Dan's Blog


Friday, March 20, 2020

Recently Woolworth’s liquor retailer, Dan Murphy’s, announced that it had set up its own wine awards called, THE DECODED WINE AWARDS.

They claim that the aim is to make great wines more approachable to their customers by getting rid of all the “winespeak” that critics ramble on about in their wine descriptions.

The results of the first awards were recently announced at a gala dinner in Melbourne, where the winners across eleven categories were announced.

Some of the comments on the winners included:

A deliciously fresh, light and dry Riesling. The perfect wine to enjoy with your favourite Asian Cuisine.

A superb Chardonnay. This is an impressive, affordable option for your next dinner party.

This juicy, fresh and vibrant Grenache is perfect to drink now.

There are several points of interest in this. Firstly, I don’t get how this gets rid of the “winespeak”, they are talking about as the results of “normal” wine shows are expressed in medals not in wine descriptions. Presumably Dan Murphy’s won’t be going around all its stores and changing the description on every one of the 1,000 wines entered. So at best it describes the wines they chose to win, in simple, easy to understand terms which make these wines easier to sell.

OK, so unlike other wine shows and awards, these are only open to wines sold in the Woollies liquor empire. That shouldn’t be a problem, except that these days nearly half of the wines on its shelves are made by them, not by independent wineries. They are made under several different labels at their Dorrien Estate Winery, in the Barossa, so that in future years the winning wines judged by their staff could well be the wines that they make and want to flog. I have a problem with that! Other wine shows and awards are, thus far, impartial and open to any producer who pays the entry fee.

Then the judging is done by twelve carefully selected members of their staff – no outsider or consumer judged involved – Hmm, impartial??

It is only open to their suppliers, judged by their staff only, therefore one has to wonder whether this is really a genuine wine award or is it nothing more than a slick marketing tool to promote wines they want to push. In future will more and more of the winning wines come from their stable? And if not, then how long would it be before the suppliers of the winning wines have to “contribute”, to the promotion of their wines in the same way that Grocery suppliers have been doing to fund the supermarket’s margin for the last few decades?

One wonders if it would not have been simpler and more transparent for them to ask suppliers to produce simple, easy to understand descriptors for their wines ranged at Dan Murphy’s (after all they have the “clout” to do this) so that they could be used in-store rather than creating yet another wine award, which in effect raises plenty of questions as to its veracity.

I am in two minds about the efficacy of this new award, but I suspect that it may simply be a very clever and devious marketing tool.

Your thoughts?


This week I am looking at Zinfandel. I have been a huge fan of this big, rich variety ever since I first tasted in at a hotel at Los Angeles Airport, in 1982. I wasn’t a wine drinker at the time, but having spent four hours getting out of the airport after the plane had landed (they were rebuilding the airport for the 1984 Olympics), led me to drinking the wine that came with the magnificent steak at the hotel. Damn, it was pretty good, and I have been a Zinner ever since!

Initially, I was confined to the hard-to-find American Zin’s especially the sublime, Ridge Vineyard Zin’s made by the brilliant, Paul Draper.

In 2002, I discovered the Irvine 2001 Zinfandel (made by Jo Irvine) and lost my heart. This was every bit as good as the Yankees I had tried – I still have one bottle of the 2001 left to enjoy next year.

Today, there are 86 Zin producers in Australia, with many of them making absolutely cracking Zin – see my article, “Ama-Zin”, in the November/December 2017 edition of WBM.

However, today is about Lévrier by Jo Irvine 2014 Peritas Zinfandel.

This wine is sublime, starting with the great depth of inky colour, moving on to the still tight bouquet that teases the senses as it gradually opens up to reveal its beauty, coupled with some brambly characters.

On the big, rich, densely packed palate the wine is again tight and restrained offering just a hint of its true opulence that will be revealed over quite some length of time. As the flavours evolve and mature magnificently over the next few years this wine will become an Icon of Australian Zinfandel because it is truly magnificent.

All hail Jo Irvine – Queen of Zin!!