Sunday, July 30, 2006

Some Tastes

I’ve been trying to catch up on getting the tasting notes I have for a swath of wines into some semblance of order for my Tasting Notes eBlog. They are mostly Shiraz/Syrah or blends that contain Shiraz. So far I have been able to get the 2004 Aussie Shiraz down and they are listed below in descending order of preference with the score I gave them. But there is more detail if you link to Tasting Notes where the wines are listed in the order in which they have been consumed (usually over on evening or two).

However the pick of the wines that I have been able to post has not been Australian. It was the 2003 Lagier Meredith Syrah from the Mt Veeder region of California. You can find its tasting note here.

2004 Australian Shiraz
Tuesner The Riebke Ebenezer Road, Barossa Valley Shiraz 2004 $17.99USD – 91/100
Henry’s Drive Dead Letter Office Shiraz 2004 (55% Padthway, 45% McLaren Vale) $28.99USD – 91/100
Marquis Philips Shiraz 9 McLaren Vale 2004 $35.99USD - 89/100
Glaetzer Bishop Shiraz Barossa Valley 2004 $34.99USD - 89/100
Olive Hill Winery Jimmy Section Shiraz McLaren Vale 2004 $34.99 (French Oak) (Screwcap) – 89/100
Mitolo Jester McLaren Vale Shiraz 2004 $17.99USD (Screwcap) – 88/100
Strathewen Hills Patterson Lakes Shiraz Port Phillip (Vicoria) 2004 $23.99USD (Screwcap) – 86/100
Fetish Wines The Watcher Barossa Valley Shiraz 2004 $16.99USD (Screwcap) – 86/100
Deakin Estate Shiraz (Victoria) 2004 $4.50USD – 86/100
Hewitson Ned and Henry’s Shiraz Barossa Valley Shiraz 2004 $15.99USD (Screwcap) – 83/100

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The 50 Point Wine

Many who search out the pinnacle of wine perfection chase the myth in wines given a perfect score, 100 points! On the other end of the scale are the wines that never seem to be talked about, those that fall below the cutoff score that signifies a recommended wine, below 84-85 points for Robert Parker or 75 points for Wine Spectator. But the true bottom of the wine barrel is 50 points in the 100 points scoring system. A wine scores 50 points just for being liquid in a bottle.

Do 50 point wines exist? It is difficult to get any definitive numbers because non-recommended wines are rarely described in any detail by wine critics. Why? Well in the case of Robert Parker they make up some 65-75% of the wines he tastes. Recording the tasting notes, or even just the scores, for those wines would consume a significant amount of space in any publication, hardcopy or otherwise. This is a blessing for winemakers because the wine buying public never learns that certain wines have achieved non-recommended status. Of course it is possible that a wine does not receive a recommended score because it was not submitted for review, which leaves the wine buying public even further in the dark about the quality of a winery’s portfolio.

Enter the enthusiastic amateur wine critic or, as we are known these days, the wine blogger. Wine bloggers, it seems, will drink pretty much everything and then they will blog about it. Why? Well most of us are not occupied in the wine trade full-time. Wine is our passion, not our mistress; although there may be some to whom it is a passionate mistress. Wine bloggers are willing to experience the spectrum of wine and comment on the knowledge gleaned to the world of cyberspace. We are an information conduit to the masses yearning to gather bits and bytes of wine knowledge at the click of a Google enquiry.

And if you Google Graeme Miller Wines you will find a 50 point wine courtesy of a wine blogger. Cam Wheeler of Appellation Australia gave 50 points to the 2005 Graeme Miller Wines (Yarra Valley) Rosé. According to what is fast becoming legend Cam tasted the wine at the Victorian Winemaker Exhibition 2006. He commented at the tasting that he thought the wine had a problem but was told (by the winery owners) that the wine was sound; no additional bottles were opened to confirm the quality of the wine. Cam posted his, rather apologetic, tasting note on his blog; how else do you write a 50 point score? Several months later he received a short, terse email threatening legal action if the tasting note was not removed! Further emails have passed back and forth between Cam and the winery and their content can be found here. Needless to say Cam has not removed the tasting note.

