Cart 0 items: $0.00
John Quinn
30 November 2016 | John Quinn

James Halliday’s 2016 Top 100 recognises Iconic Winemakers.


Thomas Wines 5 not out

Andrew Thomas is 5 not out, and we’re not talking cricket. In Halliday’s 2016 Top 100 Thommo’s Braemore Semillon made the list for the fifth year running, this time with the 2016 vintage. Unprecedented, Thomas Wines is the only winery in the industry to achieve such recognition. The 2016 Braemore Semillon has been selected in the ‘ Best Whites over $20’ category from a total 1435 wines that were submitted. In Halliday’s tasting notes he commented ‘ Andrew Thomas is one of the best practitioners of the fine art of coaxing young Semillon  to grab attention without compromising a 15+ year lifespan. Lime, lemon zest, grass and lemongrass all join hands, balance and length evidence of its extreme quality. Drink to 2033, 96 points.’

With summer on the doorstep, the seafood fresh, there is no better time to enjoy a Semillon. Oh, and the cricket’s on and Thommo has plenty more runs left in him.


Hewitson’ 96 points

As an old Rugby Coach after a big win I’d often get asked by a satisfied player ‘what are we doing this week Coach’? Deadpan I’d say ‘we’re gunna get better than last week’.

Last year Dean Hewitson’s  2013 Miss Harry blend scored an amazing 95 points from James Halliday. Ever the perfectionist Dean wanted more from the vineyard to winery to bottle. Describing the 96 points he received this year for the 2014 vintage Dean said ‘I have no doubt this is one of the finest Miss Harry’s I’ve made’. And Halliday agreed……..’A blend of Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvedre, Carignan and Cinsault this is flush with glorious red, blue and purple fruits, the components picked with unerring accuracy. Hewitson weaves some of the magic of the Rhone Valley’s iconic Chateau Rayas, the ultimate compliment. 96 points, $25.  However why not buy now from Iconic Winemakers for $22.50.

John Quinn
17 November 2016 | John Quinn

Corporate Winetasting Tasting Event

On a recent Sunday afternoon in Drummoyne we had the pleasure of holding a corporate tasting for Concept Cosmetic Medicine. Company principal Helen Hamilton purchased the event as an auction item at a school fundraiser. Helen invited clients, staff and friends and the feedback has been fantastic. I was really impressed at the wine knowledge in the room and they were impressed the tasting was informative, educative but in a friendly easy to understand format. Robert Gilmour thought the highlight was the Matt Harrop chardonnay and also said Rollo Crittenden’s Pinot was the best he’d tasted from Mornington. Another guest Jeff Deviesseuv, feverishly taking notes all afternoon wants to do a similar event for his real estate clients.

John Quinn
16 November 2016 | John Quinn

Damian North

Photo from the vineyard Damian is talking about, superb red soil.

Damian North is a newcomer to Iconic Winemakers and it was always my intention to introduce him in this newsletter. And to announce his arrival he thought he’d do so with a gold medal. Journey Wines 2015 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir has taken out a gold medal at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show. Damian’s  wine beat a host of highly credentialed wines in the class that recognises Pinot Noir from 2015 or younger.

When I first joined the industry in the 1980’s I don’t think we had a definitive Aussie Pinot Noir style. There were Burgundian styles from traditional winemakers and cordial like styles from artesian producers trying to make a statement. Thankfully, by design or otherwise, certain regions whose terroir suited the grape took hold and  championed the variety and Australian Pinot took shape. Those regions were the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and the ever emerging Tasmania. Damian’s from the Yarra and shares why he thinks it’s ideal for Pinot Noir;

"For me the factor that defines Pinot Noir from the Upper Yarra Valley is the deep red volcanic soil found in that part of the Valley. Obviously most of the sites are cooler than the Valley floor with an extra 150m or so of elevation – but as soon as you have Pinot planted on the red soil type you see lighter colour and structure in the wines – but amazing perfume and aromatics. 

Of the four Yarra Pinot Noir’s that won gold medals at the Royal Melbourne Wine Awards this year – considered by many to be the most prestigious Pinot class in the country – all were off red-soil sites in the Upper Yarra."

