- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
Monthly Archives: June 2010
Domain Day ‘g’ Garganega 2009 $20 Mount Crawford, South Australia If you’ve enjoyed Soave, Verona’s famous dry white, then you’ve enjoyed garganega, one of Italy’s many native grape varieties. Robin Day claims his planting at Mount Crawford to be the first outside of Italy. From it he makes a full-bodied, distinctively flavoured dry white. It has some tropical fruit aromas. But there’s another delicious element – reminiscent of sweet and sour, not-quite-bitter honeydew melon, where the flesh meets the rind.
Wallaroo Riesling 2009 $16.67–$20 Hall, Australian Capital Territory Wallaroo riesling has been a consistent medal winner at the Canberra Regional Wine Show. The gongs include gold medals for the 2002, 2007 (plus trophy) and 2008 vintages and bronzes for the 2005 and 2006. The vineyard is located on the Murrumbidgee Valley side of Hall and the wines are made by Dr Roger Harris at nearby Brindabella Hills. The 2009 is an attractively perfumed, delicate, dry style with pure, lemon-like varietal flavour.
Villa Maria Blanc 2009 $20 Marlborough, New Zealand George Fistonich founded Villa Maria way back in 1961 and still heads it. It’s one of New Zealand’s most dynamic companies, covering most segments of the market, and making outstanding wines. It has a big presence in Hawkes Bay on the North Island with its Villa Maria and Vidal labels as well as in Marlborough. In the latter it makes notable pinot noir as well as this outstanding sauvignon blanc. It’s quintessential Marlborough with in-your-face capsicum-like varietal flavour and rich, fleshy, zingy fresh palate.
Grove Estate The Cellar Block Shiraz Viognier 2008 $38 Hilltops Region, Young, New South Wales What a glorious red. It’s saturated with juicy, plush varietal flavours – reminiscent of ripe, dark berries – seamlessly meshed with the slipperiest, smoothest tannins imaginable. A touch of the white variety, viognier, in the blend lifts the aroma and probably accounts, in part, for the vivacity of the fruit flavours. It’s from the Grove Estate vineyard, established by the Flanders, Kirkwood and Mullany families in 1989. Made by Tim Kirk at Clonakilla, Murrumbateman.
Voyager Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 $60 Margaret River, Western Australia It’s labelled as “cabernet sauvignon merlot”, after the two dominant varieties, but a dab of malbec and petit verdot contribute to a sensational blend – ripe and powerful, but restrained and elegant at the same time. The aroma’s not unlike a good Medoc in a ripe year; but the vibrant fruit and soft tannins give an Australian accent. It’s looking very young at five years and should provide exciting drinking for many decades if well cellared.
Chapel Hill Il Vescovo Tempranillo 2009 $20 Adelaide Hills, South Australia There’s no winemaker artifice here, just a pure, exuberant, fruity expression of Spain’s popular red variety. It begins fragrant, fleshy and fruity ¬– like a combination of ripe blueberry and mulberry – and as you sip away the savoury tannins step in, providing an authoritative real-red-wine finish. Winemaker Michael Fragos reserves Chapel Hill’s Il Vescovo label to emerging varieties, including this wine and a very good white savagnin (initially labelled as albarino).
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
Along the Great Divide in New South Wales, wine growing regions are striving to establish their identities in the minds of consumers. Mudgee, Orange and Cowra seem to be struggling in that regard. But Canberra has a foot in, thanks to its shiraz and riesling; high, cool Tumbarumba’s reputation for sparkling wine and chardonnay continues to grow, especially among producers; and Hilltops (Young) can’t seem to help making top-notch shiraz, very good cabernet and a small, impressive range of reds made from Italian varieties.
Regions define themselves by the wines they make. On that basis Hilltops rates among Australia’s best red-wine growing areas. The sheer juicy pleasure of Eden Road’s Jimmy Watson Trophy winning Hilltops Shiraz 2008 ($16.50) gave a glimpse of what to expect.
