Issue: 54 / Sunday 20 January, 2019
Doesn’t time fly as we gallop towards the end of January. It has been a busy start to our new year with several wines selling out and finding new homes across Europe. Precisely, 882 bottles (representing a complete sell-out) of the ’04 Craneford John Zilm Shiraz leaves our HQ warehouse next week to begin their journey to Denmark along with our entire stock holding of Two Hands Deer in Headlights (’04 Magnums). The ’03 John Zilm Shiraz is also teetering on the edge, which is no wonder given the special six-pack price tag.
Our Best Value Wine of the Year, 2018 (The superb Tasmanian Chardonnay from Bay of Fires) has sold a staggering 1,128 bottles since its arrival on the 25 November. Sadly, and at the current sales rate, our remaining 27 cases will be sold-out within a matter of week(s), which and for someone who survives on wine sales is desperate news as this is my weekday go-to wine, which never fails to put a big smile on my face. With your blessing, I will take a little stock for my own pleasure – Let’s say 36 bottles which takes the stock down to 24 cases…
You have been assisting wonderfully with making room for all our new arrivals. Our remaining two pallets of Kaesler Stonehorse Shiraz is now a small pile. The 2004 is reduced to our final 9 cases with the 2003 offering a little more (22 cases). Clearly, these wines have found much favour with you all as our starting stock figure (March ’17) stood at 4,000 bottles. 21 cases remain of the 2002 Henry’s Drive Cabernet Sauvignon which has been an important part of The Vinorium family for several years. It’s simply one of those rare wines which delivers on flavour, personality and has no equal at our special case price. Many Aussie winemakers have been astonished by its delivery and I will be a little sad to see this one go…
After a long journey and an unnecessary one-month delay in the UK, we have finally received all our new wines from Wild Duck Creek Estate, Kay Brothers and Two Hands.
We have officially partnered (UK Exclusivity) with Wild Duck Creek Estate and are delighted to be working with the father and son team, Liam & David Anderson. Wild Duck produces tiny quantities which regularly sell-out domestically however, our new shipment includes; 2013 Duck Muck, 2015 & 2016 Reserve Shiraz, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 2017 Roussanne, 2016 Alan’s Cabernet & 2016 Yellow Hammer Hill Shiraz Malbec.
As previously reported, we have officially joined forces with the McLaren Vale producer, Kay Brothers as their exclusive UK representative. Kay Brothers are firing on all cylinders and producing a portfolio of wine packed with quality. Our new arrivals include the world famous 2016 Block 6 Shiraz, the 32nd release of their flagship wine, which is handpicked from ancient, 124 year old vines. Long held in high esteem as one of McLaren Vale’s finest Shiraz plantings, Block 6 Shiraz continues the tradition at Kay Brothers of producing full bodied red wines that have the grace and pedigree to age for decades.
For the very first time, Amery Vineyard Griffons Key Grenache has arrived on UK shores. The fruit was hand-picked from a remarkably expressive parcel in the Amery vineyard.
Artisanal winemaking ensures a rich, concentrated and powerful style reflecting its name and character.
Critics are clearly loving the wine with Joe Czerwinski (RobertParker.com) awarding 97 points for the 2016. Parallels are being made with Clarendon Hills Romas & Onkaparinga Grenache. I am sorry, but we were allocated a mere 120 bottles.
2016 Amery Hillside Shiraz is an exciting addition to a firm favourite with many customers. The Hillside vineyard was established in 1992 using cuttings from the century old Block 6. A classic example of full-bodied McLaren Vale Shiraz. Unlike Block 6, the Hillside Shiraz allows the Kay Brothers team to pick various parcels of fruit. Block 11, located at the top of the hill, are very exposed to the wind and sun. Consequently, the vines mature earlier in most years and tend to be low yielding, with intense fruit concentration and powerful tannins. The remainder of the Hillside Shiraz is located farther down the hill, in ‘new’ Block 6. The new Block 6 component provides the finesse and elegance to the overall blend with savoury flavours and tight structure. The blend of these two vineyards produces a perfect balance.
2017 Amery Basket Pressed Shiraz & 2016 Cuthbert Cabernet Sauvignon join the line-up. Both wines offer beautiful drinking and exceptional value. All wines will be offered by the case (under bond for those wishing to store) and by the bottle and are immediately available for delivery .
Friday’s email confirmed the arrival of our new partnership with Two Hands. We must refrain from using the word ‘exclusively’ in fear of upsetting our high street friends at Majestic as we share the 2016 Lily’s and Bella’s Garden allocation. I will bring your attention to their price of £40.00 per bottle or £35 as part of a mix six. Our price? £27.50 per bottle. We do have exclusive (UK) access to their Single Vineyard Series which I am looking forward to re-sampling next week.
