Issue: 97 / Sunday 19 January, 2020
I start with declaring an olive oil crisis with our two favourite producers; Capezzana and Fontodi. Both producers claim a 75% reduction in production levels for their newly released 2019’s. Stocks of both oils arrived with us in December and have subsequently sold-out. We have a few bottles of the ’18 Capezzana available, the remainder of our Miraval and then we are without stocks until December. Granted, it’s a long wait and disappointing as we sell close to 700 bottles each vintage…
Despite last week’s healthy annual report, our HQ shop sales dropped in 2019, and for the first time, with 101 fewer orders passing through our till. The high street has been suffering for years with more and more customers preferring the online option, which our figures support. Rather than closing, we are reducing our Saturday open days to the dates highlighted below as it is commercially important to concentrate on the days which count! That said, I am not one to concede and Magda and I will be upping the ante with tempting samples served through our specialist Enomatic machine. All complimentary of course… This is also a great opportunity to sample wines with matching Zalto glassware – You can test for yourselves and see what all the fuss is about (and much of it is created by yours truly).
Unfortunately, our preferred UK courier, DHL have increased their costs. They declare this is in support of their ‘green’ efforts however, many of their delivery drivers are self-employed and have no intention of reverting to battery powered white vans. Despite the increase, our prices remain unchanged and will do so until our annual review, January 2021. Last year, we spent £40,000 on UK shipping and packaging – quite staggering when you consider we are absorbing £25,000 by offering free deliveries with orders exceeding £100.00 (around 700 orders dipped below this threshold). ‘Bomb proof’ packaging is essential and costs a small fortune with £15,000 being spent last year. We do receive complaints from customers regarding the amount of packaging used and we would prefer not to repack each order, but and as standard across the entire UK delivery network, is the lack of insurance cover for wine / glassware products. I would envisage a substantial weekly loss if we did not invest in our packaging. Moreover, we are conscious of our environment (all bottles are recycled, and we are close to operating a paperless office) and the bulk of our packaging investment is spent in the form of re-formed recycled paper which is 100% bio-degradable and super for your compost heap.
What’s in store for 2020? Good question, as the UK wine press has been publishing an overabundance of articles focussing on fashions for the coming year. Wine in cans, low alcohol wines, more natural wines, vegan wines, which carries on from the trend of a vegan, plant-based and flexitarian diet - even the use of CBD in our diets is set to soar, or so they predict. Personally, I believe far too many people are obsessed with following trends simply for the sake of it. Perhaps it’s considered uncool (clearly an old-fashioned phrase!) if you are not following the trends of 2020 however, the majority appear daft or you’ve missed the party. I kid you not – the daily email from Harpers (UK wine press) has just arrived in my inbox while I am writing. Today’s headline following Wednesday’s New Zealand tasting held in London “Alternative styles playing expanding role in export growth. Rosé, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir are among a slew of ‘alternative’ varieties and styles notching up a greater share of New Zealand’s collective wine exports, as “international appetite grows to expand the range.” This was one of the takeaways from the well-attended 2020 New Zealand annual trade tasting ...” A perfect case in point for clumsy wine journalism and more importantly, when has Kiwi Pinot Noir been considered “alternative?” Evidently, stupid is the new fashion!
My only prediction for 2020 is that many wine buyers are in search of amazing wines for less money. For argument’s sake – most wish to drink a £30/40 bottle each day however, most will only want to spend £15 to £20 with more for weekend treats and top-ups, and why not? To some degree this is not possible however, we set ourselves the annual task of over-delivering on quality. There is nothing more satisfying than working with a producer whose wines should be more expensive. You can see the excitement on the team’s eyes as we are sampling, all whilst looking at our costing document. Nods of approval, broadening smiles and lots of ‘wows’ when we all consider these wines to be worth at least another ten-pounds. But we remain fair, far from greedy and always aim to overdeliver on quality.
That said, I am conscious that most of our £15 to £20 range has dwindled and we are seeking new alternatives. I do struggle with lower priced Pinot Noir. Less forgiving as I often find them green and weedy (with a few exceptions – Soumah particularly which are marvellous). Grenache, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay can produce some real beauties for sub twenty quid and that’s the target for 2020 as I would love to see a range of ‘house’ Vinorium wines which will blow your socks off.
