Category Archives: Australian Wine

Aug 08 2015

Biodynamic Winemaker named Winemaker of 2016 by James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion

Posted on August 08, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The uptake of organic and biodynamic winemaking practices is now a growing worldwide trend. Australian wine writer Max Allen recently reported that even in Marlborough, the epicentre for commercially grown sauvignon blanc, organic and biodynamic viticulture is being adopted on a large scale. (The Other Side of Marlborough by Max Allen, JancisRobinson, 3 August 2015).

The move away from chemically reliant farming strikes me as good news for both the consumer and the environment. Nigel Sowman, vineyard manager of Marlborough’s Dog Point, told Allen that organic conversion has been very important for improving quality and demand for his grapes.

Yangarra Estate wineryFor Yangarra, a 100 acre vineyard focussed exclusively on the varieties of the southern Rhone, a biodynamic approach has led to brighter fruit qualities in the wine, naturally lower alcohol levels and an overall impression of better ‘terroir’ or sense of place expression.

Fraser and Lane believe that improved vineyard health is another pleasing consequence of the rigours associated with acquiring and maintaining Biodynamic A certification. Because the use of industrially made chemicals is prohibited, promoting biologically rich soils and resilient vines are absolutely paramount for preventing and controlling disease.  More ethereal qualities, like positive energy and emotion emanating from the vineyard, are other fortunate by-products of a biodynamic approach according to the pair. (‘From the Earth’, Yangarra Estate, McLaren Vale, SA by The Wine Idealist, 25 July 2014)

Happy vines make happy wine!

by Merrill Witt, Editor

Photo Credit: Yangarra Estate

 

 

Read the rest

Dec 12 2011

Wine Advocate announces the top twenty good value producers in Australia for 2011

Posted on December 12, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown has just released a list of the top 20 good value producers in Australia for 2011. As the Wine Advocate’s main subscription base is the US, the list includes only wineries, both large and small, that export to major markets around the world. (No point, I guess, in choosing wineries that a US or European consumer would have no chance of finding on a bottle shelf in their home country).

According to Perrotti-Brown, “Producing singular wines of great character and expression for under US$25 / AU$25 is no easy task, but these guys and gals have all managed to create wines that are nothing short of incredible in this capacity.”

Here are her choices (The links take you to the winery websites if available):

Australian Domain Wines, McLaren Vale

Ad Hoc/Ad Lib, Western Australia

Balgowni Estate, Bendigo, Victoria

Chateau Tanunda, Barossa Valley, SA

Hentley Farm, Barossa Valley, SA

Hoddles Creek Estate, Yarra Valley, Vic

Innocent Bystander, Yarra Valley, Vic

Jansz, Tasmania

Madfish, produced by Howard Park, Margaret River and Great Southern, WA

Margan Family Wines, Hunter Valley, NSW

Massena, Barossa Valley, SA

Mollydooker, McLaren Vale, SA

Paringa Estate, Mornington Peninsula, Vic

Penfolds, Multi-Regional, SA

Pirie, Tamar Valley, Tasmania

Rolf Binder, Barossa Valley, SA

Shingleback, McLaren Vale, SA

Small Gully, Barossa Valley, SA

Tyrrell’s Wines, Hunter Valley, NSW

Yabby Lake, Mornington Peninsula, Vic

(Australian Wine Values of 2011: Better than Ever by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, eRobertParker.com 23 December 2011)

Photo: Red Knot McLaren Vale Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvedre 2010 ($11.50) Made by Shingleback. Perrott-Brown awarded this wine the International Judge’s trophy at the 2011 McLaren Vale Wine Show. “It’s an absolute winner that I continue to drink at home … Read the rest

Nov 11 2011

Is Australia now Austria? WS Top 100 dings Aussies

Posted on November 11, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Wine Spectator have just completed their major marketing release of their annual Top 100 wines, and there was one thing I was particularly keen to see. It wasn’t the identity of the number one wine (Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2009), or the top ranked Barolo (Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra 2006), but rather how many Australian wines made it on to the list this year. As recently as 2009 there were 10 Australians in the Top 100, and last year there was still six, including two in the top 10. However, something told me that it was going to be ugly this year.

