Nick Holms, Academic rubbish, feeding fish, great Riesling

Nick Holmes 1947- 2017. Taken too soon

Obituary by Richard Warland

Nick Holmes, founder of McLaren Vale winery Shottesbrooke, passed away after an accident at his Port Noarlunga home on June 1st.

Nick was in my class at Roseworthy (70-71) and suffered a very unfortunate series of events that no doubt, contributed to the forging of his character for the rest of his too short life.

After two years in Ag Science and two years in Oenology, he failed and left Roseworthy with no papers. In 1972 that was not a great handicap as the industry needed winemakers, but he had been called up for National Service whilst at RAC and unlike me, he had not had the foresight to join the Reserve – which gave you a six year sentence, but did not affect your job.

He served as a gunner with the 4th Field Regiment in Townsville and was due for discharge around a month after National Service was canned.

During this time, his long-time girlfriend Trish died in a car accident.

Born to British parents in Kampala, Uganda, Nick had a “character building” life as a child. His brother, Steve, relates that his early first language was Swahili… and those of us who shared the odd glass with him can relate that he lapsed into it often…

On his discharge from the Army and no doubt prompted by Trish’s death, Nick left Australia as a “soldier of fortune”, working as a labourer on oil rigs and building sites all over the world.

What we, his mates who cared about him, didn’t realise was that he was saving his money to launch the dream that became first a vineyard at Myponga and subsequently his Shottesbrooke winery at McLaren Flat.

Even more sadly, Nick had recently retired and was looking forward to a comfortable life with his wife Jenny, her two delightful daughters and his beloved Rhodesian Ridgeback, Jack.

Eulogy snippets from his funeral included

“He worked so hard that it was a fault”
“Nick was a risk taker”
“He was a hustler” (in his sales approach)
“A curious man” (in the sense that he was curious about things and nature)
“A quirky, complex, flawed, enigmatic man”

RIP my friend, as you used to say “That’s enough”.

Behind the label

What worth is a label? Is there more behind a label then we realise? Reading many articles this past week, such as the ABC Rural story from which the extract below is taken, one would believe so.

“It seems the way to a wine lover’s heart is through words.

“A study by the University of Adelaide has shown just how influential an emotive wine label can be on the popularity and price people are willing to pay.

“Using a blind taste test, participants rated samples with an elaborate description higher than those with little to none on the bottle.

“Associate Professor and project lead, Sue Bastian, said drinkers were keen to shell out more for drops with emotional or evocative descriptions.”

As positive as the media reports were, they didn’t ring true with TKR. The only option was to obtain the paper and read in full.

The title:

‘I like the sound of that!’ Wine descriptions influence consumers’ expectations, liking, emotions and willingness to pay for Australian white wines. By Lukas Danner, Trent E Johnson, Renata Ristic, Herbert L Meiselman and Susan EP Bastian.

The abstract starts:

“This study investigated how information, typically presented on wine back-labels or wine company websites, influences consumers’ expected liking, informed liking, wine-evoked emotions and willingness to pay for Australian white wines.”


“…measured the emotional responses of regular lager beer consumers to a broad range of commercial lager beers under three conditions; blind tasting, packaging only and informed tasting (tasting together with packaging) and found that although sensory attributes and packaging influenced emotional responses, packaging cues were more influential compared to sensory attributes alone.”

The study aims were to:

“… explore whether different information levels: blind tasting; basic sensory information; and elaborate sensory plus high wine quality and favourable winery information; influence consumers’ emotional response profiles, liking and willingness to pay for commercial white wines. We hypothesised that more elaborate information provided to consumers would positively impact their emotional, hedonic and willingness to pay responses and quality rating of the wine.

“The second objective was to investigate how expectations and either their confirmation or disconfirmation after tasting, influence consumers’ wine-evoked emotions, willingness to pay and quality ratings of the wines.”

The wine selection reads like the beginning of a bad joke: there was a chardonnay a riesling and a sauvignon blanc in a bar…

The joke gets worse in the telling:

“The DA was used to objectively describe the sensory properties of wines and consisted of 8 two-hour training sessions and 4 formal evaluation sessions. The screened (using ISO standards) tasting panel comprised of 6 females and 5 males (average age 40), who had previously participated in several descriptive analyses on wine. During the training, assessors developed the vocabulary and practiced sensory attribute recognition and scale usage, using reference standards. Following sessions focused on panellist sample discriminability, repeatability and consensus among assessors using some of the treatment samples following the procedure outlined by Lawless and Heymann (2010).”