Australia is our key focus and we are excited to announce three, new exclusivities. One, which is offered in much excited detail is listed below and comes highly recommended. Magda and I spent a great day with Angus Vinden of Vinden Estate, Pokolbin, Hunter Valley. He’s certainly a rising star and has already received a list of glowing awards and tributes including; Rising Star of the Hunter Valley, 5 Stars James Halliday 2019, named a Dark Horse Winery by James Halliday in 2018, Top 50 Winemakers in Australia 2019 and a nice quote from Mike Bennie “Fast becoming one of the ‘wineries to watch’ in the Hunter.” Angus produces some cracking wines and we have shipped a lovely selection including our first Hunter Semillon – take a peek at our range here. The wines arrive in the UK later next month when they will be available by the bottle. Until then, and to help with our stock administration, all wines which are either abroad or on the water will only be offered by the case…
We’ve also partnered with one of Barossa’s benchmark wineries; Greenock Creek, with the task of expanding their reach throughout the UK, Europe and the USA. Our bountiful order of 2,000 bottles arrives late February early March. We will also be introducing two, new wines – The Sibling Cabernet Sauvignon, harvested from vineyards in the Northern Barossa sub-region of Ebenezer and their Marananga Shiraz, harvested from a vineyard in the heart of the Marananga sub-region, which is renowned for producing rich and silky wines. Currently, this shipment is not available on our website as we are hoping to be able to offer customers some very special prices (as a one-off and with the kind support of the winery). We’ll revert in the coming weeks if we are successful in our plan.
Magda and I have been working incredibly hard with our USA project. It’s ambitious as we aim to bring at least ten, new wineries to The Vinorium on an exclusive basis. Many emails and telephone calls have taken place – samples will be arriving over the coming weeks. Shipping from the USA is very expensive (a substantial increase compared to Australia) and most producers charge a darn sight more for their wines. Our philosophy remains unchanged as we must provide wines which are worthy, and truly so, for their respective price tags. Being agents certainly cuts out the middleman and perhaps 25% of costs which we hope will be reflected in our offerings. We will keep you posted with each new winery (good or bad news).
Wishing you a fabulous Sunday,
Petaluma Tiers Chardonnay 2016
97++ Points, Stuart McCloskey
“Sourced from the very first planting of Chardonnay in the Adelaide Hills and continues to be revered as one of Australia's greatest Chardonnays. The current bottle price of $115.00 supports its domestic reputation. Struck match fades with a few minutes of aeration to reveal a whole spectrum of aromas ranging from confit lemon, sea spray, freshly squeezed lemon and lime, lots of minerality and a background of beeswax. The palate is flawless, everlasting with the weight and crystalline delineation of a Grand Cru Burgundy. It’s certainly not shy in coming forward but does offer enough restraint not to be too overwhelming. There’s a lovely satin texture with a killer line of acidity running through its core. More savoury than fruity with white toast, cashew and creamy chalkiness / oiliness which coats the palate. Harmonious and the little bottle age has done it wonders. Clearly, we should seriously re-consider our price! Drink now through to 2030. Served with Zalto Bordeaux glassware.”
£26.95 per bottle
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.
As I alluded to in our 2019 Wine of the Year article – Eastern Peake would have featured (perhaps even won) if our stocks had arrived in the UK before Christmas. Nevertheless, what better way to start the year with a sure bet for our 2020 awards. Owen will certainly feature as one of our Wine Producers of the Year and there are two wines which are strong contenders for Wine of the Year 2020. His Morillon Block (arriving this spring) has set the benchmark for the year ahead – certainly for Pinot Noir and the 2016 Intrinsic Chardonnay, which if placed in a blind Grand Cru Burgundy tasting would fit in a treat. Declaring our Wine(s) of the Year in January does appear rather premature however, let’s just say it’s going to take something very special to knock these off their top spots…The challenge has been set.