Damian North

John Quinn
15 November 2016 | John Quinn

Winners are grinners

The Bushing Festival’s Grenache Trophy, yeah Nick thinks it looks like a boogie board too.

Congratulations to Nick Haselgrove and a new addition to our winemakers Damian North. Both have achieved great success at their recent wine shows. Read on;

Nick Haselgrove’s 2013 The Old Faithful Grenache has taken out the ‘2016 McLaren Vale Wine Show Best 2 years and Older Grenache’ Trophy. Try saying that after your 3rd glass. The image of the trophy is above, it looks like a boogey board? I love the fact Nick is somewhat of an old timer when it comes to winemaking. This  Grenache is a typically full bodied style from McLaren Vale, has been matured in French oak for 40 months and bottled under a traditional cork closure. Nick uses the DIAM cork. When asked about the DIAM cork Nick told me ‘Diam is a technical cork – ground up then pressure formed once ALL taints are removed by supercritical CO2. It is very consistent in its performance criteria – not just TCA but O2 transmission rates & leakage’.

Grenache is not new to McLaren Vale in fact a lot of the locals pride themselves in their Grenache offerings. Nick offers some thoughts of his 2013 trophy winner “McLaren Vale has a wonderful legacy of the olden day fortified era – with the result a patchwork of old bush vines scattered around the district in unique . Old and gnarly, these vineyards produce, in the right places, a complex amalgam of flavours and characters that are unique to the region. Low yielding and mostly unirrigated then allowed to work for their fruit we end up with a distinct purity of flavour that makes any winemaker excited about the future of the grape. McLaren Vale has captured this spirit and The Old Faithful is capturing it into a bottle with all the fun and history of the region.

Enjoy the 2013 Northern Exposure as it is a great year and shows its place and the ability of the wine to age with careful cellaring.”

To celebrate Nick has offered an introductory offer of buy 5 get 6 bottles. Just click ‘buy now’ and the price will be calculated automatically.

John Quinn
14 November 2016 | John Quinn

Winemaker of the Month - Sorby Adams

A young Sorby collecting a trophy from his Yalumba days with The Governor-General of Australia, Bill Hayden

I must admit I don’t know Simon that well but every time we  email or chat it’s like I’ve known him for ages. It just feels comfortable. As a marketer I pride myself on having a great affiliation with winemakers, love their chat and am in awe of their craft. I asked Sorb to share a few things with us.

Q. Not everyone in your family is known as a Sorby Adams, are you the black sheep? 
A. We are all “Sorby Adams” – I was always called “Sorb” at school and it has stuck since then.

Q. Where did Sorby come from?
A. A Sorby married an Adams about 200 years ago and it’s been our family name ever since. I actually just changed my surname from Adams to Sorby Adams 12 months ago!

Q. Was it obvious to Mum and Dad that you’d end up a winemaker?
A. I think when I was caught pinching the sherry from the cupboard when I was 11 they both knew!!

Q. The biggest influence in your career? 
A. Brain Walsh – my boss at Yalumba. He started at Yalumba just after I took over the red wine portfolio and he encouraged me to go with my gut feel. We had a beautiful journey the next 12 years and resurrected Yalumba’s red wine reputation. Created Menzies, Octavius and The Reserve as well as Signature.

Q. Great sub-brands in the industry still today, were they driven by winemaking and/or marketing, surely they couldn’t have been accountant’s wines? 
A. Menzies was market driven as Yalumba had no Coonawarra product. I started it in 87 and the fruit was bought from growers and then Yalumba purchased vineyards in Coonawarra.
Octavius and Reserve were very much winemaker wines. I started Octavius in 88 with a Coonawarra Cab!! Second release from 90 was Barossa Shiraz and has remained that way since. The oak is unique and back then it was 8 year air dried American and made at the Cooperage at Yalumba. We shifted the cooperage in 88 from the old site and discovered a pallet of timber that was originally bought as repair wood for American oak puncheons. Anyway it was never used and I said to Andy Broad (the cooper) to make small barrels with it and we probably would use them for port maturation. Anyway he was firing the barrels and he called me and said ‘Sorb these smell weird’ so I had a look and said ‘holy shit mate that is so sweet’ and then I decided to put what was the best batch of red from 88 into those barrels….. the rest is history!!

