Friday, October 23, 2020

We are all sick and tired of the never ending stream of bad news that has been 2020 so far. So, here are a couple of smackrels of good wine industry news to help cheer up the tone.

BUZZ LIGHTYEAR – TO THE VINEYARD AND BEYOND!:  In France, the wine industry is in the process of convincing the government that it should legalise the spraying of vineyards using drones. Their “Drone Viti” project is trying to demonstrate that vine spraying by drone is safer for neighbours than by the current tractor borne spraying.

In recent years there have been a growing number of court cases alleging ill health and even death from the overspray of herbicides and pesticides applied to French vineyards. Due to the higher humidity and wetter climate they usually need to spray more often than what Australian vignerons do.

In trials conducted in June this year, a drone was pitted against a man equipped with a spray backpack. Initial results showed that once the flying height of the drone was adjusted to just over three meters above the ground, the drone covered the vines more effectively than the man with the backpack spray (who in turn produces less overspray than what a tractor based spray cart does).

The French trials are aiming to seek permanent approval (from 2022) to spray steep sloped vineyards only at this stage using organically approved products on vineyards that are at least more than 100 metres from any building, with a drone weighing no more than 25 kilos.

These trials are being followed closely by grape growers around the world and it is most likely that in the not too distant future we will be seeing spray drones buzzing over vineyards around the world, without the restrictions that the French vignerons must endure.

HOUSE OF VINES:  Meanwhile in Australia researchers at the University of Melbourne are conducting research into the feasibility of making housing construction particle board out of grapevine waste, i.e. pruning clippings. etc.

They estimate that the global wine industry produces around 42 million tonnes of grape vine cutting each year, much of which is burned in bonfires. The aim is to collect vine cuttings, chip them, reduce them to around 20% moisture and press them into particle board. Before pressing them, the chips are mixed with various resins, waxes and flame retardants so as to make a particle board that meets housing construction standards.

Particle board is a major component in the construction of new homes and is usually made from trees that have been felled for that particular purpose. Best estimates say that around 97 million cubic meters of particle board were produced globally in 2018.

So in the not too distant future new houses could well have a bit of vineyard embedded in them. I wonder if you will be able to specify from which wine region your particle board comes from – e.g. “Yes I want Coonawarra vine particle board only in my house please!”

Well that’s it for this week. Let’s hope that going forward each week brings us more good news and less bad news. In any case make sure you drink great wines during this next week. Cheers!

This Week's Wine Review:

Today I am talking about one of my favourite wines – PADTHAWAY SHIRAZ. It has a distinctive brambly complex aroma and flavour that makes it stand out from all other Shiraz. Back in the day I could almost invariably pick a Padthaway Shiraz in a blind line-up, whether it was the Hardy’s Eileen Hardy Shiraz (which at the time was predominantly Padthaway material), Lawson’s or the one or two other Padthaway Shiraz, such as Brown’s of Padthaway.

I was working for Orlando Wyndham when the Lawson’s was launched with the 1985 vintage, and I was smitten straight away. Every year it collected a considerable number of “gongs” (medals) on the wine show circuit, and at around 10-15 years of age it became sooo silky-smooth and delicious that I amassed quite a collection in my cellar. It is made from vines that were planted in 1968, thus describable as “old vine”, heading towards “ancient”.

Over the two decades since I departed from Orlando, there have been too many special occasions which involved a “cracking” of a bottle of my beloved Lawson’s so that now I only have a few bottles left.

I was delighted the other day when a bottle of the ORLANDO LAWSON’S 2015 PADTHAWAY SHIRAZ arrived in the case of samples sent to me by Pernod Ricard. So chuffed was I that I decided to compare it with my last bottle of the venerable ORLANDO LAWSON’S 1996 PADTHAWAY SHIRAZ – (winner of 6 gold medals).

The 2015 in its new livery is a magnificent wine. Almost black in colour, deep and dense, the bouquet is classic Padthaway Shiraz with that complex, brambly, musky aroma. The palate is overflowing with masses of rich, dense flavours which are tightly restrained by its youth and lead to a tight but opulent finish that already lingers for ages. If “parked away” in the cellar for a few years, this wine will handsomely repay your patience by evolving into an outstanding, divine expression of Padthaway Shiraz.

The 1996 vintage was truly exquisite, rich, so silky-smooth and perfectly integrated. A great example of how brilliant Padthaway Shiraz can become with time and respect. The tasting panel gave out a collective moan/groan when the bottle was empty and they found out that I didn’t have any more left. At 24-years-old it was at its very peak and still had eons of life in front of it. A classic, coolish climate Shiraz.

Incidentally, I would be interested to hear which you prefer – the original label design or the current one?

Well that’s it for another week. Please stay safe and enjoy drinking great wines, preferably from Australia. Cheers!