Current Quarters Wine News
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Copyright © Ric Einstein 2009
Friday 12 June
Australian wine industry bodies are to call on the federal government for funding to help people leave the industry. Wine Australia and other national associations, including the Winemakers' Federation of Australia, plan to make a joint appeal to the government as early as July or August, asking for financial support to assist in reducing the size of the Australian wine trade.
The historic Baileys of Glenrowan formally goes on the market next week as the value of winery assets on sale in Australia reaches about AUS$800m. Foster's Group is selling the 139-year-old Baileys, in the Rutherglen region of northern Victoria, following the company's asset review completed in February. The review earmarked 31 vineyards for sale in Australia and five in California, valued at AUS$243m.
Groundbreaking research conducted by Victorian scientists is shedding light on one of the largest and most important group of compounds responsible for wine quality, the tannins in grapes. Victorian Agriculture Minister Joe Helper said the research aimed to add value to Victoria’s wine industry by determining what factors affect tannins in the grapes, and how these contribute to producing a higher quality wine.
FOR local winemakers who export large amounts of their vintage overseas, alarm bells usually start ringing when the dollar nudges US80c. The currency's climb yesterday above the crucial mark for the first time in eight months to US80.9c therefore met with nervous glances from exporters.
THE global wine giant Constellation Brands, which owns the Hardys label in Australia, has started a major reshuffle of its senior international management, putting the president of its European arm in charge of the Australian business. Local boss John Grant will continue in his role, but from now on report to Constellation Europe's president, Troy Christensen, the company said late on Friday. The chief executive of Constellation's international unit, Jon Moramarco, will leave at the end of the month, to be replaced by corporate strategy head Paul Hetterich.
THE average price a litre of Australian wine exports fell to $3.27 last month, the lowest in more than four years, as penny-pinching consumers in the key markets of the US and Britain bought cheaper products. The Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation yesterday reported the volume of exports last month had risen 1 per cent to 733 million litres compared with the same month last year, but the value had fallen 14 per cent to $2.4 billion, resulting in a price decline of 15 per cent a litre.
THE grape vines of the Hunter Valley may carry an aura of sadness lying dormant for winter, but some neglected by owners struggling with grape glut and recession could be a threat to their neighbours. Vineyard owners have been warned that producers with particularly pinched pockets may fail to spray and that disease could spread to nearby vines.
AUSTRALIAN winemakers may be attempting to market their products as premium brands, but consumers appear to be valuing the product more like Two Buck Chuck. The average price of Australian wine exports fell to the equivalent of $2.45 a bottle in May - the steepest fall in four years.
Tuesday 2 June
For decades, wine critic Robert M. Parker Jr. has championed a rigid system of ethics, paying for all of his travels to wineries and shunning gifts from the trade. "It is imperative for a wine critic to pay his own way," Mr. Parker wrote in his latest book, published last fall. But Mr. Parker, it recently has been discovered, hasn't held some fellow writers at his influential newsletter, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, to the same standard.
SALES of Australian wine through US grocery stores continued to fall last month as drinkers switched to local brands and cheaper tipples from South America. Sales of wine in the US, Australia's second-biggest wine customer after Britain, rose 4 per cent by value in April, according to data collected from retail outlets by market research company AC Nielsen.
There are fears that the historic Leasingham winery site in the Clare Valley, Australia, will be sold for non-winery development. A separate battle has also begun to stop another historic industry site, Stony Hill, the first commercial vineyard in South Australia, being turned into a housing estate.
Plans for a road that would cut through several prized 'terra rossa' vineyards in the Coonawarra region have been temporarily shelved. The local Wattle Range Council had planned to build a bypass to the west of Penola town to divert trucks from the main street.
FOR local winemakers who export large amounts of their vintage overseas, alarm bells usually start ringing when the dollar nudges US80c. The currency's climb yesterday above the crucial mark for the first time in eight months to US80.9c therefore met with nervous glances from exporters.
Twenty vineyards in the South-West worth a total of at least $80 million are on the books of just one commercial real estate agent, who says managed investment schemes are largely to blame. Brian Moulton, director of Acton South West, said contracts to supply grapes that had been cancelled by some of the big national winemakers had also forced some of the sales.
