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John Quinn
 
17 October 2016 | John Quinn

The first 'wine fountain' just opened in Italy - and it's free

Red wine flowing from a fountain, offering a refreshment at the end of a long walk... it sounds too good to be true, but on Sunday, a wine fountain was inaugurated in central Italy.

Locally-produced wine will flow from the fountain in Abruzzo, the first of its kind, and it's accessible 24/7.

The best part? It's completely free to help yourself to a glass.

The fontana del vino is located in Caldari di Ortona, in Abruzzo, along a popular pilgrimage route, the Cammino di San Tommaso.

"The wine fountain is a welcome, the wine fountain is poetry," the Dora Sarchese vineyard wrote on its Facebook page.

It noted that the fountain was not a place for "drunkards" or "louts", nor was it a "publicity stunt".

Thousands of pilgrims and tourists make the journey from Rome to Ortona, in order to visit the city's cathedral where the remains of Thomas, one of Jesus' disciples, are kept. The new fountain is a joint project of the vineyard and the non-profit organization which maintains and promoted the pilgrimage route.

Inspiration came from a similar red wine fountain installed along the Spanish pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago, a few years ago.

Tourists watch red wine flow from the fountain.

The Ortona fountain is not the first in Italy to offer wine, but its creators describe it as the country's first 'proper' wine fountain, because the wine will be accessible every day.

Some other fountains in Italy have been used to distribute wine, but only on special occasions such as local festivals. One of the most famous is in Marino, south of Rome; during the town's annual grape festival, for one hour white wine rather than water flows from the taps.

In 2008, a technical error - or was it a miracle? - saw the wine of Marino channelled into local homes instead of the fountain.

John Quinn
 
27 September 2016 | John Quinn

What's Nick Haselgrove doing on the weekend?

I was speaking to Nick Haselgrove on Sunday and I casually asked what are you up to? He said I’ll send you a photo.

The Haselgrove family has deep roots in Australian wine production and research and has exerted considerable influence throughout the industry. Grandfather Ron Haselgrove learned winemaking under the great Emil Sobels at Leo Buring in Watervale, during the 1920s but made his name as an innovator in fortified wine and St Agnes brandy production at Angove’s in Renmark. He went to Mildara Winery in 1934, bolstering its quality and reputation by steering the original Mildara Cabernet Shiraz Bin 23 in 1952, and drove the establishment of Mildara’s Coonawarra cellars in 1963. He played an important role in the establishment of the Australian Wine Research Institute and served on its council for 18 years (1955-1973) with a number of years as Chairman. When he died in 1977, Ron left a legacy built on deep technical knowledge and innovation, coupled with smart business and management strengths that elevated Mildara to become one of the powerhouses in Australian wine.

Time Posted: 27/09/2016 at 2:09 PM
John Quinn
 
22 September 2016 | John Quinn

The bushing king does a DEAL. Buy a 6 pack but only pay for 5 bottles

As a young marketer finding his feet in the wine industry I made the smart decision to not impose myself until I knew what I was talking about. Apart from my first boss ( Steve Wiblin, Erin Eyes) I picked out 2 winemakers over the years that I enjoyed being with and just as importantly ones from which I knew I would learn. The first was Peter Douglas from the Coonawarra who taught me wine. He didn’t know it at the time but I listened to his every word. The second was Nick Haselgrove from McLaren Vale. Nick reminded so much of Pete that I was almost attracted to him….ouch.

The first time I spent real time with Nick was at the 1998 Bushing King lunch. The Bushing King is awarded to the best wine of the McLaren Vale Show of that year. If you love a lunch get yourself a ticket, absolute gold. Nick was the McLaren Vale Bushing King in 1993, top prize at the Sydney International Wine Show in 1998, and Winestate Magazine’s Australian winemaker of the Year 2010. All this whilst under the strain of making his own wines as well as answering to a corporate granddaddy.

