Monday, 18 May 2015

Everything Is Go Astro Bunny

Everything is Go Astro Bunny
The last story in the series on wine labels; we look at a light-hearted but serious project by British Master of Wine Tim Wildmann. 

Project:  Fly to Australia, make a wine on a budget, with a deadline, get on a plane back to England - GO!

Astro Bunny is a project to produce as Tim puts it;
" A wine that has had its primary fermentation interrupted by bottling thereby rendering it naturally (naturel) sparking (p├ętillant) in the bottle".
Definition: P├ętillant Naturel. (origin Fr.) abbrv. pet nat.

So have fun and dissect this 4 part story of wine made naturel:

Harvest Time in Australia

The easy step? - Winemaking

What's In A Name

Sell, Sell Sell!

Tim Wildman's Bio from webpage:

Tim Wildman is a British born MW who runs his own portfolio wine business involving travel, education and film.Tim became a Master of Wine in 2008 with a Dissertation on Australian wine, which is his professional speciality. You can read Tim’s Dissertation here 

He was awarded the Robert Mondavi Memorial prize for the highest score in Theory and his Dissertation achieved the highest pass mark in his year.With a background in teaching as well as wine Tim has helped dozens of MW students over the years to achieve their goals through his private tuition classes.
Tim has two travel companies specialising in wine tourism. James Busby Travel is a B2B company that takes wine trade professionals from around the world on educational tours to Australia.
Vineyard Safaris offers premium one day wine tours for private individuals and small groups in Australia
Tim is one half of film company Green-Shoot that provides wineries and wine companies with video content and integrated digital media solutions
He writes a monthly column for Australia’s Wine Business Magazine and prefers analogue to digital, in both music and wine. He divides his time between Europe and Australia

Don't Label Me

I would never buy a wine based on the label. My superior wine palate and knowledge means I don't need to resort to such trickery as a front label.

 Wood Crampton "The Big Show"


I'm a sucker for a wine label as much as any punter who goes into a bottle shop.

Exhibit A = Woods Crampton "The Big Show".

And fortunately for me, I'm not the only one who is susceptible to lures of wine marketers and their wily ways.

This Instagram post from Master of Wine Peter Scudamore-Smith, is acutely aware of the need for engaging labels.

 Professor Frank Lockhin

For those interested in the psychology of wine labels and the ability of wine marketers to guide a customer in their purchasing behaviors. you can't go past this excellent article by News' Tony Love.

The story draws on insights from Professor Frank Lockshin from the University of Adelaide. Lockshin, a wine marketing expert and points out that on average a consumer takes 40 seconds to make a purchasing decision.

No pressure to get that label right.

You'll Love An Act Like this

De Bortoli Wines are one of the family wineries that often get tarnished because of their heritage. There success was built on affordable wines produced out of the grape processing factory that is Griffith.

And yet with many successful family businesses, the on going generations add depth and diversity to this original success. They adapt to find relevance to the society that they live in, make a living and consequentially creating a legacy.

And this is happening today with Leanne De Bortolli and her Yarra Valley division. With insightful marketing and modern winemaking from De Bortolli's husband Steve Webber.

Located on the Melba Highway in the upper Yarra, DeBortolli's have produced a beautiful range called La Boheme. A node to the Highway named after Australia's first entertainment superstar abroad, Nellie Melba and her role as the tragic Mimi in the Opera "La Boheme"

Be assured that this range is no tragic Opera, but with four distinct acts, the La Boheme is, as discussed earlier, insightful marketing and modern winemaking.

Act One is a Riesling blend, in what is a revisit of the classic Alsace wines of Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer.

Act Two a Pinot Gris blend is also a  look at the Alsace blends, this time includes riesling, Pinot Blanc, Gewurtztraminer and the interloping Piedmont varietal, Favorita.

Act Three is the very pretty Pinot Rose.

And Act Four is a Shiraz Gamay red to finish the opera.

Tasting Notes

Act One - Riesling

Blend: Riesling (93%), Pinot Gris (5%) and Gewurtz (2%)

Clean fresh. Slightly briney.White nectarine

Aromatic - rose petal, white peach

Juicy lingering acidity. Slightly bulky green apple middle and back end as the wine warms up.