First of all, there’s the exchange rate. While the economies of the USA and Europe struggle to maintain a pulse, the Australian economy has kept on truckin’ (commodities to China), and the A$ has gone through parity with the US$. Can’t be good for Australian exporters. Secondly, there’s fashion. Australian wine, and Shiraz in particular, benefited from this for many years, but that phase is over, and the new black is no longer black Shiraz. In the December 15 edition of Wine Spectator there are a number of articles in relation to Argentinian wine, especially Malbec, which is apparently the new black, or has been in recent times at least. In Nathan Wesley’s article ‘Malbec’s Moment’ he has this to say about Australian Shiraz,

Many winemakers are worried Argentina is overinvested in Malbec, as Australia seems to be in Shiraz. During America’s recession and Malbec’s ascent, Australian Shiraz, the wine-world darling only a few years ago, got caught with a glut of wine priced either too low or too high. As a result, sales declined in the United States from 6.1 million cases in 2006 to 5.2 million cases in 2009

And there was … 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

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

Australian Tempranillo: Coming into its Own!

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

My husband had the good fortune to attend the NSW Wine Awards Dinner at Guillaume at Bennelong in October. He came back raving about the Mount Majura Vineyard 2009 Tempranillo (Canberra District), which was among the top 40 best wines of the show.

Mount Majura produced its first vintage of tempranillo in 2003. Since then the wine has garnered so much acclaim that it has become the flagship variety of the winery!

Mount Majura’s Viticulturist and Winemaker Frank van de Loo very much believes that great wine is made in the vineyard, and the volcanic soils on limestone at Mount Majura are in fact quite similar to Artadi’s acclaimed Vina El Pison vineyard, which makes one of the most celebrated Rioja tempranillo wines in Spain.

The Canberra district is in many regards also climatically similar to Rioja and Ribero del Duero, where Spain’s finest tempranillos are made. As British wine critic Oz Clarke observes, “To get elegance and acidity of of Temparnillo, you need a cool climate. But to get high sugar levels and the thick skins that give deep colour you need heat.” Canberra delivers both in spades! (Experimental Grape Varieties in Australia, The Vintage School 2.4, Vintage Direct)

According to The Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown, “the best young Tempranillos typically reveal plum, black cherry and blackberry flavours complemented by pepper and spices plus a uniquely earthy/savoury character that is not so dissimilar to great Pinot Noir.  The finest examples can age for twenty years or more.” (Tempranillo Temptations in Asia, eRobertParker.com, May 2009)

Her description of the best young tempranillos sounds remarkably similar to Nick Stock’s recent review of the Mount Majura Tempranillo 2009. “Smells of dark cherry, cassis and brambly berries and baking spices – this is one fine Tempranillo from the Canberra District. … 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

Nov 11 2010

Showcasing the Margaret River in Sydney

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

Neal Martin, eRobertParker.com wine critic, recently said, “Margaret River has already achieved great things, but not as great as what will follow.” (Final Thoughts on Margaret River, June 2010).

In less than 45 years the Margaret River, one of the most geographically isolated wine making regions in the world, has garnered an extraordinary level of recognition both in Australia and overseas.

And as a recent showcase of 25 labels from the region at the MCA in Sydney last week attests, the Margaret River is still an extremely dynamic and emerging wine region. In addition to the icon wineries, which include Vasse Felix, Moss Wood, Leeuwin Estate and Cullen,  a growing number of small, family-run wineries are making wines of distinction, and many new and long-established wineries are successfully experimenting with a range of different varieties and blends.

