Monday, February 25, 2013

Winstead Estate Tasmania Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Having children at an age where they are old enough to own their own iPod is a little bit good, little bit not good sort of existence. The good bit is they will take themselves off to a quiet part of the house and sit down and read Judy Moody or Harry Potter while listening too some inane pop track. The bad is once their attention drifts they will sound you out and start reciting, with little or no pitch, the latest chorus of such musical geniuses as Katy Perry and Pink; no where is all of the kids books I was forced to read did it mention this!!!

The latest such musical luminary coming out of my daughters is 'Icona Pop', whom today are on top of the world and next year, or next week for that matter, maybe be back on the dole; the cynical world of Pop music Anywhoo, Icona Pop is feasting on my nerves, yet there is a line in the song that I will now employ here in my blog; 'I don't care - I love it!!' My Icona Pop wine right now is the Winstead Estate Tasmania Sauvignon Blanc 2011; I love it!!!

It is common knowledge from this blog that I am a Sauvignon fan and do not suffer from all of the SB bashers out there just because its from across the ditch. This one is also from a cross a ditch; a much smaller on but a ditch nonetheless.

The nose straight away grabs your attention with its barrel ferment and lees stirring which have produced great wafts of oyster shell brine followed by ripe locuts. The palate starts similar to the nose with clean rush of minerality and brine, and followed by more ripe locuts all held together with a checked, yet intense, mandarin acid wash. A classic example of a wine that does not follow the lead. Great grape growing and great wine making.  I love it!!!

Drink with whiting fillet
Drink till 2015
Screwcap 12%v/v $25 Seddon Wine Store

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Vintage 2013 Bindi diary; Day 4

The nets are all out!! Thank beejeesus is all I can say; it's all everyone can say really. The nets are out.

Day 2 was pretty much like day 1 except for the nest of course. What was really different was the lack of power, and when I say power I don't mean we were acting like wuss bags but the winery actually lost power - electricity power. Stuff pretty much stopped after then. Thanks anonymous power company that's starts with A, and finishes near  K & M.

Anywhoo, the power enabled us to get back out to the vineyard and put the final nets out; rows 58-70 in block 4 to be precise. So like I said, The nets are all out!! Thank beejeesus.

And it was out there putting nets out that I realised how far there is to go before we kick off vintage for the estate fruit. Just look at this Block K Pinot Noir fruit.

So the nets are out, we got that. But before all of that we had some pump overs that got stalled. Only in power not the other. The thing is though not all of them got started, only about 6 of them. The rest are still juicing it out - check these pics out!! Oh and note, the one that looks like a shiraz spa bath was just pumped over. And yes, I did want to jump in - like it was a spa. How awesome would that be, and just a little bit sticky; still just a lot of sugar and all.

And in between all of this Wendy and Michael put on another smashing lunch. But no 1er Cru today, just some delicious 2012 Pyrette barrel samples. Stay tuned, like Meeka is.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Vintage 2013 Bindi diary; Day 3

Day 3, but technically day 1 for me thanks to heat and a dumbarse motorbike rider. Anyway, I'm here and we're off and running for vintage 2013.

Quick re-cap; the Shiraz fruit arrived at the winery from Heathcote at about 6.30pm Saturday - about 14 tonne - where 15 wine bins with partial whole bunch were filled by about midnight. Sunday was all about keeping the pots covered and cool; do not want ferment to kick off just yet.

So here we are at Monday. A mini heat wave is what we are going through right now. Today was the seventh straight +30 degree day so keeping the winery cool, so that means crank up the air-con. But wait!! Before you cry out, 'wont someone please think of the planet', stop. Bindi is powered by solar panels and also has a wind turbine; both put power back into the grid. Oh it was so cool in the winery today.

Today was also the day I met the new family member up at Bindi - Meeka. I'm not good on dog breeds so I'm just going to take a stab and say she's an 8 week old kelpy-something-cross. One word - wooshie-wooshie-wooshie-woo (just be grateful I didn't spell the hyphen's!).

