Category Archives: Wine News

Oct 10 2014

What’s Making Wine News: Penfolds’ Peter Gago is named GTW Winemaker of the Year

Posted on October 10, 2014 | By merrill@cellarit.com

2014 is shaping up as a big year for Penfolds. Not only does 2014 mark the winery’s 170th anniversary, but for the first time the company released two vintages of Penfolds Grange – the 2009 and the 2010 – in the same year.

The 2010 Penfolds Grange is winning wide acclaim as one of the best vintages ever, and it comes hot on the heels of the 2008, which was given a rare 100 points by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

No wonder Peter Gago, Penfolds’ chief winemaker for the past 12 years, has just won Australian Gourmet Traveller’s Wine prestigious Winemaker of the Year award. He also picked up the Len Evans Award for Leadership – marking the first time both awards have been given to the same person in one year!

While the media spotlight inevitably falls on the release of the Grange, wine critic Huon Hooke observes that in 2014 Penfolds also released two of the greatest wines it has ever produced: The 2010 Bin 170 Kalimna Block 3C Limited Edition Shiraz and the 50-Year-Old Rare Tawny.  (Peter Gago named GWT Winemaker of the Year 2014 by Huon Hooke, Hooked on Wine, 18 October 2014)

The recommended retail prices for these two wines, $1,800 and $3,550 a bottle respectively, is audacious, but no-one disputes their calibre. They represent winemaking at its pinnacle and are truly a sign that Penfolds, under Gago’s inspiring leadership, has definitely come of age!

Merrill Witt New Yorkby Merrill Witt, Editor

 

Photo Credit: Drinkster

The 2010 Penfolds Grange and the 2008 Penfolds Grange are available on the Cellarit Wine Market

Read the rest

Aug 08 2014

What’s Making Wine News: Wine Market Set to Boom?

Posted on August 08, 2014 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Is the Wine Market Set to Boom?

In the latest edition of Gourmet Traveller Wine, wine critic Jeremy Oliver discusses US-based equities firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts’ (KKR) bid for Treasury Wine Estates (TWE). As you are no doubt aware, KKR has now joined forces with Rhone Capital and upped its offer to $5.20 a share, valuing the company well north of $3 billion.

Oliver suggests TWE shareholders think twice before accepting any offer given that the wine industry typically works on a 15 year business cycle and should peak again soon. While demand for wine in mainland China has slowed down dramatically, in the view of some commentators and industry insiders it doesn’t really matter because renewed growth in US wine demand will soon outstrip available supply.

On another note, while no-one disputes that Penfolds is the crown jewel in the TWE portfolio, Oliver notes that TWE ‘s other significant brand, Wolf Blass, actually outperforms Penfolds in key markets such as Europe and Canada! (Money Talks by Jeremy Oliver, Gourmet Traveller Wine, August/September 2014)

Chinese Wine Market Stumbles

Renowned wine critic Jancis Robinson believes that at least some of the weakness in the previously booming Chinese wine market is a sign that the wine market in China is maturing. While Chinese wine drinkers were once willing to pay almost anything for first-growth Bordeaux and other prestige wines, now Chinese wine drinkers have become “much cannier buyers and are experimenting with a much wider range of labels.”

President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on bribery and the gifting of luxury goods to government officials has also played a big role in dampening demand for top-end drops, but the good news, for Chinese wine buyers at least, is that wine industry players now have to make prices more competitive, work harder and be more … Read the rest

Apr 04 2014

What’s Making Wine News

Posted on April 04, 2014 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Robert Parker on the kinky wine world of 1978 

Richard Jennings provides an excellent summary of Robert M. Parker Jr’s recent address at the Professional Wine Writers Symposium at Meadowbrook in the Napa Valley. Here’s a great Parker quip about what the wine world looked like when he just started out:

When I started in 1978, the greatest wine in Spain, Vega Sicilia, wasn’t even imported to the United States. The alleged greatest Australian wine, Penfolds Grange, wasn’t imported to the United States. There were no by-the-glass programs. Sommeliers were intimidating. They had kinky leather aprons with a lot of chains. They looked like they were working in a sex club.

One of the best Margaret River cabernet sauvignons you’ve never heard of!

