Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Royal Melbourne Wine Awards Judges Dinner

I cracked an invitation to the dinner on the cheap; I only judged the Provenance wine class, with much pleasure and speedy agreement between the panel which saw Granite Hills emerge with the Trophy thanks to its three vintages of Riesling: ‘13, ‘08 and ‘03.

The dinner was held at Bellota, next door to the Prince Wine Store, and one of the most congenial restaurants for wine events, but also allowing diners to choose wine from the Prince Wine Store and effectively do a BYO from that point onwards. The menu and wines follow, with my shorthand tasting notes in italics (the wines for the dinner came from several sources).  The theme was a truly interesting one: the 2011 vintage, with its mix of very good (Victorian cool region chardonnays) and rather dilute reds in the eastern half of Australia, with the exception of the Hunter Valley.  On the Burgundian side, 2011 is one of those lighter vintages which give enormous pleasure when young, and just may continue to do so for many years to come.  It certainly ranks behind ‘09 and ‘10 in the view of some commentators, but I would far prefer to drink the ‘11s now than either the ‘09s or ‘10s.  So here goes, and I do emphasise that these are deliberately abbreviated tasting notes.  Having said all that, Rousseau is in a class all of its own; the only problem is getting hold of the wines – as difficult as Domaine de la RomanĂ©e-Conti.

Baby spring vegetables, leaves, salted ricotta

Ocean Eight Verve Chardonnay  
Very intense and focussedYabby Lake Single Vineyard Chardonnay  Refined, balancedSeppelt Drumborg Vineyard Chardonnay  Greatest drive, singularityGiaconda Chardonnay  The most complex and grippy
Snapper, fennel, heirloom tomatoes and green olives
PHI Single Vineyard Chardonnay  Long, intense, lingering
Oakridge Lusatia Park Vineyard Chardonnay  By far the most complex; sulphide works well
Hoddles Creek 1er Yarra Valley Chardonnay  Supple, long
Coldstream Hills Reserve Chardonnay  Very, very fine; still a baby

Braised spring lamb, seasonal vegetables and roast potatoes
Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin  Super fragrant; what an entry wine! Savoury, but with lovely red fruits
Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux-St-Jacques  Some darker fruit notes with lovely spicy, dancing tannins and red fruits
Armand Rousseau Mazy-Chambertin  Very supple, though initially showing some stemmy/green notes which miraculously disappeared
Armand Rousseau Charmes-Chambertin  Bright red fruits with a cross-cut of spice and forest; by far the most charming of the first group – why not?

Herve Mons Comte Reserve – 24 months
Armand Rousseau Clos de la Roche Grand Cru  Great hue; has that lovely sauvage character of Clos de la Roche – as ever
Armand Rousseau Ruchottes-Chambertin Grand Cru Clos des Ruchottes  An avalanche – gentle – of red fruits to start, then forest and spice
Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St Jacques  Perfection – how can this be when there are theoretically better wines to follow?
Armand Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru  A truly amazing wine; this defies all logic for the vintage, with splendid depth and texture
Armand Rousseau Chambertin Grand Cru  Superb colour, superb wine; finesse, line and length. It kept on disputing first place with Clos de Beze, the latter often regarded as more attractive and open than the Chambertin in the early phases of development

Monday, October 27, 2014

Decanter Asia Wine Awards 2014

Not all of the wine shows organised in various parts of Asia come up with convincing results. But the involvement of Decanter Magazine, and Steven Spurrier, as co-chair of the Decanter Asia Wine Awards 2014 is an important show in this rapidly evolving market, Hong Kong to the fore. - JH 

Brookland Valley and Leasingham collect trophies at Decanter Asia Wine Awards 2014

Brookland Valley and Leasingham wines have both won International Trophies at this year’s Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA), with the Chardonnay International Trophy awarded to the 2012 Brookland Valley Estate Chardonnay and the Dry Riesling International Trophy to the 2009 Leasingham Classic Clare Riesling.

The stellar results for Brookland Valley build on the success of the 2013 awards showing, where the 2012 Brookland Valley Reserve Chardonnay won gold and the Australian Chardonnay Regional Trophy.

Paul Lapsley, Chief Winemaker, is pleased with the results at this year’s awards as they highlight the momentum and further strengthens the positioning of these premium wine brands in the Asian market.