A virtually unoaked wine, one delightful mouthful opens the window on Hilltops shiraz – displaying the charm of the fruit, little altered from how it was in the vineyard. Quality moves up a notch, though, when winemakers select the very best fruit and use the transformative magic of oak maturation.
This can be seen in the graceful shiraz made by Celine Rousseau at Ted Ambler’s Chalkers Crossing and in the beautiful wines from Grove Estate and Moppity Vineyards.
Grove Estate Cellar Block Shiraz Viognier 2008 ($38) shows the amazing fruity, silky depth of the regional style. It’s unique – and irresistible. Made by Tim Kirk at Clonakilla, it’s not dissimilar in style to his own highly successful Hilltops shiraz, sourced in part from Grove Estate.
Grove’s Brian Mullany attributes fruit quality to small yields, dry, warm days and cool nights during ripening in February and March. He writes, “Our cropping levels have been very low for the past five to ten years. Our vines have been producing around four tonnes per hectare with yields as low as two tonnes per hectare some years”, comparing this to the 15–20 tonnes per hectare of a Riverland vineyard.
The concentration of fruit flavour shows through as well in Grove’s other red varieties – cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese, barbera and nebbiolo. These are all made by Richard Parker at Long Rail Gully, Murrumbateman.
Grove’s current release The Partners Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($25) has clear varietal aromas and flavours with fleshy, generous mid-palate fruit offsetting firm, drying tannins. It’s an excellent wine but doesn’t push the excitement button to the extent the shiraz viognier does.
Dry, savoury and great value, The Italian 2008 ($20, reviewed last week) combines the Italian varieties sangiovese and barbera. A promising wine; we’ll stand back and see where this goes in future.
But the excitement buzzer rings again as we taste three reds made from Piemonte’s noble nebbiolo. This is the grape of Italy’s aristocratic Barolo and Barbaresco. Even the Italians have trouble enough with this variety, as all too often the wines smell wonderful but collapse on the palate, overwhelmed by mouth-dessicating tannins. The best, though, are magnificent – highly fragrant and elegant with tight tannins cocooning delicious fruit flavours.
Grove’s nebbiolos fall into latter category. The Reserve 2006 ($30), a Winewise trophy winner, shows some maturity now – a seamless, taut, savoury style with a lovely core of sweet fruit. Sommita 2007 ($45), a trophy winner at the Sydney International Wine Competition, is fuller and more concentrated, with the firm tannins of the 2007 vintage. And Sommita 2008 ($45) is simply glorious, showing the ripe, buoyant fruit qualities of the 2008 vintage. Making elegant, deeply flavoured nebbiolo of this calibre is a major achievement.
Jason Brown and his parents John and Robin (owners of Candamber liquor stores) bought the a large Hilltops vineyard from receivers in 2004 and set about restoring the neglected vines. They later subdivided the property and Jason and wife Alecia now operate their portion of it, the 68-hectare Moppity Vineyard. Jason Brown says he was attracted to Moppity by the site and the age and clones of vines in the vineyard. Between 2006 and 2009 the Browns increased production under the Moppity label from 1,000 cases to 15,000 cases.
They offer two ranges of wines, all produced from their vineyard – Lock and Key, a fighting brand, at under $15 a bottle, and the premium Moppity Vineyards ($20) Moppity Vineyards Reserve ($45) labels.
The first vintage of the reserve shiraz, 2006, won the top gold medal in its class in London International Wine and Spirit Competition; and the currently available 2007 has a gold medal and trophy – it’s a sensational wine.
Moppity Park’s two cabernets – Lock and Key Hilltops Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($15) and Moppity Vineyards Hilltops Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($20) are rich but elegant – Lock and Key, on the lighter, leafy side but still with delicious berry fruit flavours and firm tannins offers tremendous value; Moppity is riper, with more body and depth. I’ve not yet tasted the 2007 Reserve, containing a splash of sangiovese.
