MICHAEL HILL SMITH MW: AUSTRALIA IS BREAKING AWAY FROM BLENDING

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Modern Australian winemakers are breaking away from the old tradition of blending plots and vineyards to focus on terroir-driven, single vineyard wines, says Michael Hill-Smith MW, co-founder of Shaw + Smith Winery in Adelaide Hills.
Speaking about Shaw + Smith Winery’s single vineyard Chardonnay ‘Lenswood’ at a lunch event organised by its Hong Kong importer, Links Concept, Hill-Smith MW explained: “There’s a movement moving away from blend of regions. If you look at bigger companies like Penfolds, they’ve got a tradition of blending one region with another. There’s a history of blending for the best wine, and nowhere else in the world would that happen for premium wine.
“Despite the history, the modern wine movement is about single origin, single site and single block.”
The ‘Lenswood’ 2014 is only the second vintage released from the winery after it purchased the vineyard in 2012, and it has already been lauded by Australian wine critic James Halliday. Not that Hill-Smith seems very interested.
“Who cares what James Halliday gives,” he declared. “Until you get a 98, then it really does matter,” causing a room full of guests to burst into laughter.
Compared with Australia’s famous Shiraz output, Smith believes that Chardonnay is “one of the most exciting grapes, if not the most exciting” grape in Australia. “Because where would you go to buy these lively, fresh, vibrant wines at a price that doesn’t make your eyes bleed?” he asked.
“What is fascinating about Australian Chardonnay is that it has evolved and continues to evolve in an exciting way. The wines are no longer oaky, golden, old fashioned or heavy. As we learned to plant the grape in cooler vineyard sites with some vineyard age, we are making some of the most exciting Chardonnays in the world, even more than Burgundy or California,” he continued.
In 2016, the country’s total white wine production amounted to 808,000 tonnes and Chardonnay is responsible for half of that figure, with a total of 406,000 tonnes crushed, according to Wine Australia.
In addition to its Chardonnay range, which includes ‘M3’ and the single vineyard ‘Lenswood’, the winery also makes Pinot Noir and a cool-climate Shiraz including a single vineyard called ‘Balhannah’.
Its latest offerings including Shaw + Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2016, M3 Chardonnay 2015, Lenswood 2014, 2015 Pinot Noir, 2014 Shiraz and Balhannah Vineyard Shiraz 2013 which are all available in Hong Kong now.

An article from The Drinks Business by Natalie Wang
https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2017/09/michael-hill-smith-mw-modern-wine-movement-in-australia-is-breaking-away-from-blending/

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The World’s Most Expensive Champagnes

