Our Del Mundo tasting in April was a premium European tasting with Lucas. The wines we indulged in were:
Terra Serena Prosecco DOC Treviso Brut – Italian
Tonon Prosecco Conegliano Vablobbiadene Extra Dry DOCG – Italian
2017 Great Five Pinotage Reserve – South African – first released in 1945
2010 Camilo de Lellis Biferno Montepulciano/Aglianico Trebbiaio DOCG – Italian
2016 Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG – Italian
2012 Estola Gran reserve Tempranillo Cabernet – Spanish
2008 Faustino First Tempranillo – Spanish
Lucas’s presentation was lively and informative, and many attendees were surprised to learn that in Italy and Spain there are strict rules around what can be labelled reserve. Requirements vary on a regional basis, though essentially, they have to have an extended period in both the barrel and the bottle before being released.
Typically, wines at the higher end of the spectrum are aged for many years. While Chianti has to be aged for a minimum of two years, Amarone, which we tasted on the night, can only be released after four years. A grand reserve has even more stringent requirements. For a Spanish wine to be labelled as a Gran Reserva, the law requires that it be aged for a minimum of five years, with two of those years in an oak cask or barrel.
Other tidbits we picked up during the evening:
Del Mondo means ‘of the world’
Prosecco means ‘path through the woods’
In 2009, Italy Prosecco was recognised as a geographical indication (GI) by Italian law (in the same vein as Champagne in France) and the Prosecco grape variety was renamed Glera
Tempranillo was first planted in the year 800, given Royal assent in 1100
Tempranillo is also the world’s third-largest crop
The Great Five Pinotage Reserve was first released in 1945
The opportunity to try labels we were unfamiliar with made for an interesting time and the Faustino, which normally retails for $105, was a special treat.
Note from Editor
A big thanks to all Club members for mucking in and helping set up the tables & chairs, etc for our last tasting. The JCC has explained that the Fijian group present when we arrived had got their dates mixed up for their bookings and they (JCC) have given us a rent-free evening for our troubles.
New Zealand’s wine industry built its name on sav, but we’ve been putting all our eggs in one basket for too long, writes Jules van Costello.
I like to think of sauvignon blanc as the IPA of wine. It’s brash, bombastic and a little bit basic (in a good way). Like IPA, its tropical aromas of guava, passionfruit, lemongrass and a little bit of sweat jump forth from the glass. In the words of wine educator Oz Clark: “There had never before been a wine that crackled and spat its flavours at you from the glass”. It should not be surprising that some of the flavours in savvies and IPAs are the same – New Zealand’s most acclaimed hop variety, Nelson Sauvin, is named for its olfactory similarity to Marlborough sauvignon blanc.
Savvy is easy to understand and even easier to like. In the world of wine, which has a tendency to disempower consumers by letting so-called “experts” hoard knowledge, this is unequivocally a good thing.
Sauvignon blanc put New Zealand on the map. It is the foundation on which the entire export side of our wine industry has been built. But sadly, there can be too much of a good thing. While writing my new book, Beyond the Vines: The Changing Landscape of New Zealand Wine, I’ve had to wrestle with the fact that while sauvignon blanc is amazing, the New Zealand wine industry has too many eggs in one basket. It represents 63% of New Zealand’s area under vine, 74% of our wine production and a whopping 88% of our exports by volume, meaning for every dozen bottles of wine we export, over 10 of those are sauvignon blanc.
In August 2020, New Zealand Winegrowers released their annual report which stated that, despite six months of Covid-19 affecting sales, we’d actually exported more wine than ever before. Big grocery brands have done incredibly well but many smaller producers are feeling the pinch. The smaller the producer, the more likely they are to be selling wine in restaurants, which is hard when restaurants are shut or diners are too scared to go out. Secondary lockdowns in Melbourne, London and even in Auckland, as well as the huge mishandling of Covid in our biggest markets – the USA and UK – have had profoundly negative effects for many Kiwi producers.
New Zealand, the forward-thinking upstart that it is, committed to free trade in the mid-1980s. We are an export economy and from my position, this has generally helped us do business. However, one of the consequences of this is that no industry is too big to fail. Our producers, unlike those in Europe, for instance, cannot rely on government intervention to keep them afloat if the arse drops out of the market.
Sauvignon blanc is popular now across the globe, but what happens when the bubble bursts? We could face a quick trend shift à la Sideways that saw merlot’s demise, or even a sudden global event change how the wine world works overnight. Most of the players who are making big bucks on industrial sauvignon blanc will not care. They will move onto something else. The growers and the wineries will be hurting. The wine world is a slow-moving beast, but it is also a fickle one. At this stage, New Zealand does not have an exit strategy.
Savvy is important – we can make relatively high-quality juice relatively cheaply. This is what got us into this problem in the first place. But we can also make world-class wine all over New Zealand. We need to champion more serious styles of sauvignon blanc, which we excel at.
We also need to diversify, and quickly. Despite having over 55 commercial varieties being grown, land devoted to most varieties has been dwindling (all but sauvignon blanc, of course, pinot noir, pinot gris and syrah).
I myself am heavily invested in the natural and lo-fi wine game with my businesses Cult Wine and Te Aro Wine but, strangely enough, I do not think this is the saviour of the industry, nor is making more and more serious wine. We need to find something we can make relatively cheaply, well, and for which there is an international demand.
