Oz Clarke was quoted in Marlborough’s local rag last year, telling growers to plant Syrah. Whether that was quite what he meant or his words were slightly misconstrued is up for debate but his advice is being heeded.
Biodynamic grower Seresin is getting in on the act – although I’m sure an article in …
Applications for the 12th young wine writer of the year award have opened. It is six years since I won the award, which opened the door for me to enter the world of wine journalism and get my bottom pinched by Oz Clarke (he was reprimanded for that but has since tried his luck again on several occasions!).
All you have to do is write 1500 words on anything you want as long as it’s wine-related – oh, and you have to be under 30. Ah, youth.
Having spent the first half of 2006 in Australia working the harvest in Victoria’s Alpine Valleys, I travelled around Australia’s wine regions in a clapped out Mitsubishi (it gave up the ghost in Queensland, sadly), which inspired my winning article on the Mornington Peninsula. I had gone to Australia thinking that I might want to be a winemaker but the vintage experience soon knocked all romantic notions out of me and gave me the impetus to pursue writing. Thankfully I got my lucky break with the young wine writer competition. The prize has also opened doors for wine writers including Peter Richards MW and Stuart George.
There are two major prizes – £1000 to spend on a trip to a wine region of your choosing plus a 14-day all-expenses paid trip to Australia – that’s a better deal than you get as a journalist!!
Entries close on 30 September 2012 so get your thinking caps on and put pen to paper.
If the New Zealand Olympic team performs as well as its wine industry did at the 2012 International Wine Challenge (IWC), there will be plenty of happy Kiwis.
New Zealand wineries took 26 gold medals this year, an increase of almost 25% year on year, which placed New Zealand as the 6th most-awarded wine producing country in the world.
Trans-Tasman rival Australia won 69 golds but let’s remember how small New Zealand is – it has 37,000 hectares of vines in total while Australia has almost five times as many vineyards, covering 172,000 hectares.
Delegat’s Wine Estate and Mills Reef Winery led the way for New Zealand wineries each picking up two of the highly coveted gold medals. New Zealand wines were also awarded 100 silver medals and 166 bronze medals.
New Zealand wines were also rated as the ‘cleanest’ wines in the world – Kiwi entries had the lowest incidence of wine faults such as cork taint or oxidation compared with entries from 49 other countries. With more than nine out of ten bottles of New Zealand wine sealed under screwcap, the aluminium closure industry will surely be claiming victory over their natural cork rivals.
The 29th IWC saw 425 gold medals awarded (the highest gold medal tally in the history of the IWC) with winning wines selected from a record 50 countries. For the first time, there were entries from Colombia and Bosnia and Herzegovina with the latter awarded one silver and two bronze, establishing them as emerging contenders for quality wine production.
Here are some of the highlights from this year’s results:
- The top three gold medal-winning nations for 2012 are reigning champions France with 120, Australia 69 and Portugal 55
- France topped the medal board overall with a total of 1,136 medals, while Australia came second with 673 and Portugal third with 444
- There were entries from 50 countries
French wine sales are suffering at the hands of the Australians, Californians, Italians and South Africans in the UK. To add insult to injury, English wines are beating them at their own game: the International Wine Challenge (IWC) has just announced Camel Valley’s 2008 Pinot Noir Brut has taken the sparkling rose trophy ahead of the Champenois. This is another kick in the teeth for the Champagne region, after poor sales in 2009.
What I like most about the competition is the value awards. As a tight northerner, the price of decent wines can make my eyes water. Finding a great wine under a tenner certainly improves my mood. And my dad, a Liverpudlian (an even more notoriously tight lot), will be making a special trip to the supermarket to fill up on bargains when he sees the results (although not to Waitrose, as they haven’t made it as far north as my hometown yet)
So, what are the stars I’ll be sending my dad out to buy:-
Oloroso Trophy winner: Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Oloroso 12 year old for a mere £6.49
La Différence Carignan 2009, France, £5.81, France, Tesco.
Moon Bridge Riesling 2009, Australia, £5.49, Marks & Spencer
Domaine Villargeau Sauvignon Blanc 2009, France, £9.99, Majestic Wine Warehouse
Falanghina Campania 2009, Italy £9.99, Laytons, Oddbins
Montana’s new Reserve Sauvignon Gris arrived on my doorstep last week. The press release from Pernod Ricard-owned Montana exclaimed it was â€œinspiring new horizonsâ€ with the launch of this fringe variety and I was interested to try it. Unfortunately, I’d be lying if I said I liked it: the wine was confused.