Major grape-buyer Fosters is telling some growers in north-west Victoria that contracts will not be renewed when they expire. Growers say they are being given virtually no hope of contracts being re-signed.
WHEN discussing Heathcote wine, the grape variety that automatically comes to mind is shiraz. Unfortunately, the comment thereafter often centres on high alcohol levels or overripe fruit characters. It's a shame this style of wine has developed in recent years, because it's not an enjoyable drink - undrinkable in many instances.
Friday 22 May
The WA Forest Contractors Association (WAFCA) says Great Southern Limited's collapse will have a devastating impact on the industry. Great Southern, which is in about $700 million of debt, has followed fellow managed investment scheme (MIS) Timbercorp into administration.
More than 350 wineries in Bendigo and Heathcote in central Victoria have been declared free of phylloxera.
A TINY, family-owned winery in the rich Rutherglen region has become the first in the nation to take the plunge and change the names of its wines, under an agreement forced upon vignerons by the European Union. Pfeiffer Wines, at Waygunyah in Victoria, has changed its tokay to topaque, releasing the freshly labelled bottles several weeks ago, and is about to market its sherry range as apera.
Three more senior Constellation Wines Australia executives in Australia have been made redundant as part of the company's cost-cutting program. Steve Barbera, vice-president of global sales and marketing, Geoff Watts, senior vice-president of corporate development, and Tony Sharley, manager of the Banrock Station wine tourism and wetland centre, have all been made redundant.
WOOLWORTHS is backing away from a method of liquor distribution which saved it about $30 million a year on its wine tax bill less than two months after the Tax Office issued an alert to companies that the method was being examined. The Herald understands that Woolworths sent a letter this month to suppliers of its Dan Murphys's bottleshop chain, informing them that the first step in its plan to move towards national liquor distribution would be to remove the affected special-purpose marketing vehicle from its distribution chain.
Hunter Valley producers are desperate to win protection for their sub-regions following the 'disaster' of the loss of the Rothbury name to Foster's. The renowned New South Wales region is looking for official recognition of its sub-region Pokolbin. A committee will consider the application next month.
Wine connoisseurs may balk at the thought of drinking a fine vintage from a can, but glugging from a ring-pull rather than cracking open a full bottle of plonk seems to be catching on. Sales of cans to the wine industry are rocketing, albeit from a low base, with consumers seeing the attraction of drinking one glass at time, becoming more environmentally aware and opting to drink on the go.
A bottle of sparkling wine will retain its fizz for several days after opening with a new resealable closure. Closure company Zork has launched the product in Australia and New Zealand, with three major companies including Constellation interested in the product.
THE tax office is being blamed for contributing to the collapse of Australia's biggest agricultural investment scheme manager, which has been placed in administration owing more than 40,000 investors up to $4billion. The forestry industry and tax experts yesterday said a backflip by the Australian Taxation Office in 2007, which scrapped tax breaks for agricultural managed investment schemes, contributed to the collapse of Great Southern, which was structured to exploit agriculture tax breaks for investors.
THE late Neil Ashmead was a larger-than-life character who is fondly remembered for reviving a sadly run-down Barossa Valley showpiece and turning it into one of Australia's most respected wine brands. Switching to the wine industry after a stint selling earthmoving equipment in Saudi Arabia, Ashmead launched Elderton 30 years ago following his family's purchase of the historic Samuel Elderton Tolley property at Nuriootpa.
Thursday 14 May
DEBT-RIDDEN agribusiness group Great Southern has gone into a trading halt pending an announcement on its managed investment scheme (MIS) sales program and working capital requirements. The company said in a statement that the trading halt would stay in place until the company made an announcement, which is expected before Monday. Its shares were 12¢ when the trading halt took place. The shares have fallen since reaching a high of $5 in March 2005, plummeting in the past year.
An Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation report says the value of Australian wine exports fell 14 per cent in the year ending April 2009. The report says the global financial crisis has brought continued pressure on many of Australia's key export markets.