Huon Hooke wrote a really interesting article for the SMH’s Good Food magazine about a boutique Margaret River winery in the sub-region of Wilyabrup called Cloudburst. Run by American Will Berliner, Cloudburst burst onto the Australian wine radar late last year when the Cloudburst Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 won trophies for Best Cabernet Sauvignon, Best Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Best Red Wine of the Show at the prestigious Margaret River Wine Show.

The tiny, hand-tended vineyard is biodynamically farmed and most of the cabernet sauvignon vines were planted in 2005 and 2006 from Cullen and Moss Wood cuttings. (Berliner does much of the weeding by hand himself!) And up until recently the winery’s small production of cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay was only available in top US restaurants like Blue Hill and Eleven Madison Park. Hooke describes the wines are “exceptional, and rare, and very expensive.” But, according to Berliner, he doesn’t cover costs.

Greater scientific understanding of ‘terroir’ is starting to emerge

People think of ‘terroir’ as that sense of place you can find in a … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

Moorilla Estate & MONA: An Extraordinary Marriage of Art and Wine

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Last year I attended an exhibition at the TarraWarra Museum of Art in the Yarra Valley, where I was awestruck by Marc and Eva Beson’s magnificent gallery that sits like an earth sculpture in a gorgeous vineyard setting and houses a wonderful collection of 20th century Australian art.

But even this remarkable experience didn’t quite prepare me for MONA – David Walsh’s extraordinary Museum of Old and New Art, which is part of the Moorilla Estate on the Berriedale peninsula about 20 minutes by car or ferry from the centre of Hobart. As Huon Hooke remarked, “As someone who’s as attached to art as I am to wine, I find it hard to express what a monumental achievement Mona is. Imagine if John-Paul Getty had decided to erect the Getty Museum in Hobart instead of a hilltop in Los Angeles. It’s that scale of significance.” (Estate’s Art and Soul by Huon Hooke, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 February 2011).

Designed by the Melbourne architectural firm Fender Kasalidis, the building is carved into the sandstone hillside and has a very subterranean feel. We descended a spiral staircase three flights down to begin our tour with curator Mark Fraser at the welcome bar, which serves Moorilla wines, Moo Brew and excellent coffee. The next few hours were spent exploring the art, which ranged from Sidney Nolan’s Snake, an epic 45-metre-long piece with 1,620 different segments, to Julius Popp’s Bit.fall, a waterfall that cascades down the cliff-like sandstone walls spelling out a baffling array of words.

Lunch was at the newly opened winery, where we enjoyed an excellent antipasto and sampled some very good Moorilla Wines. A favourite was the Moorilla Estate Muse Pinot Noir 2008. It had a delicious savoury and tart fruit palate complemented by a vibrant acidity … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

Great Advice from the Wine Spectator’s Matt Kramer on Interpreting Wine Scores

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Matt Kramer of the Wine Spectator recently wrote an article about what he likes to tell people who are new to wine appreciation. (What Should Newbies Know? If you were teaching newcomers to wine, what would you tell them? by Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator, 15 March 2011) It’s a great read, and I thought I would share with you his advice on how to interpret wine scores because it struck a chord with me.

Deduct two points from any score over 90 and add three points to any score over 80. This always gets a laugh. And sure, it’s meant only half-seriously. But it’s not bad advice all the same.

Everybody knows that only scores of 90 points and higher have power in the marketplace. So an awful lot of really good, worthwhile wines find themselves in the limbo of, say, 88 points. Like the Federal Reserve, folks who give scores have to worry about inflation. So they try to hold back on that precious 10-point spread between 90 and 100 points.

Consciously or otherwise, an awful lot of really good wines don’t get the benediction of a 90-point-or-higher score. Inevitably, perceptions get skewed. Life is unfair.

So my advice to newbies is to muffle the siren call of those 90-point scores by deducting two points and to increase the potency of the 80-point range by adding three points. Voilà! That delightful Bourgogne rouge that received “only” 88 points suddenly becomes an irresistible 91-point beauty—one that probably has an invitingly low price, too.

Sure, it’s a game, like choosing the third least-expensive bottle on a wine list. But I don’t see much of a down side (the 90-pointers will still be in the running), and there’s a helluva upside for many of today’s best wine deals.

Sometimes I still … Read the rest

Jan 01 2011

Putting Canberra District Riesling on the Map

Posted on January 01, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

“Ken Helm’s Rieslings took my breath away – why hadn’t I heard of these wines before?”

