Trucks & Japs

Friday, June 17, 2022

This week a few snippets from around the world.

KEEP ON TRUCKING:  Covid-19 has made shipping wine a considerable challenge around the world. An example of this is the fact that there are around 20,000 Argentine trucks queued at the border with Chile, waiting for approval to cross over the border because Chile has implemented a rule whereby each trucker must show a negative test in order to be able to enter the country. Imagine trying to find/buy a test kit near the border. Whilst this doesn’t have much impact on wine shipping it has a profound effect on food shipments as trucks are running out of fuel for their refrigeration plants while waiting in the endless queue.

KOSHU:  Unknown in Australia, Koshu is a native Japanese white grape variety that has been produced in the Yamanashi Prefecture since around 718AD and most recently has been making excellent, exciting aperitif wines. As the volumes produced increase, with a bit of luck it may be available here in Australia in the not too distant future. I have had the good fortune of tasting a number of Koshu wines at the Hong Kong International Wine Fair and have visited the Château Mercian winery and vineyard in Japan, where I was able to taste the extremely rare and utterly delightful sparkling Koshu that they make from time to time. Koshu is certainly one white variety to put on your vinous bucket list.

JAPAN: Speaking of Japan, since the start of Covid-19 more, younger Japanese are taking up drinking wine and what’s more Japanese wine drinkers are also upscaling what they drink. The sales of premium quality wines are growing significantly faster than those of commercial wines. Japan has always had low per capita wine consumption with only 29% of the population saying they are regular wine drinkers and consumption figures only reaching 3.6 litres per head. However, in Tokyo the story is a bit different with residents consuming over 8.0 litres annually per head.

The Japanese have had an ongoing love affair with French wine for eons, however, in the last decade there has been a significant shift away from Bordeaux towards Burgundy. People in the wine trade that I met a few years ago told me that Australian Shiraz and Cabernet were “too big” and wouldn’t suit the subtlety and delicacy of Japanese food (the main drinking occasion), whereas Burgundy was ideally suited. When pressed, they agreed that many of the lighter style red varietal Australian wines would be suitable, while most Australian white wines were eminently suitable, other than bigger style, more oaked Chardonnay.

So Aussie wineries, if targeting Japan, which you certainly should consider, put your whites, Rosé and lighter style reds to the fore and park the Cabernet and Shiraz at the back of the queue. I could see a number of our new emerging varieties doing well in this sophisticated and complex market. Wines such as Tempranillo, more elegant Grenache, most native Italian reds and good old Merlot.

Well that’s it for another week, have a great week! Please stay safe #chooseaustralianwine and where possible drink #emergingvarieties. Cheers! Dan T.

This Week's Wine Review:

This week I am talking about an almost unheard of (in Australia) Iberian native red variety called, MENCIA.

From after the Phylloxera invasion of Europe in the late 1800s until the early 1990s, MENCIA was planted almost entirely on the very fertile lower reaches of the mountains surrounding Bierzo, and it produced thin, lightly coloured wine that was quaffed by the locals in huge quantities. However, in the 1980s a Rioja luminary visited the area and decided to plant some MENCIA at various altitudes in the hills. This turned out to be a brilliant move with the first vintage of “Descendientes de José Palacio” Bierzo in 1990 setting the region on fire with excitement as it was a deeply coloured, deeply flavoured, sensational wine. This led to the resurrection of MENCIA on the Iberian Peninsula and it spread across the globe.

Today, in Spain there are nearly 10,000 hectares of MENCIA planted, while in Portugal (where it is called Jaen) there are close to 2,500 hectares planted. It is still focused around Bierzo but now also planted extensively in the regions of Ribiera Sacra, Valdeorras Monterrei and Dao.

In Australia there are currently 16 growers, mainly in the Riverland, Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale, with the first wine being released just after the turn of the Century – 2004 I think.

The CRFT THE SCHMIDT VINEYARD VINE VALE BAROSSA MENCIA 2021 is wild fermented, Vegan friendly and it is an absolutely cracking example of this exciting variety. It is almost black in its deep colour, it has a big, rich bouquet of red and black berries with just a hint of dusky oak. The palate is divine, silky-smooth, rich with great depth of beautifully rounded complex flavours and finishes with a superb, slightly tight/grippy, lingering finish. It is equally comfortable being enjoyed on its own or accompanying all but the very richest/spiciest of dishes, be they meat based or Vegan.

This is a truly awesome wine that is drinking magnificently right now, yet will continue to evolve for a few more years and then be superlative for many years to come. TOTALLY BRILLIANT!

Check this stunner out, along with the other excellent wines in the CRFT portfolio at the link below.

Remember to #chooseaustralianwine and where possible drink #emergingvarieties. Cheers!

Winery Link: