This site is now closed
and has been left here
for historical reference
© Ric Einstein 2009
As the name suggests, this section
is devoted to left over bits of information and comments that don't warrant a complete story of
their own. It will up updated whenever the need takes place.
More on Retail
“The aim was to make it easier for
customers to choose a wine among overcrowded shelves and excess stock."
Huon Hooke wrote two small theoretically
unrelated snippets, one below the other, in this weeks’ Good Living
Cellartalk section. The first states that Woolworths has begun winding
back its First Estate liquor stores and some are being rebadged as
BWS In terms of the hierarchy, Dan Murphy's is at the top followed by
First Estate and then BWS.
Dan Murphy has a huge range, but the key point
is that BWS has fewer premium wines than First Estate.
In the second article Huon quotes the results of
the survey carried out by Southcorp. According to the SC research,
independent retailers are “highly inefficient; 51% of a typical stores range
sells less than one bottle a year, and there is an average of $230,000 worth
of redundant stock in every single independent store.” It goes on to state
that 90% of sales come from less than 20% of stock; in reality, this is just
a variation of the 80:20 rule that applies to many businesses.
As a result of the survey Southcorp has
developed its “Winebar merchandiser” which enables shops to display its
(probably meaning Southcorp’s) wines more effectively. According to
Southcorp, during a trial in 12 stores, sales increased by 38%.
Let's face it; it's no secret the major
corporate producers find it far less costly to do business with two large
grocers. It is far more expensive having sales reps calling on literally
thousands of pubs and small independent bottle shops.
From Southcorp's perspective, the fewer wine
brands in a given store the better; especially when those brands, (as they
generally are in the chains) tend to be from the largest producers. And even
better, as far as Southcorp are concerned, is when their wines are showcased
in the “Winebar merchandiser.”
Remember in the first of Huon Hooke's articles,
it states BWS concentrates on a smaller range of core products than First
Estate. Any wine lover who has been through BWS will understand how
completely and absolute boringly these stores are!
So in these two stories, we have a synergistic
parallel track which naturally run in the same direction; one that happens
to suit the two major grocers (and their subsidiary liquor retailers) as
well as the largest wine producers.
Unfortunately, this is a retrograde step for
wine lovers who will find it increasingly more difficult to obtain brands
from intermediate and small producers. The small independent stores will
find it increasingly more difficult to combat the economies of scale (and
discounts) available to the large grocers.
In the long term, if you like your wine like
Coca-Cola or Pepsi - no problem, however if your tastes run to the gourmet
end of the spectrum, the longer these two parallel tracks become, the harder
things will become for the rest of the wine industry.
Having had an extensive marketing background, I
have always stated that any marketing expert worth their pay can come close
to getting what ever outcome they desire in a survey by simply framing the
questions in a particular manner. Clearly, in this case the results have
been designed to show the smaller independent stores that they should be
good little boys and fall into line buy concentrating on the major brands
and forgetting about the boutique producers.
It's enough to drive you to
drink! 8 June 05
Most pundits will tell you one of the greatest
advantages in using Stelvin seals instead of cork is that the Stelvin
closure eliminates bottle variation. Now, based on a recent experience I
can confirm that whilst that may be the case in most instances, bottle
variation can and does happen under Stelvin. I have no idea how or why it
happens but it has happened to me.
Here is the story. I tried a bottle of Marius
2003 Shiraz as soon as it was bottled. The wine was suffering from
bottle shock but had all the components in the right proportion and it
looked like it was going to be a good wine. I tried the second bottle about
eight weeks later and it was not at all pleasant; there was a dominant green
streak that ran right through the wine. As I read other peoples tasting
notes on the wine I was wondering what they had been smoking when they had
tried it; there was no mention of the green streak in any of their tasting
notes. No doubt anyone who had tried the wine and had seen my tasting note
would have wondered what I had been smoking when I tasted it too.
Roger Pike, the owner of the winery asked asked
me if I would like to try it again as he thought it was now showing much
better than when I had last tasted the wine. Frankly I doubted it would be
any better but agreed to another shot at the wine. Well blow me down, the
third bottle was very enjoyable and showed exactly no sign of the green
streak that wrecked the second bottle I tried. In fact, I enjoyed drinking
the third sample over the space of the evening. What caused the second
bottle to be so different? Don't know! It was not just "a stage the wine was
going through" because at that time, it was being reviewed by the
professional journalists. Infuriating? Absolutely! And if people tell you
bottle variation is eliminated by Stelvin, don't believe it to 100% true.
Here are the tasting notes on the three bottles.