UK Wine Critic Sarah Ahmed of The Wine Detective recently named Helm Wines Premium Riesling 2010, Canberra District, New South Wales, one of the top five Australian wines of the year. Here’s her glowing description of the wine:

Ken Helm’s Rieslings took my breath away – why hadn’t I heard of these wines before?  This, his flagship single vineyard Riesling, is positively tensile ‘n tightly coiled, with a flinty quality to its brilliant bright but subtle lime on the palate.  Very, very good with incisive length and great precision. (My top five wines of the year: Australia by Sarah Ahmed, The Wine Detective, 28 December 2010)

Recognition for Helm Wines rieslings is certainly growing. The Premium Riesling 2010 won top gold in its class at the prestigious National Wine Show of Australia. Just as Tim Kirk’s Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier focused international attention on cool-climate Canberra District shiraz, Ken Helm may be on the way to achieving the same lofty status for his Canberra District rieslings, which Ahmed regards as among Australia’s best and one of “Australia’s best kept secrets!”

Ken Helm has been making riesling at his family-run Canberra district winery for 34 years

Helm may well have riesling in his blood. He is a fourth generation descendant of German vinedressers from the Rhineland, who established vineyards near Albury and Rutherglen in the 1860s. He has been making riesling at his family run winery in Murrumbateman for over 34 years, sourcing his grapes from four separate terroirs that range for volcanic rocky soils over limestone to volcanic rock soils over red ironstone.

The Premium Riesling, first made in 2004, is a small production (400 cases only) single vineyard wine sourced from neighbour … Read the rest

Dec 12 2010

Artisans of the Barossa: Breaking down the Stereotypes!

Posted on December 12, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In my article, Australian and New Zealand Wine: Telling a Complex Story!, 28 September 2010, I mentioned that 12 of the country’s most prestigious wineries have joined forces to create Australia’s First Families of Wine (AFFW) – an export oriented venture designed to explain and promote the character, heritage and quality of Australia’s family-run wine companies.

In the Barossa region another group of like-minded winemakers formed their own alliance in 2006 with a similar purpose. Today, Artisans of the Barossa consists of 12 wineries that are working together to market their small production, hand-made, high quality wines to the domestic and international markets. Familiar and not-so-familiar names make up the group’s membership: Dutschke Wines, Hobbs of Barossa Ranges, John Duval Wines, Kalleske Wines, Massena, Radford Wines, Schwarz Wine Company, Sons of Eden, Spinifex Wines, The Standish Wine Company, Teusner and Tin Shed. Collectively they represent 11 Barossa subregions: Barossa Ranges, Lyndoch, Ebenezer Moppa, Kalimna, Bethany, Vine Vale, Light Pass, Koonunga and Marananga, as well as the Eden Valley.

What is also interesting about Artisans of the Barossa is that while the winemakers collectively have decades of winemaking experience behind them and share a rich viticultural heritage, most of the wineries in the group are less than 20 years old. Indeed, they represent a new generation of wineries that are dispelling the notion that Barossa is about massively extracted, high alcohol wines. As the American wine critic Alder Yarrow commented in his article, Tasting the Artisans of Barossa Wines, Vinography, 30 March 2010, “I was very happy to find many of them making 13.5% to 14% alcohol, elegant and delicious Shiraz (some from very old, microscopic family vineyards, and lean, low-alcohol Rieslings from the Eden valley).” Yarrow tasted … Read the rest

Nov 11 2010

Grenache: Standing Tall as a Single Variety Wine!

Posted on November 11, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Chateau Tanunda recently picked up the Single Estate Red Wine Trophy for The Everest Old Bushvine Grenache 2008 at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) in London. The IWSC is one of the most prestigious competitions in the world, so the trophy represented a big win for Chateau Tanunda. Here’s what the judges had to say about the wine:

Dark crimson purple to rim. Wow! What a seductive nose! The characters are almost decadent in their exotic power. Old vine complexity shines through here. Crushed raspberry, asian spice, loganberries, sandlewood, lavendar, chocolate mints, fruitcake, framboise, ferrous earth, leather, coal, cocoa bean … the list could be endless. Full bodied, lavishly rich and compelling in the mouth, layers that wash again and again over the palate, changing in ever more complex ways. Well. This is one of the most thrilling wines I have ever tasted.