The three shirazes – Lock and Key Hilltops Shiraz 2008 ($15), Moppity Vineyards Hilltops Shiraz 2008 ($20), Moppity Vineyards Hilltops Reserve Shiraz 2007 ($50) pretty well seal the argument for Hilltops shiraz. The medium bodied Lock and Key is as good a red as you’ll ever find for the money; Moppity Vineyards ramps up the fruit concentration, but is still refined and elegant; and the Reserve shows the greater power, savouriness and firm tannins of the 2007 vintage – a brilliant shiraz.
This is only a snapshot of a region making its mark in a crowded market. Shiraz may be the signature variety. But Hilltops cabernets are good, if not as exciting as shiraz, and there’s the emerging world of Italian red varieties – including Grove’s outstanding nebbiolos and Brian Freeman’s delicious rondinella-corvina blends mentioned last week.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
Wig and Pen Spiced Olde Ale with Truffle — half-pint $6 Between keg and glass this fruity, malty, lightly spicy ale seeps through a container of brandied cumquat, juniper berry, star anise, nutmeg, cinnamon and slices of fresh local truffle. The infusion transforms the beer – adding spicy flavours and a tease of cumquat bitterness, while boosting the malt opulence – probably an affect of the truffle.
Kronenbourg 1664 — 330ml 6-pack $18.99 The press release recommends drinking 1664 super chilled – a good idea for a beer so light on flavour and character. In our sample the head subsided too quickly and the beer simply lacked zing and freshness. Despite that, light malt and delicate hops make it a quaffable if not exciting brew. Brewed by Fosters in Australia.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
On 20 June, Zierholz Premium Beers, Fyshwick released an oat malt stout on tap at its Kembla Street Fyshwick outlet. Brewer Christoph Zierholz calls the new stout a German take on an old English-Irish beer style. These traditional styles use a proportion of unmalted oatmeal, added during the brewing process, to create a rich, creamy smoothness to the palate.
But as Zierholz brews to Germany’s purity laws (using only water, malted grain, yeast and hops), he used malted oats, not oatmeal, to create the same effect.
The oats – along with roasted, malted barley and English-grown Kent Goldings and Brambling Cross hops – produced a 4.8 per cent alcohol stout. Zierholz describes it as having rich, roasted coffee flavours and a smooth, rounded texture, courtesy of the oat malt. We’ll review it in Food and Wine next week.
Canberra’s other brewery, the Wig and Pen, will shortly release its gold medal winning The Judges Are Old Codgers Russian Imperial Stout. Brewer Richard Watkins says it’s been maturing in tank for nine months. This year’s version is down to 8.5 per cent alcohol, a significant drop on the ten per cent we’ve seen in recent years.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
Dandelion Vineyards Wonderland of the Eden Valley Riesling 2009 $23–$25 This is a stunning first release for Dandelion Vineyards, the brainchild of husband and wife Zar and Elena Brooks. Dandelion grows its own grapes and sources others from notable vineyards. In this instance, says Zar Brooks, the grapes come from a “centurion plus riesling vineyard of five acres or so tended by the 86 years young Mr Colin Kroehn, all in view of his beloved Church of St Petri”. There’s a fine, delicate magic to Dandelion dry riesling – a classic of the taut, intense Eden Valley style – made by Elena Brooks. See www.dandelionvineyards.homestead.com for more info.
Turkey Flat Vineyards Barossa Valley Shiraz 2008 $47 Turkey Flat, writes proprietor Peter Schulz, harvested most of its shiraz before the intense March 2008 heatwave that made vintage difficult for many growers. The resulting wine is an alluring, fragrant Barossa shiraz of the highest order. It’s ripe, but not over-ripe and clearly varietal in the warm climate spectrum – reminiscent of juicy black cherry with a touch of spice. The fruit’s laced with the Barossa’s soft, tender tannins; and there’s a subtle oak influence working sympathetically with the structure and flavour. It’s an easy-to drink-red of great sophistication and with years of cellaring life ahead. It’s sourced principally from vines planted in 1847.