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1. Boërl & Kroff Brut Barging to the top of the list with an average price tag of $2809 per bottle, this wine comes from a collaboration between a cork maker, a web marketer and Michel Drappier of the eponymous Champagne house. Made with grapes from three small vineyards comprising less than a hectare of land, it’s the kind of Champagne you expect to be expensive and it doesn’t disappoint. The average price is the bottle equivalent, as it is only available in large formats.
2. Krug Clos d’Ambonnay A reliably expensive wine from a legendary house, this was top of the list last year. This blanc de noirs comes from a tiny (.67ha) Pinot Noir vineyard and so far only four vintages have been released. The critics love it, obviously, and the average price ($2383) has actually fallen in the past five years. Bargain!
3. Boërl & Kroff Rosé A blend of Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir and made in the saignée style, this also is available only in large-format bottles, so be prepared to pay roughly twice the average bottle price of $2067. That said, if you want to try the range without breaking the bank, there’s a Boërl & Kroff B de Boërl & Kroff Brut available for a tasty $296.
4. Dom Pérignon Plénitude 3 Brut This is down from #2 last year, but it still heads up a quintet of Dom wines on this list. The Plénitude series involves releasing a vintage in tranches and the Plénitude 3 is released some 20-30 years after vintage, so you can understand the $1632 price tag.
5. Dom Pérignon Plénitude 3 Rosé It’s nip and tuck on the list between this wine and its Brut stablemate, even though the Rosé didn’t feature on last year’s list, due to insufficient available vintages. This year it has rectified the omission and lands squarely in the middle of the list with an average price of $1550.
6. Dom Pérignon Œnothèque Rosé This was Dom’s aged vintage release before the Plénitudes turned up and there’s still quite a bit of it available. The critics love it and the $1097 average price tag reflects that. That price is unlikely to go down, either, as they aren’t making this label anymore.
7. Krug Clos du Mesnil This blanc de blancs style wine is made from Chardonnay grown in a single, walled vineyard that has been planted since 1698, so you’d expect this to carry a hefty price tag. It’s down two places on the list from year, but the price has crept up to four figures, resting at $1052.
8. Dom Pérignon Reserve de L’Abbaye Another mark on the board for Dom, with a rare wine that has become somewhat more visible in recent years. It has fallen from fourth place in last year’s list, but has also – surprisingly – fallen in price, from an average of $989 to $981. Not much, we know, but every little helps.
9. Dom Pérignon Plénitude 2 Rosé Younger than it’s P3 stablemate, but this still gets a decade longer on lees than the standard vintage Dom, so price is always going to be a factor. However, at $799 per bottle on average, this wine has only jumped by $40 or so in the past year.
10. Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Française Blanc de Noirs It would hardly be a Champagne article without the family-owned house of Bollinger and this, the top offering, is made from two blocks of pre-phylloxera vines. With a production run of around 3500 bottles, the $775 average price tag is actually pretty reasonable.

An article from Wine Searcher by Don Kavanagh
https://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2017/08/the-world-s-most-expensive-champagnes

Vintage Champagne: a Dying Breed?

