Friday, October 16, 2020

When you mention “bulk wine” to most people in Australia, they immediately think of cheap and/or nasty wine – cask quality or lesser.  However that is far from the case in reality. Today bulk wine covers a vast spectrum of wine, from the cheap and nasty right through to very high quality, premium wine. It is comparable to saying “motor car” and people presuming that you are talking about an “old banger” when in fact the term also covers Mercedes Benz, Rolls Royce, Ferrari, etc.

The World Bulk Wine Exhibition (WBWE) which is held in Amsterdam at the end of November (23-24 November this year) is the world’s best and most diverse exhibition of premium quality bulk wine. Their definition is: “any volume of wine over 10,000 litres that is made to be sold in bulk.” When it started 12 years ago the event mainly attracted as exhibitors the many co-op wineries across Europe which make wine for their hundreds, if not thousands of grower/owners. Over time they have attracted top quality wines from across the globe, including Australia – last year we had eight representative companies present. They also conduct a judging of entries using 25 wine judges from around the world. For the last three years I was one of these along with judges from India, Germany, USA, UK, Argentina, Uruguay, Japan and China. Alas, due to Covid-19 I will not be attending this year as the event is being restricted to European judges only.

Over the last three years I have judged and sampled some sensational gold medal winning wines that are sold in bulk. Foremost in my memory are the outstanding Tannat wines from Uruguay, which regularly win gold medals.

Back at home, we have a significant amount of wine available in bulk, some, if not much of it, is commercial/cask quality but there are also some excellent premium and super premium parcels available.

Scanning through the bulk wine list I recently received from Austwine, one of the country’s foremost wine brokers, I noticed several things. The first of which is that right now there are 35.75 million litres of wine listed with them. When you add this to the listings of other significant brokers like Ciatti, etc., the volume becomes significantly greater (not readily quantifiable due to double listings but none the less the figure would have to be at least 50-100 million litres available for sale at the moment). While this sounds huge, the last time I looked at the figures 3-4 years ago the availability was in the vicinity of 300 million litres. This was before droughts, fires and China demand.

Going through the Austwine figures it is interesting to note that there are nearly 16 million litres of vintage 2020 and 11 million of 2019 – the two most recent vintages – but there are further 8 million litres from prior vintages going back in some cases as far as 2013 (which must be a very hard sell).

Whilst there is a significant volume of wine on offer for between $1.50 and $2.00 per litre, at the other end of the spectrum there is 2020 Clare and McLaren Shiraz on offer for over $10 per litre. There is even quite an amount of 2018 Barossa Shiraz in that same bracket.

The essence of WBWE is to connect premium bulk wine producers to buyers from all over the world, be they from supermarkets, importers or other businesses looking for quality wine in bulk, to bottle under their own label, or even, dare I say it, to use to enhance the quality of their own wine.

So the moral to this story is all bulk wines are not created equal, so don’t pooh-pooh bulk wine, find out at which end of the spectrum that particular wine is at before passing judgement on it. Better still taste it for yourself before judging it.

Aah! I am going to miss the WBWE this year, but hopefully I will be able attend in 2021 to keep up to date with what is happening in the exciting world of bulk wine.

WBWE Link:  www.worldbulkwine.com

This Week's Wine Review:

Regular readers will know that I am a Durif nut. I was smitten the very first time I tasted a Morris of Rutherglen Durif back in the late 1980s at the Orlando Wines Sydney office. I then had the good fortune to make a great acquaintance with both Mick Morris and later on his son, David Morris.

Over the years I have tasted almost every brand of Durif made in Australia and written four magazine articles on the variety, the latest being in the Nov/Dec, 2019 Issue of WBM, “Divine Durif”.

Durif thrives in a warm climate, such as Rutherglen or the Riverland, makes a BIG wine which usually needs a fair bit of time to come out of its shell and express itself fully in all its rich, divine glory. It happily lives for eons – as I can attest having enjoyed the sheer majesty of a 50-year-old bottle of Morris Durif (1969) last year.

It came as a bit of a surprise to me when I received a bottle of GAPSTED WINES 2019 “BALLERINA CANOPY” KING VALLEY DURIF, as the beautiful King Valley is a cooler climate region and therefore I would have thought that it was too cool for the sunshine loving Durif vines.

Over the years I have reviewed plenty of great wines from Gapsted, especially their Saperavi, which is a cracker wine, however this 2019 DURIF bowled me over.

It is the most ready-to-drink young Durif that I have ever tasted!

It starts off like most other Durif with massively, deep, dense colour then the aromas are subtle with cinnamon, spice and nutmeg all melded together. The palate is superbly smooth, deep and rich with a modicum of vanillin oak. But unlike most young Durif, the finish is silky and svelte without the big tannins one expects from a baby Durif. This wine is raring to go right now, with or without food and yet it has the structure and depth to be “a keeper” for quite a few years. A truly remarkable Durif!

My final words – OH, YUM!!

Winery Link: www.gapstedwines.com.au