Domain Day Mt Crawford One Serious Merlot 2006 $28 Merlot struggles for an identity in Australia. It doesn’t help that much of our earlier plantings turned out to cabernet franc, an aromatic but often weedy variety, nor that much of our merlot came laced with sugar – giving the variety and undeserved reputation as sweet. Even at home in Bordeaux, though, merlot generally fills out cabernet blends, and only occasionally stands on its own. All of that’s a preamble to saying Robin Day’s version is bloody good. It’s medium coloured and attractively perfumed with a touch of ripe plum and earth. These come through, too, on an elegant laced with firm but fine tannins.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
The Hilltops wine region, centred on Young, an hour and a half’s drive north from here, emerged at about the same time as Canberra’s. In 1969, just two years before CSIRO Drs John Kirk and Edgar Riek planted vines, independently of one another, at Murrumbateman and Lake George, cherry farmer, the late Peter Robertson, established a vineyard on his property, Barwang at Young.
The quality of fruit from Robertson’s vines encouraged its eventual expansion to 100 hectares and, ultimately, its full acquisition by McWilliams in 1989 after a period of joint venture with the Robertson family.
For a time in the late eighties, under McWilliams ownership, Barwang was seen by some in the company as a source of rich flavours whose best use might be to rev up multi-regional blends.
However, there were dissenting voices in the ranks at McWilliams. Two voices in particular, those of Doug McWilliam and chief winemaker, Jim Brayne, argued the case for an estate-grown wine bearing the Barwang and, hence, Young, name (the Hilltops region, its ultimate appellation, didn’t yet exist).
The McWilliams boss at the time, Don McWilliam, a proponent, as I recall, of the blend-it-away point of view, with support from Doug and Jim invited Australia’s wine journalists to visit Barwang, inspect the vines, taste its wines and to argue for or against a regional brand.
Doug McWilliam and Brayne anticipated support from the writers and got it – a unanimous vote to build Barwang’s regional identity. Perhaps our support twenty years ago played a small part in McWilliams’ decision to continue making and marketing the now well-known Barwang wines.
For the many other winemakers in the area it was a significant decision – a case where the presence of a large company in an emerging region raised the area’s profile through its nationwide distribution. Barwang also helped legitimise Hilltops through the high quality, and significant wine show success, of its wines.
But even after McWilliams’ decision to keep the Barwang brand, other forces made Hilltops, for a time, source of multi-regional blending material. In the mid to late nineties, Australia’s export juggernaut was sucking the country dry of red wine.
To meet what appeared to be endless demand, large makers, notably Southcorp, encouraged broad acre planting along the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range – from Mudgee in the north to Gundagai in the south. On an extensive tour of these areas in the late nineties with Southcorp viticulturist, Bruce Brown, the Hilltops region featured as one of the key sources of high quality red grapes.
The area under vine in Hilltops increased during this period. However, this put pressure on grape growers as demand waned this decade. But it also created opportunities for small makers outside the area.
Canberra’s Clonakilla, for example, built on the success of its flagship shiraz viognier blend with a comparatively big volume Hilltops shiraz that sells for about one third the price. And last year Eden Road Winery, based in the old Kamberra building, won the Jimmy Watson Trophy with a 2008 Hilltops shiraz, sourced primarily from Jason and Alecia Brown’s Moppity Vineyards. Importantly, these small external makers acknowledge Hilltops on the label.
The wines are simply too good and distinctive to blend away. And these successes add to the sizzle being created by Young’s resident vignerons.
Though Barwang shiraz and cabernet sauvignon remain perhaps the most visible of the Hilltops resident producers, Grove Estate, Chalkers Crossing, Freeman and Moppity Vineyards all make impressive wines.
