Dan's Blog


Friday, April 27, 2018

In these days where they are Trump-eting the possibility of global trade wars which could spell doom & gloom on the whole world, let us look at a few of the vinous things going on in the USA.

During a year where US wine sales were flat and their exports dropped by 1%, it is really interesting to see that direct winery sales to consumers rose by 13% as slowly the old taboo of wineries not being able to sell direct to customers in other states crumbles.

We take for granted the ability to buy from wineries from anywhere within Australia and have the wine shipped to us. However, this has been illegal in the USA forever! Why? Because the government of the inbound state fear the loss of revenue by not being able to collect their “fair share” on the way through. This is just one part of the arcane US “three-tier” system which says that the wine importer MUST be different to the wine wholesaler, who MUST be different to the wine retailer.  Subsequently, this system has held back their domestic wine industry. It is also a nightmare for overseas wineries trying to import wine into the USA as the three-tier system makes final retail price of the imported wine considerably higher than it could be if these regulations did not exist to stifle trade.

The USA, touted as the “land of the free” has more wine regulations than what Communist China does – HUH!

Incidentally, the USA is one of very few countries that allow their sparkling wine to still be called Champagne – much to the disgust of the French.

Still in the USA, growers in the mid-west (Minnesota and Iowa) have been recently learning about and tasting two new grape varieties that have been created for them, in order to combat the severely cold growing conditions they experience. They are called Itasca and La Crescent. Itasca is designed to be able to withstand weather as cold as minus 38oC.

These varieties join another three previously developed by the University of Minnesota (UM) – Frontenac (confusingly similar to Frontignac), Frontenac Gris and Marquette.

The University’s website states “Seedlings are produced each year using a diverse genetic base that includes Vitis Vinifera cultivars, quality French hybrids, and cold hardy disease resistant selections based on Vitis riparia, Minnesota’s native grape” – Is this GM or not? I have contacted UM and asked them the question.

One growing wine trend in the USA is that of wine brands that appeal to the younger wine drinker by speaking to their perceived identity. These are wines unusually branded like the “19 Crimes” brand or Charles Smith’s “Kung Fu Girl” Riesling. They are priced in the under USD20 bracket, which is where most millennial look for their wine. It has been suggested that the success of these brands (other than their flavour) is because it is significantly easier for busy youngsters to remember a wine with a catchy name than a specific mainstream label identified by its growing region.

That was a very quick look at the 50 countries that are held together with bailing wire and sticky tape to be called the (almost) United States of America.

Have a great week and enjoy really good wines.  Cheers!

STOP PRESS: Since this was written China has slapped a solid import levy on American wine as retaliation for the US steel tariffs. Whilst this won’t have a major impact on imported wine sales in China, it will give us a slight competitive advantage while the tariff lasts.


Earlier in the month at the Winestate Magazine annual massive Cabernet Tasting held at the National Wine Centre, I bumped into my old mate Jim Irvine. Jim is one of the greatest gentlemen in the Australian wine industry.

Modest and unassuming, his achievements are inspiring. Jim is best known for his single-handed efforts to raise Australian Merlot from its “ho hum” status to that of a respected and appreciated wine.

He was twice voted “Best Merlot Maker in the World” in the 1990s and reached a pinnacle with his 2005 Irvine Merlot Royale – a truly amazing wine that in my opinion gives Château Pétrus (generally considered to be the best merlot in the world) a bloody good run for its money.

In 2014 Jim sold Irvine Wines. Did he retire? Oh no not him! He started work on his next passion, Cabernet Franc. Last year at age 84 he started a new wine company (As you do!), called MARJICO (Marjorie & Jim Company) intent on tilting at the Château Cheval Blanc (considered the best Cab Franc in the world) windmill.

The first two releases of the Marjico ‘The Harvesters’ 2014 and 2015 are great wines that I have previously reviewed and ranking amongst the best Cabernet Franc in Australia.

At the Winestate Cabernet Tasting Jim introduced me to his newest release the 2016 Marjico ‘Blarney Block’ Coonawarra Cabernet Franc. The grapes were sourced from Vic and Margie Patrick’s vineyard on the famous ‘Terra Rossa’ of the Coonawarra.

What an alluring wine! Starting with the lively, bright purple/red colour, on to the gorgeous violets and floral aromas, through to the great mouthful of luscious red berry flavours, with its biggish, tight yet refined tannins, to the divine, lingering finish. This is a great, perfectly balanced wine, with great structure and stature that will develop magnificently over the next few years, to become MIND BLOWING!

As with all the MARJICO wines, it was produced in very limited numbers (600 six-packs), so if you want to try this awesome wine hop onto their website and order some today, before it is all gone: