Can Valerie Adams continue NZ's gold rush in London?
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
When New Zealand makes an unoaked Macon-like wine with 12 percent alcohol, which is cheaper than most Chardonnays in the country, it’s time to sit up and take notice.
Sacred Hill’s recently released Virgin Chardonnay is unoaked with no malolactic fermentation, creating a crisp clean wine with pure white stone fruit and citrus flavours. Having been disappointed all too often with expensive, buttery and oaky New Zealand Chardonnays (Villa Maria’s Keltern Chardonnay and Kumeu River excepting), I wondered why aren’t there more unoaked Chardonnays in New Zealand?
Australia is way ahead of its Tasman neighbour, making a host of earlier picked “unwooded” Chardonnays to satiate an ever-growing appetite for refreshing, crisp white wines.
Bish thinks the unoaked Kiwi Chardonnay has an undeserved reputation from the late ‘90s and early 2000s, when unoaked Chardy sales were going well. “I think the whole genre got a bit overplayed. It ended up being a not-very-flash vinous grocery wine selling under $15 and that tainted the category,” he says.
Then there’s the competition circuit, where delicate, understated wines get overwhelmed by the fruit and oak bombs. “Oaky Chardonnay wins awards. It [the Virgin Chardonnay] has not got a shitshow of winning a gold medal in a line up of Chardonnays,” says Bish.
Bish has been pestering his team to do a Chablis-like style for some time. “I have been nagging people to do it for years.” With the winery looking for something new to celebrate its 25th anniversary, Bish got his opening and the Virgin Chardonnay was born.
Unfortunately, the cool summer and all-round crappy weather in New Zealand’s north island means there won’t be any Chardonnay from the block used to produce Rifleman’s and the Virgin this year, so the 250 cases produced last year will have to last us until 2013.
In the meantime, I shall be on the lookout for more Virgins in New Zealand and leave you with a classic bit of Madonna…
Last week I filled in a questionnaire for an upcoming article about how to deal with the wine media, which turned out into a bit of a rant. I couldn’t believe it, the floodgates opened before me and I couldn’t stem the tide. I’m turning into a grumpy old woman, I thought.
So, here are some handy hints that might make the wine media look more favourably on your winery…
First off, what was my bugbear, I was asked? “Unsolicited samples,” I replied, ”sent out willy nilly when I don’t have any articles coming up that are vaguely related. “ It’s lovely to get free wine, but at the same time if you called first or sent an email to check if it was relevant you might save yourself a lot of money in postage and wine. Your accountant will also thank you.
And don’t send them in polystyrene. Aren’t wineries meant to be clean and green? I’ve had some people giggle at that request but you can’t recycle it, and it makes me snarl before I’ve even opened it up!
This weekend, God forbid I received an unsolicited sample in a polystyrene box. Not naming names, but initials V M, you know who you are.
If you do send a sample, we certainly don’t need tasting notes with the samples, which arrive in the polystyrene carton nine times out of 10. Surely the whole point of sending a bottle is so we can make our own mind up?
More technical information would be good such as pH, TA, alcohol, plus RRP and stockists - and your contact information! It’s as simple as putting a sticky label on the bottle with all these details rather than sending another piece of paper that is easily lost.
This morning I received two press releases telling me about bronze and silver medal wins. If it’s not a trophy at a major international competition, it will get deleted. Village shows, county fairs and competitions with your friend Jimmy don’t count.
And don’t send an email for every single wine that’s launched. It just makes us scratchy.
Remember, journalists are always looking for new and interesting things. Give us updates how the season is going – we often aren’t in the wine regions so it would be good to receive such information.
Are you running any trials in the vineyard or winery – that’s always interesting too. Is a member of your team doing something out of the ordinary? Wine is about stories and people. We have to go fishing in a large ocean for stories, so make sure you hook on to our bait.
And, if all else fails, spell our names correctly.
Right, that’s it, I’m off watch myself in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
Have you heard of Erbaluce? Or Manzoni Bianco? No? Nor me.
But Peter Dry, a viticulture expert at the AWRI, suggested that these two varieties should be considered by cool climate producers, instead of the usual suspects. Indeed international varieties have gained a rather superior status, and he is championing ‘varietal egalitarianism’. Let’s face it there are thousands of varieties out there and we are rather limiting consumers’ choices.
Dr Richard Smart added, “It’s rather insulting to consumers to limit varieties to half a dozen varieties.”
So, why should we be considering the likes of Erbaluce and other so-called alternative varieties?
“These varieties may be better suited to climatic conditions including drought tolerance,” said Dry. “There are cool climate areas with low growing season rainfall and high aridity.
“During times of drought our cool climate areas have sufered because they rely on water stored in dams and the dams are empty.”
As well as it being more suitable to increasing temperatures and lower rainfall, people might actually prefer to drink something other than Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. “They may provide a greater range of flavours suited to the Asian palate. According to a CSIRO study, alternative varieties including Lagrein and Fiano may be better suited and may offer a competitive advantage.” said Dry
So, what is Erbaluce? An Italian white variety, that reaches maturity relatively early, is tolerant of botrytis, has good acidity and elegance. Manzoni Bianco, another Italian grape provides “good wine quality with structure and floral characters,” he added.
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.