The Haselgrove family has deep roots in Australian wine production and research and has exerted considerable influence throughout the industry. Grandfather Ron Haselgrove learned winemaking under the great Emil Sobels at Leo Buring in Watervale, during the 1920s but made his name as an innovator in fortified wine and St Agnes brandy production at Angove’s in Renmark. He went to Mildara Winery in 1934, bolstering its quality and reputation by steering the original Mildara Cabernet Shiraz Bin 23 in 1952, and drove the establishment of Mildara’s Coonawarra cellars in 1963. He played an important role in the establishment of the Australian Wine Research Institute and served on its council for 18 years (1955-1973) with a number of years as Chairman. When he died in 1977, Ron left a legacy built on deep technical knowledge and innovation, coupled with smart business and management strengths that elevated Mildara to become one of the powerhouses in Australian wine.

His son James – Nick’s father – learned his winemaking craft at Mildara, but made a greater impact after creating his own wine label in 1981, based in McLaren Vale and serving as the solid foundation on which Nick Haselgrove Wines has been built. Nick draws from the vast well of generational experience that has seen the Haselgrove family achieve great accomplishments in the wine industry, and continues the same dedication to achieve outstanding quality.

THE DEAL.

Buy a 6 pack of Nick’s ‘Old Faithful-Top of the Hill 2012 Shiraz and we’ll only charge you for 5 bottles, that’s right, buy 5 get 1 FREE. Unbelievable value. For the next 2 weeks this deal will be reflected on our site, ends 6th October. Normally you’d pay $360 for a 6 pack but for the next 2 weeks only pay $300. BUY NOW

John Quinn
 
22 September 2016 | John Quinn

In the office with Sam Connew

Before the introduction of the GST Australian wines sold locally endured a 42% wholesale tax, going straight back to the Government of the day. When the GST was introduced it was sold as a consumption tax that would replace all wholesale taxes and indeed in a lot of cases save the consumer money. Bollocks. The Government, knowing they were losing out under a 10% tax introduced a WET….yep a Wine Equalisation Tax. Conveniently the WET just happened to be 29% and when compounded with the new 10% GST it miraculously equated to 41.9%.In order to assist small winemakers the then Government introduced a sales threshold to allow them to claim back the WET if sales didn’t extend over $500,000.

With the budget now under huge pressure the Government is looking to how to balance the books and has the winemaker in its sights.

Sam Connew, respected Industry voice answers a few questions about the mooted changes.

Sam tells us about an issue extremely important to the Australian Wine Industry and our going forward.

Q. Is the above intro correct?
A. Basically, although it misses out one of the main reasons why the government is focussing on this reform – that the amount of WET rebate being claimed by the wine industry has grown exponentially over the last few years as the enabling legislation has numerous loopholes which allow for widespread rooting, particularly multiple claims by associated entities and on bulk and unbranded wine. It should also be pointed out that the industry, through its representative body, the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia, requested a reform of the WET provisions. 

Q. The assistance given to the small winemaker, how important was it for them to compete?
A. Absolutely vital. Like any industry economies of scale apply, so the larger you are the more your cost structure comes down which is a huge benefit to the big guys. In addition, the wine industry has two other elements going against it for the small producer – it is enormously capital intensive and the lag time between production and sales income can be years, so cash flow is a huge issue. The WET rebate to some extent has helped to offset this for the small dudes.

Q. I gather the small winemaker didn’t pocket the rebate and go to lunch;  you would have reinvested into the business and hence the industry?
A. Correct. If you take me as an example, my ability to purchase a vineyard this year is largely because I have had access to the rebate (as well as working my arse off for the last few years). Other stars in the wine industry who started with no physical assets, such as S.C. Pannell, Andrew Thomas, Ministry of Clouds etc. have all been able to grow their businesses and invest back in their regions as a result.

Q. What’s the major change the Government wants to implement and what are the consequences?
A. There are two main changes which the industry as a whole is arguing against – the government want to reduce the cap on the rebate from the existing $500 000 to $350 000 and then to $290 000, which will disproportionately hurt the medium sized wineries; the small guys don’t reach this sales threshold anyway and this is just a blip in the ocean for the big guys.

