Wine For Nymphomaniacs
Wednesday 29 August
They say sex sells but how far is too far when you’re selling wine?
There appears to be no boundaries for Naked Winery, which produces wines from both Oregon and Washington State. Billed as a “family winery” its saucy wines are certainly conducive to making a family but not child-friendly.
You can pick from the Climax Table Red, the Dominatrix Pinot Noir or the Missionary Cabernet Sauvignon. On the white side of things, there’s the Foreplay Chardonnay and the Cougar Bubbly White. How on earth did they get these names past the sticklers at the alcohol watchdog, the TTB?
The tasting note for its Penetration Cab reads: “Rich cherry and plum flavors rub the buds deep down on your tongue. Watch the legs release as they spread to perfection down the glass and feel the solid oak presence grow. Intense concentration with a huge extract. Open up, relax and get Penetrated tonight.”
If you buy the Penetration, then Naked Winery suggests you might also like the cookbook for men “Will Cook For Sex Again, Again…and Again.”
It all seems pretty desperate. I’m not entirely sure who they’re targeting with these wines – perhaps the nymphomaniac wine drinking market is bigger than I thought. Could wine porn be the next Moscato?
$168,000 wine gets snapped up
Tuesday 21 August
Going to show that people do have more money than sense, Australian wine firm Penfolds has announced it has sold all but one of the dozen A$168,000 glass ampoules it unveiled in June.
Containing 750ml of the 2004 Kalimna Black 42 cabernet sauvignon, which normally retails at $600-700, the wine comes packaged in a hand-blown glass ampoule which is suspended within a fancy Australian-wood cabinet.
The luxury product was launched in Moscow in June and raised a few eyebrows. Daylight robbery may also have been uttered sometime after receiving the press release. But Penfolds is having the last laugh, as people clearly do have money to burn. David Dearie, the chief executive of Treasury Wine Estates revealed that all but one of the ampoules had been sold at its annual results, Australia’s Herald Sun reported.
“If anyone is after one of these limited ampoules, you’ll have to move fast, because although launched only a month ago, we’ve sold all but one of these fantastic Penfolds sculptures,” said Dearie.
So, I’ve decided that I should probably source some wine, claim that it’s made in limited quantities and call it Moneyfolds. I’ll put it in a plywood cupboard and stick it up on ebay and see if I get any bids.
“Masstige” - when marketing sounds ugly
Friday 17 August
Nothing grates on me more than seeing an apostrophe in the wrong place, a misspelling on a menu, or its and it’s mixed up.
In a Sydney wine bar this weekend, I ended up getting my red pen out on their wine list, which included Chardnonnay, Reisling and Semillion to name but a few.
I remember a very dark day back in 2007 when ginormous - a concoction of gigantic and enormous - entered the dictionary. At the time, the president of dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster, said: “There will be linguistic conservatives who will turn their nose up at a word like ‘ginormous.’” Which makes me a linguistic conservative, it seems.
Today marked another dark day for the English language. It was the day the word “masstige” – a blend of mass and prestige - entered into my consciousness. It reared its ugly head in Australian wine company Treasury’s annual report. Things look good for the company, which has struggled so badly over the last 5 years – net profit leapt 40 percent. In the Asian market, earnings increased more than 40 percent.
But it was not the minutiae of EBITs and cashflow that gave me a headache, it was this new adjective. It first appeared on page three of the 34 page report: “Vintage 2011 in Australia and California negatively impacted by weather, resulting in reduced availability of Luxury and Masstige wines and higher costs.” It appeared again 15 times throughout the document.
Has the marketing department just made this word up?
Well, it’s not in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, which is a relief – but that’s no guarantee it won’t be in the near future. However Dictionary.com must be more linguistically liberal as it does have a definition of masstige: “noting or pertaining to goods that are perceived to have prestige or high style but are affordable for a wide range of customers:”
Treasury defines it as a wine that costs A$10-20 and brands Wolf Blass and Lindeman’s are lined up for a bit of masstige action. In fact, the wine giant has adopted a strategy to produce more luxury and masstige wine across the board through “Project Uplift”, which sounds like it belongs in a cosmetic surgery rather than a wine company.
Treasury’s portfolio includes brands such as Beringer, Wolf Blass, Rosemount, Lindeman’s and Penfolds, It revealed that it plans to offer more premium wines, following the Shanghai launch in November of its Bin 620 shiraz and cabernet sauvignon blend, which carries a A$1,000-a-bottle price tag. More recently, Penfolds launched a $168,000 wine, complete with bespoke cabinet. I think that puts it out of the masstige market.
The Bridge Pa Triangle - a long time coming
Sunday 5 August
More than two years ago, Hawke’s Bay producers based close to the Gimblett Gravels in ‘The Triangle’ were planning to get together to gain international recognition for their area.
Last week, the group finally launched the Bridge Pa triangle albeit without some of the area’s biggest players but let’s hope they come on board to give this subregion a chance at success.
The Triangle – also known as the Ngatarawa Triangle– first needed to settle on a name for the area and define its boundaries. It lies around one kilometre from the Gimblett Gravels, and being so close shares the same climate.
It is on the same former river bed as the Gravels but with a clay and sandy top soil. Peter Cowley, who has researched the special nature of this area for some time, explains, “The Bridge Pa Triangle Wine District is located on old terraces of the Ngaruroro River, which up until 10,000 years ago flowed out to sea between Maraekakaho and Roys Hill.
“The river deposited vast amounts of greywacke gravel known locally as red metal, which is covered in different areas by alluvium derived from loess, volcanic ash and greywacke.”
