Issue: 70 / Sunday 19 May, 2019
Late to the party
(we reckon by 3 years!)
Last week wine writer and critic James Suckling set sail down under to embark on a two week trip across Australia with the aim of tasting and rating over 2500 wines, in an apparent attempt to discover what he feels to be “real Australian wine”. Respectfully, James – Where have you been for the past five years? ‘Real Australian Wine’ has been produced, communicated and thoroughly enjoyed for a long time and we fear all the hoo-ha surrounding your visit is outdated, it would seem that you were clearly not invited to the opening party…Or, and as per our title, you are years late.
His first stop was Western Australia where James inevitably spent a bit of time in Margaret River and whilst comfortably sat at his table, ploughed his way through 465 wines. Now, 2500 wines over two weeks roughly works out to be 178 wines a day, across fourteen days, so we realise that this is a fair amount of wine to get through, but we can’t but help think that it also feels a little soulless and a little rushed. Simply a conveyer belt of samples, we guess not dissimilar to the en primeur tastings at Bordeaux which are held in a room with hundreds of wines to get through. But the Bordeaux tastings are of wines from one region and are merely designed to score one against the other, to get a sense of the vintage and to be objectively critical and assess age-ability. But Mr Suckling, as respectful as we are of him, is claiming to be on a voyage of discovery and a quest for “real Aussie wine” (hash-tagged on Twitter) and we can’t help but wonder, why go all the way to Australia just to sit at a table in a hotel lobby? How can one get a genuine sense of what is happening in the industry right at this moment, without tasting with the producers?
Ok, of course he cannot be expected to visit 2500 wineries in two weeks but it would be nice to see and hear a bit more from the producers and about what life and the industry is like for them.
Perhaps 2500 wines isn’t completely necessary if it meant that he is able to visit more wineries, and talk to more producers to actually be able to define what is “real Aussie wine”. We're sorry to burst this bubble but real Australian wine was discovered some time ago and has been championed and sold in the UK for several years now.
Anyway, Mr Suckling is well under way on his voyage of discovery across the country and is keen to show us that Australia doesn’t just produce big, jammy fruit bomb wines, although we knew that anyway! In Margaret River it is all about freshness and balance, the two things that Mr Suckling was looking forward to experiencing from the region and we have to say, he couldn’t have chosen two better words to describe them, especially the Chardonnays.
Australian Chardonnay is well and truly on top of its game, something that we hope will be highlighted by James Suckling as he endeavours to discover real Aussie wine. Thankfully though, we have already discovered it and are continuing to fill our shelves with it, almost by the week. The freshness, elegance and precision of today’s Australian wines are the perfect indication of the level of wine being produced in the country today and we feel our portfolio offers an insight into some of Australia’s very best “real Aussie wines”.
Our Premium Aussie
By far Australia’s most planted white grape variety, found across the country from Margaret River to Tasmania, Chardonnay is enjoying a much deserved renaissance in Australia and for good reason. It is no accident that our list of Chardonnays is growing, with new additions from Margaret River and the arrival of Pierro and Domaine Naturaliste, not to mention the newest, multi gold medal winning release from our Deep Woods. From Yarra Valley we have brought on board Hoddles Creek and some truly special additions to our Tasmanian range from Sailor Seeks Horse and the super exclusive Mewstone and Hughes & Hughes (more to come about these) which are all on their way.
Australian Chardonnay can take many forms, capable of being both light and mineral or rich and textured and right now, whatever its guise it is absolutely at the top of its game. It is now no secret, and very well documented, that Chardonnay from Australia is rivalling the best in the world for quality and far surpassing them in value and we are delighted to be able to bring you some of the country’s very best.