The other change which is what myself and the Small and Emerging Winemakers group are working against is an eligibility test which is based on ownership or leasing of a winery. There are some in the industry who argue this should be broadened to ownership/lease of a vineyard or cellar door – the so-called ‘skin in the game’ test. We are vehemently against any sort of asset test as we think it essentially amounts to tax breaks for the rich – those that can afford a vineyard, winery or cellar door will get preferential treatment over those who are just starting out in the industry. This will really punish those who have done a huge amount to revitalise the whole Australian wine category; those who are young, dynamic and innovative will be penalised in favour of the industry establishment.

On top of that, modelling by Price Waterhouse Coopers and WFA shows that an asset based eligibility criteria will not increase government revenues, as the rooting comes from elsewhere.

Q. Is this an  issue for large format (cask wine) and bulk production?
A. Yup, as it looks pretty clear that bulk and unbranded wine will not be eligible. The bigger issue which needs to be discussed here is of course whether it is time for a volumetric tax to be implemented as opposed to the existing ad valorem tax; something which every single small producer I have spoken to supports.

Q. Will the large corporates get their way because of their bigger muscle or will the small to medium get a fair hearing?
A. Well, I think we will find out soon, won’t we?

Q. What’s the story with the New Zealand winemakers getting respite? Can you explain that in an Aussie accent?
A. No! I fiercely guard my Kiwi accent thank you very much! Look, it’s a difficult one and but basically the Closer Economic Agreement which was signed between Australia and New Zealand in 1983 ensures that there can be no discriminatory trade or taxation practices which prevent products on either side of the ‘ditch’ being more competitive, so since then NZ producers have also been able to claim the WET rebate, which is clearly ridiculous, but the Oz government is not going to dismantle a free trade agreement to get rid of this practice, unfortunately.

Q. You’ve just released a Riesling from Tasmania for Iconic Winemakers which we’ll focus on in our next edition, one sentence on why our friends should buy it.
A. Because it’s bloody delicious, that’s why!

Q. What about you chicks taking over the industry, any truth to that rumour?
A. As less than 10% of winemakers in this country are female and there are even less viticulturists, I think we would pretty hard pressed to ‘takeover’, but those old crusty men in suits better watch out is my advice!

John Quinn
 
21 September 2016 | John Quinn

In the cellar with Tash Mooney

TASH ON GRIS Vs GRIGIO.

When most people think of the ‘Pinot Gs’ I reckon they believe a Gris and a Grigio  are 2 different grape varieties. In fact they are made from the same grape but just handled differently from vineyard to winery to winemaker. In the Northern Hemisphere the Gris style comes from French winemakers and the Grigio from the Italians. Pinot Grigio wines are typically lighter-bodied, crisp, fresh, with vibrant stone fruit and floral aromas and a touch of spice. Pinot Gris wines are more full-bodied, richer, spicier, and more viscous in texture. They also tend to have greater cellaring and ageing potential. Hence when an Australian winemaker prefers the Gris style I’d suggest they’d probably leave the grape on the vine a little later during vintage in order to get those traditional characteristics.

Today we talk to Tash Mooney about her La Bise Pinot Gris;

Q. Hey Tash, your photo on our site shows a pretty relaxed chick kicking back….is that you?
A. ahh yes that’s me but it was a bad day, I usually look a lot more like Gisele Bundchen.

Q. You make wine under your own label but you also produce under contract for others. Is this common in the industry?
A. are you calling me common? I think there are some winemakers doing this, especially people with their own brands. A brand that is starting out is quite cash flow negative which is difficult to manage so pimping yourself out as a consultant is quite a good option.

Q. Tell us about the thinking behind the La Bise label and its relevance?
A. La Bise is French for “the kiss”. I started La Bise as a reaction to several vineyards that I had found that were neglected and in need of renovation. The two in particular that I first found were full of weeds with limited irrigation and really not preforming at their best but the fruit that we picked still looked good. I thought that with some renovation and  love I could get a really harmonious parcel of fruit and hopefully produce a ‘single vineyard” wine, I thought I would produce them under my own label and in so I was giving them “the kiss of life”.