The now officially named Bridge Pa triangle covers more than 2,000 hectares and includes the largest concentration of vineyards in Hawke’s Bay.
The wines are similar in style to the Gravels but Stephen Daysh, director of Bridge Pa, claims, “The Triangle fruit isn’t as dense or heavy as Gimblett Gravels but is a little more lifted and perfumed.”
More than two years ago Paul Ham, managing director at Alpha Domus, told me: “We are constantly bombarded with Gimblett Gravels. I’m not complaining about it but it’s up to us to be proactive. Across the road from the Gravels we have this triangle sub-region which offers something else.”
“People have heard all about Gimblett Gravels and they are looking for what’s next from Hawke’s Bay, so we have a great opportunity to get some traction.”
With around 20 producers involved in the Bridge Pa triangle association, sporting a logo and official boundaries, the group has made the first steps towards greater recognition. However, to garner trade and consumer awareness, it will need the bigger producers in the region to give it real clout. I hope they support the initiative.
The Waitaki Valley and why Central Otago is “turning wines into cartoons”
Friday 3 August
This week the producers of the Waitaki Valley have been on the road, touting their wares.
Despite two of its producers receiving the accolade of New Zealand’s best Pinot Noir at the International Wine Challenge and best Pinot Noir at the Shanghai International Wine Challenge in the past month, most people look perplexed when you mention its name.
It’s in North Otago, in case you were wondering, 160km northeast of Central Otago’s Cromwell. Consultant Jeff Sinnott, winemaker for Shanghai trophy winner Ostler has spent the past 11 years in Central Otago and now having a foot in both camps made a useful comparison.
“Waitaki is slightly warmer than the Gibbston Valley [the coolest part of Central Otago’s subregions] but Waitaki has warmer temperatures in the late autumn which equals longer hang time allowing the tannins to ripen.”
In the warmer regions of Central Otago, such as Bannockburn and Alexandra, the long hang time isn’t usually possible as autumn frosts often dictate harvest decisions. “In Central Otago I don’t think I have ever made a completely tannin ripe wine and I have been making Central wines for 10 years. You are getting two brix a week from veraison to picking the fruit and so it is picked within five weeks [although that is about normal for Burgundy].”
“Then you are tempted to add water to get the alcohol down.” I think this temptation might become too much to bear for some!
Central Otago’s reds are generally sweetly fruited and fuller-bodied than the rest of the country’s Pinots. Final alcohols of 14 or 14.5 percent are quite normal. I mention that I’ve seen a growing tendency for a powerful, log-fire like oak-derived char to become an element of Central Otago’s wines – almost becoming a hallmark of the region.
“One of the most successful Pinot producers in Central Otago is also a barrel importer,” he answered.
“Central Otago is in danger of becoming a parody. It’s turning wines into cartoons and we are trying to make oil paintings here.”.
In the Waitaki, ripening is much slower – almost dangerously slow. The time between veraison and picking can be as much as 10 weeks! I imagine that the local producers must have very short fingernails.
“This is right on the edge of possibility,” adds Sinnott. “A lot of people will follow the line of least resistance but that isn’t available for Waitaki winemakers. I’d say in terms of difficulty, Central would be an 8 and the Waitaki would be a 9.5.”
You’re likely to see more vintage variation as a result. The 2010s are much warmer in profile, with sweeter fruit, lacking the tautness, elegance and minerality of the cooler years, like 2011.
Yields are low – in part due to hostile weather: rain, frost, wind and hungry birds make ripening rapes a risky business. Having experimented with yields as low as 2 tons to the hectare (around 14hl/ha), they’ve found that low yields doesn’t necessarily mean better fruit, as the abundant 1982 vintage in Bordeaux also demonstrated. “We are finding the sweet spot is 4t/ha and any lower you get strong tomato leaf-like character,” says Sinnott.
Black Stilt Pinot Noir 2011
Pure and elegant nose with fine pepper and black cherry fruit aromatics. Light bodied, fine grained, chalky-textured tannin - likely derived from limestone. Racy acidity leaves a clean palate. Not particularly complex but shows the Waitaki’s characteristics and cool climate Pinot Noir typicity. 17/20
Not so cheap but bloody delicious:
John Forrest Pinot Noir 2009
Pure, focused, with a plummy core of fruit overlaid with clove and cinnamon spice. It has fine grained tannins, a chalky texture on the finish with fine acidity and great linearity Complex and elegant. 18.5/20.
Otiake Gewurztraminer 2011
I don’t like Gewurz - it’s just that it’s usually over the top and a bit fat. But this is pure and tight without overt florals. Instead it shows fruit salad, lime, lemon and incredible freshness for a low acid variety. It’s dry and finishes clean. 18/20
Ostler Lakeside Vines Pinot Gris 2011
This is almost Alsatian in style with restrained savoury notes, spice and pear on the nose. It is medium in body, is richly fruited yet retains a tautness of structure. On the long finish there’s white flowers, bruised apple and lavender. Worthy of a 17.5/20 at the very least but shows potential to be as good as premium Alsatian Pinot Gris in the future with vine age.
Pasquale Riesling Shrivel 2011
I have partly fallen in love with this wine because of Pasquale’s owner Antonio, who told me that this was a good wine to have for a lovemaking session before breakfast Clean and pure with intense lemon, mandarin aromas. It is piquant, zesty and perfectly balanced despite 160g/l residual sugar - that’s probably thanks to a T/A of 9! Hearing that I was newly married, Antonio gave me a bottle to take home - I haven’t yet opened it.