As I entered the winery this morning I was instantly hit with a massive whack of mulberry fruit and brown bread. Mulberry fruit is pretty obvious, but the brown bread was all due to the wild yeast; a wild yeast that hasn't kick off yet, but just introducing itself I guess. But brown bread, and it smelt awesome.

Now pump-overs are exactly what it sounds like. And its gotta be done. The cap hadn't risen so we had no ferment kickoff. That's exactly what we wanted. And that's it. One more pump over at 4.30, some fixing up of nets and that was the day. That and a swim in the pool and a steak lunch with a bottle of 2010 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cr. Civilised wouldn't you say.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Domaine Anne Gros Bourgogne 2010

Tantilsing. Textuaul. Beautiful.

The Domaine Anne Gros Bourgogne 2010. Based in Vosne Romanee, Domaine Anne Gros consistantly producers exquisite wines from Flagey-Echezeaux, Chambolle-Musigny, Clos Vougeot and as mentioned Vosne Romanee where she produces about three wines. This wine was a treat and I could not wait to get it home.

Being a Bourgogne, I was expecting something very entry level; not top be. What we got was a wonderfully crafted wine with power and effeminate beauty. Dark ared in the glass, the nose was full of dark cherries, earth and succulaent bacon fat. The mouth had an instant hit of acid and tartness coming through as soft cranberries. The mid palate went to a new level with full dark cherries followed by more tart expressions of raspberry and cranberry. Great finish indeed. I loved it.

Drink with crispy skinned duck breast - a Susan
Drink till 2018
Quality cork 12.5%v/v

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Right of reply to Stephen Downes' "Cheeky drop, with bouquet a rip-off" published in 'The Sunday Age', February 8th, 2013

A note to the reader:
Before I embark on this 'right of reply', I've got to add that this is not the first time I have stood on my soapbox and stood up for the restaurant industry. On two occasions I have posted open letters to journalists from 'The Age' on my blog in regard to poorly written 'commentary' pieces on the state of the Melbourne restaurant scene. I understand that things are not perfect, or cheap for that matter, in restaurant land but neither is rent, wages or food costs.  So when experts deem they need to report on this, do it properly and report on all facets and not just the shock material.


As certainties go, the list below is pretty much a given:
  • water is wet
  • the sky is blue
  • sticks are sticky
  • Stephen Downes' food and wine commentary is redundant
On Sunday, 'The Sunday Age' published a piece by Stephen Downes entitled, "Cheeky drop, with bouquet a rip-off". This by-line was the prelude to an article in which a scathing Downes takes a very big stick - no doubt a sticky stick - to the Melbourne restaurant wine mark-up practice. To say that the piece was uninformed, disjointed and quite simply utter rubbish is a Captain Obvious comment if ever ther was one. Also, the negative barrage that Downes has received on twitter these past few days has been enormous. It has also been, in my opinion, a bit nasty. This piece is not meant to be nasty. It is all about being informative and delivering a thought out argument which is something the "Cheeky Drop" piece lacked in spades.

So, there I was in my kitchen drinking my coffee and reading this erroneous piece, and I was compelled to go back and read it again and again and again. In the end I just took out a pen and started taking notes. So, having no formal journalistic training, I will start from the top and work my way through the 19 paragraph story and apologise if I repeat myself or just re-hash the same argument. 

(One thing I will add is that I have formal training as a sommelier from France, wine making experience in France, and Australia, and a Bachelor of Viticultural Science. I have also worked in three of the restaurants mentioned by Downes in a wine role - not the Berwick eatery I must admit - and I am currently working part-time at one of Australia's premier small wine producers while working full time at an independent wine retailer.)

"Melbourne restaurants are charging diners three, four and even more than five times the retail price for a bottle of wine. Many sell little-known wines from small vineyards and exotic overseas wines to prevent price comparisons and to camouflage gouging."

