Thursday, January 27, 2005

Drink It or Distill It? A Reality Check
Discussions of whether the Old World or New World makes the better quality wine have raged since at least the famous 1976 Paris Tasting to debates on current wine forums. There is no doubt that the upper echelon of French wine has greater longevity and, to put it in simple terms “character”, than the top wines from other parts of the world. However for the majority of wine drinkers the top French wines are too expensive and in many cases, too difficult to acquire. And let’s face it, the average wine drinker does not have the desire nor the facilities to store these wines for the decades necessary to bring them to their best. But the French make millions of bottles of wine. Surely some of the stuff is drinkable? Maybe , but not when there is excess production and competition. Currently there is a proposal to distill 267 million bottles of Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC) labeled wine; The proposal from the Confederation of French Wine Cooperatives — which represents 110,000 winemakers who account for half of France's wine production — would require the French government to ask the EU's executive commission for a crisis distillation. AOC producers in France have never before resorted to an EU crisis distillation. Part of the reason for this dramatic proposal is a reduction in wine consumption by the French as well as falling wine exports.

Meanwhile, in the New World, Australia steams on into fourth spot as a wine exporter, and increases national wine consumption to 26.9 litres per capita in 2002-03; it was less than 3 litres in the 1930s. Still behind the Europeans, but with the prediction that the USA will overtake France as the leading wine consumer by 2008, and with the US accounting for 30% of Australian wine exports, it is time for a reality check.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Barossa, Barossa
I've added another post on our trip to the Barossa Valley. Click on the Archives for December (righthand side of the screen) to find Barossa - December 13. The post includes tasting notes for the following wineries

Kellermeister/Trevor Jones
Dutschke Wines (winemaker)
Rockford Wines
Turkey Flat Vineyards

While you are there you might as well check out The Sauce! Where's The Sauce on December 11 and the first day of wine tasting described in Barossa - December 12.
Someone is Drinking #$%&!^+ Merlot!
Although the now (in)famous line from the movie Sideways would suggest that Merlot drinkers are pretty close to excrement on the sole of your shoe, that’s not what the consumer numbers say. According to the Wine Institute, a California wine industry organization based in San Francisco, merlot is the top red nation wide in the USA, with 26.7 million cases sold in 2003. Chardonnay remains the leader among white wines with some 52.5 million cases, while white zinfandel is the big mover in the blush wine category, with some 21.2 million cases sold in 2003.

These numbers, (from a report by Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune food and wine reporter published January 26, 2005) note that The top three varietals in the Chicago market, according to ACNielsen, a leading provider of consumer and marketplace information, are, in descending order of sales in 2004: chardonnay at $50.7 million; cabernet sauvignon at $33.5 million and merlot just a bit lower at $32.9 million. These figures cover a 52-week period ending Dec. 18, 2004.

Chicagoans purchased $300 million worth of wine at supermarkets, liquor stores and drugstores in 2004, according to ACNielsen. More domestic table wines were sold than imported ($155 million domestic versus $57 million imported), but imports rose at a rate of 6.5 percent while sales of domestic wines dropped just under 1 percent.

Among imports, Italian wines still "rule" Chicago with $30 million in 2004 sales, ACNielsen reported. Australian wines are coming on strong in second place with $25.8 million in sales, while French wines ranked third at $8 million. Italian sales were flat in 2004, neither up nor down; Australian sales were up 15 percent and French sales down 2.4 percent, according to ACNielsen statistics.

These are significant numbers because Chicago is the third largest market in the USA (8.1 million cases of wine in 2003), behind LA (13.8 million cases) and New York (10.9 million cases). Interesting numbers in themselves, I would have bet New York would have been the big gulper. But I guess the thirst is greater in LALA land.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Another Australian Adventure
I’ve started to put our recent trip downunder onto my G’Day eBlog. Its more of a travel log than a wine log but it does cover the Barossa trip. It all starts with the post on December 8. Link to it here.
The Merlot Mob Amazed as Pinot Noir Gate Crashes The Oscars
Sideways has been nominated for five Academy Awards including BEST PICTURE, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. My money is on an award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and it would be nice if Haden Church sneaked in for Best Supporting Actor.

