Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Chardonnay on the nose, according to new Mercure wine survey


Aussie wine drinkers favour ‘local’, despite Kiwi sauv blanc assault


21 September 2009: A national survey of wine drinking habits by one of Australia’s largest hotel groups – Mercure – has highlighted that chardonnay’s grip on the palate of Australian wine drinkers is rapidly loosening, with sauvignon blanc dominating the preferences of white wine drinkers.

Although New Zealand sauvignon blancs maintained a high popularity, with some persuasion local sauvignon blancs were beginning a fight-back and there was a distinct preference for wines from the local State.

There was some experimentation with newer varietals such as pinot gris/grigio for whites and temparanillo and sangiovese for reds, but generally red wine drinkers voted for the most traditional of reds – shiraz, even if it increasingly involved an added dollop of viognier in the blend.

Not so fortunate was another old Australian favourite – riesling – which continued to garner only minority interest, despite its popularity with wine judges and other professionals.

The survey was conducted across the Mercure hotel network, which comprises 23 hotels in every State of Australia. Each Mercure hotel surveyed wine drinking habits in their bars and restaurants to determine changing trends over the past two years. The results were compiled and released as part of the launch of the Mercure Grands Vins spring/summer wine selection.

Mercure Grands Vins offers guests staying or dining at Mercure hotels around Australia specially-designed wine lists showcasing the most attractive wines of their local State. There are specific regional wine lists compiled for NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland – Mercure is the first major hotel group in the State to offer a specialist Queensland wine selection.

Every wine offered has been selected by an expert tasting panel comprising sommeliers, wine connoisseurs and food and beverage professionals, and, importantly, final judging is conducted with appropriate food courses to ensure the wines are “food friendly”. Some 80% of wine sold at Mercure hotels is consumed with food, so compatibility with food was a major judging criteria.

Summary of major findings:

· Chardonnay is the fastest declining white wine variety

· Sauvignon blanc is the dominant white wine choice, with growth of 47% over the past two years, with Mercure Townsville reporting a 70% increase and Mercure Parramatta a 75% growth in demand for SB and SB blends.

· New Zealand sauvignon blanc is still the preferred SB, but local SB and semillon sauvignon blanc wines are fighting back (“We push a local SB over NZ SB and find positive feedback from guests. 95% purchase the Victorian SB” – Mercure Melbourne)

· Wine drinkers are resisting the “riesling renaissance” – “Riesling is still assumed to be sweet and it is very hard to sell a non sweet Riesling” – Mercure Geelong

· Pinot gris/grigio’s surge appears to have slowed over the past year. Other white wine varieties such as verdelho (NSW/Queensland) and chenin blanc (SA) retain popularity in States where the variety is prominent

· While shiraz (overwhelmingly) and cabernet blends are the largest selling reds, pinot noir is the fastest growing red wine choice (particularly in Victoria & Tasmania)

· Local is king – “Guests are turning away from brand names and are looking for something regional and different. They are willing to spend extra to get quality as long as they see the value for money in the product they purchase – Mercure Hobart. “There’s a very strong push to buy local, with only New Zealand sauvignon blanc being the exception,”- Mercure Ballarat.

· Not much change in men’s preference for red over white wine, but women are ordering more sauvignon blanc, quality sparkling and lighter bodied reds

· Growing demand for food-friendly wines – “People are becoming more experimental, wanting to try different kinds of wines as well as showing greater interest in matching it with food. More guests are moving away from heavy bodied wine and want to try light, fruity and easy to drink wines,” – Mercure Cairns

· There has been a 31% increase in by-the-glass sales over the past year – “Our feedback from the Grands Vins selection is that people want to experiment, so they will often choose two or three different wines from the selection during their meal. The key factor is the pricing of wine-by-the-glass,” – Mercure Perth

“The aim of the survey was to choose the Spring Grands Vins wine selections according to the changing tastes of our guests,” said Greg Brady, co-ordinator of Mercure’s Grands Vins programme in Australia.

