Issue: 37 / Sunday 26 August, 2018
Photo taken whilst climbing in the Karakoram Himalaya. Circa 21,500ft
It’s been a whirlwind of a week with the team’s feet barely touching the ground. Our sale, which we launched on Friday 17th has been quite a shock to the system with sales reaching an unprecedented and certainly unexpected level. I can honestly declare that I sat at home on Friday evening wondering how on earth are we going to cope with the enormous influx of orders.
My team arrived bright and very early on Monday morning and were faced with a military scale operation, which I prepared over the course of the weekend. The entire team spent eight hours picking, packing and dispatching each and every order on time. We are no Amazon, but the plan was executed brilliantly.
I thought you would appreciate a few stats associated with week #1 of our sale.
Michelle, my loyal bookkeeper donned her warehouse attire and joined the rest of us. Her Apple watch recorded some spectacular physical achievements; 15,348 footsteps which equates to 11.1 kilometres. Mightily impressive given this distance was covered in our warehouse alone!
We received more orders than the entire month of December 2017 which is a staggering achievement given the importance of Christmas in our industry. 63 products / wines have completely sold-out with untold numbers on the verge of being added to the list. Close to 1,000 bottles leave our warehouses daily, resulting in our courier partner, dispatching two vehicles to cope with the volume. To date, only one bottle was dispatched incorrectly which is credit to my excellent team – hats off to their sheer hard work, dedication and diligence.
Given the sheer number of sell-outs, (there are too many to list individually) some of you have the final stocks with the vast majority gone for good.
For me, and if I had to choose one wine which I will miss the most (sounds rather daft I know), the 2005 Robertson of Clare Max V Red is the one. Unquestionably, the standout Cabernet blend amongst our entire portfolio. This is an utterly magnificent, towering masterpiece that now firmly sits in my ‘top 10’ best value wines of the past decade. New custodians have something very special in their cellars for what is quite frankly a bargain. I am in contact with Robertson of Clare regarding next year’s vintage of Max V. I am intrigued to sample their most recent vintage and to assess how stylistically it compares with the great ’05 (age aside of course).
Despite announcing our sale will include our trade customers, we have for the sake of packing and administrative sanity, only sent our list to seven customers. Another thought-provoking stat for you. We have close to 5,000 global private clients who received our sale offer. Interestingly, our seven trade clients purchased £16,500 more than our entire private client base (of course, not everyone taking advantage of our sale) during the course of last week. For the time being, I have decided to keep our sale focused towards you, our private customers as I worry that too many wines will sell-out. Our trade customers will receive the remnants on 3 September when we close our on-line and in-store ‘private client’ sale which I believe is fair. Moreover, and given the scale of orders, I must commercially balance running a wine company with little stock which does not sit well with me. I suppose, this is a great position to be in, but balance will win over.
I must also take this opportunity to apologise for the briefness of our Weekend Read – I am sure we will be forgiven as our warehouse duties have taken precedence this week.
Finally, I want to thank you all for your kind and generous orders.
Decanter, the world-famous wine-lifestyle magazine, published in 90 countries and famed for their World Wine & Retailer Awards, shortlisted The Vinorium as Regional Wine Merchant of the Year, which we are truly delighted with. We nervously wait to see if we have won the Decanter Specialist Wine Retailer for Australia but anxiously may have to wait until the awards ceremony on 20 September. On Wednesday and out of the blue, we received an email from International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) congratulating The Vinorium for being nominated to go forward for the IWSCs Independent Wine Retailer of the Year 2018. Of course, we’ll keep you posted.
A report by Liza B Zimmerman on the Wine-Searcher website reveals that the world’s largest cork maker Amorim has developed a technique called NDtech (short for “non-discernable”), which uses gas chromatography to detect any cork with 0.05 nanograms of TCA per litre and removes it from the production line.
