Thursday, April 24, 2014

Is Wine Bullshit? James responds

Alex Mayyasi’s blog is proof positive that wine bloggers are, by and large, distinguished by their abysmal lack of knowledge, whether they are blogging about some specific aspect of wine, or making sweeping judgements about wine in general.

He leaps from one point to the next, and having started with the proposition that wine is bullshit and that experts cannot tell good wine from bad, comes to a conclusion that, on its face, makes everything he has written on the way through incorrect or misleading.  There is always the wonderful use of unqualified generalisations attributed to ‘critics’, without any way of testing whether the critics in question are the real deal, or posers.

It is true that most European judges at wine shows are woefully trained compared to Australian wine show judges; in Europe, the points go off to a computer, and there is no discussion between the judges on the merits (or lack thereof) on any given wine.  All care and no responsibility.

But when it is said that Hodgson’s research covered the results of hundreds of wine competitions, the red alert flashes.  The task of identifying a single wine, and working out whether it came up once, twice or a hundred times, would require a very sophisticated and expensive tracking system which, by definition, could not then cross-correlate the identities of the judges in the hundreds of competitions.

Mayyasi then gets lost in a forest of contradictory statements when he deals with the proposition ‘taste does not equal your taste buds.’ There are a couple of true propositions, and the occasional correct conclusion, but his blog all adds up to a score of 80 points on a 100 point scale.

You might also like: How to taste wine like a pro

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.