2015 Eileen Hardy Chardonnay
Tasmania, Yarra Valley and Tumbarumba
98+ Points - Stuart McCloskey “A stunning bouquet offering a profusion of aromatics ranging from vanilla, lemon zest, Seville orange marmalade, wet limestone to maritime salinity and finishing with freshly grated, spicy ginger. The wine has put on some weight with a lovely silky textural feel, but far from viscous. Harmonious and exquisitely judged to be succinct. Flavours are more difficult to pin down at this stage, but one thing is certain, it’s effortless and washes across my palate with consummate ease. I love the spice, salinity – very maritime which changes with more aeration. Fascinating is the wine's development in the glass. As I mentioned in my previous notes - This would shame many white Burgundies at double the price. This is simply a beautiful Chardonnay which offers more potential for those with patience. Just magnificent and for me, the best Chardonnay in our portfolio. The value is unbelievable. I recommend drinking this superb wine from now to 2028. Sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glassware” Tasted 9 May, 2019
98 Points - Stuart McCloskey "Less expressive than some 2015’s however, decanting for thirty minutes to an hour and serving in a large Burgundy glass brings this wine alive. The wine is silky, graceful with mouth-coating waves of life affirming minerality. Real breadth and depth here with a laser-like focus. I love the juicy yellow stone fruits and spices. I imagine this will be utterly spectacular in another 6-8 years. It is the nectar of the Aussie Gods and would shame many a white Burgundy at double the price. I recommend drinking this stupendous wine from now to 2028 and beyond (in good cellar conditions)." Tasted 27 March, 2018
98 Points – James Halliday "From Tasmania, the Yarra Valley and Tumbarumba. Gleaming straw-green; manages to effortlessly combine power and intensity with elegance and glorious varietal fruit expression. White stone fruit is at the very heart of a palate that aspires to perfection. Quality French oak and minerally acidity play their parts, albeit largely forgotten in the wealth of fruit."
NEW: 2016 Domaine Naturaliste Artus Chardonnay
97+ Points - Stuart McCloskey “The wine demands some aeration and reveals a crystalline, mineral-driven bouquet with nashi pear, white flowers, oatmeal and a whiff of smoky sulphide. The palate is certainly complex with flavours ranging from stonefruit, lemon peel and touches of anise. Concentrated but at the same time supremely measured and seamless. The palate offers a lovely glossy texture and is incredibly satisfying. Flavours expand from citrus notes, limestone, smoked almond to more oatmeal. Everything is kept in check with a healthy wash of acidity. A wine of immense potential and will only improve with more cellaring (3-8 years). I love this. Served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware”.
97 Points - James Halliday "Hand-picked, whole-bunch pressed, cloudy juice wild-fermented in French oak (40% new), matured for 12 months. It's exceptionally fresh and pure, white peach and nectarine at its core. Roasted cashew and citrussy acidity dance around the core, creating a very long and crisp finish."
£35.95 per bottle
"The wine lives up to its reputation as
one of Australia's greatest chardonnays"
2016 Petaluma Tiers Chardonnay
97 Points - James Halliday "The wine lives up to its reputation as one of Australia's greatest chardonnays, and you wonder why it isn't more frequently mentioned in dispatches. The answer is at least partly due to the very small amounts judged by Petaluma to be up to the strict standards set. Grapefruit leads the superb flavours of the palate, white peach in close attendance. The acidity is precise, the oak merely
a means to an end."
£24.95 per bottle
2016 By Farr 'Cote Vineyard' GC Chardonnay
95 Points - Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front "From a high density planting of chardonnay on an exposed cote at Geelong. It’s so settled and so pure. It pleases from the outset and all the way along the line but it really sparks up as it passes through the finish. Grapefruit, white peach, lime spider and a mass of crackly spice notes. It’s not a showy wine, it has no need to be, but it’s not low key either. It’s like old money in that sense; it’s not gaudy but it still tastes rich."
£70.00 per bottle
"Pierro is renowned for its stylish white wines, which often exhibit tremendous complexity; the Chardonnay can be monumental in its weight and texture."
2017 Pierro Chardonnay
Winemakers notes "100% Chardonnay Handpicked, hand-sorted, gently whole-bunch pressed. Fermented and matured in French oak (50% new, 50% one year old). Malolactic secondary fermentation. Hand-stirred on the lees for 12 months.
Following on from the low yielding 2015 and 2016 vintages, 2017 saw a return to normal yields. Summer was cool and there was rain late in March, after the chardonnay harvest at PIERRO had been completed. The 2017 continues the remarkable consistency and quality that is PIERRO Chardonnay. More aromatic than usual with hints of apple, melon and butterscotch. The palate is delicate and intense with length and precision. A wine that will build complexity with age and will reward cellaring."
£42.95 per bottle
2012 Robert Oatley The Pennant Chardonnay
Only 3 Bottles Remain!
98+ Points - Stuart McCloskey "Robert’s 2010 was one of my standout wines of 2017 however, the 2012’s incisiveness and energy gives it the edge for me, which is quite a thrill. The wine needs decanting and opens beautifully in the glass with a stunningly complex nose. Perhaps the maritime climate of Margaret River has captured the very essence of marine life with oyster shell clearly evident on the nose. There is an incredible purity and laser-like focus without losing sense of presence or weight. I would argue the wine's greatest component is its intellect and sense of balance which I rarely come across outside of (great) Burgundy. This is magnificent and a benchmark to all producers in the great Margaret River. Drinking now to 2022."