Freeman, established in 1999, focuses on Italian styles. Brian Freeman’s flagship, a blend of the Veneto red varieties rondinella and corvina, is a brilliant Australian take on Valpolicella’s “Amarone” style, made from dried grapes. But rather than go the whole hog like the Italians, Freeman uses mainly fresh grapes, adding a portion of dehydrated berries during fermentation. The result is a very full, ripe red with a distinctive ripe black-cherry flavour – with undertones of port and prune and a pleasantly tart, savoury edge.
He backs the red up with the delicious “Fortuna”, a savoury, Italian-style, white blend of pinot gris, riesling, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and aleatico.
Another comparative newcomer, Ted Ambler, planted his first vines near Young in 1997, employing French winemaker Celine Rousseau to make the first Chalkers Crossing wines in 2000. Her graceful, elegant wines, shiraz in particular, have been some of the best to emerge from the region. Chalkers Crossing produces shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, riesling and semillon from Hilltops; and chardonnay, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc from nearby (and cooler) Tumbarumba.
Next we’ll look at the interesting history and wines from Moppity Vineyards, founded originally as Moppity Park in 1973 and bought by the Brown family in 2004 and Grove Estate, established by Brian Mullany and partners in 1989.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
Cullens Kevin John Chardonnay 2008 $75 Margaret River, Western Australia Our best winemakers invariably bring a wide frame of reference to their work. Vanya Cullen, for example, stages a tasting of the world’s best chardonnays every year in the family winery. It’s a benchmarking exercise that’s helped lift Cullens Chardonnay, named for Vanya’s late father, into Australia’s top tier. It’s a subtle, fine, beautiful wine that grows on you, building in intensity and interest with every sip. We savoured our bottle over a trout salad at Yellow Bistro, Potts Point.
Majella Shiraz 2008 $28 Coonawarra, South Australia Excuse the disgusting slurping sounds. But you have to chew, even frolic, in a shiraz this voluptuous. It’s a surprising wine for Coonawarra – big on alcohol at 15% and big on fruit. But there’s no heat in the alcohol and no jammy, overripe flavours in the fruit – just pure, varietal berries. And typical of Majella there’s a well judged dollop of oak meshed with the fruit flavours. This is a seductive drop indeed; simply irresistible.
Shaw Vineyard Estate Premium Cabernet Merlot 2008 $25 Murrumbateman, Canberra District, New South Wales Graeme Shaw and Bryan Currie make both a straight cabernet sauvignon and this blend with 15 per cent merlot – all sourced from Shaw’s Murrumbateman vineyard. They’re polished wines featuring pristine varietal fruit flavours. But the blend, to my taste, is the more complete wine of the two. There’s a little more plummy ripeness in the aroma and a tasty bulge of ripe fruit on the mid palate, presumably the merlot, filling out the famous cabernet hole.
Turkey Flat Mourvedre 2008 $35 Barossa Valley, South Australia Turkey Flat vineyard dates from 1847. The Schulz family bought it in 1870. But the Turkey Flat label appeared only in 1990 when Peter and Christie Schulz took over. In recent years they’ve spared a portion of wine from their old mourvedre vines for special bottling. It’s a late ripening variety and Schulz reckons this, and a vigorous canopy, saved it from the Barossa’s savage March 2008 heatwave. The resulting tiny, black berries made a distinctive, delightfully fruity, savoury wine.
Grove Estate The Italian Sangiovese Barbera 2008 $20 Hilltops, New South Wales What do you get when you cross two Italian varieties – taut, savoury, pale, tannic sangiovese with fruity, fleshy, crimson-rimmed, acidic barbera? Well, for Brian Mullany and the gang at Grove Estate you get a tasty medium-coloured, medium bodied Italian-style quaffer. There’s a nice core of fruit laced with the sort of savoury, drying tannins that go well with savoury food and char-grilled meats of all kinds. This is just the entry wine for this impressive vineyard. Watch for more.