Sorry, what a terrible way to start a story. Yes, Melbourne's restaurants do charge that amount. This is so they can pay bills, Stephen!!! Without going through P&L reports of every eatery in town, I would suggest that the average gross profit a restaurant achieves would be in the realm of 4% - 8%. Restaurants in Melbourne need to pay rent and I would imagine Ezard is paying at least $100K per annum. Below is a  list of out-goings an 'average' restaurant would encounter on a monthly basis:
  • rent/council rates
  • wages
  • insurance
  • food costs
  • beverages - includes wine, beer, spirits, etc
  • utilities - water, electricity, gas
  • maintenance
  • linen
  • crockery/cutlery
  • glassware (not cheap)
  • cleaning
  • marketing
  • and plenty more ....
This list I no doubt will reference again so let's just call it List 1.

The second sentence from the first paragraph reads like restaurants are deliberately trying to mislead the diner. I can almost see Downes getting frothy at the mouth a la Christopher Hitchins as he writes this sentence. Complete rubbish I'm afraid. The reason why restaurants choose to showcase smaller producers is to highlight the amazing choice that the customer has, especially from Victoria - terroir, something the big boys can only spell. These small producers quite often only make a small amount of wine which, in some cases, is barely enough to supply the two key restaurant and retail markets in Australia - Sydney and Melbourne - let alone the big chains like Dan's and Vintage Cellars. I am aware of one small producer from Victoria being approached by one of the aforementioned retail chains where they wanted all the wine produced and would pay generously. The wine maker politely refused only to be told (and I was there) "you will never, ever have your wine featured in our published magazine. EVER." This was met with the wine maker simply turning around and getting back on with the job. To this day his wines have, and will not, be sold to this chain.

The 'exotic' wines Stephen remarks about, well that's simple - high AUD equals cheap imports. You do not need a degree in business to work that out. If you honestly believe, Stephen, that restaurants employ this practice to camouflage gauging then a career writing on ports and tides awaits.

The second paragraph sits about as comfortable as a Carlton fan in the middle of 10,000 screaming Collingwood fans at the MCG. It doesn't make sense. But if we need to quantify it then it is an expense from List 1 that I have left out - IT and Social Media management.  Not cheap and very time consuming.

"At Ezard, a glass of By Farr 'Farrside' 2010 Pinot Noir costs $30, yet a whole bottle (about seven glasses) of the 2009 vintage sells for $68."

This is where research and a little wine knowledge would come in handy. Firstly, the standard pour for a glass is 150ml. If Stephen's figures are correct then By Farr produced a wine in a 1,050ml bottle = where can I get one of those???!!!! That's the wine knowledge, but really just common sense. The second point is research and if you were to have done any of this, Stephen, you would have learnt that 2009 was an incredibly disastrous year for wine grape growing in a lot SE Australia due to the intense heat conditions late January and February. Many growers and producers had their volume severely diminished due to fruit effectively burning on the vine. Now I'm a fan of By Farr wines for a few reasons. One is that they make super sexy wine and two is that I believe that Gary and his son Nick displayed a lot of integrity that vintage. Maybe the wine wasn't up to scratch. Maybe the wine was a true reflection of the vintage and it showed in the final product. A difference in price from vintage to vintage is not uncommon where severe weather affects the final harvest. And maybe Gary said to Teague that you can have the 2009 wine for x amount but all things being equal, the 2010 will go back to y amount. This is not uncommon also.

The 'Liquid Gold' table of wines is a remarkable feat in showing your audience you truly have no concept of managing/operating a restaurant. Excluding the first wine, the Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc, the remaining prices shown as restaurant vs Dan Murphy’s do not seem like the restaurants are ‘gouging’ the customers. So, if you will allow me to explain the concept of ‘economies of scale’, this may take a while, for I also have a degree in economics.

Economies of Scale – a situation in which long-run average total costs decline as the output of a firm increases (also called increasing returns to scale). In layman's terms it's all about the more you have the more you buy, and the more you buy the more you can negotiate a sweeter deal for your outgoings aligned against your final sale price. (Taylor & Frost, Microeconomics; 2nd Ed, 2002). 

