Dan's Blog


Friday, September 22, 2017

Apart from being the most populous country on the planet, China is also the fastest changing one, as this week’s news snippets will show.

IN THE FACE OF IT:  China is leading the world in the use of facial recognition, initially by the government and more recently by business.

A few week’s ago an affiliate company of Alibaba (the biggest online company in China and probably the world), launched a facial recognition payment service. Yes! If you order your dinner at KPro (KFC) in Hangzhou, you can pay with your face!! Your face is scanned as you place your order and if the scan matches what’s on your photo ID data base, all you have to do is enter your phone number on the key pad and the payment goes through.  You have to wonder how long it will be before we are using that here in Australia. After all it wasn’t that long ago that a mobile phone was used just to make phone calls and text messages. Now they can tell you where you are on the planet, order almost anything or even run your life for you.

FACING FACTS:  While the number of Australians using mobile commerce (buying by App) is increasing steadily, a significant proportion of online purchases are still being made from old technology - PC and laptops. Not so in China, the retail platform of the huge online Alibaba Group reports that in the first quarter of this year, over 80% of online alcohol purchases were made from mobiles. This is a very impressive figure, especially when you stop and consider that four years ago that figure was hovering around the 20% mark. That is a staggering rate of growth!

According to Tmall figures, the local Baijiu (Rice-based spirit) still leads the online sales, followed by wine, imported spirits and then beer. They claim that they have around 20,000 beverage brands, from over 70 countries on their site. They have stats on just about every aspect of their sales data. However, one of the most interesting is the fact that Merlot-based wines (varietal and merlot predominant blends) head the sales volume figures, ahead of the typically expected (to lead) Cabernet Sauvignon. These are followed by Cabernet Franc, Shiraz/Syrah, Grenache, Moscato, Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Tempranillo, with Chardonnay not making the Top 10.

Their figures show that whilst imported wines are still by far the preferred wine choice, the share of domestic wines has risen to be 19% of their market. The same report showed that the most popular brand amongst first time buyers on the site was Penfolds. Apparently it holds its grip and repeat buyers who tried the brand first, continue to buy it on an ongoing basis. Chinese wine giant Changyu was the only Chinese company to make the Top 5 on that list. Chateau Monlot from Bordeaux was third highest choice on the list for first time buyers, due to the fact that it is owned by well-known Chinese actress, Zhao Wei.

The Chinese Government’s agency CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Centre) recently estimated that just over 95% of the country’s 730 Million (which is more than double the total US population) internet users accessed the internet from a mobile device last year, Wow!

What all this really means is that not only do wineries have to start focusing on marketing online as opposed to the old traditional ways, but that they also need to focus on mobile-dominated e-commerce, as the future has arrived in China and is starting to arrive here and everywhere else.


This week’s review is about a most unusual set of superbly presented wines from HUGH HAMILTON WINES, situated in McLaren Vale.

Presented in a very classy boxed set of four wines, with two of its local Saperavi wines along with an Mtsvane (white) and a Saperavi from Georgia – called “The Exotica Collection”.


This is an inspired marketing concept (even if the labels are a bit hard to read), to showcase a damned good Georgian Saperavi alongside two “local lads”.

Saperavi is the “Red” superstar of its native Georgia’s wine industry and has been almost single-handedly responsible for putting Georgia in the lime-light of the wine world recently.

Starting with the one white in the “crowd”:

HUGH HAMILTON ‘THE QUIRKY’ 2015 GEORGIA MTSVANE:  Mtsvane, is a native Georgian white variety that produces a very elegant wine with a light, bright, straw colour and a pretty bouquet of vanilla beans and limes. On the palate, it has delightful, light, bright lime flavours which invigorate the palate and leave it cleansed and fresh. A very interesting and delicious wine that should not be chilled too much. DISTINCTIVE and DELICIOUS!


After such a great start it was on to the three reds:

HUGH HAMILTON ‘THE QUIRKY’ 2014 GEORGIA SAPERAVI:  This natural and unfiltered wine has a lovely, medium-density (for Saperavi) of deep purple colour, soft, gentle aromas and masses of appealing flavours. It is a big, quite robust wine but perfectly balanced so that there are no sharp tannins showing. It is very smooth, elegant and utterly SUPERB!


HUGH HAMILTON ‘THE ODDBALL’ 2015 McLAREN VALE SAPERAVI:  This ‘local lad’ is significantly bigger in structure and density than his Georgian mate, with the colour being very deep purple, almost bordering on black and denser as well. Again the bouquet is soft but with distinctive vanillin oak present. 

On the palate it has oodles of flavour, plenty of oak, plenty of substance and structure, with a great, long, lingering finish. That is, it is a BIG wine, but very graceful and not at all brutish, as many muscular wines can be. MOST IMPRESSIVE!


HUGH HAMILTON ‘ODDBALL THE GREAT’ 2014 McLAREN VALE SAPERAVI:  This is the leader of the gang! The “Big Daddy”! It is a truly massive wine, almost black in colour, of an impenetrable density. A stronger bouquet, mainly of vanillin oak and a big, tight palate with significantly more muscle and tannins than the other gang members. No question as to who is the boss!!


This wine needs a long sentence (in the bottle) before being allowed to see the light of day in civilised society. It is the epitome of the old adage, “a liquid steak in every glass”. TRULY AWESOME!

Congratulations HUGH HAMILTON WINES on a brilliant concept, superbly executed and sensationally presented. We need more of this class and panache in the wine industry. Cheers!