THE $4 million class action against Franklin Tate, the former chairman of winemaker Evans & Tate, has hit an unexpected snag. The company that launched the case and led the proceedings has been placed in liquidation.But Maurice Blackburn principal Ben Slade said the case would continue and could expand to a claim for more than $10 million as he had received instructions to increase the size of the class.
AUSTRALIA'S vineyard sector has a bad hangover, with more than $450 million worth of wineries and land on the market, according to market analysts. Such languor would not have been imaginable 10 years ago but there is a tidal wave of departures, from both small lifestyle dreams gone sour and big corporate investments now short of friendly bankers and cash.
A catastrophic red harvest in Australia's Hunter Valley means two major wineries will bottle no red wines this year. Leading producer Tyrrell's has revealed it will not be bottling any 2008 reds while Hope Estate looks likely to declassify its red harvest too.
THERE is a long history of making semi-sweet, or off-dry, white wines in Australia, both still and sparkling. Orlando introduced Barossa Pearl in 1956, and Kaiser Stuhl was quick to react to the success of the style, bringing a young German winemaker to Australia in 1961 to do battle with Orlando. Wolf Blass developed Pineapple Pearl in a bottle shaped like a pineapple, which even he must have thought wasn't particularly elegant.
BEVERAGE companies hoping to skirt the threat of higher excise charges on alcopops by making them with beer or wine instead of spirits have been dealt a $125 million blow by the federal budget. From July 1, the definitions of beer and wine for tax purposes will be changed to exclude products that are perceived as attempting to mimic spirit-based products, which since April last year have attracted a higher level of excise.
The Prendiville family-owned Sandalford Wines has bought the Killerby vineyard in Margaret River for an undisclosed sum and has not ruled out further land acquisitions. Chief executive Grant Brinklow said the land purchase, across Caves Road from the Sandalford estate in Margaret River, was the culmination of two years of negotiations with vendor Ben Killerby.
At a dinner party earlier this year, I tried to entice a fellow guest, a talented Sonoma winemaker, to try a 1993 bottle from Mount Mary, perhaps Australia's best Bordeaux-style producer. He looked at me as if I'd asked him to gargle oak chips and jam. I asked him to give it a shot. It was fresh and lean, with a hint of underripe tomato leaf.
Queensland winery Sirromet has said Foster’s ‘Australian first’ claim for wine in PET bottles is incorrect. Sirromet released its new range of First Step wine in a 750ml PET plastic bottle in January 2009, well before Fosters’ release last week. Sirromet chief winemaker Adam Chapman said the wine has been well received by consumers, with strong uptake from sporting groups and the boating fraternity.
Friday 8 May
With UK consumers demanding more from their food and wine, Australian suppliers are using the launch of a new initiative called G’dayUK. Planned for 24 June – 30 June 2009, G’dayUK is a series of Australian events and promotions in the UK that form part of a broader strategy by Australia to strengthen relations with the ‘motherland’ and one of Australia’s key export and investment markets.
An Australian winemaker claims its decision to sell two of its wines in plastic bottles will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Wolf Blass yesterday launched its Green Label, offering a dry white and a cabernet shiraz in plastic PET bottles, rather than traditional glass.
AUSTRALIANS are downing more and stiffer drinks, ditching low-alcohol ones for full-strength beers, spirits and alcopops. The latest insight into the nation's drinking habits was released yesterday as distillers launched an offensive against government plans to entrench higher taxes for alcopops from next week.
The two big supermarket chains say they have stopped selling alcohol below cost as a "loss leader", after claims the cheap deals lead to alcohol abuse. Supermarkets have voluntarily given up offering liquor deals to encourage customers into stores where they buy other goods.
The deputy chairman of the Riverland Wine Grape Growers Association says the South Australian Government should review the conditions of critical water allocations. The State Parliament Natural Resources Committee has recommended the allocations be urgently resolved.
IN THE aftermath of the February bushfires, the Yarra Valley has experienced numerous small, quiet acts of kindness and generosity, with offers of goods and services, or expertise. Now two prominent winemakers from the region - David Bicknell from Oakridge and Tom Carson from Serrat - have teamed up with winemaker and grape grower John Ellis from the picturesque Bellvale winery in Gippsland - to boost the appeal.