What does all this say about wine bloggers and their critiques of wines? Should we be like the Parkers' and Wine Spectators' of this world and not describe those wines that fall below a certain score? Hardly. As Cam notes on his blog the wine in question was tasted by others and found wanting, severely wanting. The consensus seems to be that its not a wine that should be recommended. It will be interesting to see what the established critics make of this wine. If no recommended scores appear then Cam will have done us a service by putting a score out there for us to see. And that is one thing that wine bloggers should do, assume the role of the long abdicated consumer advocate, and talk about the wines that should not be recommended.

Still, I’m intrigued about this 50 pointer. I don’t know that I have ever had one. Well maybe some of the stuff from around the Great Lakes that is made from the native American grapes, or perhaps from Virginia. But no, some of those may be 60-70 pointers. Fifty points is in a class of its own. I have a feeling that sales of this wine might just increase with all the internet discussion. Will they export? 50 points, there is a real marketing gimmick there, especially if they can get Robert Parker to agree with Cam’s score.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Mudgee – How to blog a wine region

Most blogs start with little more than the support of the individual brave enough to take on the job of attempting to post regularly on a subject of their choosing. With luck the blog might garner some attention and like minded readers may post a few comments. Or you may never ever raise a ripple in the sea of cybercurrents that carry the majority of flotsam and jetsam of the blogosphere. Sound familiar? Then imagine the possibilities if your blog was linked with a major media outlet like The Sydney Morning Herald. Picture a grander vision of having such a blog talk about the wine region that is home to your winery.

Such is the luck of Mudgee, located on the Central Tablelands of NSW and part of the newly renamed "Central NSW" Region. Apparently their tourism campaign, targeting the patrons of art house cinemas, caught the attention of Rob Woodburn whose blog, Lost in Transit, featured the town and surrounding wine region in a post on June 28. A travel blog on the online site of a Sydney newspaper, how could it not draw attention? Fifty-six comments later and you have what seems to be the discovery of an Australian wine region, somewhat to the detriment of the better known nearby Hunter Valley.

In truth Mudgee has been in the wine business for quite a while but like its better known cousin, the Hunter Valley, it has lagged behind the growth of other wine regions of Australia. And there is good reason for this. The quality of wine is not really competitive; there are exceptions. But having visited the region several times over the last couple of decades I have not been impressed. Yes, there has been growth, and our visit in December 2003 revealed some surprises like Abercorn but I enjoyed Mudgee more as a weekend retreat than as a major wine region. Maybe I’ll be proved wrong in years to come but not in the near future. Still there must be something in the air or on the cyberwaves because another post just hit the surf, or is that the "Nest in the Hills".

Monday, July 17, 2006

French Lose the World Cup but Win the Wine Cup

We all know which country won the World Cup but according to Australian wine makers it seems that the French are still on top in the wine business. The Australian news media outlet The Age asked leading members of the Australian wine industry (winemaker Chester Osborn, of d'Arenberg Wines; marketer Rob Geddes of WineStream; wine company CEO Darren De Bortoli; and winery owner Bruce Tyrrell of Tyrrell's Wines) who stands in the way of Australia achieving world dominion. Their answers might surprise you; they knocked me off my feet!

The greatest threat was generally considered to be Spain, although Italy got a half vote. A surprise to me, I would have said the USA given the potential that the US has to compete with the Australian products.

The quiet achiever was all over the place with New Zealand, France, Italy and Germany getting nods. My bias would be a toss up between New Zealand and Germany but that may change after we visit NZ in December.

The most admired player? Again a big spread with France, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina getting gongs. My gong would be for France if I was a whole lot more affluent. Otherwise I’ll stick with Oz with a little bit of Germany thrown in for the necessary sweet white.

It was for the most innovative player that things got just plain strange. France two, Australia and New Zealand one each. You climb the ladder like Oz has, with innovation as one of your major players, only to lose out to the guy who has fallen in front of goal ten seconds before full time! Excuse me for confusing Europeans, but this is just too weird because these comments are coming from Australian wine experts.

But the clincher was the score for the most aggressive player. The French got two clear points, the South Africans one and the last point split by Australia and France.

By my count that makes France the clear winner with 6 and half points. One has to wonder if the Australian wine industry really has its eye on the ball. The South Americans might not have done all that much in World Cup but watch them when it comes to competing in wine.