Eastern Peake Intrinsic Chardonnay 2016
98++ Points - Stuart McCloskey “Unfolding in the glass with wonderful aromas of sweet, buttered pastry, citrus oil, vanilla bean, sesame and saline. The texture is incredible, lavish and coats every facet. The sheer depth for such a young Chardonnay is quite astonishing and will be at its peak in 3-4 years. A characteristic of warm bread with a creamy nuttiness is super-attractive as is the indescribable textural sensation. Satiny smooth certainly describes aspects but the sheer completeness is a tougher task. This is far from blousy – femininity and precision being the optimum characteristics. The acidity is clear and helps balance that textural element. One of the best ‘young’ Aussie Chardonnays I have sampled in a very long time. Almost speechless, therefore I should shut up. Served in Zalto Bordeaux glassware (Do not overchill – circa 11 degrees will be perfect).”
or £248.25 per case of 12 IB
The team and I were gobsmacked with the entire sample line-up which arrived during the summer. There was not a wine (and we sampled 24 separate bottles) which did not impress. Owen’s Pinot Noirs dating back to 2001 were an utter privilege and a joy. So much so, we drank rather than ‘sampled’ every bottle over the course of a fortnight. Order two was placed on Christmas Eve and before we had time to announce our opening order’s arrival. This is a first and highlights how much we love Owen’s superb wines. Our second order which will be arriving late March / early April, contains rare, library wines. I acknowledge the use of the word ‘rare’ is overused in our industry however, it is uncommon for Aussie producers to keep stocks back for re-sale a decade on. But, Owen has agreed to sell his Estate and Intrinsic Pinot Noirs from 2001 to and including 2012. Only twelve vertical cases will be available – please register your interest to the team. Several mature vintages will also be offered as standalone purchases however, quantities are miniscule and range from 36 to 48 bottles.
Rosé, whether it be from Australia or Provence just never puts a smile on my face. Often, I am left underwhelmed and find the pinkish liquid pointless (I respect this is rather unforgiving) however, may I introduce you to the only Rosé (outside of Champagne) which has put a whopping smile on my face. I present Owen’s brilliantly named Pinot Taché which is always produced from 100% Pinot Noir. Sourced from a parcel in the vineyard picked for Rosé (made for purpose) and left on lees for 16 months which adds a beautiful, weighty texture. There’s no fining, filtering or tinkering (the same standard for all of Owen’s wines). Simply, the wine is thoughtfully produced to reflect where the grapes were grown. There is no need to wait for the summer – sunshine is not required as this should be appreciated as much as a serious bottle of white wine. Moreover, we only have 180 bottles and my team will be your biggest competitors when it comes to placing orders.
Eastern Peake Pinot Taché 2018
or £158.25 per case of 12 IB
Did I mention that Owen produces the best SO2 free Syrah to come out of Australia? SO2 is used regularly in wineries to prevent or kill unwanted yeasts and bacteria, and to protect wine from oxidation although, the debate deepens as alcohol in wine acts like a preservative and prohibits the growth of pathogens. Some winemakers state that it is not possible to make good wine without sulphur dioxide and some winemakers (and we’ve sampled them) use far too much, leaving a spritzy tickle on the palate. Owen is proof that it’s possible to produce great wine if you have the skills, and that’s the overriding factor…
Eastern Peake Project Zero SO2 Syrah 2016
or £222.75 per case of 12 IB
Eastern Peake was a small project that evolved from very humble beginnings. Dianne Pym and Norman Latta purchased their property in the late 1970s in the tiny township of Coghills Creek, Western Victoria just 25 km north west from the City Of Ballarat. The idea was to build a Mud Brick home, grow and make all of their own food to be self sufficient on the land and escape from Melbourne, where Norman had grown up. They successfully built their own home, grew vegetables, had livestock on their beautiful piece of land over looking the Creswick Valley to the east with a dramatic backdrop to the west with the Granite outcrop of Eastern Peake on Mount Bolton.
Dianne loved wine, there was something about it that fascinated her. The Australian Wine industry was pretty small at that time, you could visit wineries and generally every time meet the family who ran it. This really resonated with her that you could capture a season of work in a bottle to preserve it for generations to come.
In 1981 a young winemaker based up in the Grampians wine region placed an advertisement in the local paper. His name was Trevor Mast, working as the winemaker up at Best’s of Great Western alongside Viv Thompson, he was keen to branch out to make his own mark on the Australian Wine landscape. Trevor was scouting out potential parcels of land to grow Pinot Noir on an elevated cool-cold site. Dianne jumped at the chance sending off a letter of interest, their site seemed like it had the potential for fine Pinot Noir. Around 40 other applicants also applied. It was trimmed down to 5 potential sites, 2 went ahead. In November 1983, Norman and Dianne put the first Pinot Noir rootlings (MV6 Clone) in the ground at Eastern Peake. They had asked all the right questions and executed all the instructions. Becoming very successful at growing fine Pinot Noir straight away. Following the planting in January 1984, their son Owen was born.