“It’s really positive to see such strong recognition coming from a region that’s an important pillar of our global strategy, as the demand for premium wine continues to grow. We’re proud to be able to share these results with our global team,” Lapsley said.

The wider results at the DAWA 2014 are a testament to the winemaking and viticulture team under Paul Lapsley with the 2010 Eileen Hardy Shiraz, 2013 Brookland Valley Estate Chardonnay and 2013 Brookland Valley Reserve Chardonnay all taking home gold medals.

More than 2,500 wines from around the world were entered into this year’s DAWA, now in its third year and Asia’s largest wine competition, and were judged by a collective of Asia's most prominent wine industry leaders.

Judging took place in Hong Kong on 16 -19 September 2014, with over 40 top wine experts from across Asia included on the judging panel. Wines were presented in flights of about 12 and were categorised according to region and sub-region of production, grape varietal, style, colour and vintage.

"The Decanter Asia Wine Awards is here to recognise and award quality. I think this is what makes the DAWA the most trusted wine competition in Asia," Steven Spurrier, Co-Chair, Decanter Asia Wine Awards, said.

The full list of trophy and gold medal winners is below:

2012 Brookland Valley Estate Chardonnay (out of stock)
Chardonnay International Trophy & Gold Medal

2009 Leasingham Classic Clare Riesling (available October 2015) – RRP: $50.00)
Dry Riesling International Trophy & Gold Medal

2013 Brookland Valley Estate Chardonnay (current – RRP: $47.99)
Gold Medal

2013 Brookland Valley Reserve Chardonnay (current – RRP: $74.99)
Gold Medal

2010 Eileen Hardy Shiraz (current – RRP: $124.99)
Gold Medal

The complete record of results for the Decanter Asia Wine Awards 2014 can be found on DecanterChina.com (www.decanterchina.com), Decanter’s bilingual Simplified Chinese and English website containing bespoke content for the growing audience of wine lovers in China.

Prince Wine Store to open in Sydney

If Prince Wine Store is not the best fine wine retail store in Melbourne, it’s certainly one of the best by anyone’s standards. It has opened another store in Sydney, and the link with John Osbeiston, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the fine wines of the world, is especially significant. So, for Sydney viewers, watch this space. - JH

Prince Wine Store to open in Sydney.
Prince Wine Store has signed a lease on a warehouse for its first foray into the Sydney fine wine market. The former Wine Society Warehouse at 40 Hansard Street Zetland on the corner of Dunning St will initially be a dispatch centre for Sydney orders for both Prince Wine Store and the wholesale arm Beaune and Beyond.

The intention is to bring to Sydney many of the successful tastings, dinners and masterclasses that Prince Wine Store has been renowned for running in St Kilda and Bank Street over the last eighteen years.
Also on offer in Sydney from the Zetland warehouse will be a full wine education program with, specialist wine courses on such topics as Italy, France, Spain, Burgundy, Barolo and more, as well as the more comprehensive Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) program.
In focusing on our core strengths of small producers from Australia, France, Italy and the USA we hope to develop in Sydney some of the wine community that we enjoy in Melbourne. We often have comments from Sydney customers lamenting that they can’t get to our regular tastings.
To help bring this to fruition and to broaden the Prince Wine Store brand in Sydney we have be very fortunate to secure the services of well-known Sydney Wine identity Jon Osbeiston and Nick Minogue the previous Manger of Vintage Cellars Ultimo.

We are very excited about this new expansion and the fact that Jon is joining us in Sydney. We hope to be up and going this side of Christmas 2014 with our first events planned for mid-November. For more details keep an eye on twitter @pwssyd or at Instagram @pwssydney or join the mailing list at www.princewinestore.com.au

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Climate Change Ogre

When I read pieces such as that which follow, I get rather cranky. It is entirely untrue to say that wine has moved south. The Hunter Valley, one of Australia’s warmest wine growing regions, has had a stellar run of vintages in 2011, ‘13 and ‘14, the latter one of the best of the past 50 years. There’s no chance of the Hunter Valley moving south in my lifetime. At the other end of the spectrum, the cool regions around Melbourne (Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Valley, Macedon Ranges, Geelong, Gippsland) have had stellar vintages in 2012 and ‘13, with pinot noir to the fore. Moving south? I don’t think so.