Act Four Syrah /Gamay

In certain circles the Shiraz and lighter variety blend has quite the following. There are those who don't - only thing wrong with Shiraz Viognier is Viognier? This is a great lunch time wine.

Colour: Magenta - to garnet

Red Rose aromas - anise/clove

Slightly reserved in the fruits: Red fruits - raspberries.

Slightly heavy on the oak to the deteriment of the fresh fruit.

Soft delicate tannins, juicy acidity.

Lingering length

Thursday, 19 March 2015

I've Got 99 Bottles But This Book Ain't One

The Psychology Of Wine Labels; Part 1

Wine labels. Do wine snobs still buy based on what a label looks like? You bet they do. 

This is a little warm up to a series of stories on the Psychology of Wine Labels. 

Creative Design companies don't always get the opportunity to show off their portfolio to the general public. 

99 Bottles Of Wine by CF Napa Brand Design is a beautiful book with a US focus.
99 Bottles of Wine: The Making of the Contemporary Wine Label  is a celebration of this unique and evolving art form. David  Schuemann, Owner and Creative Director of CF Napa Brand Design, reveals the inspiration and strategic thinking behind ninety-nine of the most successful packaging designs from thecompany’s portfolio—from solutions for boutique producers 

Monday, 23 February 2015

Difficult Teenagers That Grow Up To Be Lovely Adults

Like most agricultural pursuits, wine is totally at the mercy of the environment; be that the rain, the amount of sun or even the soil type. Despite the variation of environmental conditions it is always remarkable that there are still some flavours that remain consistent from a defined piece of land. There is a French agricultural term called 'terroir', (pronounced Tair-wah) that is now commonly used to describe this characteristic.

One of the most famous and noble French regions, Burgundy, is a text book example of the understanding of terrior. This is primarily because of the uninterrupted production of high quality grapes over at least a millennium. The behavior of individual vineyard style is well understood. As a basic rule, Pinot styles in the north around Dijon are robust, earthy styles, and approaching the southern town of Beaune, Pinot will soften to a more delicate fruited style, showing characters of strawberry and ripe cherry.

On the surface, Pinot would appear to be highly at the mercy of its location and of course that is true but when you consider Shiraz in the Australian example, the same is the case. Grown in such disparate locations as Margaret River, Barossa Valley, Hunter Valley and even the cold climes of  northern Tasmania, Shiraz presents itself in many different guises.

Commercial realities dictate that popular wine styles should maintain a high degree of uniformity from one season to the next; after all, loyalty is built out of consistency. Preferably good consistency. This can be considered relevant for products to meet a mass-market or non-wine geek segment because explaining the variation does require a significant engagement from the consumer.

So where does the title for this article come in? Despite all of the pessimism of wet and challenging vintages that can be faced by grape producers, there is the opportunity to recover perfectly acceptable commercial wines. Looking at the Tower Estate case which I see everyday, I can share some of the pain of producing wine that initially may appear like an awkward gangling teenager and how it will develop into a really lovely adult.

Panorama Vineyard in Tasmania
Tower Estate has, for several years, been sourcing Pinot Noir from the Panorama Vineyard in the Huon Valley. Near the village of Cradoc, The Panorama Vineyard, owned by Michael Vishacki is a southern Tasmanian treasure. You can see the location of the vineyard in more detail if you click on the Google map. 

A cool climate location, Cradoc is at the limits of producing viable fruit for wine production in the southern hemisphere. Early ripening red varieties like Shiraz have no chance of ripening in time before wineter arrives, leaving only Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to consistently produce the best quality fruit.

In the Tower Estate example, the 2009 vintage Panorama Vineyard Pinot Noir won a trophy at the Hobart Royal Show. The 2010 Panorama Vineyard Pinot Noir was highly acclaimed, with the famous Australian wine writer James Halliday giving the wine a rating of 96 points; his highest rated Pinot Noir of that year. 