“While the survey reflected what many people already suspected – that poorly made, over-oaked chardonnay was on the nose with the wine-drinking public – what also came out of the survey was that there has been some renaissance for newer-style chardonnay and, as a chardonnay lover myself, that was very encouraging,” said Mr Brady.

“What also came out strongly was that both guests and local diners alike want to have a taste of their local region, especially when they dine out at a restaurant. Mercure hotels have always positioned themselves as the ‘keys to the region’, providing an authentic taste of the city or the region in which they operate, so the Grands Vins selections are an important component of that local experience.

“Equally important is the pricing. We want to dispel the myth that good wine is only associated with high-end restaurants and high-end prices. Mercure’s Grands Vins shows it is possible to enjoy great wines – many from smaller vineyards - at very attractive prices.”

The Grands Vins wine list is designed to make wine selection easier, grouping wines in four particular styles – fresh and tasty; fruity and light; balanced & elegant and spicy and full bodied – to help guests choose the most suitable wine for every occasion and for every dish, while introducing wines from a range of distinctive wineries from the State that guests might not otherwise have a chance to experience.

The Mercure Grands Vins regional lists complement each hotel’s standard wine list, which together provide a comprehensive range of Australian wines. Mercure Grands Vins was first introduced in France in 1983, and the programme celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Grands Vins lists are available in 20 countries around the world.

Monday, 21 September 2009

NEW YORK TO GUNDAGAI – JIM’S APPLES




Wc21Sep09

david ellis

WE've long subscribed to the view that the Australian wine industry is made up of some of the world's more interesting characters who display a diversity of interests, pastimes and lifestyles not found in the Old World – where wine-making is more-largely simply handed down from father to son or daughter.

Jim Wolfensohn is one such of our more unusual winemaking characters: Aussie born and raised, he spends most of his life in New York's heady world of finance, including Presidency of the World Bank from 1995 to 2005.

Hardly the sort of guy you'd find getting down and dirty in a vineyard on visits home to one of our smaller winemaking areas, Hilltops. But Jim does just that at his Yabtree West grazing property near Gundagai when not in the Big Apple, and where he's mastering a few hectares of exceptional Shiraz vines.

With the help of Simon Robertson whose family pioneered the Hilltops region with their Barwang vineyard, Jim Wolfensohn draws on the local rolling hills to  provide reflected sunlight that harnesses the power of photosynthesis, helping grapes ripen earlier and reach full fruit maturity at a lower-than-usual sugar level – much like in Germany, France and Italy.

And he called on another local, Italian-trained Joel Pizzini to make his 2007 Yabtree Shiraz that's a wonderfully European-style wine, rich with deep ruby colours and mouth-filling flavours of blackberries, black pepper and aniseed.

Great $25 value with saltbush lamb, roast pheasant or wild mushroom risotto.

ONE FOR LUNCH: IF you've a favourite Indian or Thai restaurant that's BYO, next time you visit take along a bottle of Logan's Orange (NSW) 2009 Weemala Gewurztraminer. This is a curry-lover's wine whose spice mirrors that of the food, while the floral lychee and passionfruit flavours complement the heat and kick of the curry, much like a fruit chutney does.

At $18 this is a lovely cool-climate wine for curries and other spicy dishes.

(NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out  http://www.vintnews.com )


PHOTO CAPTIONS:

[] NICE connections: from Heady New York to the road to Gundagai

[] CURRYING favour – this floral wine's ideal with curries and spice dishes

Monday, 14 September 2009

BOTTLING OUR BEST WITH SCREWCAPS


Wc14Sep09

david ellis

IT doesn't seem that long ago that Australian winemakers started putting the majority of their wines under screwcaps in place of cork, as they sought to eradicate cork taint and preserve wine freshness in the bottle.

But while the year 2000 is generally considered the "beginning" of the trend,  experiments in fact began as far back as forty years ago. And the first really concerted efforts to sell the idea of screwcaps to consumers in the 1980s and 1990s met with quite strong opposition: buyers looked on wines under the new closures as inferior products, and most makers went back to cork.