I was intrigued that a single variety grenache had won because on its own grenache doesn’t seem to be a popular wine style. In fact, Neal Martin of the Wine Advocate argues that “the absence of a global grenache icon is something that hampers respect and recognition of the variety.” Grenache is typically used as a blending variety, think Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but as Martin observes “pure grenache is more common in Australia where clusters of ancient vines provide more incentive to bottle the vineyard separately.” (The Unsung Chameleon Next Door: Grenache Symposium 2010, Grenache: Playboy Or Nobleman? by Neal Martin, eRobertParker.com, September 2010).

Even so, only a handful of Australian wine producers make a single variety grenache. d’Arenberg in McLaren Vale is unusual in the sense that it is somewhat of a grenache specialist. Its portfolio contains eight wines with a grenache component and two single variety labels, The Custodian and The Derelict Vineyard. … Read the rest

Nov 11 2010

Why Drinking Only Aussie Wine in January is a Great Opportunity!

Posted on November 11, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

My initial reaction to the campaign by McLaren Vale winemaker Stephen Pannell to ask Australians to pledge to drink only Aussie wine in January was phew! Well at least we can still drink French Champagne on New Year’s Eve!

As Rebecca Gibb reported in her article,  Aussie petition accused of protectionism, Decanter.com, 24 November 2010, Pannell has caused a bit of controversy with his online petition, All for One Wine, which invites people to pledge that they will only drink Australian wine from 1 January to 26 January 2011 (Australia Day!)

I can understand why the Kiwis aren’t happy about the campaign (Australia is New Zealand’s biggest export market for wine), but accusations that Pannell’s promotion amounts to protectionism are surely not justified. After all, he’s not asking retailers to pull the foreign stuff off the shelf, he is just advocating that consumers buy local wines for 26 days (not even a whole month)!

Shortly after I had read the article about Pannell’s campaign, I drove out to my nearest Dan Murphy’s to stock up on some Xmas grog! Not the biggest Dan Murphy’s in the country, but still numerous aisles of mainly Australian and, yes, New Zealand wines. Despite the impressive selection, however, I was actually struck by the omissions. Of the approximately 2,300 wineries in Australia, I’m guessing that only a couple of hundred at the most were represented!

So I really think Pannell has a point when he says that he sees the campaign as an opportunity for Australians to “discover incredible local wines, and celebrate the rich diversity and quality that exists in this country.”

Yes, New Zealand makes very fine sauvignon blanc, but so does Australia! Dandelion Vineyards, Geoff Weaver and Shaw & Smith are just a few of the dozen or … Read the rest

Nov 11 2010

Terroir: What does it mean and how is best expressed?

Posted on November 11, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

On Wednesday, The Sydney Morning Herald/Age inaugural Good Wine Guide’s Winery of the Year was awarded to Henschke, the South Australian winery internationally renowned for its single vineyard Hill of Grace Shiraz. Henschke first produced Hill of Grace in 1958, and the wine is one of Australia’s earliest examples of a single-vineyard wine. Today Hill of Grace has distinguished company in the single-vineyard category. Two thirds of the 94 wines in the Good Food Wine Guide’s highest “three glass”  category are single-vineyard wines. (Singled out for greatness by Helen Pitt, The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 November 2010)

Wine critic and Good Wine Guide author Nick Stock argues that “we need to be championing wines that have a strong sense of place – what the French call terroir.” The prevalence of so many single vineyard wines in the top ranking suggests that winemakers are moving in that direction, but what exactly does terroir mean and how is it best expressed?

Jay McInerney recently wrote a very interesting article about Nicolas Joly, the proprietor of Coulée de Serrant, which is a domain in the Anjou region of the Loire Valley making world-class Savenièrres. In 2000  Joly founded Return to Terroir and is a leading champion for biodynamic viticulture. (Mr. Joly’s Particularly Pure Terroir by Jay McInerney, The Wall Street Journal, 14 October 2010)

Joly is also a “fierce defender” of the French appellation contrôllée system, which came into being in the 1930s and codified years of regional practice based on the idea that wines should uniquely reflect their terroir or place of origin. Essentially, it restricts the planting of certain varieties to specific regions. The white grape Chenin Blanc, for example, is only planted in the Loire Valley where it is deemed best suited.

Australian winemakers face no such restrictions … Read the rest