Wine: made in the vineyard or winery?
Tuesday 31 January
Most wine producers will tell you wine is made in the vineyard (alongside overdelivering on quality and other such wank phrases). But what if it isn’t?
Ok, so you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and your fruit does need to be good for starters - but a tasting at Frogmore Creek in Tasmania’s Coal River Valley today put the influence of the winemaker back in the limelight.
Winemaker Nick Glaetzer, of the renowned Glaetzer family, says, “Terroir is important but the winemaker can also play a role in making a wine more exciting.”
His team have been experimenting in the winery to see what they can do with its Pinot Noir fruit.
And with most vineyards in Tasmania still lacking old vines, winemaking techniques seem to be crucial to create more interesting wines. “I thought that because we were not getting the complexity from old vines we had to be something about it,” adds Glaetzer.
This experimentation breaks the current mould of winemakers telling us that their wines are made in the vineyard with minimal intervention.
Glaetzer showed us nine wines from the 2007 vintage. The Pinot Noir grapes were picked at the same time from the same block but were fermented differently. Kicking off with a ‘control’ wine, the flight included everything from a 100% carboic maceration ferment to a co-ferment with Chardonnay. Interestingly the Chardonnay addition seemed to make the wine more supple and velvety with a pronounced nutty character.
Curiously, there was an Amarone style wine that had been produced from riper grapes. Compared to the control wine it produced a richer style of wine, fuller in body with heaps of black cherry and raisin-like flavours not seen in the control wine. The tannins were more abundant too. It shared the fleshy mid palate of the control wine but little else. If I hadn’t been told it was the same wine, I would never have guessed.
The ninth wine was the final blend, which includes 25% of the Amarone style wine with the other components each representing 5-8%.
This process is followed every year with components of the 2011 Pinot blend including a splash of a Pinot Gris-Pinot Noir blend “which looks a bit baggy,” admits Nick, and a Gewurztraminer-Pinot Noir batch, displaying a weird combination of Pinot red fruit flavours alongside orange and exotic spice.
The tasting messed with my brain, combining some techniques and blends that my palate had never experienced. It is also interesting to see the many expressions of one terroir, and that the winemaker’s decisions from minimalist to interventionist do impact on that expression.
Grand plans for Gibbston Valley
Friday 27 January
Queenstown has the fastest growing airport in Australasia and members of the Central Otago wine industry are recognising the opportunities this provides.
Gibbston Valley wines, in particular, has grand plans for 2013. It already welcomes between 80-100,000 visitors through its doors each year, and now it has applied for 50 apartment style rooms to be built at Gibbston Valley. Just 2km down the road from the winery, its CEO, Greg Hunt, has designs for a spa, 18-hole links style golf course alongside the Kawarau river plus a vintners market.
Greg Hunt, Gibbston’s CEO, says, “We are hoping to start construction at the beginning of 2013.”
He reveals they have already received the consent for a resort but the economic crash put paid to their initial plans but next year is the year to resurrect this grand design.
He would not reveal, however, how much this would cost!
Tattoos for the Riesling cause
Sunday 22 January
Never did I think I'd get my legs out in this blog!
Riesling is tattooed down my right calf. Well, to be more accurate, it says iesling. The R has rubbed off in the past 24 hours, so clearly it isn’t permanent. Which will please my mother.
I hadn’t even had a drink when I agreed to get Riesling stamped on my leg on Saturday night by a virtual stranger. His name is Paul Greico. And he’s the bearded force behind the ‘Summer of Riesling’ concept that is now going global.
It all started in his New York wine bar, Terroir, in 2008. “I thought if I’m ever going to get my customers to drink Riesling, I can’t give them a choice so my wine list started out with 30 Rieslings and nothing else. So, you were either going to drink Riesling or walk out the door and we did have people walking out the door.”
As both a Riesling and a Tottenham Hotspurs fan, Greico appears to like the unlikely. “It’s my challenge to fight the good fight for the underdog,” he says.
Greico is clearly passionate about this grape variety, and apologises that his language might get a little colourful as he drinks more Riesling and becomes more animated: “After 7 o’clock I swear a lot,” he warns.
In the US, the Summer of Riesling concept has spread widely with 220 restaurants around the US participating in summer 2011. They each poured three Rieslings during the 94 days of summer.
Now it has moved to New Zealand and Australia but there is no specific aim and is anti-marketing. “This is a sommelier driven gig. It is not professional. This is a groundswell of activity and wherever it goes it fucking goes.”[Time check – 9.30pm]
“We are trying to take it to Canada and the EU.”
The International Riesling Scale has been introduced for producers to indicate how dry or sweet their product is, but sweetness remains one of the stumbling blocks for consumers.
“We have to talk about the S word when we talk about Riesling, and it scares the crap out of people.”
Instead, in the words of Beavis and Butthead, says Greico, we should be talking about whether Riesling is cool or it sucks.
It better be cool or I’ve gone and got a really lame tattoo on my calf. Now that would suck.
Strachan’s reign to end at the WFA
Monday 9 January
First of all, apologies to my regular readers who have rightly had a moan about my non-posting of late. I have a good excuse - I’ve just got married so have been rather busy opening gifts and looking at photographs, wishing I could do it all over again.
But it’s back to the grindstone now with deadlines aplenty and studying starts apace with June’s MW exams not as far away as I’d like.
And June will come quickly for the CEO of the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia, Stephen Strachan, who will step down from his role after eight years at the helm.
He has overseen the inception of the Wine Restructuring Action Agenda (WRRA), the creation of the Wine Equalisation Tax (WET) rebate, and set up the Future Leaders’ programme during his tenure.
Strachan points to the creation of the WET rebate as one of his proudest during his reign at the Federation. It is designed to aid small Australian producers to claim an annual tax rebate of 29% up to a maximum of AU $500,000.
However it is currently causing controversy. In September, Pernod Ricard-owned Premium Wine Brands and Treasury Wine Estates called for the Australian federal government to reform the Wine Equalisation Tax (WET) rebate, claiming it is sustaining the country’s glut.
Strachan admits, “It does need some reform. The rebate is not intended for bulk wine but growers have been producing surplus grapes and converting it to wine to sell through certain retail outlets at discounted prices. In these cases, the WET rebate is keeping the producers in the market and hitting the pace of reform.”
While Strachan will leave behind an industry “with big issues” he also believes Australia is on its way to building a sustainable wine industry – albeit slowly. It is taking longer than hoped but restructuring of the industry is going on amid a global financial crisis and an Australian currency boom. Their timing was clearly off.