Yes, there is increasing interest in Tasmania, but that shift in focus has not been driven by desires to get off the mainland. Tasmania is certainly a price place for sparkling wine growing and making, and produces many outstanding pinot noirs. But it does not have the field to itself. The trophy for Best Pinot Noir of Show at the Melbourne Wine Awards ‘14 a couple of weeks ago came from the Yarra Valley, beating one of the top Tasmanian pinot noirs in a taste-off for the trophy. Home Hill is the Tasmanian winery in question, Coldstream Hills the Yarra winery.

Australian agriculture needs to adapt, not simply shift, to meet climate change

SYDNEY Wed Oct 15, 2014 10:02am BST
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eanuts have moved north, tuna has moved east, wine has moved south.

But sooner or later, Australia is going to run out of places to shift agricultural production to avoid the harsh effects of climate change.

Australia's flagship scientific body told the Reuters Global Climate Change Summit on Wednesday that it is therefore critical for companies to consider both mitigation and adaption measures now.

"We have to act very soon on mitigation, reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and adaptation," the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization's (CSIRO) Science Director for Climate Adaption Mark Stafford Smith said in an interview in Sydney.

Climate change is a major threat to food security in a country that has talked about becoming a "food bowl" for Asia. It also complicates a government plan to increase agricultural production to meet an expected doubling in global food demand by 2050.

As the only developed nation dominated by an arid climate, Stafford Smith said, Australia faces more variability in rainfall, prolonged droughts and a greater incidence of extreme weather events.

The government-funded CSIRO is working with a range of industries and companies on a number of adaptation strategies.

Treasury Wine Estates Ltd and other wine companies are testing underground irrigation systems, developed with CSIRO, in their vineyards in response to increased levels of evaporation.

The agency is also working with cereal farmers to experiment with new grain varieties better able to cope with higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The average global temperature has warmed by more than 0.7 degrees Celsius over the past century, and the present warming rate is 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Australia is heating up even faster - a joint Bureau of Meteorology-CSIRO State of the Climate 2014 report found current temperatures are, on average, almost one degree Celsius warmer than they were in 1910. Most of this increase has occurred since the 1950s, suggesting an accelerated warming trend.


The need to adapt is reflected in the varying success Australian industries have had in making a straightforward geographical shift.

Wine companies are benefiting from the purchase of vineyards in the tiny island-state of Tasmania. Prompted by ever hotter and drier conditions to find alternatives to the country's traditional wine growing regions on the mainland, they are now growing different varieties in the cooler southern climate.

Tuna fisheries in the Southern Ocean have shifted further east as sea temperatures rise, initially moving them closer to ports and other infrastructure. But if they continue to chase warmer waters east, they will move further away again.

A lack of infrastructure was the downfall of a move by peanut growers from central Queensland to the tip of the Northern Territory. Growers moved north to take advantage of the mix of sun and higher rainfall, but high transport costs and mould hampered their efforts.

The Peanut Company of Australia abandoned its plans for large-scale production in the far north in 2012, selling its property after just five years on the land to a sandalwood producer.

The peanut industry is looking at trying again, but this time it is setting the stage with a trial crop to try and find a new variety of peanut for the northern climate.

Stafford Smith said it is that kind of innovation rather than simply shifting geographies that Australia needs to pursue - and could potentially export to others, given the country is at the forefront of responding to climate change.

"Australia has a comparative advantage in dry-land agriculture and on the natural resources side," he said.

Follow Reuters Summits on Twitter @Reuters_Summits

Monday, October 20, 2014

Viticulturist Mark Walpole on assyrtiko

My recent Weekend Australian article on assyrtiko prompted Mark Walpole, one of Australia’s most highly esteemed viticulturists, to send me two emails and accompanying photographs which are utterly fascinating, and really require not additional comment from me. - JH

Hi James
I read with interest the recent Weekend Australian article on Assyrtiko and the discussion relating to phylloxera.
It reminded me of an experience I had some years ago in southern Italy.
I had asked Alberto Antonini if he could set me up with a couple of wineries around Naples/Caserta to look at some of the native varieties such as Piedirosso, Fahlangina, Casavecchia and Pallagrello.