97 Points - James Halliday "Gleaming straw-green; a high quality chardonnay that is ageing with grace, still fresh as a daisy with years to go before reaching its zenith. The bouquet is decidedly complex, the palate with grapefruit zest and precise acidity drawing out its length and aftertaste."
£27.95 per bottle
Exclusive to The Vinorium
Delivery available late July / early August 2019
Our very first order is on its way to the UK shores from one of Yarra Valley’s best producers. Franco D’Anna, winemaker & owner at Hoddles Creek Estate, is a magician with Chardonnay with many believing he is one of Australia’s best.
The 2017 vintage in the Yarra Valley will go down as one of the classics. A long season, with enough rainfall to support growth without the need for irrigation, resulting in a stupendous 2017 1er Cru Chardonnay, which is sourced from Franco’s Top Paddock vineyard and is made only in the years deemed suitable for this label. The wine is fermented in mainly 2nd and 3rd fill (it changes depending on the season) and is stored in cask for 12 months then a further 3 months in stainless tanks over winter. Spending two winters in the cellar enables Franco’s team to bottle without filtration, fining or stabilisation.
We are also bringing across their 2017 & 2018 Estate Chardonnay with the Estate Pinot Noir available later this year. The ’17 was showing fabulously last year and as Gary Walsh of The Wine front penned “if you can’t buy with confidence from this producer in 2017, then there’s probably something wrong with you”.
2017 Hoddles Creek 1er Chardonnay
95 Points - Campbell Mattinson, The Winefront "This is swish. Straw-yellow in colour, stone fruit riddled, shy on the nose but textural and alive on the palate. A gentle creaminess, spice notes, slate even, honeysuckle and toast. Extremely pure. Flowing robes of flavour. Grapefruit-like bite to the aftertaste, as a distinct positive. It’s still gathering itself but already it’s a treat to drink. A beautiful, beautiful wine."
£30.50 per bottle
** Delivery available late July / early August 2019 **
Hoddles Creek Estate Chardonnay 2017
95 Points - James Halliday
"This is Wickhams Road's twin playing games with you, for there is that little bit more of every facet of Wickhams Road present in this wine, even its colour is that little bit greener. It's the extra dimension of the faintly reductive aftertaste that draws me back for more."
£17.50 per bottle
**Available for delivery late July / early August 2019**
Hoddles Creek Estate Chardonnay 2018
93+ Points - Gary Walsh
(The Wine Front) "Juicy and peachy, spiced oatmeal, fennel and a little stuck match. It’s flavoursome with ripe pear and nectarine flavour, flinty texture, an appealing grapefruit cut to the acidity, and a long, well-defined chalky finish. Feel the quality of quiet confidence. It’s a great thing to drink even as a young wine, though a couple of years will help it along too."
£17.50 per bottle
**Available for delivery late July / early August 2019**
2017 Deep Woods Reserve Chardonnay
• Royal Adelaide Wine Show 2018 - Best Chardonnay & Most outstanding white wine
• Margaret River Wine Show 2018: Gold
• Perth Royal Wine Awards 2018: Gold
• Royal Hobart Wine Show 2018: Gold
• Royal Melbourne Wine Awards 2018: Gold
• Sydney Royal Wine Show 2018: Gold
98+ Points - Stuart McCloskey “Ultra-pure and textbook Julian Langworthy. Developing in the glass with lemon oil & zest, floral, a touch of new oak. The palate is tensile, reserved and offering breathtaking balance and precision rather than power. The wine exudes confidence with effortless ease. The texture is glossy / svelte with judicious touches of mouth-watering salty acidity. Thrilling and by far one of the most structured Chardonnays in our portfolio. Magisterial achievement and a benchmark Australian Chardonnay. Unapologetically Margaret River but for quality, comfortably Grand Cru Burgundy… Such is the skill; I would love to see Julian crafting Pinot Noir” Served in Zalto Bordeaux (The most essential wine tool to own) and I suggest decanting for 20-30 minutes. Drinking window from 2019 to 2030.
