines Yarra Valley won the 2010 Victorian Tourism Award for Best Tourism Winery in Victoria, competing with boutique breweries as well as wineries. It has made a very successful programme of major concert events that attract large numbers, and also corporate events.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Clare Agricultural and Horticultural Society booklet

I always enjoy reading the Clare Agricultural and Horticultural Society booklet outlining the classes for each show. They cover horses in action, shearing, wool, yard dogs, dog jumping, dairy goats, alpacas, poultry, pigeons, caged birds, produce, agricultural produce, cookery, preserves, arts, photography, vegetables, flowers, contemporary crafts, crafts, porcelain art, junior crafts and utes. Produce covers 24 classes, first up eggs, divided into separate classes for 12 hen eggs, white shell; 12 hen eggs, brown shell; six duck eggs; and six turkey eggs. Prize money is $1 for first place and 50c for second place, the Champion Eggs of Show receiving the Ribbon and Ken Broad Trophy.

Henschke Winery of the Year

Henschke has been awarded ‘Winery of the Year’ in the inaugural Age/Sydney Morning Herald Good Wine Guide Awards. Henschke deserves to receive every conceivable award; whether in the vineyard, in the winery, or out in the big bad world of marketing, the Henschke family does not know how to take a backwards step.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

King Valley hailstorm

After the fires of 2007 and 2009, the wet spring of this year has been quite wonderful for the whole of Victoria. Thus to hear that on Sunday night a hailstorm wiped out 100-plus acres of vineyard at Chrismont in the Cheshunt region of the King Valley seems a desperately unfair and unlucky blow.

Ladies who shoot their lunch – Plunkett Fowles

The Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch series of wines have attracted considerable attention for the originality of the labels. They certainly attracted my attention when one arrived mounted on a 5x3 foot (or thereabouts – no need for metric here) board suitable for hanging on a ‘large’ wall.

Understandably, Matt Fowles (CEO of Plunkett Fowles) is inordinately pleased that the 2008 Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Shiraz won the Trophy for Australia’s Best Shiraz in the 2010 Great Australian Shiraz Challenge – the first Victorian wine ever to do so. Go to the Plunkett Fowles website for further details, availability and price;

Monday, November 8, 2010

Raining cats and dogs – and turtles

The turtle pictured here on our front path today, the nearest dams hundreds of feet further down the slope.

Chateau Lafite and China

I see from the Daily Wine News that three bottles of 1869 Chateau Lafite sold at a Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction for $232,692 per bottle. I have never regretted drinking a wine that may have appreciated in value since I purchased it, but it did cause a twinge to think of the double magnum (four bottle equivalent) of 1865 Chateau Lafite purchased (and drunk) by a group of fellow wine lovers some years ago. The $72,000 price tag seemed cheap at the time because the wine was so utterly magnificent. However, it might have been difficult to resist a $1 million bid for the bottle – we’ll never know.