Mount Horrocks Semillon 2009 $27 Clare Valley, South Australia They say the word “semillon”, unaccompanied by “sauvignon blanc” on a label is the kiss of death. Perhaps “they” haven’t tried Stephanie Toole’s glorious Clare Valley version. It’s completely oak fermented and matured – a process that, sensitively executed, accentuates the pure, lemony varietal flavour while adding structure, texture and complexity, but not oakiness. It’s a mile away from the idiosyncratic, austere Hunter style of semillon; but not as full bodied as chardonnay. It’s a must try if you enjoy full-flavoured but fine-boned whites.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
Stone and Wood Draught Ale 330ml 6-pack $19.99 This is a lovely beer, driven by distinctive resiny, citrus-like hops aroma. Brewer Brad Rogers says this is courtesy of “powerfully aromatic Galaxy hops”, some added at the end of fermentation. It’s a beautifully fresh, richly flavoured, cloudy beer and not pasteurised or filtered. It’s brewed and bottled in Byron Bay.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
Cien Y Pico Manchuela Doble Pasta Tintorera 2007 $27–$30 Cien Y Pico Manchuela Knights-Errant Tintorera 2007 $50–$55 We’re seeing lots of Spanish wine in Australia – mainly reds made from tempranillo and garnacha (grenache), dry white albarino, various bubblies and sherry, particularly the lighter fino styles. Then there are these two powerful, distinctive reds, made by Australian winemaker Elena Brooks. Made from the garnacha tintorera grape (aka alicante), they’re as black as tarmac and ox strong – the product of very old bush vines grown in Spain’s baking hot, eastern highland Manchuela region. Doble Pasta focuses more on high-toned, in-your-face fruit, laced with soft tannins. Knights-Errant is even more powerful and savoury with distinct oaky notes.
Shaw Vineyard Estate Canberra District Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 $25 The Shaw family vineyard, one of Canberra’s largest, supplied grapes to Hardy’s before developing its own label. This is a common journey for Australian grape growers – and the wines generally pass through a ‘rustic’ phase as they move up the quality curve. For Graeme Shaw this was a very short journey indeed, aided by winemaker Bryan Currie and a solid effort in the Murrumbateman vineyard. The winemaking is now very polished – at the stage where quality improvements will come almost entirely from the vineyard. The 2008 cabernet is in the ripe-but-elegant mould: medium bodied, flavoursome and with the firm, slightly astringent tannins of the variety.
Scarborough Hunter ValleyGreen Label Semillon 2009 $18 White Label Semillon 2009 $25
The Scarborough family winery sits atop a little hill at Pokolbin. Perhaps the jewel in their crown, though, is site of the former Sunshine vineyard, a source of the great Lindeman semillons of the sixties and seventies. The Scarboroughs replanted it and part of the material goes to their white label semillon. The 2009 vintage of latter is a classic of the old Hunter style – bone dry, low in alcohol (10.5%), very finely textured and with intense lemongrass and lime varietal flavours. It’s a delight to drink and should age well. Green Label is a rounder, softer, drink-now version of the style.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010
Is Australia ready for high quality regional varietal wines in tetra paks? We’ll know soon enough following this month’s launch of One Planet Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2009 and McLaren Vale Shiraz 2008. They’re billed as “the green pour” and the marketing focuses on a zero carbon dioxide output across the product lifecycle. But the wine quality, and sheer convenience of the lightweight pack, means it won’t just be Bob Brown drinking OP.
One Planet Chief Executive, Sam Atkins, says one-litre tetra pak wines enjoy big sales in the USA, Canada and Argentina, with the French Rabbit brand now taking off in Europe and the UK. He says these are mostly cheaper wines, equivalent in quality to our wine casks. Convenience and economy, it seems are the key selling points – just as they are for our home-grown one-litre tetra pak offerings from Banrock Station and Long Flat.
