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           Sydney Time



   Copyright © Ric Einstein 2009






Five in One (25 February)


Loads of interesting, vinous material has come across my desk in the last couple of weeks and whilst none of them are worth a full article, together these five snippets are big enough for a full story. The subjects are as diverse as the opinions, but they all relate to current wine topics.


Item One


Wayne at Smallfry Wines wrote in, in response to my comments about vintage which are displayed at the top of the TORBWine homepage.


"My heart goes out to everyone affected in Victoria and closer to home.


We certainly copped it like the Vales, the big difference is the timing of the heatwave. Earlier is worse for them but better for us. Even within the Barossa, Lyndoch has been affected whereas last year they had their fruit largely off by the time the heat hit. Our vines have coped really well in the VV patch; I think this is mainly due to the depth of soil available to the vines. It gives them a bit in reserve when the apocalyptic conditions hit. However Eden Valley may well be another story due to the drought, not the heat. I remain hopeful, and if we don’t get any more heat we may well come through. The MIS (investment) schemes on the western rim seem to have copped it the worst, bless their god forsaken souls.


There has been a couple of recent sob stories by the likes of Leo Pech that really run the vintage down in the popular media that:

 a) don’t tell the full story and

b) make the whole job worse for those of us that are able to make something decent.


Certainly we are trying to direct the media to the local association, rather than have them talking to the local loose cannons, which the media would prefer. It is the difficulty of getting the complexity of the message out that is scary, especially in the tabloids, and that can be really unhelpful on Main Street."


Item Two


During a recent exchange with Simon Clayfield, the subject of closures came up again. By way of background, Simon has been selling corks in Victoria on behalf of the Australian Cork Company since 1998.


In one of my emails, I stated, “The more I see of Diam, the more impressed I am with them. Main question is longevity and (glue?) taint in whites.”


Simon responded as follows, “I can pick the 'Diam' flavour without too much trouble; I understand the glue used is polyurethane based. In the manufacture of these types of stoppers (I dislike to use the term corks) being an extruded product there is longitudinal compression applied, More longitudinal compression  is applied when it is pushed into the bottle. When Diams are compressed into a smaller diameter i.e. the bottle neck, the compression is released in the length ways direction rather than across the diameter, unlike real corks. (Also, an allowance needs to be made with the fill height.)


This will result, eventually, in a reduction in the sealing capacity over time. Honestly, these products are OK for the short term; longer periods and it is likely that the wine will start to deteriorate.


Yes corks can be nasty buggers, but in this industry I still know of wineries that do not rinse bottles with 'clean' sterile filtered water prior to filling. Bottles are a major source of contamination especially those supplied by one supplier. The contamination comes from the cardboard and masonite dividers used in the packaging on pallets. The dividers are produced from recycled materials (a sponge for taints), and tiny particulate matter can enter the bottles during transport and handling.


Also some wineries store their bottles (full and part pallets) in an environment that causes further dust, mould and other contaminants to accumulate. I have no doubt that when a wine producer makes the claim that 20% or more of their wine is 'corked' that there is more than one cause. Winery hygiene is critical; dirty hoses, pumps, manway doors, sample cocks and valves even bottling equipment and corking machines are sources of 'cork' taint contaminants.


I have to stop here because this a subject that I can end up turning blue over, and you just can't convince some wine makers otherwise... they are so quick to blame cork every time rather than look for other causes.


You know the difference between God and a winemaker? God doesn't think he's a winemaker!


Next time you visit we will look at several of my wines side by side and compare between the different closures.”


Whilst Simon does have a vested interest here, many of the points he makes about other possible reasons for ‘off bottles’ sealed under cork make a heap of sense. It also may help explain why I have occasionally had a bottle of wine sealed under screwcap that seemed like it was suffering from cork taint, or was just a plain dud, when the next bottle of the same wine opened was perfect.


Time will tell how long Diams last in reds, but I have a little more confidence than Simon.


Item Three


My thanks to Dave Lehmann of David-Franz for bringing this to my attention.


It seems that an Adelaide Liberal MP Ivan Venning is thinking about introduce a private member's bill to State Parliament. The bill is designed to encouraging South Australians to buy local, to help stave off a challenge from imported wines.


At first glance, on the surface, it may look like a good idea. That is until you give it a half a nanosecond of thought, something that clearly Mr Venning has not done, and then you realise the complete and utter stupidity of the whole idea.


Firstly, the so called “bill” itself. When passed through parliament, a bill becomes part of the law of the land. How in the name of all that is sane, can you pass a bill to encourage people to buy local wine? Especially when you are not adding either financial penalties to protect your own industry, or an incentive to buy local.


Secondly, someone should tell this ‘rocket scientist’ that about seventy percent of the wine made in Oz is not drunk locally; it’s exported.  If more “brain surgeon” politicians in other countries decided to do the same thing as our local “rocket scientist” politician, and passed bills to buy local wine, what would happen to our wine exports. Dur! I guess Mr Venning didn’t think about one.


