Wine sample mountain
Sunday 31 October
Ding-dong. Not again. Yes, it’s a courier bringing wine. Stop interrupting me! I am trying to do some work. Not that I’m complaining about free wine. The neighbours really like it too.
But what to do with all these boxes and bottles? Cardboard, polystyrene, bubble wrap and so much sticky tape. It’s piling up in my garage. Recycling men take the cardboard and glass but the rest will have to go to landfill. What a waste.
And then there’s the wine down the sink. It can’t all be drunk. The neighbours take a bottle or two after it’s sampled and I like a couple of glasses of an evening but what to do with 20 almost-full opened bottles? It’s a nice dilemma to have but why don’t more producers use Wine In Tube (WIT) for samples? I only need 50ml to taste. Then I wouldn’t feel as environmentally unsound as BP. It would save wineries a heap of money on wine, postage, and packaging too.
Ding dong…guess time’s up.
Sun sets on Chateau Broustet
Tuesday 26 October
The end of Broustet but new beginnings for Ch Saint-Marc?
Guillaume Forcade is a dynamic young man who has spent the past year trying to save his family’s chateau from going under. He was too late.
The Barsac estate was sold on September 30th to an Italian buyer, Taillan, which owns wine merchant Ginestet and a number of Bordeaux chateaux including Gruaud Larose and Chasse Spleen.
It is sad for the company since Forcade had been working his butt off to raise the company’s profile and injecting a breath of fresh air into the appellation. He had packaged some of the estate’s wines in test tubes and the brand had become involved in Vogue and Mercedes parties.
Forcade said: “It is difficult to accept the end when the latest developments we made to improve the quality, the brand and the export market were finally giving extremely good results.” It was too little too late.
The sale reflects a malaise in Sauternes/Barsac. The domestic market is the most important for Sauternes, representing more than 70% of all sales. The French have cut their Sauternes consumption from 83,536hl in 1999/2000, to 54,477hl in 2008/09. The appellation’s vineyard area has fallen from 4139ha to 3773ha in the same period.
Forcade added: ‘It is incredibly sad but selling Sauternes has been very difficult for all of us in the appellation. For a grand cru classé owner like my family, who bought the estate with the help of banks, the huge debts have been just too difficult to face with the economic downturn the whole region of Sauternes has endured for the past ten years.”
The average consumer is over 60 years old (CIVB research) and it needs to find new drinkers. It also needs to encourage all consumers to see sweet wine as a year-round drink – not just for Christmas. Sweet Bordeaux is trying to do this. But with little marketing money, limited awareness of their consumer base and a plethora of marketing/organisational bodies within the small appellation, it’s not going to be an easy task.
The Forcade family are still the owners of Château Saint-Marc, the immediate neighbour of Château Broustet, an estate in the family since the 18th century.
Despite the setback, Forcade is not giving up. He promises blog pages, video teasers and launching Saint-Marc wine in tubes in the US at the end of November. The sun may have set on Broustet but I suspect Saint-Marc is entering a new dawn if Forcade has anything to do with it.
Drink Seresin wines; win a free wine course
Wednesday 20 October
Have you booked a place on my Introduction to Wine course yet? If not, why not? It kicks off on 13 November at Longroom, Ponsonby. For those readers outside of New Zealand, it might be a wee bit far to come but if you are in the land of the long white cloud, you can win a free place on the 13 November course. Here’s how…
If you buy a case of wine from the lovely people at Seresin Estate in Marlborough, you’ll be entered in the draw to win a free ticket. It’s as simple as that. It helps that Seresin’s wines are bloody tasty too. I particularly like their 2009 Memento RIesling for summer at just 10% alcohol plus their 2009 Sauvignon Blanc has lovely restraint and texture.
Click here to go to their website and buy a case of wine and be in with the chance to come and spend five hours with me tasting your way around the world of wine and having a delicious lunch.
I’ve never been lucky in prize draws although I did once win an INXS album at a tombola when I was eight. I was more a Kylie and Jason fan at the time though.
If you’re luck’s not in, you can always come along to my course with a limited offer of buy one get the second half price. Go to this link to access the special offer page for the 13 November course and for the 4 December course
Consolidation continues in the wine industry
Tuesday 19 October
Consolidation in the drinks industry continues with Lion Nathan’s takeover of 12 Kiwi brands. The Japanese-owned company is looking to make itself a one-stop shop for retailers and bars so it’s bought sparkling wine brand Lindauer and other lesser-known labels to bolster its limited wine portfolio here.