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As Champagne houses concentrate on prestige cuvées, what is the future for the vintage stuff?
In December 2014, sparkling wine expert Tom Stevenson pronounced prestige cuvées “dirt cheap when compared to the crème de la crème of Bordeaux and Burgundy”.
Indeed, while $350-plus dollars for a bottle of 2002 Krug may hardly seem “cheap”, a similar search for the 2002 vintage of Petrus (a difficult year in Bordeaux, unlike Champagne) puts things nicely into perspective.
But if prestige Champagne continues to represent good value when compared to top-end Bordeaux, then Pol Roger’s 2008 vintage must surely be the bargain of the century. For less than $85 you’re getting a hell of a lot wine for your money. “It offers an intoxicating combination of purity, richness and complexity,” gushed one excited critic.
Moreover, unlike some cru classé Bordeaux, Pol’s latest vintage offers both immediate pleasure and the capacity to improve with age, so depending on your patience and inclination, it’s the epitome of a win-win situation.
The inimitable writer Hugh Johnson has been making this point for decades. “Vintage Champagne offers some of the best value in the region,” noted Johnson in his Pocket Wine Book. “The quality is often only slightly below the deluxe cuvées, but the price is nowhere near.”
This was confirmed by a recent visit to Reims, where the best of LVMH’s enviable portfolio was laid bare for a prolonged session of sipping, sluicing, slurping and spitting. Naturally, our group loved the 1990 Krug – who wouldn’t? – while 1985 Dom Pérignon was utterly exquisite; toasty, rich and decadently concentrated.
However, what continues to resonate in my mind is the incredible pleasure-to-price ratio of the Moët vintages. Often disregarded and maligned by hipster sommeliers in equal measure, the four vintages we sampled were uniformly excellent, and represented excellent value for money.
Yet according to the UK wine trade consumers are increasingly turning their backs on the vintage category, while sales of prestige cuvées are booming. “Sales of vintage Champagne at Hakkasan could hardly be described as great,” says London-based wine buyer Christine Parkinson.
“I don’t think vintage Champagne even sits in the middle any more: most consumers are happy with NV, and many could make the leap from NV to prestige if they had a really special occasion. If someone wants to spend a little more, it’s much easier to offer them a blanc de blancs, or something similar.”
Meanwhile, leading retailers are no less pessimistic. “At The Vineyard Cellars, we have not ordered vintage Champagne in the past 12 months,” says owner James Hocking.
“We have ordered plenty of rosé, non-vintage and prestige Champagnes, but the market is really flat for vintage; we used to carry Ruinart and sold masses of blanc de blancs NV for example, but hardly any vintage.”
Which, in turn, raises the pertinent question: why are consumers so indifferent to the vintage category and what can be done to lure them back?
Wine buyer Alex Hunt MW suggests that despite the clear value vintages represent, price is still the main issue. “A lot of care goes into vintage Champagnes, they age well, and they arguably offer the best value in the category – but a bottle still represents a big outlay, and among this consumer group they will be competing with still fine wines,” argues Hunt MW.
“How many will spend £60 [$78] on Champagne rather than Burgundy, say? That’s the nub of it, I suspect.”
Lack of consumer understanding is another reason frequently touted.
“The market for vintage is mainly consumers who know something about Champagne, and understand what a vintage Champagne is – that’s why it’s easier to sell the well-known prestige Champagnes than to sell vintage,” says Parkinson.
Cedric Nicaise, wine director at Eleven Madison Park in New York, advances the discussion.
“Vintage Champagne is sort of a middle ground that I think a lot of people don’t fully understand. Dom Pérignon is clearly a hugely marketed prestige brand, but the regular Moët vintage is something that is not as well marketed and could be misunderstood,” says Nicaise.
“Further, as houses introduce more varied wines, it becomes harder to market those. Also, defining what is a prestige, and what is not, can be tricky. The definition of prestige and ‘vintage’ is more blurry than it is clear.”
Nicaise also underlines the point that many Champagne houses treat vintages as their difficult “middle child” – instead of trying to find a marketing solution, they hope buyers/sommeliers will do all the work for them.
“Houses could do massively better with the marketing of vintages,” agrees Parkinson.
“It’s a pity, because there was a time when ‘vintage’ Champagne was a glamorous concept, yet I can’t remember the last time I heard vintage portrayed as special. The problem, of course, is that it’s tricky to make vintage sound good, without making NV seem less appealing. In the past, vintage Champagne was effectively the prestige offering for many houses, but that’s no longer true.”
So are we about to witness the slow demise of vintage Champagnes in favor of bling?
“I doubt the vintage category will completely disappear, but I wonder whether more houses might reposition vintage closer to prestige, and possibly even move up the price point of their current prestige offering,” suggests Parkinson.
At least one house, Perrier-Jouët, has already made that commercially lucrative decision.
“The last Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut Millésime was created in 1998. The decision to rationalize the portfolio and to produce only Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque vintages was taken from a quality perspective, ensuring that Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut, the heir to the house style, has access to the best quality fruit,” says chef de caves Herve Deschamps.
“The three vintage cuvées – Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque, Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Rosé and Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs – are rare and exceptional Champagnes, created only when the harvest conditions are near perfect. So even if we had enough fruit of the right quality in a specific year to produce a new limited edition vintage expression, I would prefer to reserve this fruit for the classic collection to ensure outstanding quality and consistency.”
However, several key houses, including Veuve Clicquot, Moët et Chandon and Louis Roederer have stated their intention to continue releasing their excellent vintages alongside the prestige cuvée, which raises the question of what brands can do to reinvigorate consumer interest.
“For me it is all about teaching what the difference is. There is an obvious attraction to prestige cuvées. But, the difference between vintage and non-vintage should not necessarily be price. Teaching people about lees aging and the idea of reserve wine is more important than the price difference,” says Nicaise.
“I think brand dilution is the problem and the solution is to eliminate some bottlings. In the last 10 years, large houses have expanded their offerings in an attempt to capture more of the market. You see traditional non-oak fermentation houses creating oak fermentation cuvées, and the opposite. Producers are trying to capture as much of the market as possible, and that is what businesses do.”
But regardless of what approach the marketeers adopt, the silver lining (for Champagne buffs at least) remains access to superlative Champagnes at prices often marginally higher than NV level.
Of course, these wines come with less bragging rights than say Armand de Brignac, but then Champagne connoisseurs have never been interested in making a scene in a nightclub.

