Max Allen on terroir to Max Cru’s top wine

The Financial Review, 27 January, Max Allen

“At last year’s Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference in Adelaide – a major triennial event where scientists, researchers, viticulturists and winemakers gather to learn about the latest discoveries in oenology – discussion of terroir was, for the first time in the conference’s 46-year history, placed front and centre of proceedings.

This is significant: in the past, scientifically inclined wine folk have often tended to dismiss the notion of terroir as little more than romantic bunkum or marketing spin dreamt up by the French to justify charging higher prices for their posh bottles.” Full article

The Advertiser, 31 January, Cameron England

One of Chateau Yaldara’s secret weapons in earning a spot among the top 10 Australian wine exporters to China is its strong on-the-ground presence and its own store network.

General manager Anthony Grundel has recently joined the Chinese-owned, Lyndoch-based business and also has a history predominantly focused on fine wine exports into Hong Kong, Macau and China.

Chateau Yaldara was sold to Chinese-owned company 1847 Wines in mid-2014, complementing 1847’s high end offerings with a broader range. Full article

Forbs, 27 January, Brian Freedman

Australia, perhaps more than any other major wine-producing country in the world, has suffered from a deep sense of misunderstanding among American consumers. For years, the perception, in general, was of a nation that tended to produce a single style of wine, regardless of where in that vast continent it came from. This worked well for the Australian wine industry for a time, but eventually, as the wine world changed, and as consumer tastes inevitably shifted away from decidedly fruit-forward bottlings, it suffered. Only now is Australian wine climbing back to prominence in the United States. Full article  

The Jakarta Post, 27 January, Tessa Randello 

Penfolds is paying tribute to their most influential wine maker, Max Schubert, with a new collection of wines that are aimed at millennials who want good and affordable wine that they can drink straight away.

“The wines have between 5 percent and 10 percent oak with really low tannings; they feature fresher fruity flavors,” said Southeast Asian Penfolds ambassador Patrick Dowling during the luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton Jakarta recently. Full article, 27 January, Chris Losh

One of the biggest trends in Australia over the last decade – the increase of Italian and Iberian varieties – has received a mixed reaction from the on-trade. While there were few qualms over the quality of the wines on show at the Australia Day Tasting, the price – and saleability of them – raised eyebrows.

‘We are trying a few, and so far they don’t sell a lot, but I think their time is coming,’ said Hakkasan’s Head of Wine, Christine Parkinson. ‘A key factor will be whether a few wines will break through into ‘by glass’ price points, which would set them flying.’ Full article

The Daily Mail, 27 January, Harry Pearl and Tom Westbrook

The value of Australian wine exports to China surged 40 percent in 2016, industry figures showed on Friday, unexpectedly driven by sales of premium labels rather than the cheaper wines that major producers had been looking to boost.

“Rather than drinking the super-expensive French wines, they were turning to Australian wines which were more affordable. Penfolds in comparison is (much cheaper),” wine exporter Greg Corra, managing director of Canberra-based Inland Trading, told Reuters. Full article

The Wall Street Journal, 25 January, Lettie Teague

Wines regularly slip in and out of fashion, but few have fallen as far as the wines of Australia did over the past decade. Once among the world’s most sought-after bottles, they are now some of the hardest to sell. Recently, however, there have been signs of a small but steady recovery, thanks to some intrepid retailers, sommeliers, importers and, of course, the winemakers themselves.

When Gordon Little launched Little Peacock Imports, his New York-based, all-Aussie import and distribution business, five years ago, he found dusty old bottles of Australian wine lining retailers’ shelves. At New York restaurants, wine lists included “200 Burgundies and maybe two Australian wines,” he said. “It’s been really hard to get people to buy Australian wine because there’s not a lot of confidence.”

Teague reviews (Full Article)

The 2014 Best’s Great Western Bin No. 1 Shiraz

Holm Oak Pinot Noir, from Tasmania,

2015 Mitolo Jester Vermentino

2014 Silkman Semillon

2014 Tim Smith Viognier

2015 Pewsey Vale Riesling ($13),

Jansz Tasmania Premium Cuvée

2014 Jim Barry the Cover Drive

Wynns Black Label Coonawarra Estate,

Grape Expectations 21 & 28 January Max Crus (Simon Hughes)

At some point in the week these reviews and article will appear in The Daily Examiner (Grafton), Border Mail (Albury), Rotary Down Under (National) and Australian Petroleum Marketer News (National) 

The 21 January edition saw the publication of the Max Crus Trophy 2016.

Righto, I promise this is the last ‘best of’ column for this year, but in the absence of any new political drama – although I should point out that The Big N. has predicted Tony will be PM again before May, so not long now – let’s kick back and look at the best of 2016, and single out one deserving of the 2016 Max Crus Trophy.