Marius 2003 Shiraz
Feb 05 - Like many of the 2003 releases
that have been sealed in the Stelvin, this wine will take ages to open up in the
glass. After three hours, the first signs are starting to emerge with black
olive, tar, plum and menthol. At this stage, the wine is disjointed but all the
components seem to be in balance with intense, youthful-fruit, refreshing
acidity and well-judged chalky, drying tannins. Aniseed, plums and pepper
together with moorish dark and milk chocolate combine to form a very enjoyable
wine which finishes both long and persistent. An excellent result from a very
difficult vintage, I am sure that in a couple of months once the wine settles
down, it will be rated as Highly Recommended
with **** for value. Time is all it needs. After ten hours, it had come
together and tamed down, the disjointed aspects had vanished and it was very
enjoyable with intense fruit and softer (normal) tannins.
Marius 2003 Shiraz
March 05 - Like many of the 2003 releases
that have been sealed in the Stelvin, this wine will take ages to open up in the
glass. After three hours, the signs are starting to emerge with plum, tar, dark
chocolate, mushroom and hints of menthol. At this stage, the wine is disjointed
but all the components seem to be there with youthful-fruit, piquant acidity and
chalky, drying tannins. An intensely off-sweet attack of plum, spice and dark
chocolate are carried through the palate on a wave of sappy tannins. Hopefully,
in time it may come together but the sappy tannins will always be noticeable.
Rated as Recommended with ***
Marius 2003 Shiraz
June 05 - After a
couple of hours in the glass, the bouquet shows restraint, indeed it was more
intense when first opened; plum, earthy notes, black olive, coffee and chocolate
are all evident. Plate flavours of black
dark chocolate, plum, coffee, black
olive and aniseed combine to produce a very attractive flavour profile.
Interestingly enough, at one stage there was a slight sappiness but it
completely disappeared over time.
Ample in weight with very fresh acid (which calmed down with time in the glass) and chewy, long tannins; it finishes with
good persistence. Rated as Highly Recommended with ****
for value. This is worth buying!
The Mamre Brooke saga continues
Recently, in the Drops ‘n Dregs Section
below) I outlined my reasons for stating that the Saltram Mamre Brook
2003 Cabernet Sauvignon was a wine to be avoided. Since that time, both
my friend Brian and I have had further experiences and have both carried out
further research into this wine.
Firstly Brian's experiences – copied from
his web site. “In the interests of science
and objectivity I slipped a Mamre Brook 2003 Cabernet double-blind
into an otherwise single-blind tasting tonight, five other 2003 Shiraz and
Cabernet under $15.
The groups preferred ranking was: Maglieri
Shiraz 2003 ($14), Taylors Clare Shiraz 2003 ($12), Saltram Mamre Brook
Cabernet 2003 ($19.99), Glaymond Shiraz Cleanskin 2003 ($12.50, only one
point behind the MB), Taylors Clare Cabernet 2003 ($13), Maglieri Cabernet
2003 ($14). The MB Cabernet received one first ranking, three second
rankings, two third rankings, one fourth ranking, two fifth rankings
(including mine) and two last rankings. I didn't get as much of the rubbery
character in this one, but it did though finish hard and unpleasant to my
palate and one other person remarked on it fading and becoming harder as the
hour progressed. Conclusion: Some like it, about as many don't,
make up your own mind. The Glaymond, Maglieri and Taylors shiraz were the
only wines people indicated they were likely to buy (or had already
When Andrew Kemeny
of Kemenys Liquor Store saw Brian's comments, he was quite concerned and
contacted Brian to discuss the matter. As a result, Andrew opened two
bottles from his stock together with a Beringer Blass rep in Sydney. Andrew
stated they found no problems, it was a young Barossa Cabernet and they
rated it 92 points.
The wine was also re-tasted by
Nigel Dolan, Saltram wine-maker.
According to Andrew, Nigel said, "I see no rubbery character, or any other
fault / defect. The wine is a good example of 03 Barossa Cabernet having the
expected richness and depth, plummy chocolaty fruit characters, warm alcohol
palate and typically firm tannins as normal for a young Cabernet."
Now for my further experiences and research. A
double-blind sample given to my mate
the publican of the Moss Vale hotel and fine wine purveyor/drinker:
When he first sipped it, he said "that's all right" and about 10 seconds
later said "what is that horrible aftertaste."
I then sent a double-blind sample to a
Master of Wine that I am acquainted with
and asked his opinion. He emailed this response “Just tried your
sample……YUK!! Full of Brettanomyces -- I think--metallic /mousey notes……….
