A Cacophony of Wine News Snippets

June 19, 2020

This week a cacophony of little wine news snippets from around the traps. Starting with the news that –

OLD NEWS: A bottle of Gautier Cognac from 1762 (that’s 8 years before Captain Cook discovered Australia) recently sold at auction in the UK, for just under $150,000. It is the oldest bottle of wine ever sold at auction and believed to be one of the oldest bottles of wine in existence on the planet. The buyer was an un-named Asian person.

Ancient bottle of Gautier Cognac from 1792. Photo Credit: DECANTER

AUSTRALIA:  Alcoholic Beverages Australia advises that April 2020 was the worst month on record for alcohol sales in Australia. Beer was down 44%, Cider 61%, Spirits 21% and wine was amazingly down only 7%, with the big end of town faring much better than most small producers, some of which were down by a staggering 70%. We need to drink a lot more wine people! To save many in the industry from going belly up.

JAMES HALLIDAY:  Woolworth’s owned, Langton’s Wine Auctions, is conducting the sale of 250 bottles of Domaine Romanée-Conti (DRC) owned by the 82-year-old, James Halliday. It is expected that the auction will generate around $1 million, with bottles starting at $2,000 and a bottle of the 1999 DRC La Tâche starting at $10,000. This is the biggest ever (in value) wine auction in Australia’s history and is expected to attract bids from around the world, especially from Asia.

Image of James Halliday in his private cellar. Photo Credit: WINETITLES

ENGLAND:  Doyen of the English wine writers, Jancis Robinson, recently had her socks blown off (figuratively speaking) by wines from Tumbarumba, when she tasted 33 wines from this newly emerging, ultra-cool climate region. Whilst the region concentrates on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the sparkling wines and other varieties also impressed her considerably. SO, keep your eyes out for Tumbarumba wines, not only from McWilliams and Penfolds, but also from the smaller locals like Kosciuszko Wines, Collector Wines, Tertini Wines, First Creek, Eden Road, Moppity Vineyards, Coppabella and Chalkers Crossing.

SOUTH AFRICA:  Vinpro recently announced that the on-again/off-again export approval for South African wines, along with the domestic sales ban during two months of the pandemic, has cost their industry around 18,000 jobs with 80 wineries and 350 associated businesses having gone to the wall, so far. Hopefully, our figures are nowhere near as bad thanks to greater consideration by our government including the JobKeeper program.

On another note, according to the authoritative, Wineland Magazine (see link below), South African vintners are starting to look at new emerging grape varieties in order to offset or lessen the impact of global warming. Some of the varieties being investigated are: Albariño (white from Spain), Assyrtiko (white from Greece), Marselan (red from France – becoming very big in China), Arinarnoa (red French crossbreed between Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon). Sounds like they are following in Australia’s footsteps!! https://www.wineland.co.za/into-the-unknown-the-commercial-viability-of-lesser-known-varieties-in-sa/

FRANCE: Following on from or reacting to the French government’s plan to distil 100 million litres of wine into spirit (see my blog of 2020-05-29 OVERSEAS SPOT NEWS) in France’s largest wine region Languedoc-Roussillon – the regional government, councils, wine industry associations and marketing boards, along with wineries and other private companies have contributed €34 million into a fighting fund to help the wine region bounce back from Covid-19.

This scheme, unprecedented in France, is focused on safeguarding jobs and boosting sales of the regions wines over the next 18 months. It also aims at the premiumisation of the regions wines and safeguarding the regions distinctive and divine dessert wines – Vins doux naturels.

Well that’s it for another week. Please stay safe and enjoy great wines from wherever they come from – preferably Australia. Cheers!

This Week's Wine Review:

This week I am talking about Austria’s “rising star” – the native red variety, ZWEIGELT. It was created in 1922 by a bloke called, Fred (Friedrich) Zweigelt, by crossing Blaufränkisch with Sankt Laurent – the two most popular native Austrian reds.

It produces fairly big crops of light, elegant red wines usually aimed for current consumption, but some examples are capable of developing great complexity with cellaring. I tend to describe ZWEIGELT as being “a good Pinot Noir that has been working out at the gym”, as to me it has a bit more power oomph. For those of you who enjoy Pinot Noir, I would strongly suggest that you have a crack at ZWEIGELT and see for yourselves.

Today, apart from being widely planted in Austria, ZWEIGELT has spread to Canada (both British Columbia and the Niagara Lakes region), Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and most recently to Belgium and Australia. Here in Australia there are two producers of the variety so far.

Left: Hahndorf Hill 2019 Zsa Zsa Zweigelt. Right: Owners Larry Jacobs & Marc Dobson

Today’s wine is the exceptional, HAHNDORF HILL 2019 ADELAIDE HILLS ‘ZSA ZSA’ ZWEIGELT. It has a lovely, mid-depth strawberry red colour with an alluring bouquet of delicate strawberry and cherry aromas with just a hint of camphor. The palate is full of superlatives like –smooth, rich raspberry flavours, beautiful, well rounded, with a tight slightly acidic finish which makes it a great accompaniment to lighter style European food dishes.

This wine has enough body, depth and character that it will keep for a reasonable amount of time, during which it will become more svelte and complex. It can hold its head up high in a line-up with some of the better Austrian ZWEIGELT. This is but one of the range of sensational native Austrian varieties that Hahndorf Hill Wines specialise in. Their Grüner Veltliner is world-class with winemaker Larry Jacobs being known locally and appropriately as, “The Grandfather of Grüner”.

So to discover this zazzy ZWEIGELT and the other outstanding wines (not to mention their “ChocoVino”, chocolate and wine matching course) that Hahndorf Hill produce, visit their website and you will be in for a treat. www.hahndorfhillwinery.com.au

Cheers and enjoy great Austrian native variety wines this week!