Q. When I asked you to  submit a wine for Iconic Winemakers you had no hesitation in the Pinot Gris. Is there a history there or do you just believe the consumer loves the style?
A. I believe that wine drinking consumers go on a journey over their wine drinking life and this often starts with sweet wines and moves to sauvignon blanc or shiraz and then as confidence and knowledge grows, they move to different varieties and maybe different regions. With my brand I try to offer people wines that form that journey. The Pinot Gris is important as it offers a wine that drinkers that are a bit over Sauvignon Blanc can move onto. The wine is at a good price point and delivers flavours that are refreshing and good for summer.

Q. Gris Vs Grigio. Did you determine it would be a Gris or did the vineyard and terroir dictate this?
A. The Gris part was really market driven in what I believe people are looking for in a style of wine, I think a bit of lusciousness and concentration is a good thing and this is what my Pinot Gris has due to the style as you mentioned above that is French in origin rather than a more Italian austere style.

Q. Am I correct in saying a Gris is a Chardonnay drinker’s wine and a Grigio a Sauv Blanc style consumer?
A. I am not sure about that, I agree with Grigio being a Sauv Blanc style but I think Gris has more of a Segway between Savvy and something more complex as I explained above.

Q. If a French winery gave you the opportunity to do a vintage up there making a Gris would/could you do it?
A. YES, I AM FREE TOMORROW………………. How nice would that be? I am spoilt thou as my partner is French and I can even speak a bit of the language especially when drunk.

Q. Because of the acidity in a Grigio does it make it more of a food wine whilst the Gris a drinking wine?
A. my thoughts differ as Grigio is a perfect aperitif style with the acid and the greenness of fruit , it really gets the digestive juices pumping as all good aperitifs should. Gris is great for drinking so I do agree with that.

Q. At $22 a bottle, for an Iconic Winemaker, it seems great value.
A. I try to produce and offer wines for consumers at a fair price, I want to educate people and allow them to try new styles at under $25, if it is more than that, they may not be as adventurous and then they would be drinking savvy for the rest of their lives and no one wants that.

John Quinn
 
8 September 2016 | John Quinn

Spring In To Semillon

Some 7-8 years ago I sat attentively at the Sydney Wine Show lunch listening to the tradition of the International Judge giving their dissertation of the wines presented for judging. Paraphrasing he said ‘The Hunter should only produce Semillon and Semillon should only come from the Hunter’.

I was sitting next to Jay Tulloch as he grumbled “ that bastard obviously didn’t taste my Verdelho….or my Shiraz”. Whilst nodding knowingly toward Jay, it didn’t take me long to realise the statement was the ultimate compliment to Hunter Semillon.

Semillon is hard to sell but shouldn’t be because it is so easy to enjoy. Australian seafood is blessed with natural oils hence why we squeeze a wedge of lemon over our fish. A young Semillon is full of lemon and lime citrus characters and absolutely loves seafood, or is it seafood loves Semillon? As Spring has sprung I challenge all of our subscribers to match a Semillon with your favourite seafood dish. Young Hunter Semillons are gorgeous with our seafood and none better than our mate Marg’s.

John Quinn
 
8 September 2016 | John Quinn

High Flying Larry

Fresh from fronting a Government campaign heralding Australian Winemakers and probably doing vintage in the Northern Hemisphere Larry Cherubino has been recognised by our national carrier at the ‘2017 QANTAS EpiQure Halliday Wine Companion Awards’. Larry Cherubino Wines has been named ‘2017 Best Value Winery of the Year’.   Recognised as one of the Australian wine industry’s highest honours, Halliday’s Best Value Winery award recognises producers whose portfolio confidently displays that most holy of unions – outstanding wines and great value for money. 

The 2017 guide features 35 wines from the Cherubino stable - 28 of which received the all-important ‘value’ rosette. 

Some corporate winemakers set their objectives to be best value, which usually means they are driven by volume at a price. Some winemakers go full on high end and produce a couple of hundred cases per vintage at prices that scare most of us. Larry hasn’t just bought the 2 philosophies together….he’s conquered both by delivering quality at a price we can all afford. Larry’s Porongurup Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most enjoyable fuller bodied styles I’ve had.

John Quinn
 
7 September 2016 | John Quinn

KALLESKE, A WINEMAKER OR A CLAIREVOYANT?

