Friday, January 15, 2021

WELCOME TO 2021 – Hopefully it will be a much, much better year than what 2020 was for all of us, in the wine industry.

SACRÉ BLEU!: As I have reported before, in a first for them, the French wine industry is researching new varieties to grow in traditional areas so as to negate the effects of global warming. Well, here is another first. Château La Grâce Dieu des Prieurs, in Saint-Emillion, has just released the first official vintage of Chardonnay produced in Bordeaux. The Château planted one hectare of Chardonnay in 2016, with around one quarter of the vines being grafted onto old Merlot vines. They made a small trial batch in 2018 before producing its first proper vintage in 2019.

WHAT!!! Yep! Chardonnay can now be officially grown in Bordeaux IF the Château is prepared to jump through all the hoops that the bureaucracy puts in its path.

The ‘Elena’ Cuvée 2019 is only available in magnums and will all be auctioned off for charity. It is fermented with wild yeasts in stainless steel tanks before being transferred to new oak for malolactic fermentation and 12 months maturation.

Château La Grâce Dieu des Prieurs is already well known for the terrific renovations conducted on the property and the now rather high price being commanded by its red wine. The Chardonnay will only add to its prestigious image.

In other French news on changes that are being allowed in the most regulated of wine countries, the Bordeaux region of Entre-Deux-Mere has been allowed, by changes in its winemaking charter, to use irrigation on their vines. So long as it is not used more than twice on any single plot in any single growing season. Oh, and it has to be “agreed” with the authorities in advance – i.e. the growers have to know beforehand when their vines are under severe drought conditions. A small step towards joining the rest of the wine world!!

SWEDEN:  In a recent Wine Intelligence report (see link below), it was reported that two-thirds of Swedish wine drinkers would be prepared to consider buying wine in plastic PET bottles. Sweden is the country which already has the highest percentage of wine sold in casks.

There is a significant drive towards the most environmentally friendly wine packaging and they are not hung up on the “Old World” thinking that wine must be in a 750mL glass bottle. This also makes Sweden a great market for ‘wine in a can’, as the cans are fully recyclable.

Article Link:

SOUTH AFRICA:  In a “surprising” move the South African wine industry recently announced that they would be making a concerted effort to increase their sales to China. Gee, given that Australia, which accounts for roughly one-third of all wine imported to China has just been shut out of the market by punitive and unfounded measures introduced by the Chinese Government, it shouldn’t take too much effort by the South African Wine Industry to grow their wine sales to China. It will be interesting to follow their figures over the next few months to see how successful they are in actually generating more sales as opposed to simply filling part of the void left by the eviction of Australia. Apart from the French (ironically Australia’s woes all started just after we overtook the French as the No.1 imported wine into China) I would suggest that the Chileans are in the best position to fill the void. They have an excellent track record and have recently done a brilliant job in Japan, where they are now No.1 ahead of the French.

Well that’s it for another week. Please stay safe and drink some great Aussie wine. Cheers!


This Week's Wine Review:

This week’s wine review is about one of my favourite red wines, Zinfandel, or – AMA-ZIN!! As I like to call it.

The first time that I tasted Zinfandel was over dinner at an airport hotel in Los Angeles back in 1982. I can remember thinking – Hmm, not bad!

A couple of years later I toured around the Napa Valley and discovered that I really liked Zin (as the Yanks call it).

Back home it was impossible to source Californian Zinfandel until in the mid-1990s when a bottle shop in Ultimo started carrying the Zin’s of Ridge Vineyards. So on each trip up to Sydney I would drop in and buy a bottle at great expense. Ridge became my benchmark and to this day they make some of the very best Zin’s I have tasted.

The first Aussie Zin I tried was a Lindeman’s Padthaway Zinfandel from around 1982 or 1984, followed by one or two others. Not bad, but not a patch on the various Californian Zins that I had tried by then.

My opinion of Aussie Zin changed dramatically early this century when working with winemaker, Jim Irvine, who brought along a bottle of the inaugural Irvine Wines Barossa Zinfandel 2001 made by his daughter Joanne (who had been making Zin in California before returning home). O M G ! It was right up there with the Ridge and I was smitten by Barossa Zin. By the way, I still have one bottle of the 2001 left from the case that I bought which I will open later this year for its 20th birthday.

From then on (except for the 2003 vintage which won sooo many gongs that it sold out before could get through on the phone), I have tucked a few bottles of Irvine Zin into my cellar. When the Irvines sold Irvine Wines, Jo started, ‘Lévrier by Jo Irvine’, and one of the wines was her cracking, Peritas Zinfandel 2014. Different label, same great quality.

Enough of my prattling. Today’s wine is the IRVINE 2004 EDEN VALLEY RESERVE ZINFANDEL. It has a lovely brick-red colour, a rich brambly bouquet with a good dash of dried herbs and a hint of earthiness. The palate is divine, silky-smooth with stacks of svelte flavours and a lingering, still slightly grippy finish. At 17-years-old this wine has hit its straps and is magnificent and yet has plenty of life left in it so that it will continue to give great enjoyment for years to come. Thanks Jo, it is ABSOLUTELY AMA-ZIN !!!

Have a great week and always #chooseaustralianwine