Atkins believes One Planet tetra paks are the first in the world to offer premium regional varietal wines. Retailing at around $14.95 they’ll be pitched squarely against high-quality bottled products – a big ask in the current glutted, deeply discounted market. They certainly have the quality – both comfortably achieve Wine and Food’s three-star standard: the light, fresh sauvignon blanc shows the tropical fruit end of the varietal spectrum; and the shiraz is big, bold and fruity in the particularly robust style of McLaren Vale’s hot 2008 vintage.
The test will be on the shop floor. But Atkins remains confident and has the national support of Coles with its 1st Choice, Vintage Cellars and Liquorland outlets taking on the brand in advance of a wider rollout. In the warehouse-style 1st Choice stores, the wines will have their own purpose-built displays – for visual impact and to separate them from wine casks.
Atkins sees parallels with the successful re-launch of screw caps in the late nineties. Back then winemakers spread the message that screw caps delivered better wine than cork. The change was all about quality. Convenience was incidental. This time the key messages are wine quality and environmental friendliness. If people see the tetra pak only for its convenience, or as just another wine cask equivalent, they may not pay a premium for it.
So how good is the tetra pak as a wine container? And what does the wine come into contact with? Atkins says it’s six-layered product and the wine is in contact with an outer layer of polyethylene. It’s also used for long-life milk and fruit juice.
He believes the manufacturer’s suggested shelf life of two years is conservative, and could be as much as four years. Atkins says he’s tasted wine at two and half years and “felt comfortable with it”. Certainly the current wine is in excellent condition seven months after packaging. This suggest tetra pak is a better medium-term container than another light-weight alternative, PET plastic bottles with their shelf life of around 12 months.
Atkins created the One Planet concept with Phil Reedman MW. Reedman had played a key role introducing screw caps to the UK as a buyer for Tesco supermarkets. This time they’ve spotted an opportunity to appeal to environmentally aware wine drinkers and for “specialised markets including boating, sporting and outdoor events… airline, rail, cruise ship and ferry industries”, reads the press release.
Atkins says the airlines are keen on a 200ml tetra pak now being developed. And restaurateurs are lining up to for the 750ml packs as pouring wines ¬– to be marketed as “green pours”. He says they like the wine quality and the advantages of handling and disposing of such a light package (10.5 kilograms a dozen versus 16–18 kilograms for glass bottles).
Atkins plans to export the wine and already has distribution contracts in the USA, Canada, Scandinavia and the UK. And he’ll be expanding the range of regional varietals in partnership with contract makers.
The Adelaide Hills sauvignon blanc was made by Sarah Fletcher and the McLaren Vale Shiraz by Tim Burvill. To these will be added a Yarra Valley Pinot Noir, in conjunction with Sticks, a Margaret River semillon sauvignon blanc with the Edwards family and there’s a Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon in the wings. And for the American market they’ll sourcing cabernet and chardonnay from California.
And if you thought Marlborough sauvignon blanc might be a no-brainer, think again. Atkins says it’s now so commoditised and discounted in Australia they opted for material from the Adelaide Hills, for its better image.
The catchy posters and point of sale material for One Planet’s launch push both the environmental and wine quality propositions. One, featuring a picture of Tim Burvill, maker of OP McLaren Vale Shiraz 2008 reads, “ The best of both worlds – for once you don’t have to make a sacrifice to help the planet”.
Philip Reedman MW, formerly of Tesco Supermarkets UK, appears in another with the message, “How heavy is your footprint? – Drink seriously good wine whilst considering the environment”.
And sauvignon blanc maker Sarah Fletcher appears in a third, reading, “Looking towards the future – better for the planet and in turn, the future of our kids”.
We’ve seen wine in tetra paks before. But not of this quality and not with such a groundswell of support from a major retailer, restaurateurs, airlines and overseas distributors. My hunch is they’ve sensed the time is right. Just as we embraced the screw cap a decade ago, we might now be ready for good wine that isn’t in glass.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2010