Dan's Blog

The BAD the DUBIOUS and the GOOD

Friday, March 31, 2017

“THE BAD” – MEXICO: They make wine in Mexico? - people ask. Well, yeah, they do. Mainly in the State of Baja California, where they produce some very good wines, like those of L.A.Cetto – I was fortunate enough to be able to taste these excellent wines at the Hong Kong International Wine Fair last year. In particular the reds, Nebbiolo, Zinfandel and Petit Syrah (Durif) were sensational.

Ok, so the problem now is that 70% of Mexico’s wine is grown in this area which is surrounded by mountains on three sides and the Pacific Ocean on the other. Unfortunately, the area is literally running out of water. The scantrainfall that the area receives has dropped away to be almost non-existent in the last few years, while at thesame time the number of wineries has grown threefold to 150. Added to this drain on the water table, is the fact that there has been an increase in tourism, with extra hotels/motels restaurants and ancillary services.

Also, the combination of less rainfall and much more water usage has meant that the aquifer has become tainted with salt water so that the quality of the ever increasing amount of water being drawn is deteriorating.

There are three possible solutions to what will become a crisis within the next few years:

-       ---  Heaps of rainfall to restore the balance

-       ---  Severe restrictions on construction in Valle de Guadalupe

-       ---  Build several significantly sized desalination plants.

Given the inertia of the Mexican Government and the increasing occurrences of drought on the North American West Coast, chances are nothing will happen and in a few years’ time the Valle will run out of water accompanied by much yelling, screaming and finger pointing.

Sadly, for once this is a case of: ‘MORE WINE – NO GOOD’

“THE BAD” – CHILE:  Wild fires ravaged Chile’s central valley in February with over 100 vineyards in the Colchagua and Maule districts being either damaged or destroyed. With a death toll of around 15 people (mainly fire fighters) and over 1,000 homes destroyed Chile’s President Michelle Batchelet declared the fires the worst in Chile’s history and then she declared a state of emergency. Assistance to fight the fires came from: USA, Spain, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Brazil and France.

Well known large winery, Concho y Toro, lost 50 acres in Maule. While the minute Vinas Gonzales Bastias, lost the best portion (20%) of its 12 acres of vineyard, of 150 year old Pais, a Chilean native white variety.

Chile has been suffering a rapidly increasing number of wild fires over the last decade mainly due to substantially less rain and rising temperatures.

“THE DUBIOUS”:  The Southern Rhône region of France has just had three new villages approved to join the Cotes-du Rhone-Villages Appellation which means that there are now 18 different villages included in this AOC designation. The villages added are: Sainte- Cecile, Viason-la-Romaine and Suze-la-Rousse. At a time when progressive producers in other regions such as the Languedoc are looking to ditch their AOC, one has to wonder how many vineyards in the Rhône are actually excluded from their AOC, i.e. what real purpose, other than generating bureaucracy does the AOC actually serve? Especially as these three villages cover some 3,500-4,000 hectares of vineyard.

“THE GOOD” – GOING OFF THE GRID:  The beautiful Moores Hill Vineyard that I visited in November last year as part of the sensational “Effervescence Tasmania” has recently built the first “Off the grid” winery. This brand new winery has been fitted with 108 solar panels and power storage battery system with a capacity of 81kw hours, which should meet all their power needs. Previously, these delicious wines were made at another location under contract.

“THE GOOD” – NEW WEBSITE FOR CANBERRA WINES:  Recently, a website at was launched by the Canberra District Wine Industry Association. This website has an interactive map covering all 48 wineries in the district as well as restaurants and accommodation. It has a search function that allows the user to search wines by variety, for example, if you are looking for a Riesling (a variety that Canberra does so well) it will show you which of the districts wineries make it.

Other functions the site includes are:

-       ---  The events calendar

-       ---  A tour planner helping people to create their own district tour

-       ---  A listing of available wine tours and accommodation

-       ---  Cellar door opening hours

All in all a pretty handy site. So if you are going to be visiting Canberra, for whatever purpose, check this website out as it may enhance your stay.

“THE GOOD” – BLACK IS BACK:  Thanks to marketing hype and the internet, the ‘Black Wine’ of Cahors France is making a comeback. While technically still red wine, it is a very deep, dark wine made from fully ripened, highly tannic Malbec grapes. Whilst Australian Malbec has a decent depth of colour, in Cahors, the variety achieves a much deeper and more massive colour.

Legally, it must be at least 70% Malbec with either Merlot or Tannat added. Tannat is a massively deep and dark wine, so imagine what depth of colour a Malbec/Tannat blend would have – Awesome!

The resultant wine is ubber rich and luscious making it a perfect match for seriously rich food such as pate foie gras and game dishes.

The ‘Black Wine’ comes from a small area in the Midi-Pyrenees alongside the river Lot. It has been around since the Middle-Ages and was popular until just after the last war, when the region underwent considerable pestilence and weather problems. Now as a result of improved winemaking technology and internet hype, ‘Its Back’.

I trust you enjoyed these snippets of wine news and that you have a great weekend. Cheers!


The delicious Cabernet Franc red grape variety is little known in Australia, even though it is one of the actual parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. Until recently there were only a handful of wineries producing a varietal Cab Franc as the rest of it was used in “Bordeaux” blends.

Of the small but growing band of Cab Franc producers in Australia, Paracombe Wines ranks amongst the best – recent release, PARACOMBE 2011 ADELAIDE HILLS CABERNET FRANC.  Other great Cab Franc’s include the likes of:  I “The Harvesters” (Barossa Valley) from Marjico Wines – a new venture from my old mate and former Merlot King, Jim Irvine (84 years old) I Goonawarra “Cygnus” (Sunbury) I Artwine “Feral Farm” (Clare Valley) I The Islander Estate Vineyard “The Investigator” (Kangaroo Island) I Hastwell & Lightfoot Cab Franc (McLaren Vale) I

It is a beautiful variety characterised by alluring aromas of violets. It has a lighter depth of colour than its son, Cab Sav, but with nimble, zesty, bright flavours and great intensity. Cab Franc can make Cab Sav seem a bit stodgy and ham-fisted.

The Paracombe 2011 Cab Franc is an absolute cracker, single vineyard wine. It has a lovely bright red colour, especially for being six years old – great to see current releases with some maturity on them!! On the bouquet it has heaps of berry aromas with hints of violets and some earthy tones.

There is plenty of fruit flavour and vanillin oak on the smooth, integrated palate which has masses of rich flavours, superb structure and fine grain tannins. A truly superb wine that is a delight to drink, either on its own or with yummy food.

You should be aware that because it is less well known as a variety Cab Franc usually sells for quite a bit cheaper than a comparable quality Cab Sav. For example, this delicious Paracombe Cab Franc has a RRP of a mere $27 a bottle even though it is as good a wine as many Cab Sav’s selling for around $50 a bottle.

Try a Cab Franc today, it is zippier, more aromatic and less stodgy than Cab Sav, but just as flavoursome and intense. Cheers!