The Reserve I started in 90 and it was literally the best 15 barrels of Signature. It was made in 90,92 96 and 98 whilst I was still there.

I don’t know how many trophies and gongs these wines won but they did put Yalumba reds back on the radar of the punters.

Q. Was Yalumba in a sense a big family winemaker rather than a corporate entity?
A. Yalumba prides itself on ‘Family’ and it was a pleasure to work there for 20 years. I was lucky to be given the job of red winemaker when I was 25 and I busted my freckle to put some TLC back into what was a pretty fucked portfolio of reds.

Q. The most memorable, not necessarily best, wine you’ve made?

A. The most memorable wine was 87 Galway Hermitage. It was about to be deleted as the sales were plummeting but then in 89 it won a trophy in Canberra and sales went through the roof. Marketing gave me a bollocking coz they said I had stuffed up all their plans!!

Q. I was at Penfolds at the time  and you stuffed our marketing plans too.
A. Good.

Q. You’re writing a ‘Work In Progress/ Things To Do’ paper, what’s at the top of the list?
A. Go camping with Jill.

Q. What made you choose the Reverend Canon from your portfolio for Iconic Winemakers?
A. I chose a wine that has some real history in our family. “Uncle Keith – The Reverend Canon Sorby Adams AM” was a legend of a man both as a Minister and Headmaster during his life. He was our Grandfather’s brother.

Q. You seem direct, to the point but a sense of humour as well?
A. Yep

John Quinn
13 November 2016 | John Quinn

Winemakers introduce a second wine

Campbell Mattinson quote and bottle

It was always our intention that over time, and for good reason, individual winemakers would introduce a second wine to their profile. Recently Nick Haselgrove and Troy Kalleske have done just that. Nick’s second wine is the trophy winning 2013 Grenache, which we highlighted above. 

Troy has added his 2015 Greenock Single Vineyard Shiraz. Whenever I do a tasting it’s fair to say one of our most sort after wines is Troy’s Eduard Shiraz, and with good reason but at $90 a bottle not everyone can splash out. Hence Troy has shared with us the Greenock Shiraz which at $40 a bottle is superb value. In fact well regarded wine scribe Campbell Mattinson said if it had a Penfolds label on it  the price would be 3 fold; considering Troy being an old Penfolds boy that comment doesn’t surprise.  See above Campbell’s review.

John Quinn
1 November 2016 | John Quinn

China now number one export market for Australian wine

Exports of Australian wine to China grew by 51 per cent in the 12 months to 30 September 2016, pushing it to the number one market by value for the first time.

The value of exports to China is now $474m and the strong growth in the region has been attributed to the benefits of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement as well as the growing Chinese middle class’ increased interest in wine. The average consumption frequency of imported wine and the number of imported wine drinkers are both increasing in China.

Negociants International Executive Director, Adam O’Neill said: "The demand for our premium wines in China shows no sign of abating and it is particularly pleasing to see high levels of engagement from key trade and media. The rapidly maturing palate of consumers and the ability to reach them through online platforms such as TMall has us confident that this growth will continue, particularly at higher price points.

"In addition to this, our newly formed partnership with ASC Fine Wines and Yalumba allows us to continue building a sustainable trade footprint with sommeliers and fine wine retailers and focus our efforts on education and brand awareness in conjunction with Wine Australia’s key programs.

"It’s certainly an exciting time for the Australian category."

Across the region, Hong Kong exports grew in value by 7 per cent to $126 million and recorded the highest average value for exports at $13.53 per litre. Exports were also up in Singapore by 9 per cent to $62 million, Malaysia by 24 per cent to $55 million, Taiwan by 23 per cent to $19 million and South Korea by 42 per cent to $14 million. Exports to Japan saw a small decline of 0.3 per cent to $45 million, due to a decline in bulk wine exports.

