Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Future Makers - changes and corrections

Out now in all good bookshops
Cover photo: James Boddington
Quite a few things have happened since I delivered the manuscript of my book The Future Makers - changes, movements, developments. Those changes are listed here. I have also found a few mistakes in the book that I have corrected here. I will keep updating this section of the blog as things develop and as mistakes are found. If you find any bits in the book that need changing or correcting, please leave a comment.


Page 28: Tjanabi, the Melbourne restaurant owned by Aunty Carolyn Briggs, has closed down
Page 49 and elsewhere: Fosters have changed the name of their wine division to - and I’m not making this up - Treasury Wine Estates.
Page 291 and elsewhere: Toby Bekkers has taken a sabbatical from Paxton in McLaren Vale and is currently living with his family in the south of France. Lucky bugger.
Page 330: Jane Wilson has left the Lowe Family Wine Co in Mudgee to pursue her sustainable farming and organic beef businesses; she will also be launching her own single vineyard zinfandel, Icarus. And Lowe Wines has merged with Louee Wines from Rylstone.
Page 392: the big news in Tasmania is the sale of Gunns’ Tamar Ridge large vineyard and winery holdings to Victorian wine company, Brown Brothers, seeking to expand to cooler regions in response to global warming. This supports two main themes of the book: my strong belief that the future of Australian wine lies in the hands not of faceless corporate giants but in the hands of family-owned wineries; and that Australia’s wine landscape is already evolving as a direct result of climate change.
Page 402: Meadowbank Estate has been sold to neighbouring Frogmore Creek.

Photo: Adrian Lander

Page 1: Yes, I know, there are a few spelling mistakes in the list of wines in the picture ... but hey: it wouldn’t be a real wine bar if there weren’t, right?
Page 56: ‘these six grapes’ should also include sauvignon blanc
Page 94: Mildura is of course in north-west Victoria. Doh!
Page 203: The text should read: ‘Castagna is one of only four Australian members of Joly’s Return to Terroir group’
Page 315 caption: Cape Jaffa is in Mount Benson, not Coonawarra
Pages 340-341: this is a picture of Tamburlaine’s Hunter winery, not the vineyard in Orange

Monday, September 27, 2010

'Back to the future' approach reaps big awards

Some excellent results from the Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine's Winemaker of the Year Awards on Friday Sep 24 - excellent that is if you believe it's time to get back to the future of Australian wine.

Robert O'Callaghan
The Winemaker of the Year gong was shared by the Wynns Coonawarra Estate team of supremely humble grape-treader Sue Hodder and quietly persuasive grape-farmer Allen Jenkins. Over the last decade these two have dragged Wynns back from the brink of blowsy sameness - overripe, overblown, soulless wines - and imbued Wynns with the ethereal elegance that marks out the best from this region.

The Len Evans Award for outstanding contribution went to Rockford's Robert O'Callaghan, who has been stubbornly ploughing the back-to-the-future furrow since the mid-1980s. I have described this enormously influential man elsewhere as the Barossa's philosopher-king: without him, a whole generation of the region's brightest and best winegrowers simply wouldn't have existed. Veteran Best's Great Western winemaker Viv Thomson - a finalist for the big gong - summed up Robert's importance well: 'He is who we are.'

And winner of the Wine Australia Medal ('best new talent') is Tom Shobbrook, making some stunning wines under his own labels - new interpretations of Barossa classics at Shobbrook Wines, and exciting, brave new bottlings at Didi Wine - as well as being part of the Natural Selection Theory crew.

Tom Shobbrook in his shed

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Caulfield Mountain Vermentino

Oct 17, 2010: Tragedy: went out today to tie down the vines and found one had snapped! My 2011 crop (if I get one after all the hail and rain and wind we've had this week on Caulfield Mountain) from the West Wing lieu-dit will certainly be down now by 20 per cent. Not only that but my Balaklavan grower tells me (in an email from Barcelona, where is researching tapas, apparently) that he's discovered a whole new breed of vine pests down at his Valley Floor vineyard: Bunnings catalogues. That'll teach him to plant so close to the post box at the front gate.

