July 17, 2020

Here are a couple of interesting updates from overseas – USA and China.

USA NEWS: Recently I read that the largest winery in Ohio USA had just been bought out. No big deal, except that it was bought for “mid seven figures” by a company headed up by two millennials aged 25 and 26.

Recently, VinePair published an interesting report on the wine consumption by state in the USA (see link below). This report shows that Idaho is No.1 consumption state per capita, followed by Washington, D.C. (which I expected to be No.1 given the Trump factor), with California only coming in at No.7 and surprisingly the Mormon state of Utah is No.47 rather than last – which is West Virginia at No.51.

Just goes to show that things are usually not how they seem, especially in the USA these days!!

Report Link: https://vinepair.com/articles/map-states-drink-wine-america-2020/                          

CHINA ALARM BELLS?: In mid-June, China’s President, Xi Jing Ping, travelled to Yinchuan at the foothills of the Helan Mountains in Ningxia Province (one of China’s main winegrowing regions), where he visited Chateau Zhihui Yuanshi winery. He stated that he could see a very positive future for the Chinese wine industry as the standard of living of his countrymen rises and more quality wines are made.

The question is – Is this the first small step in a concerted “nationalism” effort by the communist government to push/nudge its citizens into drinking the local product instead of imported wines, especially from recalcitrant countries like Australia? Just consider what has happened to US wine sales to China since the two governments started their spat – US sales have dropped by over 75%. We have already slipped behind France after taking the lead last year.

Another possible step in this process could be the recent introduction of China’s own wine assessment/scoring system. Two years ago the China Alcoholic Drinks Association (CADA), the country’s official regulatory drinks organisation, proposed its own wine rating system “In order to solve the difficult problem of buying wine and to help consumers make easier decisions on wine quality”.

This system has now been officially adopted by JD.com, China’s second largest online seller with over 300 million customers. It is expected that smaller/lesser online sellers will follow suit in adopting this more complicated system and thus over time it will become the “bible” for Chinese wine buyers. This will erode and diminish the relevance and use of the current main reference guides such as Robert Parker, Wine Spectator, Decanter, James Halliday, etc.

I will write a Blog on this issue shortly. However, the main potential impact in my opinion is that before long wine reviews of imported wines will be done primarily by Chinese reviewers rather than international critics as is the case now and as a result these reviews may possibly be influenced by the State and its current issues with the country of the wine’s origin. In a similar way that they said: “Nothing will change in Hong Kong.”

Already there have been surveys conducted in China asking wine consumers about consuming local wines versus imported wines.

Are these the initial steps in something bigger and more threatening to the Australian wine industry?

Like I have been saying for a while now if you are looking to export your wines – look beyond China, USA and the UK, as they all have issues which will/are affecting Australian wine sales.

Thanks for listening. Have a great week and enjoy some sensational wines. Cheers!

This Week's Wine Review:

This week I am talking about a new up-market Barossa wine from CALABRIA FAMILY WINES.

From humble beginnings in Griffith over 70 years ago, under the inspired stewardship of Bill Calabria, AM, the second generation of the family has raised the quality of their wines so that today CALABRIA FAMILY WINES produce some of the best wines in the Riverina. Especially under their Three Bridges label – the Durif is a cracker!

In recent times CALABRIA FAMILY WINES has invested in vineyards and a winery in the Barossa Valley in order to lift the profile of their wines. Much in the same way that Renmark-based family owned, Angoves Wines, invested in McLaren Vale and “re-invented” themselves by mainly promoting their McLaren Vale wines.

OK, so on to this week’s wine: CALABRIA FAMILY WINES BAROSSA VALLEY 2015 ‘THE ICONIC GRAND RESERVE’ SHIRAZ – This wine is made from 100-year-old vines and as you can see from the images is presented in elegant packaging. It is great to see a premium wine being released at five years of age, after all Treasury these days release Grange at 4-years-old (thanks to the bean counters).

The wine is deep, inky and almost black in colour. The bouquet is beautifully complex with plums, cherries, a splash of chocolate and some subtle spices all melding together. The palate is big but quite massive, gorgeously rich, oozing stacks of divine flavours, a hint of chocolate and a dash of vanillin oak, with a lovely, long, lingering finish.

Unlike some Barossa Shiraz that are OTT and Parkeresque this one is more in the elegant, slick, svelte style that is oh, so easy to enjoy with or without food. SUPERB - A REAL CLASS ACT!!

Winery Link: www.calabriawines.com.au