Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

Grape harvest in the new world.

Grape harvest in the new world.

A first look at vintage quality down under, with eyewitness reports from growers and winemakers

Ready to taste the first wines of 2013? While vines are just flowering in Europe and North America, the Southern Hemisphere has picked, crushed and fermented this year’s crop. Australian vintners report that the 2012-2013 crop was small, thanks to dry conditions in the east and storms in the west. New Zealand’s North Island faced heavy frosts to start the season, while on the South Island, a compressed harvest made for a logistical nightmare.

Here’s a sneak peek at the upcoming vintage. Check back Thursday and Friday for South Africa, Argentina and Chile.
Australia
Region: South Australia: Clare Valley, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Eden Valley, Limestone Coast

The good news: Low yields and dry conditions produced concentrated wines

The bad news: A series of heat waves reduced the size of the crop

Picking started: Mid-February

Promising grapes: Shiraz, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling

Analysis: Vintners in South Australia will remember 2013 as one of the earliest and shortest vintages in recent memory. Winemakers are excited with what they picked, reporting good to outstanding quality in both their white and red grapes. “There will be some truly awesome wines from 2013, just not as much of them to share,” said Paul Linder, winemaker at Langmeil in Barossa.

A combination of hot weather and below average rainfall in the spring reduced grape yields across the state. John Duval, of his eponymous winery in Barossa Valley, said vintners had to be diligent with their irrigation to protect grapes from withering on the vines. He said yields were down between 30 to 50 percent in Barossa Valley. Cooler growing regions such as Adelaide Hills and Coonawarra in the Limestone Coast avoided the worst of the heat.

A heat wave jumpstarted harvest in mid-February, with growers scrambling to pick grapes as sugar levels spiked. The upside to the dry conditions was low disease pressure in the vineyards and a small crop that produced concentrated grapes. “Reds are showing excellent color and flavor, with balanced tannin structure,” said Duval. Winemakers in Eden Valley and Clare Valley reported good natural acidity in their Rieslings, despite the heat.

 

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Ripe for the picking.

Ripe for the picking.

 

Australian wineries are proving popular with Chinese buyers keen to ensure their supply of wine.

 
WINE PRODUCERS in every corner of the globe have set their sights on China’s vast and increasingly wine-friendly population, but nowhere more so than in Australia.

Australian wineries see themselves as particularly well placed to service the growing Chinese interest in wine; partly because Australia is an English-speaking country that’s geographically within easy reach of the Asian continent, and partly because their softer, rounder styles of wine seem to be suited to the Chinese palate.

However, it’s been well publicised that Australian wineries have been through some challenging times in recent years. With tough market conditions, excess production and falling grape prices, numerous small businesses have been hitting the wall. In many ways, it’s an investor’s dream.

Some Australian wineries have launched an attack, opening export offices and even cellar doors in major Chinese cities. However in recent months the tide has been turning, and the Chinese have been travelling to Australia to ensure their supply of wine in the best possible way: buying wineries.

At any given time, it’s difficult to pinpoint the precise number of Australian wineries that are in negotiations to sell to a Chinese buyer.

In some cases it’s simply that some level of financial backing has been taken on board, but rumours of takeover bids and potential new ownership swirl around companies large and small in every wine region in the country. Many of the buyers approaching Australia already control routes to market in their homeland.

 

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Scores 100 points!!!

Scores 100 points!!!

 

A price war is raging among retailers in Australia over the 2008 vintage of Penfolds Grange, which received a perfect 100-point score from The Wine Advocate.

In a bid to lure buyers with the lowest retail price, Australian liquor chain Dan Murphy’s cut its price from AU$669 to AU$645 (£423) in order to go lower than US supermarket chain Costco as the cheapest place to buy the prized new release.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Costco responded to Dan Murphy’s discounting yesterday by knocking a further $5 off its price to bring it down to $645.

Sydney-based independent wine merchant Kemenys is also selling the wine for $645, despite it carrying a recommended retail price of AU$785 (£515).

Meanwhile, UK-based fine wine merchant Farr Vintners has waded into the pricing war, matching Dan Murphy’s and Costco’s price, selling the wine at £350 in bond, which, with VAT and duty added, works out at £422.40 a bottle.

Having put 78 bottles on sale yesterday, the wine was already moving quickly at Costco’s Melbourne store, with assistant manager Nick Weller reporting “fantastic” sales.
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Australian Vintage is proving its determination to overcome challenges posed by a strong domestic currency with the announcement of a flurry of new product launches for the UK this year.

 

Julian Dyer, general manager for the UK & Europe at Australian Vintage, highlighted McGuigan’s position as “one of the fastest growing Australian brands” in the UK at the moment.

Despite acknowledging that, with the strong Australian dollar, “you have to be really lean to stay competitive” – the European office now bottles “over half” of all its wines in the UK – Dyer insisted: “The UK is a great market and we shouldn’t talk it down.”

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All3

Australia’s commodities boom created the $200,000 high-school dropout, the world’s richest woman, and the least affordable housing market on earth. And it could soon put a dent in the makers of Yellow Tail, the best selling Australian wine in America. From the WSJ’s Caroline Henshaw:

Australia’s largest family-owned winery relies on the U.S. for three-quarters of its sales, but the Australian dollar’s rise against the U.S. dollar has made its products less competitive against wines from rival regions such as California’s Napa Valley and South America.

