A Semi-Trivial Blog

May 23, 2020

This week Dan reports on some TRIVIAL and NOT SO TRIVIAL world news which may be of interest to you.

TRIVIAL:  We pretty well all know who the “Biggies” in wine exports around the globe are – Italy, France, Spain, USA, Chile and Australia.  But, how many of you know which countries are the “Big Cheese” when it comes to exporting cheese? Well, here are the top ranked “Big Cheeses”:

1. Germany (Believe it or not!!)

2. Netherlands

3. France

4. Italy

5. Denmark

6. USA

7. New Zealand

8. Belgium

9. Ireland

10. Poland

11. UK

12. Belarus

13. Australia (With Germany exporting six times as much cheese as what we export).

NOT SO TRIVIAL:  Sadly, Wine Australia recently advised growers that the cuttings of Petit Manseng (imported into Australia in the 1970s) has now been proven by ampelographers at Montpellier in France, to in fact be, Gros Manseng. This means that from this vintage onwards any Petit Manseng wine will actually have to be called Gros Manseng. So the current twenty-four producers of wine from this variety will have to re-name it. For example, the delicious Topper’s Mountain Wild Ferment Petit Manseng will now need to be labelled as Topper’s Mountain Wild Ferment Gros Manseng. Likewise the excellent Bassham and Whistling Kite wines from the Riverland will have to re-name theirs, as will Symphonia and Gapsted, in the Victorian Alpine Valleys have to re-name their delicious offerings from this enchanting, emerging variety.

Whilst this stuff-up isn’t quite as significant as the one discovered in 2009 when all of Australia’s Albarino was proven to in fact be Savagnin and not Albarino (which killed a blossoming emerging variety), it will cause confusion and disruption for consumers.

Hmm!! I wonder if they could label it simply as Manseng? Given that there is no Petit Manseng grown in Australia, it would be a better sounding name for drinkers who probably don’t want to drink a wine called “Gross” anything. Thus when growers bring in the real Petit Manseng, we would have wines labelled as (a) Manseng and (b) Petit Manseng. I’ll bet that this idea isn’t allowed.

WOW: The South African wine industry was banned from exporting wines (due to Covid-19) on March 25 this year. The bans were then lifted and almost immediately re-instated and have recently been lifted again. Imagine the chaos and confusion that has caused the industry and more particularly their customers around the world. Luckily Wine Australia has taken a much more measured and professional approach and did not ban wine exports at all, instead advising wineries to ensure that their shipment could be received without major problems at the other end.

THANK YOU:  Over the years I have criticised Wine Australia over a number of issues such as stopping the pre-shipment wine testing (a USP we used to have), etc. However, today I want to say THANK YOU WINE AUSTRALIA, for the manner in which it has handled the Covid-19 situation, including regular advice and updates on processing delays, etc. It is so much easier to do business in tough times when you are properly and accurately informed.

FINALLY:  Did you know that they now make wine in Ireland?  Yes, they do and it will be the subject of an upcoming blog fairly soon.

Cheers! Have a great week, stay safe and enjoy some seriously good wines.

This Week's Wine Review:

This week I am talking about Portuguese red varietal blends. Portugal has long been known for its fantastic fortified wines – Ports. The same grape varieties used in these brilliant wines are also used to make dry red wines. Until recently the Portuguese dry reds were mediocre and somewhat rustic. However, over the last twenty years or so they have really lifted their game and are now producing some cracker dry red blends.

Today, I am specifically talking about an Aussie take on the Portuguese dry red blend – the TOPPER’S MOUNTAIN TOURIGA & TINTAS (reds). This wine is a delightful, well-crafted blend of TOURIGA NATIONAL, TINTA CAO and TINTA RORIZ (Tempranillo).

The good folk at Topper’s sent me samples of both their first release of this wine the 2016, and the 2018 (current release), so as to be able to see the evolution of this very rare blend.

The 2016 TOPPER’S MOUNTAIN TOURIGA & TINTAS was made in open fermenters, using wild yeast and then aged for 16 months in old oak barrels. It has a great depth of beautiful red colour and a perfumed, almost leathery, complex bouquet. The palate is youthful and vibrant with big, firm tannins, plummy flavours along with a dash of cloves and musk. There is a drying, slightly sour note on the lingering finish, which makes it a sensational wine to accompany rich food.

This is an exciting, complex, sinewy wine that will evolve superbly over time but is already a cracker food wine.

The 2018 TOPPER’S MOUNTAIN TOURIGA & TINTAS - for the making of this vintage they used for the first time a Kvevri (big clay amphora), just like the Georgians have been using to make their wine for millennia.

The grapes are harvested and placed inside the Kvevri which is then sealed. The natural yeasts on the skins of the grapes causes the fermentation of the grape juice into wine. After 150 days the Kvevri are opened up and the wine is removed to be bottled. This is natural wine making at its best – no human interference, no additions, no oak, just nature doing its thing.

The wine is purply/black in colour, has a very fragrant, complex bouquet with black fruits, a splash of dried herbs and a smidge of cloves. The palate is big and vibrant with lashings of juicy black and red fruits, supported by spice and dried herbs plus big, tight, natural tannins. Remember, it has had no oak contact, yet the tannins are big enough to subdue the fruit flavours at this stage. You need to either double decant this wine or have the patience to wait a few years, for these tannins to mellow out, at which time it will be a breathtakingly good, very natural wine. Whilst the use of the Kvevri has altered the wine structure, the style is very consistent with that of the 2016.

Thanks for another great experience from the team at Topper’s Mountain who produce a raft of other emerging varieties like Gewürztraminer, Tannat and some fabulous “off-the-wall” wines like their Bricolage Blanc and Bricolage Rouge. To check out all the smashing wines in their range, visit: www.toppers.com.au

In addition, after a bushfire destroyed part of their vineyards in February 2019, they have instituted an “Adopt A Vine Scheme”, whereby you can adopt a specific vine in their vineyard, track its progress, get two bottles of wine made from that variety upfront and annual extra special offers which are only available to “Adopters”.

By the way, you get to name your adopted vine! My adopted Tannat vine is called “George”, after my late father-in-law who used to love big, bold wines.

This winery is well worth checking out and is deserving of our support.

Cheers and keep drinking exciting “new” wines from Emerging varieties!