Exports to the United States continued to grow, but at a much slower rate, with value up four per cent to $448m.

In April TheShout reported that the combined China and Hong Kong market was worth more than the US, with Wine Australia’s General Manager of Marketing, Stuart Barclay, saying: “The Chinese market is still very strong, and when you combine this with the Hong Kong market it is worth over $500 million. The growth is coming from across China at lots of different price points, including very strong growth for sales above $10," Barclay said.

“By comparison, the US market is one of our toughest markets. This used to be a $1 billion market and we are now doing around $440 million.”

The growth of Australian wine in China, is highlighted by the fact that just a decade ago, Australian wine exports to China were valued at $27m.

John Quinn
31 October 2016 | John Quinn

"Willy Wonka's wine factory": Inside the extraordinary d’Arenberg Cube

Chester Osborn with the cube being built at d'Arenberg.

For leading Australian winemaker Chester Osborn it’s the realisation of a 13-year dream, but for South Australia’s McLaren Vale wine region Chester’s Cube could bring tens if not hundreds of thousands more wine tourists to visit one of the world’s most unusual and dramatic cellar doors.

Chester’s Cube, or as he would prefer it, the d’Arenberg Cube, is already soaring above its surrounding Mourvedre vines at d’Arenberg Winery in the heart of McLaren Vale, a fast 40km drive south of Adelaide.

The five storey, AUD$14 million glass-encased steel and concrete structure was inspired by Rubik’s Cube. The building – an architectural puzzle four modules wide, four high and four deep – seems to float above the ground-floor entrance. The architectural twist is that the two top floors are askew, rotated on their axis, just as if you’d twisted your Rubik’s Cube.

“Both the architects and the engineers say it’s been the most complicated and time-consuming design they’ve ever worked on,” Chester says of the ADS Architects design, yet it’s exactly as he envisaged it in a paper and balsawood model he constructed 13 years ago.

But the structure itself, though a startling addition to the surrounding vine-clad rolling slopes, is just the start of what will be a remarkable assault on the senses of anyone who ventures inside. Although due to open to the public in May 2017, it is sufficiently complete for Chester to provide a guided tour.

The custom-designed entrance door will spin and fold open, origami-style, with feathertouch sensors to ensure no-one is inadvertently squashed as it closes. A sharp left turn leads to a small “wine fog room”, a vinous sensory overload as the visitor is immersed in a thick fog of whatever happens to be the wine of the day: breathe it, feel it, wear it. Osborn is even planning a non-alcoholic fog so children can enjoy the sensation too.

Next stop is the “flower and fruit room” with walls and ceiling smothered with artificial flowers and fruit, and up to 30 flagons containing a selection of the 72 different wines d’Arenberg produces under 60 labels. Each flagon is connected to a bike horn with rubber puffer. Beep the horn and inhale – what a hoot.

“We’re trying to get the senses really alive and excited by now,” Chester explains.

With no time to recover you’ve lurched into the “360-degree video room”. Osborn has hired a full-time videographer to provide the content, with projections intended to make viewers feel as if they’re in the middle of a vineyard with a lifelike soundtrack to enhance the realism.

“We want this to be very stimulating,” Chester says, adding that the space can also double as a dining venue for special occasions.

Osborn, 54, who says he likes to paint and sculpt when he’s not fully occupied as chief winemaker and futurist for the company his great grandfather Joseph Osborn founded 104 years ago, plans to fill any vacant space with art installations he’s either commissioned or collected over the years.

The first of these is the next stop, an “art installation room”. The room is created to give the impression of being inside a wine fermenter and features an installation by award-winning South Australian artist Jane Skeer of hundreds of dangling VHS video tapes, combined with projections of people treading grapes.

On to the “faces room” with a ceiling covered in representations of grapes and its brick-red walls decked with paintings of faces and bodies from Osborn’s personal art collection – each painting matched with an appropriate d’Arenberg wine.

And that’s just the first floor.