So what is this Sauvignon Gris shananigans? According to Oz Clarke’s book, Grapes and Wines, Sauvignon Gris is a pink mutation of Sauvignon Blanc. Apparently â€œit gives 20% lower yields than Sauvignon Blanc, one degree more alcohol and a less pungent but spicier aroma.â€
Interestingly, Chateau Smith Haut-Lafite in Pessac Leognan adds 5% of Gris to its delicious Sauvignon Blanc.
This wasn’t Smith Haut-Lafite. It had a real Sauvignon Blanc nose of green pepper (also known as capsicum to you non-Brits) and gooseberry. My brain and palate were ready for a light bodied, zippy Sauvignon but it got a weighty Gris mouthful with lowish acidity. It’s a bit of a Susan Boyle â€“ you think you know what to expect and then find out you were completely wrong. Unfortunately this wasn’t a pleasant surprise.
Another concern is, who is the target market? Is it the Sauvignon Blanc drinker or the Pinot Gris guzzler? They’re very different audiences and this variety seems to please neither camp. And at NZ$23.99, I won’t be urging you to rush out and buy it. But if you want to try a wine with a split personality, this is the one for you.
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After a three-course dinner, several glasses of wine and some unusual entertainment at the end of Pinot Noir 2010, it was Oz Clarke’s turn to get up and shake up the New Zealand wine industry.
His rhetoric got a standing ovation. Luckily I was being a conscientious journo and had my pad and pen to hand when he spoke â€“ so here are a few snippets for those of you who weren’t there â€“ and those of you that have fuzzy, boozy memories of the evening.
The point is New Zealand is in danger of shooting itself in the foot if it doesn’t sort its supply-demand balance. We all know this. If it is seen as a sub Â£5 supplier of Sauvignon Blanc that tarnishes the whole country’s image and its other varieties. Could Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc become the next Liebfraumilch? Let’s hope not.
Oz said: â€œThere’s an ocean of Sauvignon Blanc hitting the shelves in the UK. What’s that got to do with Pinot Noir? Quite a lot.â€
â€œGermany was the leading supplier of wine in the UK in the 1980s. The Brits greedily guzzled it for a few years but the pursuit of great profit ruined their reputation.â€
â€œLess than a generation later, Australia fuelled the British wine revolution with Shiraz and Chardonnay.â€
â€œAussie Chardonnay became the discount junkie’s paradise. The pursuit of short term profit mutilated Australia’s reputation.â€
â€œDon’t think it could not happen to you, it’s happened twice before in the past 30 years.â€
â€œConsumers will say top quality Pinot Noir [from New Zealand]? That’s where the cheap Sauvignon Blanc comes from. The expensive jewel, the sought after Pinot suddenly looks far too dear.â€
We were all thinking it; Oz said it. Honesty spoken with a bit of Oz theatricals thrown in is the best policy.
The International Wine Challenge Personality of the Year is Oz Clarke and James May.
Clarke collected his award last night at the awards dinner and made an impassioned â€“ and off the cuff – speech on the alcohol debate. I donâ€™t know whether it was booze-fuelled but it certainly got the crowd going after a turgid powerpoint presentation at the start of the night. With the wine and drinks industry increasingly targeted by the government, Oz spoke out about the majority of the moderate wine drinking public being penalised by a binge drinking minority. He also made a plea to get out and find a new wine audience.
‘I think that alcohol is about people being happier not being covered in your own vomit,’ he declared.
â€˜Drinking wine is about feeling good about yourself’.
â€˜We need to find new consumers – people who like to drink well – and James and I are trying to do that. We were getting six million people to watch Oz & James at prime time and I think we found that new audience.â€™
While they were filming Oz admitted â€˜We would get gormless young people turning up and weâ€™d have to tell them it wasnâ€™t Top Gear and we werenâ€™t going to blow up the caravan. I would like to think of our new consumers are a higher level than that.â€™
James was in France and so couldnâ€™t defend himself when Oz called him an â€˜irritating old sodâ€™.
On my way out of the awards, I met Australian Peter Lehmann who had won Lifetime Achievement Award and deservedly had a standing ovation. He had his trophy in his hand but said it was a long way to come for a bit of metal.