Dan's Blog


Friday, February 03, 2017

Here is a bit of wine news from around the world which may be of interest to you:

INDIA: We all know that vintages here in Australia have been getting earlier and earlier, of which has been well reported and documented – but spare a thought for the winemakers at Sula Vineyards, in India. Their harvest period traditionally used to start in mid-January and finish with the harvesting of the grapes, for the sweet wines by mid-April. Their current harvest “season” kicked-off in mid-December and presumably will finish by the end of March.

“Big deal, that’s the effect of global warming” I hear you say. Yes, but consider the implications? The grapes that were harvested in December were picked in 2016 and therefore are theoretically vintage 2016 and not 2017. So if the good people at Sula, who make very good wines, picked half of – let’s say, their Chardonnay in December and the balance in early January does this make the resultant wine a two vintage wine, which would need to be labelled as non-vintage? Theoretically it does but hopefully common sense will prevail and it will be considered 2017.

I mention this apparently trivial matter because the same will happen someday here in Australia and eventually there will be a year in which there are two vintages – just some food for thought.

CHINA: Tmall, China’s massive online wine sales company (they have tripled their wine sales over the last three years) recently announced its top ten wines of 2016. They were:

1 Chinese wine – a relatively unknown Cabernet

1 Canadian ice wine

1 Italian red

1 Chilean Syrah

1 US Cabernet-Mondavi

2 Bordeaux – minor chateaux

3 Australian wines – Craggy Range Savignon Blanc, St Hallett Black Clay Shiraz and Penfolds Max’s Shiraz Cabernet

Wow! Not a bad effort Australia!! Hopefully as part of our rapidly growing wine sales to China, we can score four or five Aussie wines in the top 10 this year – the Year of the Rooster.

USA: McWilliams Wines is being sued under Trademark Laws in the USA by the Butterball Corporation (the world’s largest producer of turkeys) because McWilliams are selling a wine labelled as “Butterball Chardonnay”. This should be interesting to watch.

BRITAIN: You’ve probably all heard of the meteoric rise of British wine, especially of their sparkling wines over the last few years. Well, British sparkling wine brand, Digby, is now available in Australia at 40 of the Dan Murphy stores across the country. It is not cheap and will set you back around $90 a bottle, but it is actually available for the first time. When British sparkling wine Nytimber (est 1992) beat Champagne in a taste-off a few years ago, the only way I could get a bottle to try was to buy it from the winery in the UK and have them post it to me – it was a stunning wine and worth the $100 it cost me to get it here. So now Digby English bubbles is available here for $90 – humph! I wonder which is better value? Without having tried the Digby, I’d put my money on the Nytimber which has been amassing a mind-blowing track record over the last few years.

Speaking of English wine, according to recent data, 37 new wineries opened up last year, making the total now at over 170 wineries. Latest forecasts are predicting that if production can keep up, sales of British wines in 2020 will be eightfold of what they were in 2015, making it the fastest growing wine industry on the planet – Wow! That would be ubber impressive if achieved.

By the way, there is now an “English Wine Week” at the start of June each year with wineries, pubs, restaurants and retailers conducting special tastings and having special offers to encourage people to try the British wines.

ARMENIA: Armenia’s wine exports dropped by around 30% in 2015/2016. At the same time that they had a 4% drop in production due to vintage conditions.

With nearly 80% of their production being exported to Russia, they are just one more of the Eurasian States which are suffering from Russia’s erratic and nationalistic trading patterns. The only good news for the Armenians is that sales of their “champagne” rose by 2%. Cynical, observers could say this was due to more Russian’s celebrating the impact that they are having on the neighbour’s wine exports.

Probably, this situation will only get worse as Russian plans to turn the annexed Crimea into the world’s largest wine factory progress. Like the Georgians, etc, have done, the Armenian’s need to start looking to exporting their wines to other (non-Russian) parts of the world in order to secure their long term survival.

GLOBAL: After severe challenging weather conditions in many of the world’s wine growing regions over 2016/2017 vintage, it is expected that global wine production will be the lowest in around 20 years with a reduction of between 15-20% in the total wine production.

Whilst it is too early to tell how the vintage will play out in Australia, the following regions have been severely affected:

Argentina – financial crisis

Austria – frosts hail and rain

Burgundy – severe hail and rain

Chile – rain/floods

California – drought 

Eastern Europe – rain/floods

Italy – rain/floods

Other parts of France – rains

So the net result for this vintage should end up that the top 10 will be:

Italy #1 producer – producing as much wine as Germany, Argentina, Chile, South Africa and China combined.

France #2, Spain #3, USA #4, Australia #5, China #6, Chile #7, South Africa #8, Argentina #9 and Germany #10.

Italy at number one is totally mind-blowing when you consider the country is also one of the top olive and olive oil producers, has a population of 60 million people and yet is about the same size as Tassie and Victoria combined – WOW! How do they fit it all into such a small area?

These have been just a snippet of what is happening in the fascinating world of wine. I trust that you found them interesting, if so please feel free to pass this blog on to friends and colleagues. Cheers!


I recently read that fortified wine sales are continuing to decline in Australia.

Yes, that is true of the cheaper commercial wines, especially of the under $10 a bottle, casks and flagons (do they still exist?). But what of the sublime, super premium Australian fortified wines?

The answer isn’t clear as the figures for this niche of the market are hard to come by.

If they are, then it is a sad enditement on our industry’s marketing skills, as we make some of the very best fortified wines on this planet.

We have some unique fortified wines such as Seppeltsfield 100 year old tawny and the mind-blowing Muscat and Topaque of Rutherglen. Considering the burgeoning demand for wine in Asia – which used to be a huge Cognac market, we should be busy educating the Chinese palate about our glorious, premium fortifieds and growing the sales of these unique liquid jewels.

Then, given the minute quantities that these wines are made in, our quality, fortified producers would be able to prosper. This would prevent the ridiculous situation that arose last year where Pernod Ricard almost closed Morris Wines – one of the top producers of fortifieds IN THE WORLD, because they said that after 150 years in operation, “it was not viable”. Luckily for the world Casella Wines disagreed and bought it.

OK, so I’ll get off my soap box and instead talk about one of those sensational Rutherglen fortified producers – in this case, PFEIFFER WINES.

I recently had the opportunity to taste a number of their great Rutherglen fortifieds.

The PFEIFFER VINTAGE FORTIFIED 2013 was in a relatively more contemporary style.  Instead of having to wait 10-20 years from bottling to be able to drink it, this wine is just becoming ready to go at three years old, but still has the body and depth to age excellently, for a long, long time. It will be sensational in a decade +.

As you probably know, Rutherglen has a 4-tier system to classify its Muscat. It goes “Rutherglen Muscat” 3-5 years old (YO), “Classic Rutherglen Muscat” 6-10 YO, “Grand Rutherglen Muscat” 11-19 YO, and the pinnacle, “Rare Rutherglen Muscat” 20+ YO. The same system is used for the Topaque (Tokay).

The “CLASSIC MUSCAT” is a stunner, redolent with aromas of Christmas pudding and raisins, gorgeous rich flavours, lovely viscosity – a truly great example of the “classic” style, it doesn’t cloy and leaves the palate pleading for more.

The “CLASSIC RUTHERGLEN TOPAQUE”, like with the Classic Muscat is quite a step up from the “Rutherglen Topaque”.


These wines are sensational, delicious, divine and “world-class”, so I strongly recommend that you give them “a go” and they will reward your taste buds for your sense of adventure.