Friday, March 25, 2022

Over the last few decades various wine products have tried to re-invent themselves as their regular consumers have died off or they have fallen out of fashion. Starting with Sherry, which fell out of fashion because it had been their grandmother’s favourite tipple. Then there was Brandy and Cognac – they tried all sorts of cocktails as well as canned mixers and yet sales still dwindled away to almost nothing so that today there are only one or two Brandies still being made in Australia. Next came Port and the other after dinner fortifieds, again they fell out of favour due to the Drink-Driving rules and weren’t helped by having to change their names to unfathomable EU approved names.

The fortifieds were followed by the “stickies”, those glorious, uber sweet wines that go sensationally with dessert or fresh fruit, but again due to the drink-driving laws, fell out of favour.

So are they trying to re-invent the wheel? Well not quite! It’s more like re-configuring or re-styling – that is what the world’s most renowned dessert wine producer (also rated as the very best), Château d’Yquem is doing. Long touted as a bastion of French ultra-conservatism the world’s best and most famous dessert wine has undergone a paradigm shift in the wine itself.

This venerable wine is known not only for its magnificence but also for its ability to live up to (and probably past) a century. I have tasted a number of vintages of this magnificent wine, from the freshly fermented wine at the Château, through a Masterclass conducted by the Comte de Lur-Saluces at The Age Epicurean Masterclass in Melbourne in the mid-1990s, and more recently delighted in a 45-year-old bottle of 1970 a few years ago celebrating a close friend’s milestone birthday.

Well they have just changed the style and composition of the wine for the first time in over a century. From vintage 2019 onwards, for the first time ever, the Sauvignon Blanc component of the 1st wine has reached 45%. The aim is to make the wine attractive to young people, who are most unlikely to want to store it for decades like their parents did. The increase of the Sauvignon Blanc component makes the wine racier and crisper thus more appealing to the younger generation, whilst still enabling it to be cellared for decades by the true aficionados.

As part of their new drive/direction they are also promoting the enjoyment of Château d’Yquem as an entrée wine with pâté faux gras. This is a divine combination which has been around for centuries but is not promoted. I can assure you that it is a match made in heaven – sublime!

They believe that by switching consumption to the start of the meal, rather than at the end when people are much more likely to be sated and therefore less likely to order it, they will sell much more of their nectar, and revitalise its popularity.

To drive this new marketing strategy they have signed up a d’Yquem by the glass program with 35 of the world’s top restaurants with a glass costing around €50-€80. This will open up the accessibility of the wine to many curious drinkers who would love to taste it but cannot afford the hundred’s or thousand’s of Euro that a full bottle costs.

Unlike the previous attempts to rejuvenate sales, this one has a very good chance of success in rekindling interest in Sauterne and Barsac provided they can interest enough premium establishments around the world.

As a huge fan of dessert wine, be it Sauterne, Barsac (especially Château Coutet), Icewine from Austria or Canada, or Aussie botrytis wines, I look forward to the day when I can enjoy a glass of this nectar with some delightful faux gras in an Australian restaurant.

Here is to the sweeter side of life! Cheers!

This Week's Wine Review:

As regular readers would know I am a big fan of Riverland wines. Sure the region produces massive volumes of commercial wine for the big boys (who luckily don’t mention Riverland on the label), however, over the last decade there have been a number of sensational boutique wineries sprout up in the region, which make superb wines, including some outstanding emerging variety wines. I could rattle off twenty plus different emerging varieties that have found an excellent home in the Riverland with wineries such as Bassham, Spook Hill, 919 Wines, Whistling Kite, Starrs Reach, Cirami Estate and Sixty-Eight Roses. Well here is another one.

RICCA TERRA grow a number of emerging varieties and sell the grapes to a wide range of wineries across the country. In addition, they keep a small amount of the crop for themselves and produce an exciting range of cleverly named and smartly packaged wines.

One of the wines in their range is the outstanding RICCA TERRA RIVERLAND 2021 GRENACHE BLANC. They are one of only ten Grenache Blanc producers in the country – Grenache Blanc being a grape variety rather than being a white wine made from Grenache grapes, i.e. no skin contact.

This wine is very appealing with light fresh fruity aromas of almost ripe pears, a splash of white peach and some florals. The palate is very attractive being nice and dry with oodles of lightly crisp peach and pear flavours and perfect balancing acidity on the tasty refreshing finish. It has a good depth and richness.

It is an excellent wine to enjoy on its own, with sufficient power and depth to also be able to match entrée style food. A real Class act!!!

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