The conclusion:

“Furthermore, these findings have important implications for hospitality and sales personnel in winery and wine retailers, as they clearly show that if consumers are provided with additional wine description information, particularly using emotive language, they might be willing to pay more for wines and also perceive the wines to be of higher quality, and therefore potentially increase purchase and/or repurchase probability… a majority of participants mentioned that receiving information made the tasting more interesting and easier for them.”

TKR’s conclusion:

Have we got the hang of this paper or is it beyond our ken? The scholarly aspect is huge, bigger then President Trump’s ego and self-pity at media bullying. The references are numerous and lengthy, reminiscent of a Tuesday stew in the 1950s made with the last of the Sunday roast: a ton of spuds, a few seasonal vegetables and the minuscule hint of lamb.

Strip the references out what’s left is skinny. The question that comes to mind is: how many read back labels with any great depth of attention?

Where is the research into the colour of the label, the colour of the font on that label, and the size of the font? This plays a huge part, as does the label design, which has to catch the eye before the bottle is picked up and description read.

How can a group of regular wine drinkers who have given up the time to attend training be considered ordinary consumers who can be influenced by words on a label?

This research is pure academic twaddle. One doesn’t need a PhD to know a sight of the package or label is powerful. Looks cheap, tastes cheap more often go together then looks cheap, tastes brilliant.

Worst of all the descriptions were not on bottles but on paper, the whole excise was a farce, a complete waste of money that led to false news being presented in the media

The next time Wine Australia is giving out grants it could do better walking around Adelaide and dropping $20 in the pockets of The Big Issue vendors.

Waste not, want not

Waste! Such a lot of it nowadays: landfill, excess packaging, and, worst of all, food. Obese people waste food by stuffing far too much down their gullets, and households throw away unconsumed food.

It was good to read articles this past week on a collaboration between the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and Tarac Technologies to use grape waste (marc) as feed for abalone.

Apparently, lab trials have shown the new feed is better than what is currently available from commercial aquaculture feeds. Better still, it’s half the price, so not a waste of money. Research continues on its potential for feeding farmed fish.

The standard base for feed is said to be $500-$800 a tonne, versus marc feed at $250-$400 a tonne.

It’s good to see waste from winemaking not go to waste.

Rise to riesling

Eric Asimov reviewed Australian riesling in The New York Times on 8 June. The story is worth reading in full, but here are the tasting notes (prices in US dollars):

★★★ PIKES CLARE VALLEY RIESLING TRADITIONALE 2014 $19: Lively, long, subtle and deep, with earthy aromas and flavours of flowers, wet stones and lime.

★★★ FRANKLAND ESTATE FRANKLAND RIVER RIESLING NETLEY ROAD VINEYARD 2014 $30: Earthy and rich, yet nervy and balanced with aromas of wet stones and just a touch of sweetness.

★★★ SOME YOUNG PUNKS CLARE VALLEY RIESLING ‘MONSTERS, MONSTERS, ATTACK!’ 2015 $25: Beautifully balanced with lingering flavours of apricots and minerals.

★★½ FRANKLAND ESTATE FRANKLAND RIVER RIESLING ISOLATION RIDGE 2014 $33: Savoury and taut with lively aromas and flavours of flowers and citrus.

★★½ BEST’S GREAT WESTERN RIESLING 2014 $22: Balanced and lively with flavours of peaches and minerals and a touch of sweetness.

★★½ ST HALLETT EDEN VALLEY RIESLING 2015 $16: Earthy and rich, but not heavy with lingering aromas and flavours of flowers and lime.

★★½ ROLF BINDER EDEN VALLEY RIESLING HIGHNESS 2015 $16: Full-bodied with aromas and flavours of hazelnuts, lime and petroleum.

★★ CHARACTER SERIES CLARE VALLEY ‘THE COURTESAN’ RIESLING 2016 $18: Balanced and lively with floral aromas and racy citrus flavours.

★★ GROSSET CLARE VALLEY RIESLING POLISH HILL 2014 $48: Earthy, tangy and structured, with aromas of ripe fruits.

★★ LEEUWIN ESTATE MARGARET RIVER ART SERIES 2014 $22: Crisp and pleasing with aromas and flavours of flowers, lime and wet rocks.

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