There’s a lift to each floor, but that would mean missing out on the high-gloss stainless steel-mirrored stairwells, a shifting light show depicting the various colours of grapes – red, white, yellow, green – and caricatures of d’Arenberg wine labels commissioned from 30 of Australia’s leading cartoonists.

The first floor opens to the ladies’ toilets, four steel-grey corrugated iron pods that will be totally covered in realistic fake foliage, with hanging chandeliers of grapes above the hand basins. The men’s has similar designs and two larger pods as urinals.

“My own design, very artistic,” Chester says with a cheeky grin.

This angle gives a hint about the spectacular views to come.

This floor gets down to business, though, with a large kitchen and dining area that will be used for cooking classes, chef’s tables and so on. In a rare moment of super practicality it also houses an office area.

The second floor opens out to the largest open space in the building where d’Arenberg will move its busy function program that includes tutored tastings, single vineyard and vertical tastings, and blending classes. Here there are also the first two of several private function rooms, hidden behind a shiraz-stained door constructed from the front of a 4500-litre wine vat, that can be used for VIP tastings and dinners.

On to the first of the twisted floors, a design that creates a series of outdoor open spaces, and it’s here that Osborn will locate the winery’s second restaurant, leaving d’Arrys Verandah under long-standing chef Peter Reschke to continue as usual adjacent to the current cellar door.

The fourth floor of the Cube is, in effect, a glass-encased and roofed pavilion with both public and private wine-tasting bars overlooking views of the entire McLaren Vale region. The 16 glass roof panels, each of which weighs two tonnes, feature the same geometric black and white design as the wall panels and are topped with 16 retractable umbrellas for sunny day protection. Even the bars are constructed from glass:

Not surprisingly there are those who see it as Chester’s folly, and Osborn concedes he has at times made both his father d’Arry, and his board a bit nervous.

The architect’s impression of how the completed cube will look.

“Some people refer to this as Willy Wonka’s wine factory, and in a way it is,” Chester says.

“It’s going to change what wine tasting rooms are about.”

But Osborn insists the numbers stack up.

“With 500 acres of organic and biodynamic vines we represent about a third of all McLaren Vale’s premium production,” he says. “And we’re the busiest cellar door in the region with 50,000 visitors a year.”

Despite the wonderfully weird design, business growth was at the heart of decision to build the new cellar door.

“We really needed a bigger tasting area and new offices, and d’Arry’s Verandah restaurant has been full for the past 12 years.

“I just woke up one morning and thought why do we want to recreate fake history, so I sat down and drew this. It took me 20 minutes.”

The Cube will nearly double d’Arenberg’s current workforce to just over 100, adding another $2 million a year to the wages bill, but with wine tourism rapidly picking up Osborn says predictions of 500,000 visitors a year might not be out of the question.

This story was originally published on The Lead. 

John Quinn
25 October 2016 | John Quinn

Penfolds Pourer

When I first worked for Penfolds in the 1980’s, headquarters was commonly known as the Old Tempe Cellars, on Princes Highway in the south of Sydney. Back in the day if we had a win we’d retreat to the downstairs bar on a Friday afternoon and open a bottle of Grange, poured into glasses of all shapes and sizes. The bar would open at 4.30 pm but only when Jim Williams said so. Above is the decanter and carafe’s they served this year’s 2012 Grange upon release. A bit different to the bar at Tempe.

Time Posted: 25/10/2016 at 8:38 AM Permalink to Penfolds Pourer Permalink Comments for Penfolds Pourer Comments (1)
John Quinn
21 October 2016 | John Quinn

BREAKING NEWS - Journey Wines 2015 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir WON GOLD MEDAL

BREAKING NEWS. Journey Wines 2015 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir has taken out a gold medal at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show. Damian North’s wine beat a host of highly credentialed wines in the class that recognises Pinot Noir from 2015 or younger. Congratulations to Damian and the team at Journey Wines.

Time Posted: 21/10/2016 at 3:07 PM Permalink to BREAKING NEWS - Journey Wines 2015 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir WON GOLD MEDAL Permalink Comments for BREAKING NEWS - Journey Wines 2015 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir WON GOLD MEDAL Comments (2)