But in South Australia's Clare Valley when several makers banded together to import half a million screwcaps and bottles from France to bottle their premium 2000 Rieslings, consumers suddenly appreciated the reason for screwcaps: they were in fact an assurance of longevity and bottle freshness.

One of those Clare Valley makers, Peter Barry of Jim Barry wines remembers it well. "We were fed up producing some of the world's finest, most delicately and freshly flavoured Riesling, only to open bottles that had been cork-sealed and find our great wines corked, oxidised or just obviously dull," he says.

"The Australian Wine Research Institute, however, found that wines under screwcaps showed the highest level of overall fruit character retention, the least development of oxidised characters, and effectively zero cork-taint. It was exactly what we were seeking; armed with this knowledge and our own research, we knew the screwcap was here to stay."

Peter's tenth Clare Valley Watervale Riesling under screwcap for Jim Barry Wines, the 2009 is an almost flamboyantly-flavoured wine with beautifully forward Tahitian lime, cumquat and grapefruit flavours.

At just $14.95 it is ideal now with lighter-style seafoods, chicken dishes and salads – or rest assured that under its screwcap, it will cellar well into the next decade, further developing its already apparent layers of flavours.

(NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out  http://www.vintnews.com )


 PHOTO CAPTIONS:

[] PROVING the value of the screwcap: an almost "flamboyant" Jim Barry Riesling from the Clare Valley

[] ONE of screwcap's pioneers in Australia, Peter Barry of Jim Barry Wines

Screw Cap Wines: A good idea?


BOTTLING OUR BEST WITH SCREWCAPS
david ellis

PROVING the value of the screwcap: an almost
"flamboyant" Jim Barry Riesling from the Clare Valley
IT doesn't seem that long ago that Australian winemakers started putting the majority of their wines under screwcaps in place of cork, as they sought to eradicate cork taint and preserve wine freshness in the bottle.

But while the year 2000 is generally considered the "beginning" of the trend,  experiments in fact began as far back as forty years ago. And the first really concerted efforts to sell the idea of screwcaps to consumers in the 1980s and 1990s met with quite strong opposition: buyers looked on wines under the new closures as inferior products, and most makers went back to cork.

But in South Australia's Clare Valley when several makers banded together to import half a million screwcaps and bottles from France to bottle their premium 2000 Rieslings, consumers suddenly appreciated the reason for screwcaps: they were in fact an assurance of longevity and bottle freshness.

One of those Clare Valley makers, Peter Barry of Jim Barry wines remembers it well. "We were fed up producing some of the world's finest, most delicately and freshly flavoured Riesling, only to open bottles that had been cork-sealed and find our great wines corked, oxidised or just obviously dull," he says.

ONE of screwcap's pioneers in Australia,
Peter Barry of Jim Barry Wines
"The Australian Wine Research Institute, however, found that wines under screwcaps showed the highest level of overall fruit character retention, the least development of oxidised characters, and effectively zero cork-taint. It was exactly what we were seeking; armed with this knowledge and our own research, we knew the screwcap was here to stay."

Peter's tenth Clare Valley Watervale Riesling under screwcap for Jim Barry Wines, the 2009 is an almost flamboyantly-flavoured wine with beautifully forward Tahitian lime, cumquat and grapefruit flavours.

At just $14.95 it is ideal now with lighter-style seafoods, chicken dishes and salads – or rest assured that under its screwcap, it will cellar well into the next decade, further developing its already apparent layers of flavours.

Wc14Sep09



Saturday, 12 September 2009

What is Park Hyatt Sydney's Nick Caraturo drinking?

Spent an hour with award-winning sommelier, Nick Caraturo, at Sydney’s plush Park Hyatt harbourkitchen&bar trying his latest suite of house wines. Making a selection of crowd-pleasers from “regular” wines is where top sommeliers come into their own. Each wine belied its $20 bottleshop price tag and drank superbly. Here’s Nick’s list:
  • Sauvignon Blanc: Domain A Stoney Vineyard 2007 (TAS)
  • Pinot Noir: Park & Joyce Adelaide Hills 2007 (my favourite, a proper pinot) (SA)
  • Cab/Merlot: Wild Duck Creek, The Blend (VIC)
  • Shiraz: Bowen Estate 2007 (SA – Coonawarra) - Jeremy Oliver gave this one 92 points and who am I to disagree?
Why not slip into a comfy couch on a Friday or Saturday night and soak up the cool jazz and harbour views with a glass of Park & Joyce. Bliss!

