The editor’s note from The Conversation, August 9:
“Australia as a whole has become wealthier in recent decades, but this has also come with a marked increase in wealth inequality. With the poorest 40 per cent of the population effectively having no wealth at all, and the top 1 per cent having at least 15 per cent of the nation’s wealth.”
This reminded me of walking into my local Dan Murphy’s. A huge section of the store – maybe 40 per cent, maybe not as much – is taken up with wines that are economically priced. There is a lot of talk about trading up, single sites, premium and icon wines, but at the end of the day there is more than enough fine wine for the 1 per cent, and more than enough cheap wine for the 40 per cent, providing they have enough spare cash to buy it.
A report on Radio National’s breakfast show by Cathy Van Extel on August 9 was titled,“Australian wine industry questions integrity of wine ratings”.
“In an increasingly competitive wine market, retailers and producers are heavily promoting ratings from wine critics in an effort to influence consumers. But there’s growing concern within the industry about the integrity of these wine scores.”
The basis of the story was the release of James Halliday’s Wine Companion and the usual ensuing hubbub. I, along with Halliday, Huon Hooke and Kim Brebach, commented on the program.
I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating. Australian wine has come a very long way in the past three decades. I have no hesitation in saying it was the quality of Australian wine that forced other wine-producing countries and regions to lift their games, including the great Bordeaux and Burgundy.
The other side is that wine has become more homogenous, not just in Australia but globally. That shouldn’t be taken as a negative, but a positive. The average wine consumer is more likely to get a decent wine at a reasonable price in 2016 than they would have in 1976.
I admit to pointing highly because that is what the wines deserve. Some think their opinion is too great to admit that many of the cheaper offerings are very well made, if unexciting. The important point, I believe, is that ethically a score should not be used by retailers or wine clubs without the full tasting note that accompanies it.
Adelaide-based Gaetjens Langley has advertised the following for sale:
- A multiple brand portfolio operating in varying price brackets
- Well balanced bulk and packaged inventory levels
- Registered trademarks in Australia & key world markets
- 90K 9LE annual case sales, continuing to grow
- +AUD$2.6 million annual sales at current levels
- Supply agreements available if required
Without more detail it’s hard to gather exactly what is on offer. The 90,000 cases generating $2.6 million works out at $29 a case. It’s a low average and I would like to see the top and bottom prices. Also, do these brands, or will these brands, qualify for WET rebate if the proposed rules about owning winery or vineyards come into being? Are the brands up for sale because the owner can see the drop from a $500,000 rebate to a $350,000 rebate? Gaetjens Langley was approached for more information but is yet to reply.
Back in the day
Back in the day in this instance is the 1950s through to the 1970s, when cheese and wine receptions, gatherings and pairings were all the rage. Looking back to the ’70s, when I was first involved in drinking wine, the cheese and the wine were both dull. The cheese often came in cubes on a stick with a small silver skin onion or chunk of tinned pineapple. As for the wine, let’s leave it in the ’70s.
Cheese is a great partner for wine and with the numerous varieties now on offer can be enjoyed in many ways that hadn’t been thought of in the ’70s. Unfortunately, according to the latest Roy Morgan research, cheese sales are on the decline in Australia. Disappointingly, sales of block cheese, which is often the cheap, nasty stuff, are high. In an average four weeks:
- 9 per cent of Australian grocery buyers 18+ purchased block cheese
- 9 per cent bought grated/shredded cheese
- 5 per cent bought sliced cheese
- 4 per cent bought creamed cheese or cheese spreads
- 8 per cent purchased cheese snacks or portions
All the above figures are way down on 2012. There are some twists, such as the 63.9 per cent who bought block cheese increased to 81.1 per cent of people who also bought savoury biscuits/crackers, and 76.6 per cent of people who bought wine. The leading Australian brands are:
- Supermarket brand
- Mersey Valley
This is rather depressing considering all the great cheese that is available, even in supermarkets. The report does point out that the “big cheese” among the wine-buying group is Castello.
Angela Smith, group account director, Roy Morgan Research:
“Cheese is famous for its compatibility with wine, as well as being a fine match with savoury biscuits/crackers, and the latest Roy Morgan data certainly bears this out. People who buy wine, and those who buy crackers, are indeed more likely to purchase cheese than the average grocery buyer.”
Enjoy the week with a slice of great cheese and wonderful glass of fine Australian wine.