Increasingly, Australian winemakers are playing it cool and coming to Tasmania for their grapes. HEN Tasmania's modern wine pioneers were planting their vines in the 1960s and '70s, they really were flying in the dark, their efforts more brave acts of faith than decisions based on experience.
Friday 1 May
The days of the print-based US wine writer are numbered, according to Decanter columnist Linda Murphy. Writing in Decanter this month, the former wine correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle points out that with the rise of the internet combined the current economic crisis the number of print publications that include wine coverage are dwindling fast.
DRINKERS face an across-the-board price hike in next month's budget, a major industry analyst has predicted. The warning comes a year to the day since the announcement of the Rudd Government's ill-fated attempt to raise the excise on pre-mixed, ready-to-drink, alcoholic beverages, or alcopops, by 70 per cent. The alcopops tax hike was defeated in the Senate last month.
CORPORATE types are snubbing the best tables at Brisbane's top restaurants to look like they are saving money but are still splashing out on the best wines. The business elite are asking for tables at the back of restaurants and wining and dining in the evening rather than opting for the long lunch.
IT'S shaping as a good year for wine connoisseurs, as WA wineries offer bargains on premium drops to survive consumer belt-tightening. Higher-priced wine sales took a hit last year as the Australian dollar approached parity with the US dollar, reducing export margins, and now the global recession has dried up markets across the world.
Rob Bowen, Constellation Wines Australia's top executive in Western Australia has resigned. Bowen, senior winemaker and regional manager in WA, is in charge of the company's Houghton, Brookland Valley, Amberley and Goundrey operations and has been with the company for six years.
It’s been a big week up the top of Magill Road as Penfolds approaches meltdown on the release of a new Grange. Peter Gago and his team of quiet achievers are releasing a range of super-premium wines which gives the entire Australian business a brand new, armour-plated pointy end. There’ve been posh launch dinners all week, and from Friday May 1, the new wines will be available for sale at Magill Estate.
Japan's Kirin Holdings is set to add nine top new world wineries to its portfolio if an AUS$6.5bn bid for Lion Nathan succeeds. Lion Nathan's independent directors on Monday recommended that shareholders accept Kirin's Aus$12.22 a share offer.
Approximately 30 enquiries have already been made about Yarra Yering, the super-premium Yarra Valley winery which is currently up for sale. The world-renowned winery has been put on the market following the death last September of founder, Dr Bailey Carrodus.
COCA-COLA Amatil and Foster's Group are set to emerge as winners from Kirin's $3 billion-plus mop-up of Lion Nathan, though most investors have long suspected beer and soft drinks don't mix. Kirin's move to full ownership of Lion seems to have been hastened by arch rival Asahi's move on Schweppes Australia, a transaction that itself is due to be finalised this month. Kirin is Japan's largest beverage maker.
There was a 12.6 per cent surge in NSW bottled wine sales within the state in 2008, pumping an extra $6.6 million into the industry, Primary Industry Minister Ian Macdonald said. Mr Macdonald said NSW wine now accounted for 6.3 per cent of total bottled wine sales in the state, bringing in $59 million for the economy. He put the growth down to the expansion of the wine industry across NSW.
Friday 24 April
FOSTER'S has officially put its vineyard portfolio on to the market with an unknown price tag. The 31 properties cover about 5000ha, and are in Victoria, NSW and SA. The sale of these properties (and another five which are not included in this listing ) and the decision to retire 37 wine brands, came about as a result of an internal review of its wine operations.
UK drinks giant Diageo may buy Moët Hennessy, which owns prestige Champagne brands Krug, Moët, Veuve Clicquot and Dom Pérignon. According to press reports, LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) approached Diageo to propose a sale which would bring the world's oldest Champagne houses under British control, alongside brands such as Guinness, Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff.
Thursday 23 April
AUSTRALIAN wine may be recession proof, but it's certainly not Rudd proof. So wine lovers wanting a bargain — the average bottle price is the lowest, in real terms, for at least a decade — should stock up on their favourite drop before next month's budget, when wine taxes are tipped to soar.
