Friday, May 28, 2021

This week’s Blog is about a few snippets of wine news from around the world that you may have missed in your busy life, so here goes…

FROZEN FRANCE:  Somewhere between 30%-50% of vineyards in Bordeaux were hit by the severe frost conditions in April. Some vineyards only suffered minor damage, but a fair number suffered over 50% loss of crop. There are similar stories from several other wine growing regions across France, especially in Burgundy where for a few nights growers had to light straw fires in their vineyards, in order to try and save their vines.

It is estimated that so far (with the probability of frost not yet over), France has lost around one-third of its 2021 grape crop which is roughly two billion euros worth of wine.

Recently, the French Prime Minister, Jean Castex, announced an emergency fund of one million euros, to fund the recovery of general agriculture including grape growing.

WORLD DOMINATION:  Whilst Spain has the largest area planted to vines, Italy is the number one wine producing country at present. Depending on the prevailing weather, Spain, Italy and France vie for the top spot. As reported above, there will be no chance of France being number one this year because of the devastating frosts.

Due to drought and bushfires across Australia, Argentina relegated Australia into sixth place, as can be seen on the attached chart.

Interestingly, a few years ago China (currently in tenth place) was in fifth spot with Australia in sixth. However, as previously reported the Chinese production of wine has been in significant decline over the last five years (down by nearly 50%) at a time where until 2020 wine consumption in China was rising fairly rapidly.

SLUMPING SALES:  Globally, 2020 saw the lowest wine sales since 2002 (before China really started drinking wine) due mainly to the restrictions caused by Covid-19, whilst at the same time the “average” regular wine drinker consumed more wine, but mainly at home as most on-premise venues were closed for most of the year. Thus to sum up, in broad terms the regulars drank more whilst the casuals drank a lot less. It will be interesting to see how this trend changes in 2021, during which hopefully, some degree of normality is restored to life.

DE-ALC/NON ALCOHOLIC WINE:  From January 1, 2023 the EU will allow “Protected Denominations of Origin” and “Geographical Indications”, to produce wines of below 8.5% Alc/Vol. That means to say that wines labelled as DOC, IGP, PDO, etc., will be able to be made with less than 8.5% alcohol. This includes de-alcoholised wines, like those that have been made in Australia for more than 50 years – such as Orlando Maison and Chateau Yaldara Grapella.

Before this wonderful new edict comes into force, any low or de-alcoholised wine made in France were unable to have any regional/ DOC mentioned on the label at all – they had to be sold without the “safety net” of having DOC on the label.

However, the new edict does not apply across the country automatically, but rather just paves the way for each individual “denomination” (region) to decide whether they want their region to have low and/or de-alcoholised wines coming from their area.

Wow, such progress and forward thinking!! The more cynical people out there would probably suggest that this ‘innovative’ measure has been driven by the steady decline, over the last six decades (see graph below), in wine consumption within France and the increasing global demand for non-alcoholic and de-alcoholised wines right across the globe.

Well that’s it for another week, please stay safe and remember to #chooseaustralianwine and where possible #emergingvarieties. Cheers!

This Week's Wine Review:

Last week I took a drive up to the Barossa Valley to visit Janelle and Kristen Zerk at Z Wine. What a fabulous day that turned out to be.

The Z Wine cellar door is a corner shop on Murray Street in Tanunda, which feels more like a cross between a welcoming reading room and a wine bar rather than the usual run of the mill cellar door, as it is warm and inviting, complete with big, old arm chairs to relax in.

The staff are also warm and inviting, and the wine sampling flights are spectacularly presented in/on a wooden tray (plank) which has four wines in “Chef & Sommelier” glasses and a delightful spread of locally made produce, from the likes of Maggie Beer, Barossa Valley Cheese Company, etc. Their array of wines across the five different ranges at first appear a bit daunting, however, each and every wine is a unique and distinctive individual.

So whilst I have pages of tasting notes on the Z Wine’s range of excellent wines, today I am talking about the Z WINE JULIUS BAROSSA VALLEY BASKET PRESSED SHIRAZ 2019. But before I talk about this current release, just a quick mention that its predecessor the 2018 won two trophies at last year’s “Great Australian Shiraz Challenge” – Best of Show and Best South Australian Shiraz – in other words it was voted Australia’s best Shiraz in the country’s definitive Shiraz competition. Awesome, and that is a pretty hard act to follow, but the 2019 makes a ‘fair old fist’ of it!

The 2019 JULIUS, in its new, more elegant livery (while not quite as concentrated and deep as the now famous 2018), is a sublime wine. It has a gorgeous, deep, inky-purple/black colour with a big, lively bouquet of plums, a modicum of oak and a splash of black pepper – Oh, so attractive!

The wine bursts onto the palate with lashings of rich, alluring, plummy, vanillin oak flavours that are well rounded, of great structure and depth, with a lingering, sophisticated finish. It is truly divine to enjoy this vinous elixir dancing across ones palate. Even better still for the patient among you, it will develop further over the next few years with proper cellaring.

This is a seriously stunning wine. As my regular readers know I shun the 10 (100) point system as being meaningless (pointless!!), but if I used it this wine would rank in the mid-90s or maybe even a smidge higher.

So as Monty Python used to say, “Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more!!” and find an excuse to try this elixir before you miss out.

Cheers and don’t forget to keep on #chooseaustralianwine

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