Magda, Peter and myself will be showing 28 of our new wines at next Tuesday’s Australia Trade Tasting, London. Sadly, and I believe ATT are missing a real trick as this event is open to the trade only. I will, and certainly on the behalf of many of you, send Laura Jewel MW (Wine Australia Regional Director for the UK and Europe) an email posing the question of a full open day for private customers only. I will let you know Laura’s response.
Peter has written a super article following our venture into London to attend Flavours of New Zealand 2019, their 38th consecutive annual trade tasting. I believe over 350 wines were showcased from 50 producers. For me, I would summarise many offerings as underwhelming. Of course, there were a few standout wines and Magda has made further contact with these producers. Our aim for 2019 was to quadruple our Kiwi portfolio, which would be impossible with the wines on-show. That said, we are in contact with several new wineries and are waiting for their samples to arrive. I wonder if we have become too fussy or simply spoilt?
Trophy win for Nocturne
Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
2018 Halliday Cabernet Challenge Winner:
Margaret River Best of Region
The Nocturne Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon continues a dream run from Julian and Alana Langworthy, winning the third Halliday Australian Cabernet Challenge that was judged in late 2018.
Alana Langworthy says "We are super excited to be recognised as this year's pinnacle of Australian Cabernet Sauvignon. Winning the Halliday Cabernet Challenge is a dream come true and an amazing triumph for our single vineyard Nocturne wine."
The Cabernet Challenge provides an opportunity for Australian producers of Cabernet Sauvignon to participate in a varietal competition of great national and
Chair of Judges Corrina Wright says: "To be able to taste the best of the best in Cabernet around the country is a quite an honour. It was a hard-fought battle to choose the winning wine, with a lot of discussions and a number of worthy Cabernets from across the country vying for the title. Cabernet in Australia is in a good place, and it seems to be getting better and better every year. I commend, to you, the regional
finalists and winners."
Our Wine of the Week
(Exclusive to The Vinorium)
“A wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon which offers a distinct regional feel and is just starting to come-around. The wine opens with a beautiful perfume of dark fruits, cassis, warm earth and lead pencil. Medium-bodied, bright and balanced to perfection, which is very much Julian’s style. After 1-2 hours in the decanter, the 2017 unfolds graciously with sublimely polished fruit. Most impressive are the wines expansive flavours which, and after swallowing, are endless. From sweet cassis (with a dash of menthol) to ink and then onto spice, which leads to fennel seeds. There’s wonderful aromatic freshness and lift and I am very much looking forward to seeing how the wine develops over the coming years. Served in Zalto’s Bordeaux glassware”.
Stuart McCloskey 96-98 points
(I believe this will comfortably arrive at 98 points in a few years).
“After 12 days on skins and a peak ferment temperature of around 25 degrees Celsius, the wine was pressed to tank and settled briefly, before being transferred to a combination of new (25%) and two-year-old barrels to undergo malolactic conversion. This wine was racked only once in this time and, after 15 months in oak, was emptied from barrel, settled, clarified and bottled. The Sheoak vineyard makes expressive, medium-bodied Cabernets that bear some semblance to a modern version of luncheon claret. I am as happy with this Cabernet as any I have been involved in making. While it’s amazingly accessible on release, two to three years’ further maturation will really make this amazing wine shine”. Julian & Alana Langworthy
Also Available from Nocturne Wines
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. In the hands of Julian, this fruit absolutely sings. It's a polished version of Margaret River Chardonnay with ample weight whilst maintaining and elegant balance.
This is an exciting new addition to the Margaret River Chardonnay landscape.
£27.95 per bottle
Nocturne Nebbiolo Rosé 2018
A brilliant example of the rising quality of Australian Rosé here from the hands of 2016 Jimmy Watson Trophy Winner, Julian Langworthy. The Nocturne Nebbiolo Rosé was made from a single vineyard in Margaret River. The fruit was hand picked specifically for Rosé, then whole bunch pressed to barrel for 10 weeks before being settled and bottled.
Julian is going for a more architectural style of Rosé with this wine. Something inspired by the pink wines of Bandol that can develop with time in bottle.