98 Points - Decanter "Sweet rock melon aromas. Nice focus, with the palate holding back before catapulting the fruit long and hard. Grapefruit oil and roast lime notes. Terrific clarity and zestiness, with verve and coolness. Very Margaret River! Not trying to be Burgundy. Terrific purity and charge, with restraint." Sarah Ahmed
£35.95 per bottle
(James Halliday 2019 Winemaker of the year: Julian Langworthy)
2016 Deep Woods Reserve Chardonnay
• Margaret River Wine Show 2017: Gold Medal
• Halliday Wine Companion Awards - Top Rated Chardonnay 2019
• Royal Queensland Wine Show 2017 - Gold
• Royal Adelaide Wine Show 2017 - Gold
• Perth Royal Wine Show 2017 - Gold
• Wine Show of Western Australia 2017 - Gold
• National Wine Show of Australia 2017 - Gold
• Royal Hobart Wine Show 2017 - Gold
97 Points - James Halliday "Five gold medals in the second half of '17 will have been added to by the time of publication. Mainly sourced from Wilyabrup, the wine has a special type of phenolic grip (not limited to white wines) that makes the taster incapable of doing anything other than swallow it (bad phenolics have the opposite effect). A special wine, with perfect fruit/oak balance."
£35.95 per bottle
2015 Deep Woods
James Halliday "A number of batches picked, each whole bunch-pressed to used French oak barrels for wild fermentation and 6 months maturation on lees. Very much a la mode, reducing the impact of oak to the texture, not flavour, picking the grapes at the crucial moment to ensure maximum varietal expression (no wannabe sauvignon blanc), yet retain crisp acidity, and offering a Margaret River chardonnay at a mouthwatering price."
£17.95 per bottle
Acclaimed Margaret River winemaker Julian Langworthy and wife Alana are turning heads with their own boutique label, Nocturne. This Chardonnay is their take on the famous regional style, with great success. Born and raised in the region Julian has developed close relationships with some of Margaret River's finest growers, with this Chardonnay coming from a single vineyard in Treeton, planted to some of the region's best-suited clones.
£27.95 per bottle
96 Points - James Halliday
"Hand-picked, whole bunch-pressed, fermented in French oak (15% new), with natural mlf; 11 months in oak. Gleaming green-gold; the cashew/walnut complexity of the bouquet carries through to the palate, but here takes second place to its intense pink grapefruit core. Awesome second-tier wine."
£23.95 per bottle
2015 Flowstone Queen of the Earth Chardonnay
97 Points - James Halliday "The 'lucky' 7th vintage, whole-bunch pressed, fermented in French barriques (50% new), 100% mlf, matured for 18 months. The brilliant straw-green hue says there's something special here, for it's incredibly detailed, precise and balanced, the three spears of perfect varietal fruit, high quality oak and acidity all unsheathed, but not required to be thrown. Only 88 dozen made."
£27.95 per bottle
Watershed's Awakening is the elite of the range, and their flagship Chardonnay which has been treated to an extravagant vinification by a highly accomplished team is something very special indeed. Artisanal Burgundian winemaking techniques are used to infuse the palate with rich textures and lees complexity. Awakening is vinified exclusively from handpicked grapes, grown to a single, choice block of vine on the Watershed property. Inoculated by wild indigenous yeasts and completely barrel fermented in a selection of new and one year old French oak barriques for a wine of remarkable richness and complexity. Of course, this is also a winner of multiple awards, conspicuous national wine show accolades and another 98 points from James Halliday.
Awakening Single Block Chardonnay
98 Points -
James Halliday Top 100 2017
"The soaring intensity and precision of the wine obliterates any comment about the oak. It is one of those uncommon chardonnays that demands you give it time, the more the merrier. Grapefruit is the masthead, but it gathers around it a suite of flavours that keep its energy and drive on track."
£33.95 per bottle
Awakening Single Block Chardonnay
This Chardonnay for the Awakening range has been produced using handpicked fruit from the Watershed Estate vineyard. The wine exhibits intense aromas of citrus and stone fruit accompanied with notes of spice and roasted cashew nuts. On the palate, the dense creamy texture is complemented by grapefruit and mineral notes followed by a long nutty finish.
£29.50 per bottle
Quality over quantity
Premium Aussie wine booms in the UK
( and we like to think we had a little something to do with it)
Written by Peter Robinson
The image of Australian wine has suffered in the past from volume-lead brands that had dominated the Australian section of supermarket shelves, but recent reports suggest that this is changing. According to Wine Australia, Australian wine is number one in the UK off-trade which consists of both supermarkets and independent retailers and is continuing to grow with exports of Australian wine to the UK growing in value by 4% in 2018.