Sideways is one of the few movies I have seen where I have actually been interested enough to buy the Shooting Script and the Score, and paperback and movie book covers, the poster, and……

Monday, January 24, 2005

Kalleske Wines in Charity Auction
Troy Kalleske of Kalleske Wines has asked Wickman's Fine Wine Auctions to auction off 12 bottles and 2 signed magnums of his 2003 Greenock Shiraz with all proceeds donated equally between the Asian Tsunami appeal and the South Australian Eyre Peninsula Fire appeal. The next auction will feature these wines in a special CHARITY category with all bids starting at $1, no reserves and no commissions to pay. You simply pay for any shipping and insurance from the winery.

Robert Parker gave the 2003 Grennock shiraz 96-100 points in the Wine Advocate #155 and described it as A barrel sample of the 2003 Greenock Shiraz appears to be a virtually perfect wine.

This is a pretty special opportunity folks. There are very few of the magnums available, and I'm sure even fewer have been signed. One has a special place in my cellar.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Barossa, Barossa
I've added two posts on our trip to the Barossa Valley. They have been dated on the apropriate days, so scroll down to find The Sauce! Where's The Sauce and Barossa - December 12. The latter includes tasting notes.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Barossa On The Boil
Although many of you may doubt it, notes on our recent Barossa trip do exist. They will appear, as if by magic, in a short while. Meanwhile I have listed the wineries that were visited so that you can get an idea of what is in store. Not all the wines made by each winery were tasted, and in some cases wines were tasted but notes were not made. However I think you will find that won't make too much difference when you read the details of some of the tastings! And there might be photographs as well.

December 12
Two Hands
BV Estate
Heritage Estate
The Willows

December 13
Kellermeister/Trevor Jones
Dutschke (winemaker)
Turkey Flat

December 14
Kalleske (winemaker)
Smidge (winemaker) – Two Hands
Thorn Clarke

December 15
Liebich Vein
St Hallet

December 16
Hutton Vale (grapegrower)
Heathvale (grapegrower)

Monday, January 17, 2005

Philosophy and Wine
Oh dear, I've just found out I'm a moron!

Moron - from Merriam-Webster Online
Pronunciation: 'mor-"än
Function: noun
Etymology: irregular from Greek mOros foolish, stupid
1 usually offensive : a mildly mentally retarded person
2 : a very stupid person

Why am I a moron? Well I drink Australian wine. Who has called me (and most probably you) a moron? This little fellow. He did it at the first-ever "Wine and Philosophy" Conference at the University of London. He said "Australia is a big problem. It is a landscape that has been dragged from hunter-gatherer to farmer in 200 years." Australians have generally not, therefore, "built into their wine 'le gout de terroir'", choosing instead to make wines at 14.5% alcohol, and to brand them for sale in "the moron market".

Scruton says that it is morally acceptable to get drunk in moderation on some Old World wines but not on those produced in Australia. According to the Professor, fine wine is marked by "terroir" and by the integration of the alcoholic taste so that one cannot notice it. Moderate intoxication caused by such wines is laudable because it enables the drinker to make "communion with the immanent reality, history, geography and customs of a community. The flavour is imparted by the principles of settlement."

I was born in Australia over 50 years ago. For the last 20 years I've lived in the USA and traveled, almost annually, back to Australia. If Australia is devoid of reality, history, geography, customs and settlement then I guess I am a moron. But I think we all know who the moron is, don't we Professor? It comes as no surprise that Scruton (how I would love to write another word in there) is a Professor of Philosophy. Its a bloody pity he can't get his Eurocentric brain into a gear high enough to join the rest of the world in applauding the "terroir" that exists in Aussie wines.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Barossa Backfill
Well we had a great time in the Barossa. Did you? Judging by the empty space around here I’d say probably not. All due to a series of unfortunate events, I’m afraid. The cottages we rented in Tanunda lacked phone lines so no internet access there. Then the Big Pond Prepaid Internet software I tried to install in Adelaide did not have the intelligence to recognize that I was trying to install from a hotel room and needed to dial “0” for an outside line. That wasted additional time getting internet access. When we did get up and running Miranda spent large amounts of time looking at real estate in the Barossa Valley. Then we went house hunting, then we made offers, then we signed contracts, then we went to Sydney and started to chase down money to pay for it all.

Thus the eBlogs have suffered. But fear not! Over the next few weeks I will be backfilling this space with notes on a great trip, great wines and some very gracious and accommodating grapegrowers and winemakers.