£18.75 per bottle
Flavours of New Zealand 2019
Written by Peter Robinson
A typical drizzly January morning on Wednesday and Stu, Magda and I hotfooted it on the train to London for the Flavours of New Zealand tasting and my first tasting as part of the Vinorium team. Having spent the last five years in Dorset, I am used to getting up at the crack of dawn followed by a three and a half hour train journey to the London tastings in order to get there at a sensible time, but Wednesday was a simple case of arriving at work at the normal time, having a chance to answer some emails and pack some of the mornings orders, followed by a three car convoy to Ashford and a thirty five minute train journey. What a treat the high-speed link is! I grew up in Kent and remember as a child spelling out a giant, human chain word “NO” on Charing Primary School field with the other students in protest of this, but I must say, after the ease and speed of travel on Wednesday I am happy to reverse the opinion that was obviously forced upon me as a six year old. We would also of course have car pooled, but Stu was staying in London for the evening, Magda lives in Ashford and I live pretty much back at where we set off from, in the next village to The Vinorium HQ, so on this occasion, a convoy was the only option.
After arriving at St-Pancras, the first port of call was lunch. I have been to many tastings on an empty stomach and can say with confidence that starting off with lunch is an extremely good idea. Spitting the wines out is obviously essential, with often a hundred plus wines being sampled it would be ludicrous to attempt otherwise, but I am sure that even with spitting every drop, a certain amount of alcohol is still absorbed so a hearty meal beforehand is to be advised. What could be more appropriate than lunch at the German Gymnasium. I have never had the pleasure of the German Gymnasium before but after a plate of smoked sausage with sauerkraut and mash accompanied by a glass of Rheingau Riesling I felt more than satisfied. Stu and Magda seemed to equally enjoy their Goujons and Riesling and a lengthy discussion about the quality of German Riesling ensued, the unique combination of soil and climate and a long history of German wine makers’ understanding of this variety amongst other things led to us all being in agreement that as it stands, German Riesling remains the best. Stu kindly picked up the bill and we headed for the tasting.
Initial impressions for me if I’m being honest were that I was expecting a slightly grander affair, a New Zealand bonanza if you like, with a lot more producers being exhibited and a room that was bustling and buzzing. Maybe it was because we arrived around lunchtime with most attendees taking full advantage of the lunch canteen that is usually free at these events, but the energy seemed a little flat. This was a mere observation and not one to deter. The two rooms were a mix of producers exhibiting their own wines and importers exhibiting their range of Kiwi offerings, both current and older vintages. The three of us had different agendas so we split off with Stu and Magda together, focussing on new producers and me taking the opportunity to taste some of our own selection that were on offer there, not as many as I would have liked but some all the same.
Wandering around the room I noticed more different varieties being experimented with, several warmer climate varieties such as Albarino and Tempranillo that showed limited success but the obvious ones being the cool climate varieties such as Riesling and Gruner Veltliner, some but not all showing real promise. The Blank Canvas Gruner displayed touches of white pepper spice that is found in good quality Gruner from Austria and a couple of the Rieslings I tasted were very successful, both a dry (which was actually still off dry) and a sweet, late harvest Riesling from a producer based in Canterbury called Pegasus Bay that were both a real success. Still not as good as German Riesling but with a few years of vine age, definitely one to watch.
This producer was also responsible for possibly my wine of the event, their Chardonnay that had that terrific, oily texture found that I love in many high-end Chardonnays both new and old world. Canterbury is not a region that I am intimately familiar with but one that I will definitely be keeping an eye on.
Pinot Gris was also in abundance, this has been a growing trend for some time now and for the most part I have been a little disappointed with what I had tried in the past, finding them to be a touch flabby and lacking a back bone. Pinot Gris is not a variety that is particularly high in acidity and producers often seem to leave a higher amount of residual sugar, resulting in a wine that for me, lacks any vibrancy. I enquired with a producer from Marlborough who literally shrieked with joy that I wasn’t asking about Sauvignon Blanc, as to whether the decision to leave their Pinot Gris off dry is a technical decision but she informed me that it was simply the fashion.
My most notable observation was the growing tendency towards terroir with many producers offering sub-region examples, single vineyards and even single block wines. I come from an old world background so am very much used to regions such as Burgundy, steeped in the belief that a wine should taste intrinsically of where it comes from, far beyond a Burgundy tasting like a Burgundy but more that the specific soil composition, micro-climate, slope ratio and direction, etc. etc. of any specific plot will result in a wine that will show these specific characteristics and can be from nowhere else.
I have always liked this idea which has led me to much thought and a bit of research regarding this notion but perhaps a discussion for another time.