The old addage that a wine is made in the vineyard is a relavent one, so looking at weather conditions that year should give us an indication of how such high quality fruit was produced. The table below is from the Bureau of Meteorology, and compares a 30 year average with the 2010 rainfall figure; the nearest BOM station to the Panaroma Vineyard is the town of Geeveston.  The most notable feature is that during the growing period between January and April when rainfall was generally below the average but sufficient for good grape production. 

The table below by contrast shows the 2011 vintage which reflected difficult growing conditions, with above average rainfall across many wine growing regions in southern Australia and in this specific example, the Huon Valley in Tasmania, where Tower Estate was going to buy top quality, very expensive Pinot Noir grapes.

Notice the spike in rain in April? April is such an important time in picking grapes. You do not want rain just at the time you are trying to ripen the grapes and concentrate flavours. But the 2011 vintage brought almost double the average rainfall, with over 100 mm of rain for the the month.  With these adverse circumstances we have all the ingredients for "A Difficult Teenager" wine in the making. This is the time that the skill of the vineyard owner comes into play; minimising the risk of disease and the total loss of a crop. But it is also the time for the winemaker to work hard and make gentle touches with the processing of grapes in the winery.

Note: This article was originally written in 2013 when I worked in direct marketing at Tower Estate in the Hunter Valley. 

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Manky Cherries Are A Thing

Wine gets better with age - right? Right? Anyone? Taste is such a personal thing and aged wine sometimes bring characters to them that don't always ring bells for me. The key to the recipe is tannins. Tannins those elusive compounds that apparently make wine the bees knees.

Spanish Tinto
These large complex compounds that are drawn from the wine skins as well as the barrels during maturation are anti-oxidant in nature. You know? the healthy antioxidant.

During the maturation process the tannin compounds will slowly chew up the interesting characters that make a young wine, a young wine. The purple colours and fresh fruit characters.

With their antioxidant effect, the tannins will oxidise these delicate flavours and colours, giving way to the underlying red colour and savoury flavours.

And that is an aged wine. 

Now the Spanish Tinto I tried recently received the following review;

         Well that was a challenging wine.
         Manky cherries, sock-it-to-ya oak 
         spewing out the anise and a slippery 
      acidity to clean it up. One for the wine fans

So if we get serious for one moment, let's translate my dodgy words into a serious tasting note describing this 9 year old wine. And below is a tasting note from the Importer Echelon Wines as a young wine.

Tasting Note:
With a slightly smelly nose that disappears with decanting, the wine is dominated by a slightly over ripe cherry character, followed by a star anise, licorice strongly reflecting new oak that once blended in with the delicate fresh fruit characters. The savoury finish and fine delicate tannins, that sneaks in the end is balanced off with a fresh bright acidity that makes this still a great food wine.

Echelon Wines - 2011
Deep red in colour with purple hues, the VT displays a nose of blackberry, lively spicy fruits, currants, and freshly sawn wood notes. The upfront lifted red fruit palate presents exciting and fun licorice flavors with elegant tannins and a well balanced acid structure.

Is it better? For me no. But for many it is; but the key most importantly is that it is different and that is the joy of wine. Diversity in style, the variation and the unpredictability.  Enjoy.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

A New Year Resolution

Of course a New Year's resolution is meant to be broken; after all what would the human frailty be without failure.

The origin of a New Year's resolution is murky at best, but my suspicions are that it was born of some futile Victorian Era piety. Those guys were party poopers if ever there was a generation to dampen things.

None the less, my endeavour is the write some more. I enjoy the research aspect of writing. Pulling together ideas that may produce a coherent and engaging narrative. A narrative that people will freely invest their time in. 

Ideas don't come easily nor freely and most certainly not chronologically. They take time to ferment and stew and are utterly obvious to deadlines; implied or imposed. But with some inspiration from the Spanish lateral thinker, Picasso I push on to hone this craft. For those looking for similar inspiration you can find some of his insights at Brain Pickings here

And my final thoughts on the subject come from this simple saying I discovered recently. I actually had it said to me firmly this year. It is necessary occasionally, but I do wish for enough energy for it to come from within, rather than have it pointed out. Be careful what you wish for? 

So... proceed 2015.