They planted some more Pinot Noir (MV6) in 1989 including a rare clone from Best’s Vineyard called Morillion, Chardonnay went in 1991/1993 and in 1994 they planted the last block of Pinot Noir bringing the acreage under vine to 12.5 acres. It was at this time the Australian wine world was changing dramatically especially for the late, great Trevor Mast. He had purchased a vineyard with a small winery called Mount Langi Ghiran in 1987. It was gaining huge success from Shiraz and Riesling.
He really set the benchmark for the industry in 1989, Victoria was dealt with a wet cold vintage.
Trevor decided to risk everything leaving the Shiraz out longer than everyone else. It paid off, resulting in one of the great wines to emerge from Australia that season. He was described by the specialist media as a “whiz-kid” or “guru”. We later found out at Trevor’s funeral in 2012 that one of the cellar hands in the winery had ‘accidentally’ blended the Pinot Noir from Eastern Peake with all of the Mount Langi Shiraz.
Norman and Dianne had been growing Pinot Noir for Trevor for almost 10 years when he mentioned that they should start their own winemaking venture. Norman never had any intention of making wine, he had thought he’d always be a grape grower. This was quite a lot of information to process. They decided to jump straight in to begin the next chapter. Trevor, being an extremely generous human, gave them a basket press, a destemmer and some barrels all from the goodness of his heart to see them succeed. A winery was designed by Norman, with the help of Trevor insisting the use of small 3000L open concrete fermenters, urging him not to use stainless steel. A winery was constructed in 1994 just in time for the first 1995 vintage on the property.
At this time the right decision was made by Norman and Dianne. Langi was going from strength to strength with no room for Ballarat Pinot Noir. Tyson Stelzer wrote in the Wine Spectator, a prestigious American publication: ''Trevor Mast was a visionary decades before cool climate became a buzzword in the Australian wine industry.’' And In 1996, Trevor's 1994 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz was splashed across the front page of the Wine Spectator. It was accompanied by 1990 Penfold's Grange and 1993 Henschke Mount Edelstone with the headline: ''Shiraz - Australia Hits the Big Time.’' (Mind you, that was the 8th vintage of Langi, such an achievement being positioned next to generational Australian wine icons).
With all the fame it was still business as usual, Trevor said to Norman that he could buy back the excellent 1993 and 1994 vintages of Pinot Noir so that there was wine to make an income to get the business off the ground. Another great piece of advice was to make a dry Rosé from the Pinot, while the Chardonnay was coming into production. Trevor had great knowledge of fine wine from studying winemaking in Germany. He famously gave Dianne and Norman a bottle of Bandol Rosé, Domaine Tempier. He said; “try and make something like this if you like it,” the style was set from that moment.
Winemaking came naturally to Norman. Lots of great advice from one of the great mentors also helped. Advice such as “the vineyard is truly the key to making great wine, the winemaker is just there to help the progression. Don’t interfere too much with what you have already.” A hands off approach has always been the philosophy at Eastern Peake.
Norman was excited by the world of wine, especially after some exposure to drinking the wines of Volnay and Meursault through a good friend. He was keen to expand a little bit more, knowing he had planted the vines in the right place under the right guidance. He convinced his neighbours the Walsh’s to plant more Pinot Noir for him in 1995. Eastern Peake had now evolved into quite the small operation, beautiful vineyards producing fantastic fruit requiring no intervention in the winery. 2003 saw the final plantings go in for Eastern Peake, Neighbour Frank Walsh who was already growing Pinot Noir for Norman wanted to plant Syrah on his farm next door. Highly encouraged by the Latta’s, Frank went ahead putting in 1.25 acres of (PT23) Syrah.
From 1995 to 2004 Norman had a string of great vintages, as well as few learning curves along the way, it is essential for all to make mistakes as they help make better wine. Some of the most challenging wines from difficult vintages tell the greatest stories with age, such as 1996 and 2003 which are drinking so well at the moment.