Certainly does not seem to be a sound or stable sample. Suspect hygiene or
low SO2 issues.”
An email was sent to
Jeremy Oliver asking if he had tasted it
and his reply was “I didn't see anything wrong with the bottle of Mamre
Brook CS 03 I tasted the other day - gave it 17.0. Bloody cork-derived
variation working against you? Happens all the time with me and remains the
major blight in my existence...”
Finally, I re-tasted another sample only this
time left and it in the glass of three hours before tasting it. The rubber
had definitely metamorphosed into mouse characters, both on the bouquet and
on the palate.
The Brett explanation is now up the most likely
one and indeed virtually justifies the reasons for all the other results and
experiences. As most readers would know, Brett does vary from bottle to the
bottle and in minor doses can add complexity. In addition, some people do
find it attractive whilst some others can't stand it, even at low levels.
This would also explain why the bottle Brian
presented to his tasting group was not as noticeably ugly as the three
previous bottles he had tried, or at least why it was unpleasant to only
some of the group.
However, from my perspective this is still wine
that should be avoided. If there is Brett in the batch, it's like a
potential time bomb waiting to go off, when you pull the cork, you never
know if you are going to get a good one or one that is loaded with Brett.
Prior to writing the first article below, I
tried to make contact with Saltram but the person I wished to speak to was
unavailable on the day. Since that time, two messages have been left for
other people to ring me but they elected not to return my calls.
It is also interesting to note that three of
Melbourne's large fine wine retailers who heavily promoted the 2002 vintage
of this wine appear to not even be stocking the 2003, let alone promoting
Why Oh Why?
It is as important to know
what not to buy as what to buy, yet many reviewers shy away from
publishing reviews of wines that may rate badly or indeed, may even be
faulty: I don’t have that reserve and am happy to let readers know about
wines that are to be avoided.
During my recent trip
through SA, the Saltram Winery in the Barossa was on the list of wineries to
visit as we particularly wanted to try the recently released 2003 Shiraz and
Cabernet Sauvignon. We tasted the Mamre Brook 2003 Shiraz and it was a
credible follow on to the enjoyable 2002 wine. We then tried the Mamre
Brook 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon.
My mate Brian was with me
and he took less time to try the wines because he was not making tasting
notes, so he got to the Cabernet before I did. His face was not a pretty
site when the Cabernet was in his mouth. I took one sniff and thought it was
mildly corked. Another bottle was opened and it was pronounced fit by our
cellar door attendant. Brian tried it and thought it was ok but….. As soon
as I took the first sniff I noticed an unusual scent that seemed like it
should not be there. After swirling it round for a minute or two, it started
to come up and the offending aroma smelt like rubber; not burnt rubber, just
rubber like on a new car tyre.
Brian found the same
offending taste on the palate and agreed with my findings, as did the cellar
door staff member who decided to open yet another bottle. This one had the
same rubbery characteristic and whilst it was not as pronounced, it was
definitely detectable. After this bottle, we gave up. Unfortunately the
Cellar Door Manager was not there at the time so we could not discuss it
In an endeavour to be
scrupulous fair, as soon as I got home I purchased a bottle for $23.99 at my
local BWS store to see how it looked. Here is the TN.
The bouquet is brooding but
shows rich fruit with coffee influenced oak and a tinge of rubber character.
The wine is has very firm tannins and like good cabernets that are meant to
last, there are plenty of them; the structure is solid and there is enough
fruit to balance this full-bodied wine. The wine is very pleasant on the
uptake with quality fresh fruit is that is completely marred by the rubbery
finish which leaves a decidedly unpleasant taste on the palate.
I don't know what has
caused this problem but have a couple of ideas. Mercaptan (which is a wine
fault that will show it every bottle) gives a burnt rubber characteristic so
that is a possibility. A number of professional sources have advised it is
also possible to get rubber characteristics in the wine if the pump runs
dry. In fact, rather than releasing a dud wine, Elderton ditched many
thousands of litres of wine when this happened to them a couple of years
ago. I am not sure if either of these two reasons are the cause, or even if
the wine is “meant to” have this nasty rubbery aftertaste, but from my
perspective it probably should not have been released. If you are
contemplating buying any quantity, I recommend you taste it first; its
possible you may like it but in my opinion, this wine does not do anything
positive for Saltram's reputation!
There was an excellent segment on the ABC's
landline program last week which dealt with the oversupply of grapes and the
forecasted problems facing growers. For those interested, the full
transcript can be
found here. The program certainly put
things in perspective and outlined why things are going to go from bad to
worse over the next few years.