This is no surprise to us but the interesting fact to point out is that export volume actually declined by 3%. The volume sector is dominated by familiar names which ship bulk wine, some of which are bottled in the UK, to fill the supermarket shelves. This is very muchAccolade’s niche in the UK, having the largest bottling and labelling facility in Europe which is based in Bristol. These premium wines are a far cry from the bulk wines of the past which were responsible for previously tarnishing the reputation of many of Australia’s wines and grapes. All I can say is that anyone who is still strictly opposed to drinking Aussie Chardonnay is missing out on many of the best value chardys around. Some familiar names such as Hardys, Wolf Blass and Penfolds can all be found in the sub £10 section of supermarket shelves but how many, bar those of us that are lucky enough to be in the know, are aware of the premium wines from these producers? Ok, maybe Penfolds Grange is famous enough but how many UK wine drinkers are aware that Wolf Blass Black Label is almost as iconic as Grange, and how many know about the more premium offerings from Hardys such as the Eileen’s, Thomas Hardy or HRB?
I have a brother who lives in Australia and a few years back, I asked him what he drank over there to which he replied, “Hardys.” I’m embarrassed to admit that I smirked when he said that as, all I knew of Hardys back then was the volume brands on the supermarket shelves. Before joining The Vinorium I worked for a merchant that stocked 50% French wine, a large percentage of that being Burgundy to which I remain a big fan. But to taste the Eileen Hardy Chardonnay for the first time was a revelation. Having been paying upwards of £40 a bottle for a Burgundy of the same quality left me feeling that one, I’d been overpaying and two, ashamed of my previous perception of the Hardys brand. So much of the price tag of Burgundy wine is attached to the name and this is no wonder given that in 2017, the average cost of a Cote d’Or vineyard was 5 million euros a hectare. Whilst we’re on the subject of Burgundy, I had also been lucky enough to drink a bottle of Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 1998 which I paid £80 for. This is definitely on the list of my all-time greatest Pinots, but I do wonder how much of this is being led by what is written on the label. I can say with genuine honesty, that I got as much enjoyment out of the Glaetzer-Dixon Reveur and the soon to be stocked, Sailor Seeks Horse Pinot Noir at half the price which both sit alongside the Charmes-Chambertin as my three all-time greats.
To get back to subject, what does it mean for Australian wine to be seeing continuous growth in terms of value but a decline in terms of volume?
It means that overall, the UK palate is becoming more refined and more people are choosing to explore the premium side of Australian wine. A recent poll has shown that the last year has seen a 30% increase in consumers paying more for a bottle of wine to drink at home, and people would rather spend money on a good wine than spend it on a night out. There has also been an increase by a third, of people stating that they won’t buy wine in pubs, which is understandable, as a less than average bottle of wine in a pub will cost the same as a good bottle of wine bought from a retailer. The interesting fact is that the average price of a bottle of wine sold by UK retailers (a statistic that will include and most likely be led by supermarkets) remains at just £4.92, a price point that is covered by the large, volume led brands which are in decline. The average price of a bottle sold by The Vinorium is £32.60 and the fact that our customer base continues to increase each week is a clear indication of the country’s shift towards quality.
The volume led brands will always have their place and can offer some good value for many. But perhaps a lot of people are realising that as current UK duty on a bottle of wine stands at £2.23 for still wines with alcohol of 15% and below and £2.86 for fizz, VAT is 20%, add this to the many other costs which will include packaging and shipping and of course the retailer’s and the importer’s margins, then for a low cost bottle of wine, very little of what you pay is actually for wine. The majority of UK retailers will buy from UK based importers so there will be the importer’s margin as well as the retailer’s margin.
This reminds me to mention that over the weekend, I enjoyed a bottle of Akitu A1 (very good by the way) which I bought from The Vinorium before joining the team. The reason I bought it was that in my current job back then, I sold Akitu’s second wine, A2 for the same price that The Vinorium was selling the A1 for and couldn’t work out why. I’ve subsequently realised that The Vinorium were the first to ship the Akitu wines so are selling it with only one margin. We had bought it from an importer so obviously had their margin to contend with and were listing the less premium wine for the same price. At The Vinorium, we are in a privileged position to be able to ship many wines direct from producers, evident in our growing list of exclusives which is why we can offer our wines at the price we do.
The nation is beginning to realise that spending a few pounds more on a bottle of Australian wine will reward them with a quality of wine that far surpasses the extra investment. Australian wine scooped up a staggering third of all the medals at the London Wine Competition and continues to be the UK’s number one. It is reassuring to know that perceptions are changing, and the understanding of quality wine is improving. People are moving away from the volume led brands and focussing on quality as we (the UK’s number one Australian wine merchant) are positioned right at the forefront of this. With Australia’s wine exports to the UK growing by 4% in value, it does lead me to wonder how much of this growth we are responsible for?
Please note: Our warehouse is closed on Wednesday for a full stock check.
No orders will be dispatched on Wednesday 22nd May