Casella Wines is looking to shave costs and secure a deal with lender National Australia Bank ahead of an extended Jan. 30 deadline. A failure to secure a new loan could force the company to sell off vineyards or other assets, Chief Executive John Casella told The Wall Street Journal.
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(Image courtesy of Martin Philbey)

(Image courtesy of Martin Philbey)

 

A soaring Australian dollar, cash-rich mining industry and continuous in-store promotional discounts has led Australians to develop a serious thirst for Champagne.

In 2011, Champagne sales in Australia jumped by more than 30% to 4.8 million bottles.

With the average Champagne consumer in their late thirties, in Australia Champagne is often enjoyed at outdoor social gatherings such as horse racing, weddings and festivals, where it is drunk as an apéritif without food, meaning sales tend to be seasonal.

In Australia, twice as many people buy Champagne to drink themselves rather than to offer as a gift, with women accounting for 66% of the consumption.

The state of New South Wales alone accounts for 37% of Champagne consumption and Sydney’s “diamond collective” –  women in their 20s, 30s and 40s with high incomes, is its heartland.
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Get rid of your bad wine!

Get rid of your bad wine!

 

Think your Christmas wine is only fit for cooking? An Australian winery has the answer.

For wine lovers, the holiday season is a tricky one. While wine gifts may be gladly received, all too often the bottles presented are best suited to making risotto. But in Australia, marketers have come up with a positive solution.

Fifth Leg, a Western Australian brand owned by Treasury Wine Estates, is organizing a “Bad Taste Amnesty” for later this month. Under the one-day scheme, any Australian who wants to get rid of an unwanted wine can trade it for a bottle of Fifth Leg wine.

Whether the boss has handed over a basic table red, or a dinner guest has brought a bargain-bin pinot grigio that resembles vinegar, those bottles in the back of the cupboard can be exchanged for a more palatable wine.
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You devil, you!

You devil, you!

 

 

We consider the fast-growing interest and investment in Tasmania in our second of ten installments on Australia’s evolving wine industry.

In keeping with Australia’s continued search for yet cooler regions and leaner wine styles, its southernmost state, Tasmania, is becoming one of the most fashionable sources for grapes.

The fact the so-called Apple Isle exhibits a similar climate to New Zealand – both North and South Islands – is a further incentive for Australian winemakers, particularly those attempting to produce Down Under’s best Pinot Noir.

While plantings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay may be nothing new to Tasmania, grapes once exclusively destined for sparkling wine – the island’s most famous export – are increasingly being used to make still wines.

And proof of the island’s quality potential has been powerful in recent times: for example, Penfold’s Yattarna 2008 was crowned best Chardonnay in the inaugural James Halliday Chardonnay Challenge in September, and the famous producer had sourced 89% of its grapes from Tasmania in this vintage.

As Peter Gago admitted in a meeting with the drinks business at the end of last year, “If there is a trend in Yattarna Chardonnay, it’s that there’s more and more Tasmanian fruit in it” – pointing out that 96% of the Chardonnay in the more recent 2010 vintage had come from the island.

However, with the other 4% from the Adelaide Hills, he added, “Tasmania is more important but not all important”.

Meanwhile, Australia’s prestigious Jimmy Watson Trophy was won by the Glaetzer Dixon Family’s Mon Père Shiraz 2010, which was made exclusively from grapes grown on the Apple Isle.

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The third of our 10-part analysis on Australian wine trends considers the country’s embrace of Italian grapes and newfound success with the Moscato wine style.

Although the planting of Mediterranean varieties from Greece, Spain and Portugal is in vogue, it’s the potential of those from Italy that really seems to be exciting winemakers Down Under.

Historically, as André Bondar, at McLaren Vale’s Mitolo, records: “Australia used to plant French varieties regardless,” but today growers are realising that many Italian grapes are more suitable to certain climates in Australia.

For Corrina Wright, director at McLaren Vale grower and producer Oliver’s Taranga: “Italian varieties in general are gaining traction because they have high natural acidity and a lovely texture and they are well adapted to heat spikes.”

Notably she has planted five acres of Sagrantino. “We’ve had it for 12 years and it’s hard to grow and low cropping, but produces wines with fabulous tannins.” She would like to plant white grape Greco too, she says, but has run out of vineyard space.

For many, Sangiovese elicits excitement. Coriole’s Mark Lloyd points out that he was the first to grow Sangiovese in the country, having planted it in 1985 in the McLaren Vale because, he recalls: “It was going to be the antithesis of big, sweet Shiraz.”

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Fire risk for South Australia high!

Fire risk for South Australia high!

 

Several parts of South Australia are facing ‘catastrophic’ fire risks over the next few days as temperatures across the region are expected to hit near-record levels.

 

Dozens of firefighters are already battling to keep a fire under control in the Sevenhill area of the Clare Valley, while temperatures in Adelaide are forecast to hit 44C tomorrow (Friday) – with the heatwave expected to last more than a week.

The Clare Valley blaze, which has so far remained within fire control lines, is burning across the wooded slopes overlooking vineyards near Sevenhill. To date no damage to vines or wineries has been reported.

 

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