By way of background as to the cause of this
problem, Australia took about 150 years for its vineyard capacity to grow to
75,000 hectares. Due to substantial Federal government tax incentives, it
took a mere three years to increase plantings by 50%. The mind boggles when
you think about those statistics and consider that in reality that means
there is a 50% more grapes available. Naturally everyone is trying to sell
those grapes and whilst increasing success in export markets has been
commendable, exports have been unable to keep pace with vineyard growth.
One of the biggest problem areas is the
Riverland and Brian McGuigan and his McGuigan Wines is not very popular at
the moment and is bound to become even more unpopular in time. At the start
of this vintage, they advised their growers in the Riverland that prices
were going to drop by up to 40%. By squeezing the price down, McGuigan is
trying to gain a cost advantage over his competitors. (Interestingly enough,
Hardys is paying about 20% more for grapes then McGuigan.)
Recently McGuigan's wines issued a profit
warning. It appears the problem for the company is; it's not that they can't
sell their wine, they cannot sell their wine at the price they would like
to. As a result, they are trying to reduce overheads by paying less for
Naturally enough, growers feel that they are
being screwed, and in many ways that is probably true.
If that's not bad enough, McGuigan's growers
have been told to brace themselves because their situation is going to get
worse. Over the next three years, McGuigan wants to rip up all contracts
with growers. According to McGuigan, “We're changing the way that we do
business and we're no longer prepared to make forecasts into the future
about what volume of grapes we will take and the likely prices of those
grapes. We are not a bank; we are not gamblers. We are representatives of
our shareholders, and whatever we do needs to be done at a profit and not at
the expense of the grower so therefore we'd like to wipe the slate clean and
say, 'Well, it's going to be a different era between ourselves and growers.”
Interesting words, I love the comment “…and not
at the expense of the grower”. Definitely; the easiest way of achieving that
objective is to not have any growers. It will certainly be a different era
because the synergistic necessity of growers and produces forming a
partnership will be well and truly over for this company. In the long run
people and companies generally get what they deserve, and I have no doubt
that eventually McGuigan's wines will get exactly what they deserve.
Unfortunately things are likely to get worse
over the next few years for growers as significant levels of new plantings
will still be coming on stream for the next two years.
Readers feedback to
the Opposition or Just Ignorance"
Thankyou to all the readers who took the time and trouble to
respond to last week’s article. Unfortunately, there were so many that I
cannot possibly post all of them, or every message in its entirety, but I
have chosen a broad cross section of messages which represent readers’
thoughts and feelings. The comments are fascinating. There were some even
more fascinating responses which, unfortunately, I cannot publish as the
authors are professional, many in the wine business, and wished to remain
confidential, but somewhere along the line, I will try to use the material
“I was very disappointed to read the comments made by Michael
Twelftree on the Squires Board, and have the following comments in regard to
Play the ball, not the man
In assessing a wine the aim should be to provide an objective
opinion and constructive criticism where appropriate. Of course of most
importance is to express whether you enjoyed the wine and why, and what
value the wine represents.
To make a personal criticism of a winemaker says nothing
about a wine that person has made and just comes across as vindictive. It
adds no value to anyone. Michael Twelftree does not provide a tasting note
for a Mount Mary Quintet, nor does he say what experience he has with the
wine - he just lets fly with abuse of the owner / wine maker.
As a side issue, he attributes the winery's reputation to
positive reviews by
Australia's best known wine writer (James Halliday). It is well known that
for many years James Halliday and John Middleton were not on the best of
terms. For years Halliday excluded Mount Mary tasting notes from his wine
guide as MM did not submit wines for review. However, throughout this time
James Halliday maintained his professional integrity by listing the winery
and rating it highly and by openly praising the wines. This despite personal
disagreements with the owner/winemaker. Mount Mary's success can not be
attributed to Halliday - Jeremy Oliver has long rated the wines very highly,
including recent vintages.
Also, I did smirk at
Michael Twelftree criticising Mount Mary for success due to positive reviews
best known wine writer. Isn't a large degree of Two Hands success due to
positive ratings by a certain US writer?
Back to your question
Ric......if you have specific constructive criticism of a certain wine, then
fine. But to broadly lambast a winery for no reason other than vitriol does
damage and has no benefit.
It is often written that
Australia needs to make more great wines; selecting the best sites, matching
the ideal varieties and then having the best vineyard treatment and
winemaking techniques. I would have thought that Mount Mary is one winery
that could be pointed to as trying to do this. Fine if the wines are not to
your taste, or you think the pricing is unjustified, or are annoyed at not
being on the mailing list. But shouldn't other wine makers and owners be
trying to make the best wines they can, from unique sites and with the best
techniques as well. Think Torbreck, Giaconda, Cullen, Clonakilla.