One of our visits was to Cantine Grotta del Sole near Pozzuoli.
They took me to a place called Campi Flegrei – essentially a partly flooded volcanic crater with vines and citrus growing on the sides and bottom. Driving down the track into the crater made me feel as though I was driving into a part of post WWII Italy. The humble shack at the bottom had chooks, pigs and so on wandering about. A wiry leathery skinned guy came out and showed us around his 20 acres of vines that were all hand sprayed with a knapsack and ladder.
The vines are enormous – grown up massive tree like trellis systems, regularly using Lombardy poplars or pear trees to support the vines. They are grown in all directions, in the volcanic sand or tufo.
As we walked through the vineyard I noticed a cavern in the wall of the crater in the distance. Upon asking what it was the reply was ‘ Some old Roman baths’. When we went inside it was typically full of rubbish and overgrown with weeds. Totally neglected.
As we were walking back to the house I pondered the fact that there had been people in this place for a very long time. When I asked how old the vineyard was he shrugged and said ‘Who knows – maybe 500 years old’. As the vines were growing in the volcanic sand – a natural inhibitor to the movement and survival of phylloxera - they were on own roots. So when one vine died, they just replaced it with a layer from the neighbouring vine.

Given the quality they were able to achieve with Fahlangina and Piedirosso on the old system, Alberto convinced them to pull a bit out and plant on a high density trellised system.
When we had a look there was a peach tree in the middle of it. When the winemaker asked what was going on the reply in typical peasant fashion was ‘ When we’ve picked the fruit we’ll pull it out’.
Since the recent publication of Wine Grapes by Jancis et al, it has now been found that one of the parents of Sangiovese (Calabrese di Montenuovo)has been discovered growing in the Campi Flegrei, and nowhere else – in fact the Montenuovo refers to the ‘New mount’ in the base of the crater of Lago d’Averno.

Mark W

Morris Rare Liqueur Tokay

I see that Tony Keys has said that $75 for a 500cl bottle may seem a lot, but isn’t.  That has to be the understatement of the decade, if not century, when you compare that price with the $3550 for the 50 Year Old Penfolds Tawny.

Friday, October 17, 2014

America’s wine drinkers becoming more numerous, but more distracted by other categories

A really interesting bulletin from Wine Intelligence, the foremost analyst of worldwide wine trends - JH

America’s monthly wine drinking population has grown by approximately 10 million people over the past 2 years, according to market analysts at Wine Intelligence.

In the new edition of the Wine Intelligence USA Wine Market Landscape 2014 report, the company estimates that the number of American adults drinking wine at least once a month has risen to 91 million, an increase of 40% in the past five years.

The growth in population has also been accompanied by a growth in sales volumes, though these have increased at a less spectacular rate – volumes grew 17% in the US market between 2009 and 2013, according to the International Wine & Spirits Record.

Increasing numbers of under 35s – the “Millennial” generation - are becoming regular wine drinkers, while wine drinking is also on the increase among key minority groups such as Hispanic Americans.

The report points to some evidence of the disparity between population growth and volume growth, showing that newer consumers tend to regard wine as just one of a number of drinks they enjoy, among cocktails, standard beer, craft beer and hard cider. The craft beer revolution also seems to be loosening some of wine’s hold over existing drinkers: according to the report, 36% of America’s regular wine drinkers also drink craft beer.

Lulie Halstead, Chief Executive of Wine Intelligence, said: “The fortunes of the global wine industry are now closely linked to the US market, which remains the world’s largest, most active and showing robust growth in terms of wine drinking population.

"However the warning signs are there that other categories are not going to stand by and let wine steal the show. The consumer’s mind space is finite – as are their drinking occasions and budgets – and craft beers, ciders and cocktails are currently doing an excellent job. America remains the land of opportunity for the wine category, but there’s no room for complacency".

Report details:

Wine Intelligence USA Wine Market Landscape 2014 report is published by Wine Intelligence and available from the Wine Intelligence Reports Shop, priced at GBP 2,500 / USD 4,125 / EUR 3,000 / AUD 4,625 or 5 report credits. Further details about the report can be found here.