I believe light red wines are part of the answer to the problem of the sav bubble – Montepulciano from Italy, St Lauren from Austria and Gamay are all contenders. In Australia, these light reds have taken off domestically and are making waves internationally. Like sav, we can make affordable pinot relatively well so there is no reason why we cannot apply these skills to grape varieties that are a little easier to grow. I happen to like drinking light reds but this is one solution that should also suit consumers in Australia, USA and the growing Chinese market.
We also need to experiment, throw grapes at the wall to see what sticks. The bubble will pop. We need to be ready.
Our April tasting was a great success and certainly slightly different from other tastings, given the perspective of our presenter and her knowledge of wines in the current market.
Having someone of Joelle’s experience was certainly a coup for the club and we would like to acknowledge Regional Wines contribution in making this event happen.
The committee will be approaching Regional to see if we can re-establish some permanent benefits for club members and we will advise further if and when this is finalised.
As for the wines themselves, I have already said earlier that I really enjoyed the Montepulciano. But given the number and cross-section of orders that Joelle took away with her, it’s clear that all the wines were greatly appreciated.
Thank you, Joelle, for a very interesting tasting. Hopefully, we can arrange another tasting sometime in the future.
Well, Robin and Pat are off on their cruise. I’m not sure their itinerary allows much chance to try local wines, but I’m sure that they will have fun working their way through the selection provided by their cruise liner.`
I was sorry that I missed our last tasting, but as fortune would have it, I did get to taste some of the left-over wines at our committee meeting the following week and I particularly enjoyed the Montepulciano D’Abrusso, I have even made a mental note to call by Regional wines and grab a bottle or two.
Preparing the AGM
Your committee has been busy preparing for the AGM and finalising our calendar for the rest of the year. Have a look later in this newsletter to see the exciting events that are now all in flight.
Attached to this Newsletter you will find the minutes from the 2018 AGM. The President and Treasurer will present their reports on the night and details will subsequently be made available on the Club’s website for those who might be interested.
This is your club and the AGM does offer an opportunity to have your say and/or raise matters of interest. If you have ideas or thoughts to offer please don’t be shy to raise them.
Glengarry’s Sunday ramblings of all things vinous, grain and glorious. A tour of Italy – Part 2 comes from The Sunday Sediment Issue 6.
The largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily boasts the greatest number of wineries of any Italian region. Leading light on the island is the fortified DOC wine, Marsala; so brilliant for cooking and superb when served with a hard cheese like Pecorino. While there are some impressive DOC wines here, there is also great value being offered by top quality producers making very good IGT wines from native varieties.
Generally, the south of Italy is all about value and generous, forward wine styles. Abruzzo is located on the coast north and east of Rome, the region home to Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Historically significant as the place the vine first arrived in Italy from Greece, Apulia (or Puglia) is located in the middle of the heel of Italy’s boot. Known as a large volume producer, there are now top-rated DOCG, an impressive 25 DOC zones and a chariot-full of great Italian foods.
Produced largely in the north, Prosecco is the current high-flier of Italy’s respected sparkling wine industry. In 2009 it was awarded DOCG status, that important ‘G’ on the end adding a rock-solid guarantee to the quality of the wine. Franciacorta is both a highly-rated DOCG area and a sparkling wine with a huge reputation, produced a la champagne, but with even more stringent aging requirements than its French cousins.
The Italians have been perfecting their heady spirit known as Grappa since the Middle Ages. A unique concoction produced from grape pomace (the skins, pulp, seeds and stems left over after the juice has been extracted for winemaking), Grappa began life as a coarse, home-made drink enjoyed by farmers after a hard day’s work. From these humble beginnings it has evolved into a highly refined spirit. By EU law, Grappa must be produced in Italy, without any added water, from fermented and distilled pomace. To produce it, the pomace is heated in a bain-marie (also known as a water bath or double boiler) to create steam, which is forced through a distillation column. The resulting colourless, filtered distillation can be enjoyed immediately, but the finest Grappas are aged in glass or wood, which changes the colour and adds complexity. Flavours, too, can vary considerably depending on the origin of the grape pomace, the blending and the aging process. Great post-prandial, or added to espresso.
Read more in the Glengarry Wineletter – #232 August 2017.
Glengarry’s Sunday ramblings of all things vinous, grain and glorious. A tour of Italy – Part 1 comes from The Sunday Sediment Issue 5.
Veneto is home to the glorious sinking city of Venice and the romantic jewel that is Verona. Here, you’ll find great value Soave, Valpolicella and Bardolino wines. Less than half of the wine produced in Veneto is able to be labelled with the Italian quality mark of DOC, with large quantities of IGT (table wine) produced there, making it an important region for quantity. It is also home to the superstar Amarone, and to the sparkling Prosecco wines made in Conegliano-Valdobbiadene. Read more in the Glengarry Wineletter – #232 August 2017.
Piemonte produces some of Italy’s most long-lived wines. A treasure trove of culinary delights, it is home to Barolo, Barbaresco, truffles and hazelnuts. The predominant red grapes are the indigenous Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto, the whites, Arneis and Moscato. The wines are distinctly regional and oozing with flair. Lovers of Pinot Noir will feel right at home with Nebbiolo, which is bottled in its own right as well as being the variety behind the famed Barolo wines. Read more in the Glengarry Wineletter – #232 August 2017.
A long with Piemonte, Toscana (Tuscany) has the highest percentage of top-tier DOCG wines, and is home to the scarlet giants Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. It is here that the new meets the old head-on, giving rise to the so-called Super Tuscans. The main variety in Tuscany is Sangiovese, used to make Chianti, with the variety’s greatest expression derived from the legendary Brunello clone developed by Montalcino’s Biondi-Santi family.
Read more in the Glengarry Wineletter – #232 August 2017.