An article from Wine Searcher by James Lawrence
https://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2017/09/vintage-champagne-a-dying-breed

14 new Masters of Wine

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The Institute of Masters of Wine  announced 14 new Masters of Wine. Based in five different countries, the new Members of the Institute are, Nova Cadamatre MW (USA), Julie Chene Nyheim MW (Norway), Alistair Cooper MW (UK), Philip Harden MW (UK), Ashley Hausman Vaughters MW (USA), Sarah Heller MW (Hong Kong), Tim Jackson MW (UK), Andreas Kubach MW (Spain), Fernando Mora MW (Spain), Aina Mee Myhre MW (Norway), Billo Naravane MW (USA), Catherine Petrie MW (UK), Nigel Sneyd MW (USA) and Morgan Twain-Peterson MW (USA).

There are now 369 Masters of Wine living in 29 countries.

The new Members have proved their understanding of all aspects of wine by passing the Master of Wine examination, recognised worldwide for its rigour and high standards. The MW examination consists of three stages, including theory and practical exams, and culminates in the submission of a final research paper, an in-depth study on a wine related topic from any area of the sciences, arts, humanities, or social sciences.

In addition to passing the examination, all MWs are required to sign the Code of Conduct before they are entitled to use the initials MW. The Code of Conduct requires MWs to act with honesty and integrity, and use every opportunity to share their understanding of wine with others.

An article from the Institute of Masters of Wine
http://www.mastersofwine.org/en/news/index.cfm/id/387C20E2-56D4-41C5-BF02E6E4DFBF2C92

Sister City Marlborough Visit to Ningxia

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Marlborough Mayor John Leggett leaves for China at the end of the week to sign a formal sister-region agreement with China’s wine-growing region Ningxia.
As president of the Marlborough District Brass Band, Mr Leggett will also be an official guest at the opening ceremony of the Shanghai Tourism Festival at which the Marlborough band has been invited to perform.
In the last 18 months there have been a series of exchange visits between Marlborough and Ningxia, the aim of the relationship building is to open up educational and wine industry opportunities for the two regions.
The reciprocal visits at regional government level have led to the first Ningxia-based winemaker spending a vintage in Marlborough, the first group of Ningxia students visiting Marlborough Boys’ and Girls’ colleges and the first six Ningxia students enrolling on a viticulture and winemaking degree at NMIT. The earlier exchanges have also led to Marlborough-based wine technology businesses securing contracts with Chinese customers.
Mayor John Leggett says the next step is to formalise the relationship with a region to region agreement.
“We’ve been through the preliminary steps and now we have an understanding of what each region hopes to achieve from this relationship,” he said.
“They are in the position that Marlborough was in 30 years ago when grapes were a relatively new crop here but they recognise that Marlborough is now one of the world’s leading wine regions and that a great deal of knowledge and expertise resides here,” said Mr Leggett.
There is great opportunity to expand the education and training delivered through our secondary schools and tertiary institute, he said.
The Marlborough delegation will include three members of Marlborough’s Sister City Committee, Alistair Sowman, Lily Stuart and Cathie Bell. They will be joined by winemakers Richard O’Donnell and Dave Tyney, who operates as a winemaking consultant in Ningxia for part of the year, and by Ningxia-based education agent Kiki Chenshu. Mayoress Anne Best will join the visit at her own expense. The delegation will be in China from 3 -10 September.
Mr Leggett says he is particularly pleased the sister city business coincided with the Marlborough District Brass Band’s international exposure.
“It’s a great accolade for our brass band to be selected for this event. I sometimes wonder if Marlborough people realise the premiere status of our brass musicians. This event draws about ten million people over the course of a week and the Marlborough brass band members are the only New Zealanders who will be giving a performance so I will be very proud to be there to support them.”