Grab a Barossa Valley white pages and the names Smith and Jones are dwarfed by the inclusions of the name Kalleske. A 7th generation winemaker Troy has honed his skills at Penfolds, Seppelt and Lindemans here in Australia. Internationally he was highly regarded at the US juggernaut Kendall Jackson whilst recognised on both the East and West coasts of America. Troy has been recognised by numerous International Shiraz awards and is a Baron of the Barossa. His Eduard Shiraz is nothing short of exceptional and when we taste all our winemakers the superlatives for the Eduard don’t stop.

That said I came across this recently. In the Kalleske 2015 Spring newsletter Troy spoke about the upcoming 2016 vintage, up to 6 months away. Troy told brother Tony he thought all things being equal they should start harvesting about February 15. Between that forecast and actual picking they would have confronted sun, rain, vintage variation, ripening, non ripening, unforeseen issues………. Have a guess what date they picked the first Shiraz grape. Yep, 15thFebruary. Legend.

The Kalleske Eduard Shiraz probably isn’t your Monday night quaffer whilst watching MKR but it’s a must have in your cellar. I’m going to open one February 15 next year, and every year following.

John Quinn
 
6 September 2016 | John Quinn

China could top US for Aust wine exports

China could overtake the US as Australia's biggest wine export market thanks to the growing Chinese middle class' thirst for Aussie wines.

Growing demand from Asian markets, particularly China, has driven strong growth in Australian wine exports.

IBISWorld analyst Andrew Ledovskikh expects China, which now accounts for about a quarter of Australian wine exports, to become an increasingly important market.

"I think there's a good opportunity for it to become the largest market over the next five years," he told AAP.

"Strong growth in the UK and US markets like we're seeing in China is not really possible in the same way.

"So, there definitely is an opportunity for China to become a major source of demand for Australian wines and we're seeing that in spirit manufacturing as well."

Industry body Wine Australia figures show that exports to mainland China grew by 50 per cent to $419 million in 2015/16, on the back of the China-Australia free trade agreement and middle-class consumers' increased interest in wine.

Mr Ledovskikh expects the next year to also show strong growth.

"With Chile and Argentina having a weak harvest, there'll probably be more opportunities for Australian winemakers to find buyers in China."

He noted that the Chinese middle class has an appetite for mid-range or high quality wines, with sales over 2015/16 made at an average price of about $9 a litre.

Wine Australia said demand for Australian fine wines had continued to grow across export markets, particularly in Asia and North America.

Wines priced at $10 and over a litre contributed to almost half the total value growth in Australian exports in 2015/16.

That may be a sign that world supply and demand are slowly coming back into equilibrium after years of oversupply that has encouraged heavy price discounting, Mr Ledovskikh said.

IBISWorld expects the depreciation in the Australian dollar, free trade agreements with South Korea, Japan and China, and weak harvests in Chile and Argentina to drive significant revenue growth for local wine producers over the three years through 2016/17.

A gradual shift among producers towards premium wines is also expected to promote revenue growth.

IBISWorld expects a reduction in the federal government's wine equalisation tax (WET) rebate from July 2017 and tightened eligibility criteria from July 2019 to drive many bulk wine producers out of the industry.

It will ensure the WET rebate is helping small producers, rather than some of the mass producers of bulk wine which produce purely to sell on export markets very cheaply, Mr Ledovskikh said.

While heavy price discounting has devalued the Australian wine brand internationally, Mr Ledovskikh expects local winemakers will focus on improving their products' reputation in developing Asian markets to tap into growing demand and to beat out competitors in South America and South Africa.

"Especially in China, if we don't develop a strong reputation for quality, that will affect our ability to price wine profitably over the next five, 10 years."

AUSTRALIA'S TOP FIVE EXPORT MARKETS BY VALUE:

1. US - Up 8pct to $449m in 2015/16

2. Mainland China - up 50pct to $419m

3. UK - flat at $369m

4. Canada - up 7pct to $195m

5. Hong Kong - up 11pct to $124m

* When combined with Hong Kong, China is largest market for Australian wine exports

* UK is biggest market in volume terms but third in value because 80pct of wine is shipped in bulk

* Total exports $2.11b, up 11pct.

Source: Wine Australia.