Why would you they buy Lindauer? Volume and brand equity? They are two likely reasons but Lion says it is ‘not going to go into the details of the joint venture arrangement,’ at this stage. The largest New Zealand-produced sparkling brand is piled high in the supermarkets but it’s usually discounted; Corbans is a well-established Kiwi brand but it’s not exactly super-premium - and I’ve never even heard of some of the other brands like Twin River, Bensen Block and Huntaway.
Lion wants to become the ‘one-stop shop’ says Lion’s NZ managing director, and the extra volume gives them more clout. Retailers are increasingly looking to cut costs and streamline businesses, and if Lion can offer them a wide range of beers, wines and spirits in one transaction it reduces their purchasing and logistics costs. Meanwhile in the on-trade, bar owners are offered loans and cash incentives if they sign exclusive deals with big boys like Lion. This ties them in for 3-5 years but means they must buy solely from the Lion portfolio.
Does this reduce choice for consumers? Yes, it does and this process of the big getting bigger will continue. But don’t fret: despite this corporatization of the wine industry, it remains highly fragmented compared to other consumer goods ‘with only 12.8% of the world’s wine produced by the top 10 wine companies,’ ( Liz Thach). Most of the world’s wine is still produced and sold by small wine companies. While this will continue , there will always be small, passionate, and successful producers.
From piers to Pinot Noir
Thursday 14 October
Fact: Southend has the longest pier in the world
As promised in my last blog, I am putting myself on the line here with some unadulterated tasting notes from Monday’s NZ Pinot Noir blind tasting. The day showed that wine is very subjective – all these supposed wine experts and no-one could agree. It almost became comical.
I did learn one thing that cannot be argued over – Southend-on-Sea in Essex has the longest pier in the world, measuring 2.158km (thanks to fellow wine journo and former Southend-er Jo Burzynska for that gem. Turns out Neal Martin of erobertparker.com is also from Southend).
Anyway from piers to Pinot. My overarching thoughts on the first dozen wines, which turned out to be North Island and Nelson Pinots were: all have some structure, some acidity, many are too heavy on the oak for the fruit, herbal notes keep coming up, damson/plum fruit and sometimes violets.
Wine A9 reads: Pure, vibrant damson fruit, floral, parma violets, good concentration, but a lovely chalky texture, quite delicate on mid palate, well balanced with fresh acidity. Cedar oak on the finsih but not overpowering. I like this for the structure. 18.5/20. Turns out it’s Ata Rangi 2006 from Martinborough and it’s no surprise really.
There was an imposter in the line up: Bruno Clavelier 2006 Corton Le Rognet Grand Cru. While many people loved it, I wasn’t keen. My notes read: ‘Starting to brown in the glass. Strange banana aroma, elastoplast, violets, medicinal aroma, low yield good concentration with brett. Some underripe tannins - French? 14/20. Oh dear, 14/20 for a Grand Cru. It was one of the top wines of the day but I don’t like elastoplasts in my wine.
Flight 2 had good colour for Pinot but many lacked mid palate focus and structure. I thought the use of oak was better than in the first flight. Sweet red and black fruits, moderate plus acidity. Turns out of be Marlborough and Canterbury. This was a confused set of wines. Some tasted like they were from Australia they were so powerful while Seresin’s Sun & Moon which I thought was awesome when I had the bottle in front of me, seemed more Merlot-like than Pinot: ‘Deep colour. Fresh black cherry and blackcurrants with a touch of violets mouthfilling, rich, is this really Pinot Noir? Fresh acidity, soft ripe tannins, short length. Oak well integrated. Clearly expensively made with good concentration and power but this isn’t what Pinot is about for me that’s why I’m marking it down. 16/20’ Oh dear. $120 a bottle as well. Sorry, Seresin.
Bell Hill which everyone raves about also did poorly. ‘Overoaked lime toast, Stilton cheese, gamey South African thing going on. Lacks concentration and structure. Medium plus acidity, alcohol balanced, silky, ripe. 15/20.
Then came the Central Otago flight. The deep colour was a bit of a giveaway. The overall standard of the wines was higher than previous flights but there were plenty of disappointments. At the top of the table sat Lindis River’s 2006 One by One. Paler than the rest of the flight. Restrained nose, tastes somewhat metallic/steely, lacks generosity, dry, savoury, French?. Not feminine at all, earthy, vinous. 17.5/20.
Quartz Reef’s 2007 Bendigo Estate brought up the rear of the Central tasting. ‘Moderate concentration, quite oaky, low tannin some grain, lacks fruit, tight finish, fresh acid, parma violets, lacked definition on mid palate,’ said my notes. Isn’t it amazing that I’ve been to see the lovely winemaker Rudi Bauer and quite enjoyed his wines in situ? Just goes to show how much preconceptions do alter the marks.