As this is a state bill, what does Mr Venning think would happen if WA, Victoria, Queensland and NSW decided to do it too? Only they would probably decide the definition of “local wine” was wine from their own state. Now where is the majority of the wine that is produced in SA and sold domestically, consumed? The eastern seaboard! So if the other states followed Mr Vennings example, to the full, what does Mr Venning think will happen?


Well its bloody obvious he doesn’t think at all. Cause if he did, he would realise that if his bill (and others like it) was successful, every man, woman and child in SA would have to drink nothing but wine to absorb the quantity that would not be leaving South Australia.


Item Four


In October I wrote a Snippet called More Holes Than Swiss Cheese which ripped apart the claims made by the latest shonky wine device. You know the sort of thing, for only heap of dosh, we can turn you swill into Chateau Latour; more like Chateau Toilet if you ask me. The device was called The Quantum Wine Ager.


Four weeks after the Snippet appeared I received an email, that in part read,

“My name is Gino and I work with Casey (the inventor).


You raise some interesting points and I am always happy to debate them but really the proof of the pudding is in the eating.


We have had double blind tests done several times.


Decanter magazine performed such a test and will publish soon; we are trying to get the video, It was filmed by Japanese Fuji TV and Mexican Televisa.


Vinum magazine in Germany are trying to arrange a test too, the product was also tested by Raymond Blanc on the Wright stuff.”


I responded as follows, “Thanks for the email and I appreciate the update. I look forward to seeing the results of the blind testing and I am quite happy to publish the results, and will eat humble pie if necessary.”


A couple of further exchanges of emails took place and Gino told me he would let me know when he had the results of the independent trails. Despite repeated follow up emails by me, over the last three months, Gino has not responded. The only conclusion I can draw is that the independent tests were not favourable to the product. There is also no mention of them on their website.


The worrying thing is that these people actually believe their devices work before they have it properly, and analytically tested.


Item Five


Ian Hickman (aka n4sir) recently sent me this email.


“I noticed a couple of articles on Chris Kissac's "Winedoctor" website that I think ties neatly in with your recent comments about trying to get around the multi-region "Sunshine in a bottle" image and promote higher class wines overseas:  Australia Day Tasting 2009 Part 1    Australia Day Tasting 2009 Part 2


While it seems the message they're trying to say, that Australia does have distinct regions and terroir seems to have got through, I'm frankly stunned at some of the wines shown. For example, the 1997 John Riddoch which is arguably the worst ever made, the 1999 Jim Barry McRae Wood which was completely shot, and the 2005 McRae & 2006 Lodge Hill, both of which are fruit bombs that will age just as badly. There were quite a few other lesser vintage wines too - how the hell do they expect to convince the Europeans our wines really do age well, when they pull some of these out? Maybe it's all they had access to, but for such a major promotional event it's not good enough.”


Much of what Ian says makes sense. If we are serious about trying to show the rest of the world that our wines do age well, there is no point in pulling out inferior older wines, or wines that are not going to show well. If anything, it can do more harm then good. If people are ‘new’ to older Oz wines and they taste inferior wines, that will become their baseline perception and a difficult one to change.


As far as showing current vintage ‘fruit bombs’ are concerned, if wineries have those to sell, you can’t blame them for showing these wines.


Feel free to submit your comments!

TORB's Comment: Thursday 26th

It appears the state politicians of SA are not the only one with stupid ideas about idiotic legislation for the wine industry. This time it is knucklehead grape growers in NSW and Victoria that have got too much sun. According to this report, the Murray Valley growers want legislation to stop wineries buying fruit if they still owe growers money from the last harvest. And whilst they are passing this law, they had better pass one to stop me placing bets at the TAB when I still owe my SP bookie for last years losses on the Autumn Carnival.   


From Murray Paterson: Thursday 26 February

Your SP bookie has more than one client Ric, most growers have only one winery paying them.
And why do you expect the customer to pay for the dog-collar … why not extend 12 months (interest free) credit there too?
Oh, you’ve paid out good money (on overdraft) and need to feed your dogs – and pay for your wine ……………


TORB Responds:

Murray, I am certainly not suggesting that the recalcitrant wines/grape buyers should not pay their bills in a faster timeframe. Indeed, the deadbeats that take a year to pay should

not be in business; no if's and no buts. Remember, its illegal to trade in Oz if you are insolvent, and even directors of public companies can be held personally liable for the company's debts if they engage in that activity. The reason for my sarcastic comments was purely to highlight the ridiculous idea to "call for legalisation" to solve the problem. The real estate industry has come up with a method of members blacklisting deadbeat rental tenants and sharing the information. They didn't ask for laws to be passed to fix the problem. They worked out how to solve their problem themselves.


TORB's Comment: Friday 26th       

According to press reports, it looks like someone in Mr Venning's office is capable of thought.  His constituency office told he has abandoned the bill after a backlash from the wine industry. Vennings's media officer admitted Venning had 'decided to recall the statement due to the upset it had caused'. I guess Mr Venning did not face the press himself as its never good for an MP to appear in public wearing a face full of cackle berry juice.   

TORB Copyright © Ric Einstein 2009