However, this drive from New Zealand producers to exploit these factors is great and is resulting in some very interesting wines, the most notable example of this being from Villa Maria who produce two Marlborough Sauvignons, one from the warmer sub-region of Wairau Valley and the other from the cooler Awatere Valley in Clifford Bay which couldn’t be more different. Long gone is the idea of just a typical Marlborough Sauvignon for example, but instead a range of styles within these regions, based on the specific vineyard characteristics. This may have been happening for longer than I am aware of, but for me it is a positive indication of the future of New Zealand wine.
I guess a negative note was the level of reduction that I experienced in several of the wines. For those that are not familiar with reductive qualities in wine, it is that slightly sulphurous, almost rotten egg like smell that is most pronounced when the bottle is opened and can sometimes be a trait of wine under screw cap that has been produced using certain techniques. I won’t get too scientific but it is basically caused by too little oxygen being in the wine. The Sulphur Dioxide, be it natural or added, does not have enough oxygen in the wine to neutralise and (for some reason) creates Hydrogen Sulphide which is responsible for these aromas. It often dissipates after a little aeration but if it doesn’t, can certainly mask the fruit aromas of a wine. Wines under screwcap are so airtight that unlike cork which allows a certain amount of oxygen through, when produced using anaerobic methods, which means that as much as possible, the entire wine making process has been done under a blanket of Carbon Dioxide to allow as little oxygen as possible to come in contact with the wine, these reductive aromas are produced. Purity of fruit was very much an in vogue expression with many producers using less oak and in a bid to achieve this purity, have clearly employed these winemaking methods that often produce great results but can also result in this reductive quality. It’s not a huge issue, but an indication of some of the winemaking trends and producer focus that is in New Zealand at the moment.
There are clearly some exciting things happening with New Zealand wine but it still feels a little transitional as new newer plantings still need to get some more vine age to really wow with the level of concentration that is needed for stand out wines.
Leaving the office in the late morning was a rare opportunity to set aside the busy day-to-day workload, which has not given us much time to settle into the year. As for the New Zealand tasting itself, I can’t dispel the overall feeling of disappointment. Yes, there were some interesting finds and all three of us managed to discover wines we were fond of however, I noticed a certain dip in the excitement surrounding New Zealand wines. The venue was changed this year to a beautiful spot overlooking the river Thames, although it did offer a much smaller and confined space compared to the expansive Lindley Hall where the event has taken place previously.
Many familiar faces and labels were present however, I can’t say the same about the wines which we used to know very well and many which we stocked in previous years.
Some of you will remember the Central Otago producer Burn Cottage, which was one of our ‘darkest’ and most opulent Pinot Noirs, not only from New Zealand, but across our range. Their new releases carry no reminiscence as the style has dramatically shifted towards a lighter, linear style. Perhaps this represents a difficult vintage or simply a change in style, for which they have artistic licence. But, at £50 a bottle, a rethink is needed…
On a positive side, we found several producers who stood out from the crowd. New finds this year include fantastic wines from Greenhough, Whitecliff and Sacred Hill, which are all family owned and well-established wineries across Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay. It is incredibly refreshing to find wines which offer great value without compromising on quality. Keep a sharp eye on our future articles, as we hope to come back with further news on these brands.
Giesen wines continue to show well with consistent high quality, especially their small batch production of The Fuder Matthew’s Lane Sauvignon Blanc. Aging in new 1,000 litre German oak fuder barrels adds layers of complexity. The enormous size of the fuder translates to less wine contact with the barrel surface compared to smaller, more commonly used barrels. ‘Stylistically’, this wine has no equal. What we also love about The Fuder is its ability to age and the luxury of bottle age offered on release. Their previous 2012 vintage sold out last year and we are eagerly awaiting samples of the following 2013 vintage. All UK stock is reserved for The Vinorium. Fingers crossed these are new additions to our New Zealand portfolio.
Unanimously, our stand out wines come for the superb Pegasus Bay. We’ve always been impressed by the sheer quality - Their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are particularly impressive however, and a personal favourite is their ‘Bel Canto’ Riesling which brings to mind the outstanding Rieslings of Germany. More samples are en-route and expect to see a healthy listing from this producer….
Orin Swift Mercury Head
Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Dave Phinney (Winemaker)
A while back, I got a handful of change and I found a Liberty Dime - its nickname is Mercury Head - and it reminded me of how much I liked collecting coins when I was a kid. The Mercury Head was always my favourite because it just looks cool. It hasn't been made since 1945, so when I thought about our flagship wine, the name of my most prized coin was exactly right. Then it seemed like the right way to do the label was to put an actual Mercury Head dime on each bottle. It took a little effort at first finding the dimes from dealers and collectors, but now we have a good supply. The great thing these days is, people send us the coins off their empty bottles.