Economies of Scale, in this exercise, leads to Duopoly or Game Theory. 

Game Theory provides a framework for studying strategic behaviour in an oligopoly or duopoly. Games, including the prisoner's dilemma, describe the strategies firms can use when they have the options of charging a monopoly price or a lower price (Taylor & Frost, Microeconomics; 2nd Ed, 2002)

To cut to the chase, the stronger you are in the market, the stronger you are at the negociating table. Coles and Woolies buy by the pallet load, with two, three and sometimes ten pallets at a time. Ezard, Vue de monde and even EightyOne will buy by the case, with multiple case purchases of two or three when pouring by the glass. Independent retailers are in the same boat as the restaurants and can simply not compete against the Big 2. The Mt Langi 'Cliff Edge' 2009 Shiraz is a good example. Where I work the wine hits the shelf  at $30. We buy it by the case. The reason Dan Murphy's can sell it at $23 is they use the economies of scale practice, not because they are nice guys.

This brings me to the whole Dan's issue. Your whole, "Many sell little-known wines from small vineyards and exotic overseas wines to prevent price comparisons and to camouflage gouging." has exactly the same ramifications as restaurant's. Smaller independent retailers choose to stock these 'small vineyards' and 'exotic' wines to be different and to give the consumer something else to think of; a different flavour to the Penfolds , Casella's and Rosemounts of the wine industry. What is wrong with celebrating terroir and , as you would put it 'exotic' varieties such as Nero d'Avola, Montepulciano and Aglianico from regions like the Pyrenees, the Canberra District and Gippsland? Wine drinkers love this type of stuff.

The BYO issue. There are many restaurants out there doing it tough but at the same time they are offering BYO nights to encourage punters to bring a bottle in and have a great meal, thus hoping they will possibly venture in on the big dollar nights of Friday and Saturday. By simply writing, “Licensed restaurants generally dissuade customers who want to bring their own” is terrible and myopic. These same restaurants will also probably dissuade the same customers from urinating at the table and shouting obscenities across the restaurant. I simply dissuade your argument there Stephen.

In closing, Stephen, your piece on Sunday was terrible. That is not being vicious and by no means is it a personal attack on you; I do not know you Stephen. We have never met. I have never sold you a bottle of wine. I have never served you at a table.  But if I was to I would make sure your paper napkin was neatly stuffed under your chin. I am sorry that you have received nasty remarks, Stephen, and when you write crap like this you gotta expect some negative feedback

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mt Moriac Geelong Estate Pinot Noir 2008

Delightful. Lovely texture. Good age. These are just few of descriptors that can be used for the Mt Moriac Geelong Estate Pinot Noir 2008. There are more but lets talk about Mt Moriac for starters.

Why do we not see this label in more places around Melbourne? Is it because too many people are in meetings to see David - Mr Mt Moriac - or is it because Geelong only gets a nod if it is Farr or Bannockburn. I don't know. The other two are great yes, but as I have mentioned plenty of times previous, Geelong is a ripping place for wine, not just for driving through to get to the surf coast; something I will be doing tomorrow actually.

So much for the soapbox. More wine. The colour in the glass shows a touch of age with a bronze hue. The nose is also aged affected with developed spice - cinnamon, cassia bark and dried garden herbs. There is also just a  touch of tart red fruit hanging in there, just. The palate once again shows sign of development with dry terracotta, more spice and once again lingering tart fruit with cranberry the obvious. A great wine highlighting Geelong and also a touch of bottle age in a time where wine is usually consumed 2-3 years after vintage.

