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WORLD NEWS - TWO-HORSE RACE

Friday, February 01, 2019

This week I’m reporting on some wine news from around the world which you may find interesting.

IDAHO:  Wow, in a report just out in the USA from the NIH (National Institute of Health), based on government data, Idaho topped the 50 states on a per capita wine consumption basis. According to the report, Idahonians consume twice as much wine per capita than what Californians do, despite California being the wine capital of the USA.

In overall terms the NIH report advises that California with its almost 40 million residents and covering 424,000 square kilometres, drink the largest volume of wine, whereas Idaho, with its small population of a mere 1.8 million, is right down the overall rankings.

I wonder if the same is true here in Australia, as to whether South Australia with its mere 1.7 million inhabitants, scattered throughout its 984,000 square kilometres (twice the geographical size of California!!!) drink more per capita than any other state in Australia’s 25 million people. Hmmm, we have quite a ways to go to catch up to California’s population.

SPAIN:  Spain has the world’s largest area under grapes with some 975,000 hectares representing 11% of the world’s vineyards.

If you had to guess which grape variety is the most planted in Spain, almost everybody would say, Tempranillo, as this grape variety makes wines from light-style Rosé through to their very best, serious, world-class reds. WELL you would be wrong! Tempranillo at 21% of the grape plantings is actually No.2 just behind their ubiquitous white variety, Airen, which whilst in decline (as it makes fairly mundane wine) is still No.1 at 22%.  In 2010, Airen was the third most grown wine grape in the world, having been No.1 in the early 1980s, even though it is only grown in Spain. It is slowly slipping away into oblivion, but it will be a long time before it is pronounced “down & out”.

In a distant third place at 6% are Bobal and Garnacha (Grenache), followed by the elegant white variety, Viura, in fifth place.

With almost no Airen being exported but with Tempranillo being so versatile with lots of juicy red blends in-store, Spain has been able to avoid being labelled as a “Two-Horse Race or Show” on the world wine stage.

NEW ZEALAND:  The other day I saw some statistics that Sauvignon Blanc accounts for 75% of New Zealand’s wine production. With Pinot Noir accounting for around about another 10-15% of production. The New Zealand wine industry is searching for one or more grape varieties to adopt and promote so as to prevent themselves being seen as – a “Two-Horse Race or Show” as over the last few decades Sauvignon Blanc has swept aside all contenders. Unfortunately, the article did not mention what varieties they are looking to make into their next stars – maybe they don’t know yet. Either way it will be a long row to hoe given the massive predominance of Sauvignon Blanc. Perhaps in the reds they should look at other lighter-style reds such as, Cabernet Franc, Blaufrankisch and Zweigelt, etc. 

AUSTRALIA:  Whilst Shiraz is the pre-eminent Australian wine on the world stage, there is no risk of us being considered a “Two-Horse Race or Show” as we have a plethora of wines that can stand tall on the world stage.

A great case in point is Grüner Veltliner, where in less than ten years since the first one was released by Lark Hill Wines in Canberra, our 40+ producers are now making world-class Grüner that can go toe-to-toe with the Austrians. Likewise with Saperavi, where we have won the award for the best “Non-Georgian” Saperavi in the world, in only a few years after the first varietal Saperavi was released.

Last year’s inaugural EVAs (Emerging Variety Awards) amply demonstrated that Aussie winemakers can make superb wines out of just about any grape variety under the sun (Well, perhaps not Airen?).

So go out and try a new (exciting) Aussie wine from an emerging variety. You are unlikely to be disappointed and might find a cracker that you really adore. Hey! Remember that once upon a time Chardonnay and then in turn, Sauvignon Blanc, were emerging varieties. Cheers!

THIS WEEK’S WINE REVIEW

This week I’ll be reviewing an “oldie, but goodie” – the Joanne Irvine made, IRVINE WINES 2001 ZINFANDEL.


Made round about the time that I first met the affable Jo, when her dad, Jim, was the consulting winemaker at Yaldara Wines (Now there is an inspiring resurrection story for another day though!). Jo had returned from a winemaking stint in California where she had built a strong bond with their flagship variety, ZINFANDEL, and so she persuaded Dad to plant some on his Spring Hill property.

Thus, the 2001 was her first vintage of Australian ZINFANDEL. Right out of the blocks it was a big, lively, exotic wine that seduced the senses. Of the dozen bottles that I bought upon release I only have two left in my cellar, having alas succumbed to temptation too often in the past.

Recently, at a Magnum Lunch with a group of mutual friends, Jo was incredibly generous and brought along her last (or second last) magnum of the inaugural 2001 IRVINE ZINFANDEL. Wow! What a sensational wine it has developed into. Rich, complex and beautifully structured – simply divine and with eons of life still in front of it. It was that impressive and popular that it pipped the magnum of 1973 Chateau Latour as the wine of the day.

Since 2001, Jo has gone on to win the “2006 International Red Winemaker of the Year” and the “2009 Barossa Winemaker of the Year”, as well as becoming one of the “Barons of the Barossa”.

Today, under her recently established label, “LEVRIER by JO IRVINE”, Jo produces a smashing ZINFANDEL with the 2014 being the first release. If this wine develops as brilliantly as her previous 2001 “first release” did, (which I am sure that it will), it will simply support my claim that Jo is Australia’s “Master Zin Maker” – not bad for an ex-operating theatre nurse, huh!


I would strongly suggest that you to seek out the LEVRIER by JO IRVINE 2014 PERITAS ZINFANDEL as it is destined to become a sensational classic wine. www.levrierwines.com.au

Cheers!