As the sun moves across the Yarra Valley it touches the nearby hills. It's a heartening sight for winemakers like Phil Sexton at Giant Steps, whose vineyard lost 3.2 hectares of chardonnay in the fires. But as he puts a close to his 2009 vintage, the most challenging he's encountered in 28 years of winemaking, he can't help but feel frustrated and annoyed. The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) has been conducting controlled burn-offs throughout the valley, just as winemakers are bringing in their harvest.
The New Zealand wine industry is working to preserve its premium positioning overseas by trimming back this year's harvest to promote better quality grapes. For the same reason, it has also been vigorously clearing out leftover stock from last year's bumper harvest in the form of heavily discounted bulk wine. For some of the smaller wineries, it has been a cashflow issue at a time when credit can be hard to come by.
The 2004 Penfolds Bin 95 Grange, to be released on May 1, is tipped to be one of the great vintages of Australia's top wine. The pre-release retail price has already reached $600, the highest ever for a new vintage Grange.
CSIRO failed to heed the serious warnings that emerged in 1998 of the risk it was supplying wine grape growers seeking albarino with the wrong variety. Growers who thought they had the fashionable Spanish variety were devastated this month to find their vines were in fact the French variety savagnin blanc, not to be confused with sauvignon blanc. The misidentification was confirmed by DNA testing carried out on the "mother vines" at CSIRO's Merbein vineyard after a visiting French expert raised alarm bells last year.
Western Australian health researchers say they have uncovered evidence of the industry's strategies to distract public debate and to avoid potentially damaging policies such as tax hikes. Researchers from Curtin University in Perth say the alcohol industry is behaving like big tobacco companies by using underhand and secret strategies to protect their profits.
Saturday 18th April
Dr Max Lake, one of the pioneers of the Australian wine industry, has died aged 84. Dr Lake is best remembered for starting the first boutique winery in Australia, Lake's Folly in 1963 in the Hunter Valley, but was a hand surgeon by trade. He died in his Longueville home on Sydney's North Shore on Tuesday night, surrounded by family and friends.
Australian growers are shocked over an announcement this week that the majority of the country's plantings of the Spanish grape variety Albariño are actually the French variety Savagnin. The mix-up was revealed by DNA profiling conducted by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), the body responsible for importing and distributing vine plant material into Australia.
Foster’s has created the new executive position of transformation director, to help the beer and wine group with its restructuring plan. The Australia-based company said today (9 April) that Donna Watt will join Foster's from KPMG, starting in the role on Tuesday (14 April).
A retired Barossa grape grower says a united approach is needed to overcome the oversupply issues that plague the industry. Trevor Wilksch says some growers have resorted to leaving white grapes on the ground to rot while many are considering scaling back their vineyards as it becomes harder to find buyers for their fruit.
world-first metallic capsule that replaces traditional Champagne corks while preserving the traditional bottle-opening 'pop' is to be launched by Champagne house Duval-Leroy at the London International Wine Fair in May.
Conmen posing as UK wine merchants have tricked French winegrowers into handing over thousands of bottles of stock in a copycat repeat of a scam last year which netted crooks an estimated £1m. The ongoing fraud began in March, with producers in all the principal wine-making regions targeted by bogus representatives of merchants Berry Bros & Rudd, Thorman Hunt & Co, Liberty Wines, Stainton Wines and Wine and Beer World
The economic downturn has brought sales of ultra premium Napa Valley reds 'to a screeching halt,' according to Dan Isenhart, wine buyer at Amazing Grapes Wine Store in Los Angeles. But whilst the high end reds have seen a dramatic fall in sales, the mid-range wines are experiencing a boost as a result of the recession.
With another busy day of Bordeaux wine releases, the second week of the en primeur campaign has seen a significant proportion of high-profile wines on to the market, many at large drops from 2007. Chateau Lynch Bages has come down 20% to 32 euros ex-chateau (equivalent to around £385 per case in the UK), while Chateau Pichon Comtesse de Lalande has come down 40% to 33 euros ex-chateau (around £465). Chateau Margaux yesterday became the fourth of the Premiere Grand Cru Classes to come out yesterday, at the same 110 euros as Lafite and Latour (around £1,590).