Drink with pull pork taco's
Drink till 2015
Screwcap 13.5%v/v $30 Seddon Wine Store

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Luigi Scavino Piedmont Azelia Dolcetto d'Alba 2010

The club house leader for 2013. The Luigi Scavino Piedmont Azelia Dolcetto d'Alba 2010 may not be sweet, but by golly packs a sweetasanut punch. Very dark in the glass, the wine gives lifting notes of tart cheery, brown spice and dusty tones that sort of gives the palate away. The mouth is full of direct tart fruit; raspberry and plum to the fore, with tight and checked tannins and acid working in perfect unison. If you like your red wine in summer, this has it in spades and then some. Just go and get it.

Drink with grilled eggplant and lamb back strap
Drink till 2019
Quality cork 13%v/v $30 Seddon Wine Store

My friend Bill Dhillon

On the morning of January 26th this year, Australia Day, my friend Bill Dhillon passed away. At his side were his son Michael and his wife Wendy, and his daughter Jenny. As far as I am aware Bill passed away fully knowing that his time was up, and knowing Bill there would not have been any fuss or fanfare; the man I knew would not complain nor bemoan the situation he was placed in.

I met Bill the first day I worked up at Bindi in February 2005. It was actually February 21st, a Monday; up until recently I have kept a short journal on every day I have worked in a vineyard/cellar going back to Champagne in 1997. My arrival to the vineyard was about 15 minutes late, which meant Michael and Kelvin were up the top of Block K. After parking my car I ventured to the winery where I first met Bill. An imposing man, Bill stood quite a few inches north of six feet tall, and for anyone who knows me they will know that I stand quite a few inches south of six feet, so yes, imposing. After introductions were made Bill and I walked up to the top of Block K, which effectively is the top of the property. In that 5 minute walk Bill pretty much explained why Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were the only varieties planted in the six hectares at Bindi; integrity to variety, in so much as treat the grape right and it will treat you right. He said this with a smile and a short giggle as we approached Michael and Kelvin. I will always remember that.

Over the past eight years I have been travelling up the Calder Highway on a sort of regular and irregular basis. Be it vintage or general vineyard and cellar work to bottling and pruning, Bill was a regular presence. And it was bottling that I think Bill really enjoyed, for it was a time where friends and family of Bindi would gather to share duties around the bottling line. Over the years the bottling line has changed quite a lot. These days there is an efficient factory line energy where few surprises occur along the way. In past it has been a little skew-if, so much so I had to measure the ullage of the bottled wine with callipers to make sure there was enough wine in the bottles. And the one constant through all of this was Bill Dhillons smile and gentle laugh. He put everyone at ease. And with every bottling run we would sit down at the end and feast on a late lunch or early dinner prepared by Wendy.

And with every meal Bill and Michael were always generous with wine with a selection of just bottled and back vintage wines. So with every glass toped up, Bill would always sing the praise of the wine and pass comment on what he thought and then would ask others what they thought; it seemed every new glass was the best Bill had ever seen - there was never an ill word or excuse from Bill about Bindi, or for any other wine we would share at these meals. This was not Bills style.

 One of the last times I saw Bill was mid December last year. Paul and I had been working in Block 1, and with the aid of my weather app it was decided that we head up to the winery - fast. We had just made it to the winery when the heavens opened. And boy did they open. In just under 15 minutes the rain gauge received 17mm; thats a lot. It was a warm day to start with so after the rain had stopped Paul and I ventured back down to Block 1. On the way we passed Bill on his veranda where we stopped for a chat. As always we were greeted with a smile. As we looked to the north we noticed that above the tree lines were thick billows of steam. I remarked on this, and instead of saying this was normal and he had seen this before, Bill smiled and chuckled and commented that he had never seen that before. What a sight was what he said.
It was almost fitting that Bill passed on January 26th. Bill was a very proud man and you got the impression also that he was a very proud man of his heritage. January 26th is not only Australia Day but also when the Republic of India was officially proclaimed in 1950. Often you would see the Indian flag fly above the winery at Bindi. You would also see many other flags fly above the winery. Everyone was welcome in Bills eyes.

 Farewell Bill and rest in peace. You will be missed and I am sorry that I have lost a friend.