Unexpectedly, only 42 per cent of the 700ish wines we tried last year were whites, which explains why the chardonnay department at Maison de Crus is overflowing. Message to self, review more chardonnay in 2017.

Nevertheless the split between chardonnay, riesling, pinot gris/grigio, and sbs variations was pretty equal, all in all a very balanced diet.

The red line-up by contrast couldn’t have been more imbalanced. Shiraz and shiraz blends accounted for twice as many reviews as cabernet, while pinot managed only two thirds of cabernet’s numbers.

Dontcha’ love statistics? But wait, there’s more!

The average price of all wines reviewed over the past twenty years topped the $25 mark back in September from a lowly $15 in 1996, no doubt helped along by more than a dozen wines over the $100 mark, a slightly disturbing trend except for those who can afford them…and the politicians they court.

Almost 15 percent of wines reviewed in 2016 scored 9/10 or better, seven of which scored 9.3/10. But 9.3/10 was as high as it got, except for one… and that’s good enough reason to be this year’s trophy winner.

Okay, it wasn’t a current release wine, indeed it’s been superseded twice, but that doesn’t stop it being a fabulous wine…so congratulations to the team at Howard Park Wines for their 2012 Leston Shiraz, which also has the laudable claim that it was the cheapest wine (at $46) which scored 9.3 or better.

And here’s some other runners up:

Yabby Lake Vineyard Mornington Peninsula Single Block Release Block 2 Rows 9-37, 2015 Pinot Noir (Bottle No.1350 of 3117), $95. The label and price pretty much tell you everything a review would except the score. They are right to make a fuss. 9.3/10.

Castagna Sparkling Genesis (Shiraz Viognier) 2008, $80. In the beginning there was shiraz, and before long someone just had to make some bubbles with the grape, God bless them. 9.3/10.

Lowe Nullo Mountain Riesling 2013, $50. First time around this was the highest scoring riesling of the year. Second time around it was even better, the highest scoring white. What will it be like next year? 9.3/10.

Mitolo Savitar Shiraz 2013, and Serpico Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012, $80. Mitolo had two wines scoring 9.2/10 in 2016, both of which are now movie classics, well sort of, which is a pretty good average.

Gundog Estate Wild Semillon 2015, $30. Going one step better…Astute readers will remember two Gundog semillons scoring 9.2/10 back in November, well, this one scored the same back in January 2016. A hatrick! Great stuff. 9.2/10.

Previous winners, in order of appearance from 1996 : Seaview Shiraz, Jacob’s Creek Riesling, Taylor’s Cab Sav, Ingoldby Cab Sav, Banrock Station Shiraz Cab, Dromana Estate Verjus, Oxford Landing Shiraz, Fox Creek Shadow’s Run Shiraz Cab Sav, Plunkett Gewurztraminer, Gramps Shiraz, Angoves Nine Vines Rosé, Logan Gewurztraminer, Zema Estate Cabernet, Mollydooker’s Enchanted Path Shiraz Cabernet, Torbreck Woodcutters Shiraz, yellow tail Premium Cabernet Sauvignon and Pimpernel Pinot Noir, Churchview Zinfandel, Fox Gordon ’The Sicilian’ Nero d’Avola, and Berton Vineyard High Eden The Bonsai 2012.

28 January: Wines reviewed

Robert Stein Mudgee Reserve (100%) Single Vineyard Riesling 2016, $50. Is this Australia’s most expensive Riesling? It deserves to be. A cut above average fare by a fair margin. 9.3/10.

Robert Stein Mudgee Riesling 2016, $30. This is a rare white you can have after drinking red and has a million medals around it’s neck, although we still preferred it’s more expensive brother. 9.1/10.

Jim Brand Coonawarra Family Reserve Single Vineyard Domain Cabernets 2013 (Bottle No.0626), $65ish. From the famous Brand brand of Coonawarra, you can taste the heritage in this, the sweat of generations, well, actually, thankfully not the latter. 9.2/10.

Jim Brand Coonawarra Family Reserve Single Vineyard Glenroy Shiraz 2013 (Bottle No.1753), $65ish. Sorry, there’s so much information on the label there’s no room for a review. 9/10.

d’Arenberg ‘The Peppermint Paddock’ Sparkling Red Chambourcin Shiraz Graciano, NV, $28. Imagine a whole paddock of peppermint? Actually, what does peppermint look like. Definitely one of the better manifestations of edible peppermint. 8.8/10.

d’Arenberg Pollyanna ‘Polly’ Adelaide Hills Chardonnay Pinot Noir Pinot Meunier NV, $28. The most aptly named sparkling wine in Australia, specially if you know Pollyanna’s origin. Google it or buy one. 8.5/10.

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