Sep 19, 2010: Undervine weeding today, and spraying some nutritious nettle tea. We've had a bumper crop of nettles in the vineyard this year - wonderful, delicious, nitrogen-fixing nettles. Rot a big bundle down in a bucket of rain water for a couple of weeks and you have a fabulous foliar spray.

Getting the horn: Preparing cow horns for burying over
winter in the  cool damp sandy soil of Caulfield Mountain
Sep 18, 2010. Did some slashing in the mid-rows today. Because it's a root day (descending moon) and because it was very drizzly, I also sprayed this season's first application of biodynamic preparation 500 - the horn manure - mixed with some barrel compost. Like a wandering poo-fairy, I also sprayed some 500 love on the neighbours' quince and peach orchard.

Sep 14, 2010. Here's a picture of budburst in the .0005 hectare West Wing 'lieu-dit' of my Caulfield Mountain vineyard. Spring has arrived and the vermentino vines are loving the sunny days - not to mention the fact that a good soaking over winter has saturated my crappy sandy soils.

The House Block is almost there, too, and should be bursting any day now. Buckley's is a more sheltered site - north-facing but protected by an old stand of cypress - and looks to be a way off.

My Balaklavan grower down at the close-planted Valley Floor vineyard (30,000 vines/ha) tells me that budburst is well underway there, but he's had a problem with snails nibbling on the tender shoots. We'll have to try some peppering.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The beginnings of an Australian Wine Gallery

A striking image of pinot lees at the bottom of a tank in the latest, particularly funny and sharp edition of The Bloodwood Bible reminded me of some other abstract images gleaned from wineries ...

Shiraz Bin Barossa
(photo: Adrian Lander)
The Bloodwood Singularity, by Pinot Lees
(photo: Stephen Henson, Bill's long-lost brother)
Years and Years at Yarra Yering
(photo: Max Allen)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tapestry of terroirs too good for little boxes

600 million year-old Seacliff sandstone and Reynella siltstone
curl under the proposed development site; Chalk Hill and
Paxton vineyards (the green shaded blocks) are on the same dirt
across the road to the left of the picture
(detail from the Geology of the McLaren Vale Wine Region map)
The winegrowers of McLaren Vale are fighting to stop a proposed housing estate on precious vineyard land.

This isn't just another case of a bucolic wine region threatened by greedy urban sprawl. What's at stake here goes much deeper than that - literally.

The inconceivably old country under the proposed Seaford Heights development site is special: far better suited to the deep roots of a splendid vineyard than being smothered in yet more ticky-tacky boxes.

We know this terrain is special because in June the McLaren Vale Grape, Wine and Tourism Association - in conjunction with the South Australian government - published a detailed geological map of the region.

The map shows the history of the rocks and sands, the faults and tears, the rumblings and inundations that have shaped this country over eons. It also shows how the region's vineyards are now draped over this diverse tapestry of terroirs.

The map shows that the jumble of siltstones and sandstones under the controversial development site were formed up to 650 million years ago and that this ancient geological pocket is unique in McLaren Vale.

To wine lovers, of course, phrases such as "unique ancient terroir" start the saliva flowing, and the very high quality of wines already produced from this terroir - in the Paxton and Chalk Hill vineyards just across the road from the development site, on the same rocks - indicate this area has huge potential to become one of McLaren Vale's most prized viticultural sub-regions.

Unless, that is, these ancient rocks are covered in concrete and bitumen.
Australia's winemakers have realised that the key to a sustainable future lies in promoting unique regions and special vineyard sites.

We need to support this crucial development in Australia's wine history and to value the contribution to our shared culture of soul-soothing wines, redolent of the unique ancient soils they were grown in.

We need to protect our special vineyard sites, not cover them in little boxes.

UPDATE: This article first appeared in The Weekend Australian on 4 September 2010. A couple of days later, the local Onkaparinga Council rejected the development application. The application is now in the hands of the state government.