Archive for June, 2015

Tasmania is hot…perhaps too hot

Tasmania is hot, perhaps too hot.

That might seem an odd statement to be made in June when much of Tasmania is covered by snow, but I’m not talking about the weather. I’m talking about Tasmanian wines being very much in vogue with mainland producers who are venturing south to procure fruit so that they can add a Tasmanian label to their portfolio.

There’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s a testament to the quality of Tasmanian fruit and its cool-climate characteristics that “north islanders” are seeking it. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Queenstown in New Zealand but the stunning scenery and proximity to ski-fields meant that it became so popular as a place to have a second home that property prices went through the roof and many locals could no longer afford to live in their own town.

In the wine industry, Tasmania is drifting the same way. The cost of fruit in Tasmania has consistently been considerably higher than on the mainland. How much higher? Oh, very much higher! In 2013, the national average price per tonne for Pinot Noir was A$870. In the same year in Tasmania it was around A$2400. I don’t have figures for 2015 for the mainland but I can tell you that during my recent visit to Tasmania, I learned that some Tasmanian Pinot Noir was bid up to $4,500 a tonne by zealous mainland producers, I even heard unconfirmed reports of $5,000 a tonne. On one hand, that’s great news for Tasmanian producers, but not every winemaker in Tasmania owns a vineyard, and so those who don’t and have in the past scoured the island for the best fruit, now find themselves squeezed out by the rush for a Tasmanian label. To secure fruit in the future, some are now looking at establishing their own vineyards.

That’s just the price of success, but there’s another aspect of this “gold rush” that is less appealing, and definitely has that air of opportunism about it. There’s a few Tasmanian Pinots (and Chardonnays) being spruiked by mainland producers at, well, ambitious pricing, and with an arrogance behind the marketing that suggest that no-one had ever produced a decent Tassie Pinot before. There are mainland producers who have invested in and are committed to Tasmania; – names such as Shaw & Smith with Tolpuddle, Yalumba with Jansz, Taltarni with Clover Hill to name a few but there are others who are in for a quick buck and will be gone as soon as another region becomes the latest fad. I only hope they don’t trash the Tasmania brand as they go.

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On a completely different subject and nothing at all to do with wine, I’d like to introduce you to a long-time friend of ours, Leon Varley. We first met Leon in 1989 when he led us on walking trips in national parks in Zimbabwe, tracking black rhino in places like Chizarira NP and Kazuma Pan. We tracked 17 rhino in 1989, and when we went back again in 1991, most were gone, including the appropriately named Pinocchio.

570-33 22-10-89 Kazuma Pan

Leon and his wife Mags have been regular visitors to Singapore, usually on their way to see wildlife in this part of the world. Last year, we met them at Changi as they returned from an excursion to see the orangutan, and were surprised to see Leon walking with the aid of a stick. Somewhat laconically, Leon mentioned that he’d decided to climb Mt Kinabalu in a day, not just up, but down again on the same day, and that his knee was now paying the price.

Of itself, no big deal, except that he had committed in just three weeks time to break a walking record that he’d set as a young man (Leon is over 60) and that record was to walk 85 kilometres in a single 24 hour day.

Well, he’s at it again, this time attempting to walk from Victoria Falls to Msuna, a distance of 126 kilometres, between 9:00am on 30th June and 9:00am on the 1st July, all in the cause of raising money for wildlife protection. I’ve attached the flyer – I can say that I’ve trusted my life to Leon in the African bush so I have no hesitation in recommending this admirable cause.

Walking for Wild

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Question: Do we really need sommeliers to help us match wine to our food?

Apparently not. FairPrice are offering a range of wines that take all of the guesswork out of food and wine pairing. Welcome to “Chops &Burgers” Bordeaux! Or how about “Chicken & Turkey” Cote du Rhone; or “Salmon & Trout” Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon, “Cheese & Crackers” Beaujolais-Villages and “Lobster & Shrimp” Muscadet.

Well that’s done it for the sommeliers then. Next time you’re dining at that swishy, top floor revolving restaurant, you can tell the sommelier “I don’t need the wine list, just bring me the Chops & Burgers Bordeaux. And I want it fresh, no stale wine.”

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I’ll be back with the wine specials soon!

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THE WAY WE WERE: 1981 RHINE RIESLING

Why would an Australian winery call a wine Rhine Riesling? Why not just Riesling? Well, back then, a wine labeled Riesling in Australia may not have been Riesling at all. It’s just as likely to have been Semillon or Crouchen, so to indicate to the purchaser that the wine really was Riesling, it was called Rhine Riesling. Strange but true.

1981 Krondorf Rhine Riesling

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“A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine” . Louis Pasteur

 

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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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