Mercury Head Cabernet Sauvignon emphasises our guiding principle: Without quality grapes, great wine is impossible. It comes from my best lots from very select vineyards in Napa Valley and the wine is a testament to those vineyards, to our principle and to what is possible in Napa Valley.
£119.95 per bottle
(Only 12 bottles available)
8 Years in the Desert 2017
The history of Orin Swift Cellars dates back to 1995 when on a lark, David Swift Phinney took a friend up on an offer and went to Florence, Italy to spend a semester “studying”. During that time, he was introduced to wine, how it was made, and got hooked. A few more years of university led to graduation and eventually a job at Robert Mondavi Winery in 1997 as a temporary harvest worker. Deciding that if he was going to work this hard, it would eventually have to be for himself, so in 1998 he founded Orin Swift Cellars; Orin is his father’s middle name and Swift is his mother’s maiden name. With two tons of zinfandel and not much else, he spent the next decade making wine for others as well as himself and grew the brand to what it is today.
Dave Phinney (Winemaker)
It’s hard to believe that this fall will be my twenty first harvest in the Napa Valley. Some of those vintages I remember fondly, others I’d like to forget. What may be harder to believe is that this harvest also marks the twentieth year that Orin Swift has been in business. Twenty years. It makes me feel old. But I love it, maybe now more than ever. As many of you know, the first commercial wine I made for Orin Swift was Zinfandel. But none of you have ever tried it. None of you have tried it because it was never bottled. I sold it on the bulk market. I would argue that Zinfandel may be the most difficult varietal to tame. But when you get it right it rewards you like no other. If winemaking is a series of challenges Zinfandel has them all in spades. So, in 2009 I took a break from Zinfandel and its challenges. It would end up being an eight-year break. Eight years in the desert. It was never if but when would we make Zinfandel again. That when is now.
So, with no further ado, we proudly give you 8 Years in the Desert. A blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah and small percentages of other red varietals.
Dark garnet with a lucid rim, the wine exhibits aromas of briar fruit, ripe blackberry and dark plum with a tinge of minerality and charred meat. Brawny on the entry, it has an equally big mid-palate with complex flavors of ripe brambly fruit, a touch of earth and notes of espresso bean. Still massive through to the finish with soft drying tannins, the unique varietal characteristics of the blend clearly reveal themselves over time.
A conversation with Don Brice, the man behind the photographs on Two Hands Wines
What drew you to photography as a career?
I’ve always been fascinated by the media be it photography, news, television or radio. I love the way photography can tell a story without words. I’m also an insatiably curious person, and it’s great that commercial photography is a ticket into so many interesting aspects of the world.
You’ve been an extended part of the Two Hands family since the early days – how did you and Michael begin your journey working together?
I met Michael at a dinner party before Two Hands was started. He’d seen the Polaroid Transfer style that we use on the Picture Series and asked me to photograph his next few labels for the Single Vineyard Series. We went on to photograph the new Two Hands Wines website and over the years have built a consistent visual style that helps tell the Two Hands story.
What has been your favourite Two Hands moment?
There have been too many great times to call, which is why I love my job. Some are related to the photography itself, such capturing the perfect sunrise or flying low over the vines by helicopter. But since wine is a huge hobby for me too, it’s just fun to be there in the vineyard or winery, hanging with wine people as the next Two Hands Vintage comes together.
You use interesting techniques, not to mention the characters on the labels – Can you explain yours and Michael’s creative process?
It’s a creative mix of planning and serendipity. Most labels have been made with large format Polaroid film, which is separated and squeezed into soft art paper in a process called a Polaroid Transfer. This is why the edges are smudged and the photo is imperfect. The film is almost impossible to get now, and some of the recent ones I’ve had to recreate digitally.
The images on the Single Vineyard Labels are so unique – can you share how you create them?
The Single Vineyard labels have been photographed almost exclusively on 50 year old plastic toy cameras called the “Diana”. In the 90’s I used to find them in Op shops and at garage sales. I started shooting art projects, playing with the fact that the poor quality plastic lens delivered relatively simple blurry shapes instead of crisp photographic detail. The Single Vineyard labels are so small that any fine details in a photo would be difficult to see. So I used the Diana to blur away the details and relied instead on strong shapes and dark silhouettes to give the photos impact. Fortunately for the Diana its film type was the same used in leading professional film cameras such as the Hasselblad, so in the otherwise digital age I can still find film to fit. I hand process the film in my darkroom and then scan the negatives, before they’re turned into the labels used on the bottles.
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