Margaret River has long been synonymous with Bordeaux style cabernet sauvignon and cabernet blends. Indeed, at the Showcase I overheard a number of guests say that they were restricting their tastings just to the reds. But Margaret River also makes outstanding chardonnay (Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay and Pierro Chardonnay are rated ‘Exceptional’ and ‘Outstanding’ respectively in Langton’s 2010 Classification of Australian Wine), and many of the wineries make excellent sauvignon blanc/semillon and semillon/sauvignon blanc blends.

For such a young wine region Margaret River has an enviable number of celebrated wineries.  Xanadu, Woodlands, Voyager Estate, Fraser Gallop Estate, Lenton Brae, Wise Wine, Cape Mentelle, Brookland Valley, Celestial Bay, Fermoy Estate, Flametree Wines, Juniper Estate were some of the stand-outs from a long list of acclaimed wineries which were represented at the showcase. Yalumba, the famous brand more commonly associated with the Barossa and Coonawarra, showcased its … Read the rest

Sep 09 2010

Langton’s Updates its Classification of Australian Wine

Posted on September 09, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

This week Langton’s released the fifth update to its internationally recognised Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine. First published in 1991 to create interest and build demand in the fledgling Australian secondary wine market, the classification is considered a ‘form guide’ of Australia’s best performing and most prized wines.

Langton’s Classification of Australian Wines V comprises 123 wines under four categories: Exceptional, Outstanding, Excellent and Distinguished. As Andrew Caillard MW of Langton’s explains, the rankings  “reflect the sentiment of a well-informed market rather than individual opinion.” To be considered, a wine must have 10 vintages behind it so that its track record and reputation, both of which are measured through market presence, consistency, volume of demand and price realisations, can be properly assessed.

Caillard has compared Langton’s Classification to the the Bordeaux Medoc’s classification system of 1855, referring to wines in the Exceptional category as Australia’s “first growths.” In some respects the comparison is apt, as the French wine brokers who devised the Bordeaux classification system also looked at the price history of the wines to rank each of the properties from first to fifth growths. But, unlike the static 1855 classification, Langton’s classifications are thankfully updated every five years, allowing wines to be demoted or elevated as necessary.

This year five additions were made to the Exceptional category:

Innovation, individuality and uniqueness are shared hallmarks of the five wines elevated to the ‘Exceptional’ category, according … Read the rest

Sep 09 2010

Australian and New Zealand Wine: Telling a Complex Story!

Posted on September 09, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Even the most dedicated wine student can have a difficult time understanding the wine regions of France and the complex classification system. The Bordeaux classification system of 1855, for example, still dictates the ranking of the chateaux in the Medoc region, dividing the wineries into five different growths according to their value, prestige and quality. Burgundy is even more complicated with hundreds of premier and grand cru vineyards.

But Australian and New Zealand wines seem to be suffering from a perception that is the opposite of complexity, at least in the minds of the wine consuming public in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Due in part to the phenomenal marketing success of Yellow Tail and the legion of “critter brands” that latched onto the tail of Yellow Tail’s cute wallaby logo, American consumers tend to see Australian wine as homogeneous – flavourful but cheap and not very interesting.  According to Mike Steinberger, Not Such a G’Day: How Yellow Tail crushed the Australian wine industry, Slate 8 April 2009, “this perception became a major liability when those same consumers got interested in more serious stuff; rather than looking to Oz, they turned to Spain, Italy, and France.”

New Zealand’s outstanding Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc helped put New Zealand on the international  wine map, but regrettably it spawned inferior export oriented followers who have similarly cheapened the image of New Zealand wines in the US and UK markets.

Two recent initiatives, one from Australia and one from New Zealand, are designed to educate the international consumer about the high quality and viticultural diversity of the respective wine regions.

Complexity is the name of New Zealand’ export venture pitched at the premium and super-premium end of the US market.  As the name connotes, its purpose is to challenge simplistic notions … Read the rest