From time to time one hears about some really incredible things happening in the wine industry – some good and some disgusting/evil.
WOOLWORTHS: The first is truly obscene, as recent data shows that Woolworths, in its various guises, but mainly as Dan Murphy’s now, accounts for over 50% of all alcohol sold off-premise (not in restaurants, bars & pubs) in Australia. That is a staggering statistic and when you add Coles the figure must be well over 80%. In addition, they have a reasonable chunk of the “on-premise” (dine in) trade through owning a significant number of pubs around the country.
So the big question is: Why/How did the government/ACCC allow this to happen? Would they allow, say Treasury and Pernod Ricard, to buy up 80% of all the wineries in the country? I’ll bet they wouldn’t! But, they have allowed these two evil giants to take control of wine/alcohol sales in the country.
The evil duopoly then had the audacity to lodge objections when Foodland and Aldi sought licences to sell alcohol in their supermarkets. I guess they won’t be happy until between them they have 100% of the market.
To compound the situation/plight of smaller winemakers, Woollies now produces millions of litres of bottle quality wines at its own wineries and dedicates about 40% (or more) of its shelf space to its own brands/cleanskins. It also has a significant and growing presence in the ether, with significant on-line and “click & collect” sales.
How can this be?? How come the ACCC didn’t do anything about it along the way? Why aren’t they doing something about this duopoly now?
FRANCE: Governmentally incredible – I recently read that authorities in France are going to deport Japanese couple Hirofumi and Rie Shoji, who own and run a 3.5 hectare red vineyard in the beautiful Banyuls area of Roussillon. Arriving in France (legally) in 2011, they trained in Burgundy before acquiring their own vineyard called “Pedres Blanques” (White Stones). Their first vintage, 2016, was highly acclaimed and their wine has been picked up by several highly regarded restaurants, including in Paris and a Michelin starred restaurant just over the border in Spain.
Their wine is on allocation in the local bottle shops and it has been imported into Denmark. The popularity is such that around three-quarters of the as yet un-made 2018 vintage has been pre-ordered.
However, the French authorities have issued a deportation order because according to them, the vineyard is not economically viable and thus the couple could become a burden to the state and be unable to pay their taxes – “Mon Dieu! C’est Incroyable!”
QVERVI: The third and last thing is incredible, but in a good way. Georgian company, QverviXYZ, has announced that it will start producing Qvervi (Georgian wine making clay amphora) using a 3D printer.
While qvervi have been imitated by the modern concrete “wine eggs” the traditional way of handcrafting qvervi out of clay by hand has not changed in several thousand years – until now.
The producer’s claim that their printed qvervi will take a lot less time to make (hours instead of around a month), will have improved structure, more uniform thickness and be of higher quality while maintaining its unique, traditional characteristics.
If they get this right and at a realistic price, we could see more qvervi being used in winemaking around the world.
THIS WEEK’S WINE REVIEW:
With the inaugural Global Grüner Challenge (GGC) organised by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board and Winestate Magazine being conducted here in Adelaide on the 28th of this month, I thought it was a good time to talk about Grüner Veltliner.
Grüner Veltliner is the white Austrian superstar that is taking the world by storm. Here in Australia the first Grüner was released by 2009 and only nine years later we have 40 Grüner producers.
The Grüner producers of the Adelaide Hills (the “Grüner Capital of the Southern Hemisphere”) got together and formed the “Grüner Group” to promote the variety, assist each other in learning more about it and to help develop an Australian style for the variety – i.e. so as not to just imitate the Austrian wines.
The Grüner Group has almost all of the thirty-two Grüner growers from the Hills as members. They meet to discuss the variety, taste each other’s wines, talk about marketing the wines and generally enhance their knowledge about Grüner.
At their meeting held in the beginning of July, I was invited to come along and talk about the GGC and also my recent experiences at VieVinum in Vienna, which will feature in an upcoming issue of Winestate Magazine.
The main focus of this particular meeting was a tasting of two flights of six Austrian Grüner Veltliners each. The first being of wines officially designated as “Klassic” – which has to be less than 13% alc/vol, young-bottled within 12 months of vintage, fresh, fruity aromatic, made in stainless steel, with no botrytis or oak notes.
The second being “Reserve” which has to have at least 13% alc/vol, dry, full-bodied and spicy, oak aging and subtle botrytis notes are allowed.
By trying these (and many other Grüner along the way) the group members get to understand the stylistics of the Austrian wines.
As a variety, Grüner Veltliner is growing massively in popularity and volume here and with the effort and dedication being shown by its growers, I am sure it will have a very bright future. That is you will be seeing a lot more of Grüner in the next few years. Grüner’s future is so very exciting!
By the way my favourite wine of the tasting was the 2015 Franz Hirtzberger ‘Axpoint’ Smaragd (Reserve) from the Wachau region (14% alc/vol) – Big, rich, steely, crisp with lovely finish. A superb wine!