Thursday, June 29, 2006

We Love Shiraz

I think everyone who visits this site knows that, but I'm not talking about this site. Shiraz has competition? No not really. But I have found a new web site, based in the USA, that is "dedicated to everyone who enjoys Shiraz and the great wine from Australia". It is early days yet for, but as one goal is "to catalog 100% of all Australian wine producers and get many of them to be contributing writers" expectations are high.

I guess I better add it to the links so we can keep an eye on it and its companion website!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Desperately Seeking Funding, The World Cup and a little Bordeaux

No I’m not seeking funding for my eBlogs. I’m just doing my impersonation of a scientist trying to convince his peers that his research is more worthy of receiving federal funds that some 80 percent of the other research grant applications that are reviewed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Well, at least that’s my excuse for not posting so frequently on wine these days. With funding levels being reduced for the first time in the history of the NIH there is a serious concern that medical research in the USA will begin to fall behind the rest of the world. The news may not be that bad, but its pretty obvious that while the current administration is not adverse to spending money to kill people, they are loathe to support the sciences in any meaningful way. And if they say they are, ask them to show you the NIH budget figures after they have been adjusted for inflation. And if they start talking about their AIDS initiatives, make sure they tell you just how much is going to faith based groups. Oh well, maybe I’ll just tell my lab staff to start praying before each experiment!

Speaking of going down on one’s knees, I wonder how much prayer is being offered up in the hope that Australia's Socceroos go through to the Group of 16 in the World Cup? Probably not as much as in Croatia! Unfortunately I’ll be working on my research application during the game tomorrow but I’ll be opening up a bottle of Aussie Shiraz to watch the replay later that evening. It will be a really good bottle if we go through.

And speaking of good bottles, I’ve finally put up some notes on a tasting of 2003 Bordeaux from this past April. I have still to catch up on the March Chardonnay tasting (I was unable to attend the Pinot Noir tasting in May). But I will attend the 2001 Brunello di Montalcino tasting tomorrow night. Its lucky that the soccer replay is not until 11pm! Watch for notes on the Brunellos, oh around November! Sad isn’t it?

Friday, June 16, 2006

But can you drink 5-8 glasses a day?

WATER into wine? Why bother when in Sydney next week you can buy a bottle of 2003 chardonnay or a 2002 shiraz-cabernet for less than many leading brands of bottled water.

That's the reality of the 900 million-litre wine glut sloshing across Australia, which has created a boom in the "cleanskin" market. MORE->

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Grape grower 'plotted to bomb winery'

(From The Age, by Steve Butcher, June 14, 2006)
THE downturn in the grape market had a potentially disastrous outcome when a company director allegedly planned to bomb a winery over lost income.
Steve Bergamin, 23, is accused of planning to blame terrorists for his plot to bomb the Gapsted winery, between Myrtleford and Bright in north-east Victoria.
He allegedly told an associate he wanted the winery "levelled … lock, stock and barrel".
A detective told a bail hearing in Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday that Bergamin was angered by a cut in grape prices and said the winery "had to go".
"I want it to look like terrorists have done it," he allegedly said. MORE->

There are terroirists, and then there are terrorists, and then there are those who are just plain idiots!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Aussie wines take French to the cleaners

NEARLY a billion bottles of French and Italian wine are to be turned into disinfectant and bio-fuels because no one is prepared to buy and drink them. And the reason?

British drinkers would rather buy Australian. Says Annabel Crabb (London) in the June 11 edition of The Age.

And if you look at what has been happening in Ireland since 1990 you can see how the French and Italians have been suffering while Australia has risen to the top in case sales and market share in 2004.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Irish Wine Buff

As expected the Guinness in Ireland was smooth and creamy, and came in pint glasses. The wine experience was a little different. I took four bottles of 2002 Australian Shiraz as well a 375 ml bottle of Seppelt’s DP 59 Rare Rutherglen Tokay to share among relatives and friends. The reception these wines received was interesting. Friends from England were quite willing to taste the wines and express an opinion. But my wife’s Irish cousins seemed more interested in the alcohol content than the taste of the wines. Initially I put this down to a lack of experience with wine, after all alcohol is not the only component that goes to make a balanced and structurally sound wine.

However! Toward the end of our week among the green hills and stone ruins of southwest Ireland I was asked to purchase wine for a birthday party. And this was not just any birthday party; it was the reason for being in Ireland. The wine selection would have to rise to the occasion but there was only one bottle of Aussie Shiraz left. Having seen what wines were being sold in the supermarkets I was keen to find a specialist wine store. But this is Ireland. The land of Guinness. Small villages with narrow streets. And peat-smoke filled pubs! Quality wine is it, ya say? Hmmm, let me tink now. Fortunately some of the other Americans who were visiting for the party, and were staying in GarryKennedy, had seen a wine shop, The Wine Buff, in nearby Nenagh.

A brief glance around the shelves of The Wine Buff and I knew that I wasn’t going to be buying any New World Wines. But the owner Alexis Kelly was very accommodating once she knew I liked Syrah. And she opened a couple of bottles of other wines for us to taste as well. In the end we came away with a six-pack of wines that turned out to be quite popular among the party goers. Maybe I’ll post on them in the future.

But what of the Irish and the alcohol content of wine? To try and learn more I chased down the web site for The Wine Buff because Alexis had said in passing that The Wine Buff was looking at Australia. And there it was, Update from Australia. And there it was again, the concern over high alcohol content. This time the comments were a little more informative. The alcohol level was clearly a concern but so was the heavy extraction and lack of freshness. With comments like “At this stage I have tasted about two hundred wines and there were only about six wines, maximum, that I felt like drinking” it looks like The Wine Buff won’t be a big importer of Australian wines .The price of the wines downunder also appeared to be a concern. I can understand this. The six wines we purchased from The Wine Buff were all under $20USD and only one was not good value.

And then there is Muck and Merlot! Published in 2004 this little book was written by Tom Doorley, reputedly “one of Ireland’s best-known commentators on food and wine”. My copy came from the Tall Stories book store in Kilkenny and as I leafed through a few chapters late at night in the Willowbrook B&B I began to realize that Mr Doorley was perhaps one of the reasons why the Irish look for the alcohol level before they taste. Muck and Merlot has a chapter entitled Wine Whine which covers the usual suspects but it also goes after “cult wines that are over-extracted and over-alcoholic”. Now there is nothing wrong with that notion, in fact it may well hold more than a grain of truth. Its just that the paragraph begins with quite a crippling comment on Penfold’s Grange. Red flag to an Australian! But the same paragraph also contains the comment “Whole swathes of the world’s wines are now too alcoholic for their own good, but do we hear serious objections? Not nearly enough of them.” Later in the same chapter are comments on the mafia and dead bodies in the irrigation channels of (Riverina) Australia. Well in truth there are a lot of Australians of Italian heritage there, so I suppose……

Back to some real facts about Ireland and those high alcohol Australian wines. Tom, my man, do you realize that Ireland is the sixth largest market for Australian wines? And that between the years 2002/3 and 2004/5 the volume of Australian wine sold increased by 46.5%? Someone in Ireland loves a little bit more alcohol in their wines!