In summary, for a winemaker
to be broadly criticising another winery in a generalised, personal manner
represents poor form.”
“I just read your piece on disparaging comments
which clearly underlines the problem of unsupervised Forums and the saying:
"Please ensure that brain is engaged
before putting keyboard into gear!!"
- The first comment you reported is totally
unacceptable, even actionable if it were published in any other medium. It
also illustrates the small-minded, vicious and probably jealous nature of
the writer... My comment applies whether the writer was a winemaker or not.
- The second comment, while a bit OTT, is
probably just a case of a strongly held opinion on a particular wine and
would be acceptable from a normal forum-member. For it to come from a
competitor simply illustrates poor manners and a lack of understanding that
"what comes around, goes around."
- The "rumour" comment should not have been
allowed to appear on the Forum, is totally unacceptable and probably
actionable in the US as it was published on a US Forum about a wine exported
to that market.
As all these comments came from the same source,
I'd be thinking that they need a lesson ion both manners and acceptable
TORB note: Just one comment Martin, that forum
“From what I hear he slanders other wineries
When I mentioned a piece of internet comment
about the 01 Basket Press at the Rockford Stonewall room, Angela's first
comment was 'that wasn't MT again was it?'
At the risk of sounding like Forrest Gump my
mamma told me if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
There is an industry code that you don't bag the opposition, either
personally or professionally. Sadly that’s being ignored in a lot of
“Re the comments on Mount Mary, I thought they
were very much overdone. I've never had anything from Mount Mary, so I have
no opinion of the wine, but I thought the comments to be broad sweeping
generalizations with no basis of support, and the personal attack on
Middleton is uncalled for in a public forum.
These are the type of things someone might start
spouting after a few drinks with mates; they are out of place in the forum.
Re the Kalleske rumour statement, I find this
despicable, as rumour mongering often is. Not to mention that the rumour
itself is ridiculous. Testing for TCA? The source of such a rumour should
be tested for mental competence.
Re the Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir TN, I am a
bit more tolerant, as they deal with a specific wine. The exaggerations,
i.e., 'luckiest man ...', 'amazement', and 'ripping it all out', are exactly
as you say; merely sensationalistic exaggerations. Still, I could discount
them coming from most people. I think a professional reviewer would be out
of place making such
remarks, but I don't place winery owners and
winemakers in a high public influencing position.
Incidentally, on a related tangent, I am of the
opinion that winery owners and especially winemakers do not make the best
wine reviewers. They are often too strongly focused on their own style and
what they are trying to achieve.”
Carol Smith - Warrabilla Wines
“I think you can comment on styles, after
all we are passionate devotees of our own styles, but you can't bag the opposition
It tends to make the commenter look way smaller.
I've got to say that when you see disparaging threads it tends to get up
your nose, and when you’re on the receiving end of a bagging you tend to
feel like retaliating, you’ve just got to be bigger than the person that
does that sort of stuff.”
K. Michael Pollard
“Twelftree is certainly not shy about making
outlandish comments. On the eBob forum it’s acceptable as long as he
indicates that he is "in the business" (ITB). He does have links to Two
Hands and Mischief and Mayhem in his signature, but those links do not make
clear what his role is in those "organizations". Richard Mintz has a link
to Two Hands but again it’s unclear what his role is. Forums like Auswine
which allows "Guest" posts have a real problem.”
“I haven't bothered to look at all their posts
but as long as they aren't out there bagging every winery & wine and instead
are just calling it as they see it then I don't have a massive problem with
it. The other thing to note on the Mount Mary thread was that they didn't
start the slinging match - perhaps there words were a little sensationalist
but they were in broad agreement with the other posters. He also identifies
himself in his signature with TwoHands so readers can interpret the comments
however they wish.”
“I've noted Twelftree's and partner's comments
on some wines for sometime. I had found it amusing - mostly. Perhaps it is
because I'm biased towards Michael's ideals on wine- (I had personally met
the man before and he had subtly explained to me that the meaning of terrior has
an Aussie equivalent - "bullshit".) Personally - I think Mt Mary is
Taken with a huge pinch of salt; I feel that
Twelftree is entitled to make his opinion's known on any wine forum.
Similarly, any other winemaker who feels disparaged could make a defence of
their personal winemaking stance. Simply put - if Twelftree is prepared to
"slime" other's on any public forum - he must be prepared to make defences
of his stand.”
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