- Roderick Eime

Monday, 7 September 2009

CHARDONNAY THAT’S FLAVOURED TO THE MAX


Wc07Sept09

david ellis

AN unseasonally cool February after moderate mid-summer conditions in the Adelaide Hills in 2008 certainly gave makers there plenty to think about, but there was worse to come in March when conditions swung from cool to one of the longest heatwaves in South Australian history.

Matt O'Leary at Wolf Blass, however, managed to get all the fruit for his white wines off the vines before the heatwave hit, and because of those earlier cool conditions this fruit was flavoured to the max, resulting for him in a really outstanding 2008 Wolf Blass Gold Label Adelaide Hills Chardonnay.

A very elegant wine rich with varietal Chardonnay flavours, it has a nice creamy texture, and aromas of grapefruit, white peach and subtle nutty oak.

Pay $25.99 and match with a creamy seafood mornay or roast pork. And while enjoyable now, it'll develop nicely over the next three to five years for even greater pleasure down the track.

ONE FOR LUNCH: NOT many wine labels take their name from supporters of the Temperance Movement, but Wynns' Alex 88 does just that.

A Miss Nora Alexander lived on the land at Coonawarra that became the Alex 88 block, and as a supporter of the Women's Temperance Movement dictated that after her death, the property not be sold for growing grapes; her nephew, however, sold it to a neighbouring winery some years later, and it was later bought by Wynns.

A 2006 Wynns' Alex 88 Cabernet Sauvignon (the number 88 comes about because the vineyard was planted in 1988) is a full bodied wine with beautifully forward blackberry fruit flavours, integrated oak and lingering tannins; a lovely red well worth the $38.99 price tag to share with roast lamb and garlic mash.

(NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out  http://www.vintnews.com )


PHOTO CAPTIONS:

[] GREAT with seafood mornay now – even greater in a few more years

[] SOMETHING rare: a label named after a Temperance supporter

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

$20 RED’S GREAT INVESTMENT POTENTIAL

Wc31Aug09

david ellis

WHEN you get just a tonne of fruit off an acre in the Hunter Valley because of drought, you can bet that fruit will have really intensely concentrated flavours.

Certainly such was the case with Margan Family Winemakers with their 2007 Shiraz: after nearly ten years of drought, 2007 brought yet another hot and dry growing season, and from their Timbervine Vineyard at Broke just a tonne to the acre (0.40ha) of tiny Shiraz berries.

But those little berries were huge on ripe-fruit flavour, colour and tannin, and after fermentation winemaker Andrew Margan put the wine into older oak hogsheads so it could soften and mature without overt oak characters over eighteen months.

Enjoy this one with your favourite red meat dishes – and while it will develop more complex flavours over the next three years or so, you'll find that at $20 a bottle a great investment would be to put a few away for even more-rewarding, inexpensive enjoyment down the track.

Andrew's prediction, in fact, is that it'll cellar beautifully right through until around 2020 – and most likely longer.

ONE FOR LUNCH: ADELAIDE Hills' maker Wicks Estate Wines have taken a fresh and interesting approach to their 2008 Chardonnay – they barrel fermented just 15-per cent, fermented the remainder in stainless steel tanks, and at the same time trialed new yeast strains and extended lees contact.

The result is a beautifully flavoured wine with enhanced natural varietal nectarine, fig and pear fruit characters and a fine texture that showcases just how well- suited the Adelaide Hills' region is to Chardonnay production; at $18  share with family or friends over a chicken, leek and mushroom pie.

(NEED A FOOD/DRINK IDEA? Check out  http://www.vintnews.com )


PHOTO CAPTIONS:

[] PAY just $20 and reap the enjoyment in 2010 – or later

[] ONE to enjoy with family or friends over a chicken, leek and mushroom pie

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