It’s so cool to be cool – is credibility in the Australian wine brand about to be destroyed, again?

Reviewed offers by Artisan Cellars, Underground Wines, Wine Exchange Asia

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It’s so cool to be cool. Is cool climate the most over-used expression in the Australian wine vocabulary, next to passion and dedication?

I’m thinking it is.

My Gourmet Traveller Wine lobbed in my letterbox recently and I was excited to see the mains story as “Cool Climate Shiraz”. Now, I’m a very big fan of cool climate shiraz so this looked like it was going to be great story, and it is. The leading wine at 96 pts was the Jimmy Watson Trophy winning 2010 Mon Pere Shiraz by Glaetzer-Dixon in Tasmania. (I’ve got some – not selling, not sharing. At least not with my relatives)

But then I scanned the list, and saw Best’s Great Western and then Black Jack and Passing Clouds of Bendigo. Cool climate? Jeez, anyone who’s driven from Melbourne to Adelaide overnight after a sweltering day, in a Datusn 180B before the days of car aircon, would feel that hitting Great Western at 2:00 in the morning would hardly be confused with a sudden cool change. And Bendigo? It’s within cooee of Heathcote by Australian standards and further north to boot, the same Heathcote that is the home of big, jammy, cooked shiraz.

Yes. I’ve seen the definitions of cool climate, but you know what, if it doesn’t feel like a cool climate, it probably shouldn’t be. Tell some Brit that because it goes down to 23 C from 45 C during the day, it’s cool, or that it only gets to 100F for less than a week a month. Yeh, right. About as cool as British beer.

Selective use of statistics can be very useful to prove a point, especially my point, and I’ve very selectively chosen the temperature statistics for January 2012 for Bendigo (not a particularly hot year by the way). The hottest day in Bendigo in January was 39 C. The warmest it stayed overnight was 21 C. Let’s just compare that with Singapore. The highest temperature ever recorded in Singapore was 36 C and the lowest 19 C. Well, bugger-me dead! Singapore is cool climate. Who would have thought! OK, so on the day it was 39 C in Bendigo, it went down to 18 C overnight. I’m still thinking Singapore is cool climate.

In my mind, if it doesn’t have latitude, altitude or a seabreeze, then it’s probably not cool climate. I reckon that the best way to see if it’s really cool climate is to see if people have to turn on their airconditioners. If they don’t, it probably passes the cool climate smell test. If they do, then I think cool climate is marketing hype.

Here’s a map put out by the Bureau of Meteorology that shows where people turn on their airconditioners. I reckon by this measure, Tassie is cool climate (no argument there) Great Southern, Coonawarra and the southern strip of Victoria (Mornington, Macedon etc) but guess what? No Bendigo, no Orange, no Grampians, no Adelaide Hills.  And I reckon that feels about right.

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Again, a lot of specials appearing for the second time around. It’s tough out their trying to flog some Aussie wine.

In ascending order of comparative value…….

2008 / Mt Rosa / Central Otago / Pinot Noir / S$40 from Wine Exchange Asia – Nothing wrong with the pricing, it retails at NZ$31. It’s just that with a Bob Campbell rating of 84 pts, it’s a great deal on an “average to good” wine.

2010 / Waterfalls Road / The Eddy / Marlborough / Sauvignon Blanc / S$22.42 by the case at Underground Wines – Here’s an even better deal for an even more ordinary wine. 83 pts by Bob Campbell but I’ve got to tell you that a one point difference at this end of the market is a lot different to 94 vs 95. But, you’d probably struggle to get anything anywhere near as good as this for the same price at your local supermarket or bike shop. Retails for NZ$20 at home.

OK, so here’s where we stop mucking around and get into decent wine at a decent price:

2002 / Henschke / Keyneton Estate / Eden Valley / Shiraz blend / S$65 at Wine Exchange Asia – Probably gone by the time you read this. Robert Parker 93 pts, James Halliday 95 pts, Jeremy Oliver 95 pts. Need I go on?  They all agree it should drink for another 10-12 years. On release, this was only A$32 retail, but if you check the auction scene, you’ll see that it’s been selling for about A$50 this year. I reckon that makes the S$65 price spot on.

2001 / Tahbilk / Reserve / Nagambie Lakes / Shiraz / S$50 at Wine Exchange Asia  – Ratings wise, not quite in the same league as the Henschke (Oliver 92, Halliday 94) but no slouch either. It’ll probably outlive me. Drinking to 2031 according to Halliday. Found it hard to get a handle on the secondary market price. A$35 – A$50 looks about right on the little data I could find so S$50 looks very fair to me.

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OH, TO HAVE BEEN THERE…..

 

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TASMANIA UPDATE

 

Tiger Wines (www.tiger-wines.com) has just taken delivery of a small batch of Kate Hill Wines. I met Kate when I was in Hobart recently and this is one focused winemaker. A regular top gold or gold trophy winner at recent Tasmanian wine shows, her Rieslings are consistently rated 95 pts or better.  We’ve brought in a tiny amount of her 2010  Riesling (Halliday 96 pts) & 2011 Riesling (Gold at the 2011 Royal Hobert Wine Show) and the 2010 Pinot Noir. The Rieslings retail at S$53 incl gst and the Pinot Noir at S$59.

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[In Australia]Sherry is now called ‘Apera’. The Australian style can be surprisingly complex and true to type thanks to a visit to Spain back in the 1930s by some enterprising Australians who captured some of the Spanish flor, or yeast, growing on sherry and brought it back home. Reportedly the yeast was secured on a hanky. Ingenious. Not exactly legal but it does explain why Aussie Aperas can have that distinctive nutty flavour” – Jeni Port, writing in The Age 5th October 2010.

 

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Wine quotations

"A good bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world" - Louis Pasteur

“The unexacting palates of the masses…are content to ask no question [on origin] so long as a florin or half-a-crown will purchase a roomy flagon of strong , full-bodied, fruity wine” – CE Hawker writing in 1907

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