1999 was the Vintage when Norman decided to throw Owen straight in the deep end by default. Back at this time Owen was 15 yrs old, he’d been around wine and vines all his life. He came home from school one afternoon to find out that Norman had an accident, tripping over a winery hose which resulted in severe concussion. Norman was side lined for the remainder of vintage. Owen’s parents said he would have to step up to look after the cellar and do as Norm would do. It wasn’t at all intimidating, it was business as usual. Punch downs in the morning before heading to school (getting in trouble at school for having wine stains on his shirt…they probably thought he was drinking) it was a great experience and a balancing act with study. This all cemented the fact that Owen wanted to be a winemaker, grape grower and farmer for the rest of his life - to be a part of this unique family business.
In 2002 Owen got an offer to go to University. A brand new Wine Science course opened that year in Geelong, this set the stage that he was going to pursue winemaking as a career path.
Owen worked his way through the course doing a few stints here and there at nearby vineyards and wineries. He then decided to move back to Eastern Peake in 2006 to help take over from Norman and Dianne. This decision was a tough one as the business was small and couldn’t provide an extra wage, work at a winery 45 mins away helped. In 2008 Owen went to work a vintage for a big winery in the Yarra Valley to get experience on how big places run. Then he travelled to Europe that year to see what it was like in Burgundy. His time in Europe really cemented the fact that his family had something truly special back in Australia. It was time to get serious about taking over from his parents.
From 2009 until 2016 Owen did dual vintages, working at another winery an hour away as their winemaker and at Eastern Peake. It was a rather full on time managing two wineries, two vineyards, doing contract winemaking, launching the Latta label, saying yes to everything and helping his wife Jenny set up her wineshop in nearby Daylesford.
In 2018 Owen was awarded the prestigious Gourmet Traveller Wine - Young Winemaker Of the Year award, such an unexpected reward.
The Vineyard at Eastern Peake sits at on a high plateau 430metres above sea level on the great dividing range, the climate is marginal continental on volcanic weathered basalt grey loam soils. The vineyards were dry grown for almost 20 years until recently, climate change has changed the weather pattens resulting in a lack of rain at the right time during the crucial moments of the season. Fortunately the region sits above an underground artesian water system accessed via a bore, if needed irrigation can be used.
Established with organic principles by default in the 80s as chemicals were too expensive to purchase, conventional methods had been used on a soft approach up until 2006. Regenerative farming then took place into the transition to more sustainable farming leaning on organics. From 2013 onwards organic methods have been the principle farming practice. The plan now is to move quickly towards biodynamics via Quantum Farming practices. The future is all about healthy soils so that healthy vines can thrive on this land. Winemaking is the relatively straight forward part. Farming for the future is the true key to success.
Eastern Peake Walsh Block Syrah 2016
or £222.75 per case of 12 IB
Eastern Peake Intrinsic Pinot Noir 2016
or £222.75 per case of 12 IB
Eastern Peake Mount Block Pinot Noir 2016
or £252.75 per case of 12 IB
Eastern Peake Intrinsic Pinot Noir 2009
or £292.75 per case of 12 IB
Please sit back and enjoy this 5 minute video introducing Eastern Peake winery.
(video will open in a new window)
Continuum receives another 100 points
100 Points - Antonio Galloni, Vinous "The 2016 Proprietary Red Wine Sage Mountain Vineyard may very well be the single greatest vintage made here thus far. It is quite simply a stunning wine and a towering achievement from the Mondavi family. Powerful, ample and sweeping in stature, the 2016 boasts breathtaking intensity in all of its dimensions. I see the pure, vibrant fruit of the 2013, but with more finessed tannins that add to the wine's feeling of real sensuality. Bright, precise and finely sculpted with remarkable persistence and perfectly integrated tannins, the 2016 is positively stellar - not to mention one of the wines of the vintage." - Tasted Jan 2020
£202.95 per bottle
227 bottles sold – Only 13 remain
and this is our last vintage…
New Arrivals available
online & in-store
Monday – Thursday, 8:30am – 5pm
Friday, 8:30am – 3pm
Saturday Openings & Hours:
10am – 4pm
29th February / 4th April / 6th June / 1st August / 5th September / 7th November / 12th December / 19th December
Christmas dates / times to be announced