A spokesman for the company says “There should be no TCA in natural cork by 2020.” 18 years ago I visited Amorim’s factory in Portugal and later had dinner with CEO Antonio Amorim, who explained how they had accepted a small amount of cork taint in their closures and expected their cork distributors to manage the problem. However, the recent acceptance of alternative closures posed a threat to their market and reducing cork taint would help to retain the loyalty of cork customers.
They had invested in gas chromatographs to detect the presence of TCA, the chemical that causes cork taint, and as a result had modified production methods, which helped them reduce cork taint by around 50%. Changes to cork production included changing the water between batches of cork bark during the washing process and using metal rather than wooden pallets to hole sheets of cork bark during the drying process – wooden pallets were found to be infected with TCA.
The Diam closure also claims to have eliminated cork taint by grinding cork into small chips and treating them with supercritical CO2 to extract the volatile compounds, including TCA, which give a taste to the wine. The chips are then glued together to form a cork-like plug. In 2015 Diam released a new product, Origine, which uses a beeswax emulsion and binding agent composed of 100% plant-derived polyphenols.
The prospect of TCA-free corks is good news. I doubt that it will encourage many screwcap and Diam users to switch to cork, but it should slow the current rate of defectors from cork to alternative closures.
Meanwhile, if you do come across a bottle of wine that’s corked try wrapping a plastic supermarket shopping bag around a teaspoon and use it to stir the wine. According to the Australian Wine Research Institute, much of the TCA will bind to a polymer in the plastic and significantly reduce the level of cork taint. Trust me, it works...
Wendouree: The mythical Clare
Written by Stuart McCloskey
The aura of sacredness and rarity surrounding this winery is something that very few, anywhere, can lay claim to. The ancient plantings produce extremely low yields from unirrigated vines of Shiraz, Malbec, Mataro (Mourvédre) and Cabernet Sauvignon, many of them growing on un-trellised bush-vines and with no Wendouree website or email, there is an inability to contact the custodians of these treasures. Many things combine to make the legend what it is, and that legend is Wendouree Wines: a 1914 stone winery, its original equipment, the time-honoured method of wine making and the time-forgotten vineyard at Clare Valley Australia.
But the character of the wines is what really makes this small estate one of the greatest, most elusive and highly collectible producers of full-bodied red wines on this planet. And, for many, this is where the challenge lies because these are wines unlike any others. They have carved out their own genre; they are self-defining and stylistic comparisons are always difficult, often pointless.
Their graceful ageing is something that winemakers respect and envy; their ability to bury complexity deep, to sustain over time and to deliver structure and tannins that drive slow, steady and deliberate across the palate. The haunting depth of old vines and the distinct, eucalypt-tinged aromas are arresting. The unfettered and raw honesty of their style is something that few vignerons can execute, let alone summon the courage to try.
The Mailing List: Wendouree’s customer list and allocation system is as hallowed as the wines themselves. They operate from a simple box file - regulars receive 6 of each, should they request them. There are no short cuts. If the list is full, you must wait your turn, no matter who you are.
Tony & Lita Brady (custodians of Wendouree since 1979) genuinely do not care for attention of any kind. There is no cellar door, no website, no distribution network, no salespeople, not even an email address. To communicate with the Bradys is by telephone, handwritten letter or in person. To that end, I am heading down to Australia later this year and will certainly be knocking on their door as surely, it’s about time these truly great wines have a regular home in the UK.
Until then, the journey of owning a collection of Wendouree is a privilege and something I am willing to share. I am considering organising an informal tasting for ten of our customers. I thought an evening pouring and collectively musing over these great wines would be fun. It will be a paid, ticketed event at £125 per head and held at our HQ in Kent during October. Date to be confirmed once I have received interest.
The wines on show: 1996, 2000 & 2005 Shiraz Mataro, 1999 & 2001 Shiraz Malbec, 2006 Malbec, 2001 & 2005 Cabernet Malbec and a few surprises.
Drop me an email if you would like to attend and I’ll firm dates.