Friday 10 April
Moving Juice also advertised in April last year certain wines on their website as ‘was $x now $y’, however the wine had not been offered or sold for the higher ‘was’ price since before November, 2007.
Comment from John Annat - This claim made
certainly breached federal legislation but they may have also have broken a
State law too.
How Australia went down under - Jancis Robinson
Something very strange has happened to Australian wine. While more and more truly fine Australian wine is being produced, Australian wine’s fortunes and reputation have plummeted. Fashions in wine, just as in everything else, come and go, but the sheer speed with which Australia has moved from being revered to being reviled is quite remarkable.
Australia promises high quality vintage (More industry hype and BS)
Despite early frosts, drought, irrigation restrictions, a heatwave and bushfires, a high quality 2009 vintage is being forecast by Australian winemakers. And a 1.6 million tonne crop will help ease the surplus which is contributing to lower than wanted grape and domestic and export wine prices.
Foster's, in a wide-ranging review of its wine operations, has announced it is cutting the cord on 37 wine brands. It won't comment publicly on the names of brands to be retired (apparently that can stop some of us from continuing to buy them) but some names have been circulating.
PARIS—Wine drinkers in France, Italy and across Europe uncorked fewer bottles last year as the global economy slowed dramatically, leaving the United States as the world's largest consumer, an industry group said Tuesday.
Bordeaux's most prestigious châteaus were packed this past week, as more than 13,500 importers, wine writers and other members of the trade drove up and down the Left and Right Banks, getting their first tastes of the 2008 vintage. The annual futures tastings—the trade's chance to sample the wines before futures go on sale—were as busy as ever. The wines were surprisingly good, according to most reports. Despite a cold wet summer last year, a sunny fall ripened the grapes and most estates produced very good to outstanding wines.
Constellation Brands, the world's largest wine producer, is to cut up to 450 jobs thanks to weak Christmas trading in Australia, Europe and especially the UK. The cuts - about 5% of Constellaton's 9,000-strong global workforce - were a further reflection of the 'realities of the marketplace', said president and CEO Rob Sands.
France has been relegated to third place behind Italy and Spain in the league table of wine exporting nations, according to new figures released by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV). According to OIV estimates for 2008, France exported 13.6m hectolitres (hl) of wine, giving it a global market share of 15%.
A senior Champagne boss has called for yields to be slashed for the 2009 harvest. Paul-François Vranken, head of Vranken-Pommery Monopole - one of the three biggest Champagne houses - has called for yields in Champagne to be cut to between 7,500 and 9,600kg per hectare.
WHEN gin was first imported to London from the Netherlands in the 1690s, it was so cheap that it soon became the main cause of the city's social problems. Londoners were said to be drinking two pints a week and violent crime was out of control. By the mid-1720s the first of a succession of laws was passed increasing taxes and licensing fees on gin. The Gin Act and its various amendments appear to have worked because by the 1740s Londoners were rioting for their right to drink the stuff cheap.
Friday 3 April
BEER, wine and brandy drinkers are to be targeted by the Rudd Government under a $3 billion budget swoop on so-called "sin taxes". The Age has learnt that the Government plans to use next month's budget to remove many of the anomalies in the way different alcoholic drinks are taxed.
Total Australian winegrape production is forecast to fall by 13% to 1.6MT in 2008–09, as a result of ongoing shortages of water for irrigation and high temperatures in early 2009, according to a new ABARE report Australian winegrape production projections to 2010–11, released yesterday.
Decanter's team of tasters have given their first verdict on Bordeaux's 2008s - and the early signs are that the vintage is better than had been expected. With many of the Right Bank wines tasted, and halfway through the marathon of the Médocs, consultant editor Steven Spurrier has sounded a cautiously optimistic note
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource and Economics (ABARE) says grape production in the south-east is likely to be down almost 20,000 tonnes on last year's harvest.