An article from Marlborough District Council
https://www.marlborough.govt.nz/your-council/latest-news-notices-and-media-releases/media-releases?item=id:1z3pkzutv17q9sftqow5

New Zealand wine exports reaches record value

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The export value of New Zealand wine has reached a record high according to the 2017 annual report of New Zealand Winegrowers.
It has now been valued at $1.66bn, up +6% in June year end 2017, and is New Zealand’s fifth largest goods export.
Over the past two decades the wine industry has achieved average annual export growth of +17% a year according to the Report.
“With diversified markets and a strong upward trajectory, the industry is in good shape to achieve $2bn of exports by 2020,” said Steve Green, chair of New Zealand Winegrowers.
According to the report, exports to the US have lead the strong growth, passing $500m for the first time (up +12%). New Zealand wine became the third most valuable wine import into the US, behind France and Italy.
Green highlighted that in order to achieve continuing value growth, it is critical for the industry to maintain focus on protecting and enhancing its reputation as a distinctive, quality product.
“Our premium reputation remains the greatest collective asset for New Zealand wine, and underlies the high average price our wine commands in global trade,” added Green.
“Improved protection of New Zealand’s regional identities through its Geographical Indications Registration Act, and initiatives such as the launch of the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand Continuous Improvement extension programme will help enhance the world-class reputation of New Zealand wine as a premium and sustainable product.”

An article from Drinks International by Shay Waterworth
http://drinksint.com/news/fullstory.php/aid/7332/New_Zealand_wine_exports_reaches_record_value.html

Chinese man pays US$10,000 for glass of ‘fake’ Scotch?

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GENEVA – Claims that a Chinese man this week paid around US$10,000 for a glass of fake Scotch in Switzerland have arisen after the story went viral worldwide.
Reports emerged Friday that experts believe the unnamed man who paid the whopping sum for the glass of Scotch was duped.
The Macallan whisky for which the man paid 9,999 Swiss francs (US$10,277) at the Hotel Waldhaus am See in St. Moritz is said to be made in 1878.
The collector’s value for the entire bottle was around 50,000 francs (US$51,387).
The buyer of the expensive glass was said to be a connoisseur of The Macallan, from a single malt Scotch whisky distillery.
After looking at the 56-page whiskey menu and at the 47 Macallans which range from 7 Swiss francs for two centiliters to the 9,999 francs for the Macallan 1878, the man opted for the last unopened bottle of that vintage in the world.
However, portal whiskyeperts.net said on Friday: “The opened bottle of Macallan 1878 was a fake, according to Serge Valentin and other experienced members of Maltmaniacs.”
“The bottle which was opened is probably a well-known counterfeit, which was already revealed in 2004 (in an article from Whiskymag). Also, historically, it is impossible for that bottle to be real, according to Serge Valentin,” the portal said.
The hotel said in a statement: “The Waldhaus Hotel has learned from various sources that the famous whiskey expert Serge Valentin has announced that the 1878 Macallan may be a fake.”
The hotelier Sandro Bernasconi was quoted by the German-language newspaper 20 Minutes as saying, “At the moment it is only conjecture, but it is important to know the truth.”
The hotelier said he had tried to contact the skeptics, but to no avail.
He said there would be “the most rigorous inspection of the 1878 Macallan, which has been opened” and he would be in touch with a renowned British whisky inspector.
“If the final results prove that this bottle of Macallan is a counterfeit, we will pay the 9,999 francs back to the Chinese guest,” he said.

An article from China Daily
http://www.chinadailyasia.com/articles/182/167/36/1501922537655.html