The Australian ‘Quaffing Market’
By Franz Scheurer
The Australian consumer has become more interested in wine over the last thirty years and with interest comes education. Consumers are now a lot more knowledgeable and tend to have a good idea what they want to buy, like and dislike.
Unfortunately with increased demand comes opportunity. Coles and Woolworths have taken over many of the individually owned bottle shops, which means increased buying power, which in turn means high volume lines replacing many of the more boutique offerings. Shop managers are no longer in control of ordering and whilst the stock arrives by the pallet-load, companies like Southcorp and Mildara Blass are busy buying many of the small wineries, standardising their product and streamlining production methods, reducing artisan input. As with any shareholder-based company, profit is everything.
Small to medium sized wine makers can’t, and don’t want to, compete, concentrating on cellar door sales or enlarging their export share instead. This means that many of the hand-crafted wines never make it to most of the bottle shops and the consumer only sees heavily discounted wines displayed in a forest of ‘special’ tickets. This confuses the average consumer as sales staff push the ‘latest and greatest’ special in favour of individuality, regionality, quality and value for money.
Every time I walk into a large bottle shop I am confronted with dozens of labels that I have never seen before, from areas as undefined as ‘South Eastern Australia’, with back labels promising you Lassiter’s Reef, at least, when you buy a case of their ‘latest find’. Some of these wines might be quite quaffable and many are certainly cheap, some good value for money, but you do have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince. This is where a company like ‘Wines Uncovered’ can be helpful. Jay Weymouth from ‘Wines Uncovered’ sources wines from small to medium size wineries and presents a short list of good quality, easy drinking wines at very competitive prices. You can order via e-mail, phone or the web, and the wines are delivered to your doorstep. He sells some wines under the ‘Wines Uncovered’ label but specialises in cleanskins. Worth keeping in mind if you are arranging corporate gifts, a special bottling for a milestone birthday or organising wines for a social club as Weymouth will label wines with customised labels.
Prices range from $5.49 to $14.99 and mixed cases are available from $89
I tried a few of their wines and found they certainly ‘over deliver’. The Petit Verdot Show Reserve 2002 (sourced from Arrowfield Wines in the Upper Hunter shows a fresh bouquet of red berries on the nose, confirmed by berries and geranium on the palate with a reasonably long finish. Although a grape variety usually used in Bordeaux blends, its strong perfume works well on its own. At $10.99 a bottle, this is a steal. I also like the ‘Grandis’ 2000 Merlot, Shiraz and Petit Verdot blend, sourced from Geoff Hardy Wines in McLaren Vale ($7.49 a bottle). This is a food wine, quite austere on its own but opening up beautifully once your palate is coated with some fat. A Cabernet Merlot sourced from Sobels Wines in the Hunter Valley ($8.99 a bottle) is varietally true, full of capsicum and mint with tight tannins. This one I suggest you lay down for a year or two or open and decant it at least 4 hours before you want to drink it. If you like Shiraz then you will like the Shiraz 2002 from Pertaringa Wines in McLaren Vale (under screw cap and $10.99 a bottle). The nose shows a fair amount of American oak, dark berries and a hint of cigar box. On the palate you get blackberries, black currant, orange zest and woody undertones. The wine has a good, mouth-filling texture with soft tannins and a good, long finish. In a blind tasting this would easily stand up to $30 competition.
For more information go to: http://www.winesuncovered.com.au
Another company servicing the budget end of the wine market is Salena Estate, situated in the Riverland in South Australia, our country’s most productive wine area. Their wines sell at $9.99 a bottle across the range and are available in some bottle stores. Look for the black label with the gold emblem of a bird in flight and a coloured square with the grape variety in the lower part of the label, colour changing with the grape variety. They produce a Chardonnay (rich, tropical fruit driven with a fair amount of residual sweetness), a Petit Verdot, (tight and definitely a food wine), a Merlot (soft, drink-now fruit forward style), a Cabernet Sauvignon (plummy and fairly full-bodied), and an excellent Shiraz (full of soft tannins and sweet fruit with a slight whiff of VA). Again, these wines over-deliver and represent good value for money.
For more information go to: http://www.salenaestate.com.au/
And last but not least I would like to recommend one of the most underrated wines in Australia, the Brown Bros Moscato.
The Brown Bros 2004 Moscato is a wonderfully light, slightly effervescent wine with quite a lot of sweetness and a very low level of alcohol. It is made predominantly from Muscat of Alexandria with a small parcel of Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains. The Romans are believed to have coined the name due to its distinctive aroma, akin to that of musk. This is a very refreshing wine and it is quite versatile. You could serve it (always well chilled) as an aperitif or as an accompaniment to a fresh fruit platter. My favourite combination is with cheese. Try it with a washed rind or a blue or even an ashed goats’ cheese and you will be smiling from one ear to the other.
This wine is available in may bottle shops and at around $10 a bottle is fabulous value for money.
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