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


Demand for Wine and Spirit education ‘higher than ever’, says WSET


New figures from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) reveal that demand for wine and spirits education is higher than ever, as more businesses recognise the return on investment in educated staff.
WSET, the largest global provider of qualifications in the field of wines and spirits, is reporting a record 85,487 candidates globally in the academic year finishing 31 July 2017, an increase of 19% on last year, marking 15 years of growth. The UK continued to lead the global table with candidate numbers up 14% to 19,401. However, Mainland China and USA followed closely behind both seeing impressive growth with candidates up 41% to 12,813 and 48% to 11,487 respectively.
Top 10 WSET Markets for the Academic Year 2016/17 (growth from previous year):
UK (+14%)
Mainland China (+41%)
USA (+48%)
Canada (+4%)
Hong Kong (+16%)
France (+32%)
Australia (+27%)
Taiwan (+5%)
South Korea (+13%)
Switzerland (+11%)
Trends behind the UK Growth
According to Wine Intelligence UK Landscapes 2016 Report (released June 2017) the number of regular wine consumers in the UK has dropped from 29 million two years ago to 28 million today. The silver lining for the trade is that wine consumers are showing higher spend per bottle and greater product interest when choosing wine to drink both at home and in restaurants.
The report notes that supermarkets are seeing consumers focus less on discount multi-buy offers and more on region of origin, brand awareness and recommendations, and generally becoming more adventurous with their choices. Evidence from a new study by Franklin & Sons has revealed similar behaviour for spirits purchasing, with consumers favouring more premium brands.
The need for more knowledgeable staff is therefore greater than ever, encouraging businesses to prioritise formal training and accredited qualifications for staff to cater to customers’ discerning tastes and drive profits.
Looking Ahead
In the last year, WSET expanded its global reach with the opening of its first international office in Hong Kong and launching courses in new markets including Czech Republic and Montenegro. WSET welcomed over 100 new Approved Programme Providers and there are now 750 Providers offering WSET courses to wine, spirits and sake trade professionals and consumer enthusiasts in over 70 countries. In the UK, a total of 243 Approved Programme Providers now offer WSET courses.
This year, as the USA remains a strong region for growth across the wine, spirits and sake arenas, WSET will be cementing its presence in the market with the appointment of a dedicated team on-territory that will nurture the future potential.
The new academic year will also see the release of the freshly updated Level 2 Award in Spirits and the availability of a full suite of printed materials for the Level 3 Award in Sake.
Ian Harris, WSET Chief Executive, says, “I am delighted to see that more and more businesses are recognising that education and well-trained staff are the foundations to better customer service and stronger profits. After another successful year for WSET we’re now setting out strategies to take our progress to the next level.”
Karen Douglas, WSET Director of Education, adds, “The new academic year will also see the release of an improved Level 2 Award in Spirits following the hard work of our Global Education team to make sure WSET offers the most up-to-date and best-in-class education through its network of Approved Programme Providers worldwide.”

An article from WSET Global



A cat that was poisoned by antifreeze, later renamed ‘Tipsy’ after its ordeal, was saved by Australian vets who just so happened to have a bottle of vodka lying around.
A black tomcat has used up one of its nine lives when it was brought into the RSPCA animal hospital in Wacol in Queensland, Australia with acute renal failure. As reported by ABC News, the cat was rushed to the vets after being found near a tyre store in Lowood, west of Brisbane, suffering from the effects of antifreeze consumption.
According to vet Sarah Kanther, Tipsy had less than an hour to live. Fortunately for the feline, one of the nurses happened to have a bottle of vodka lying around and both Kanther and vet nurse Dylan Gerard were able to quickly administer it in a diluted form via in IV drip.
The enzyme in the body that breaks down the antifreeze also metabolises alcohol, and as Kanther explains, “once you put the alcohol into his blood it metabolises that instead, and gives the antifreeze time to pass in a less toxic form”.
The vets have been unable to contact Tipsy’s owners and it remains unclear as to whether the cat was intentionally baited.

An article from The Drinks Business by Phoebe French

Key trends in the evolving Chinese wine market

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Mainland China is one of the world’s largest markets for imported wine. With a population of 1.38 billion, a burgeoning middle class and modernising consumers, it presents enormous opportunities for Australian wine brands and businesses. China is rapidly changing and it’s important to keep abreast of the latest trends and insights to grow and harness its market potential.

Wine Intelligence’s Research Director Chuan Zhou, in his first visit to Australia, presented Wine Intelligence’s latest research on China at seminars hosted by Wine Australia in Sydney and Melbourne last week.

Some of the key insights included:

  • There are now an estimated 48 million urban upper-middle class drinkers of imported wine in China
  • Growing disposable income, coupled with improving distribution logistics for wine, has enabled access to wine in lower tier cities, supporting growth in imported wine sales
  • Increasing numbers of consumers are purchasing wine for personal consumption, rather than as gifts, and the flavour of wine is growing in importance as a key driver of wine choice
  • There is continuing growth in red wine sales, with consumers more typically favouring fruit-styled, softer wine with lower tannin and acidity
  • There is developing demand for white wine, particularly aromatic whites such as Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Moscato
  • The evolving market has been driven by a diversifying base of wine consumers, as younger, more experimental and open-minded consumers start drinking wine
  • Wine preferences vary by region within China. People in the east prefer earthy, rich reds; those in the west favour elegant, soft styles; those in the north look for bold, drier reds; and those in the south prefer smoother red styles
  • There is an ongoing shift to online purchasing, driven by ease of access to wine information and recommendations, supported by lower prices
  • There has been an increase in the number of wines available and listed in restaurants and bars, coupled with a reduction in pricing
  • There is an increasing acceptance of screwcap for wines at lower prices, although there is more resistance for red wine under screwcap for gifting occasions.

    An article from Wine Australia

New wine latest link between Australia, China

Diplomats, business types and longtime Beijing residents may find a familiar face grinning back from a bottle of red wine this month.

The grin belongs to Geoff Raby, Australia’s former ambassador to China, who has teamed up with the Swan Wine Group to craft a new wine from Auswan Creek in Australia’s famed Barossa Valley.

“Mr Raby was the perfect fit for our new Ambassador wine series,” says Wei Li, president and CEO of Swan. “He is a well-known wine lover and continues to be an active promoter of Australian products. He also understands the Chinese taste in wine, which generally favors reds that are fruity, easy to drink and low in acidity.”

An article from China Daily USA by Mike Peters