Inaugural Australian Trade Tasting 2015, Melbourne

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This week representatives from across the wine industry converged on Melbourne for the inaugural Australian Trade Tasting. Held across three days in Melbourne and one in Sydney, the event started with a trade tasting of beer, wine and spirits from across the globe followed by a series of seminars in Melbourne and an additional trade tasting in Sydney.

Produced by the Beverage Trade Network, the tasting showcased established beverage brands alongside those looking for representation in Australia, together with a series of masterclasses on wines from Alsace, Castilla-La Mancha and Australian cider. Two days of seminars focussed on doing business in Australia as well as exporting to the USA and the line up of speakers was impressive. Key industry members spanning the range of the industry shared experiences as well as guidance and insights into running a successful business in both the Australian and US markets.

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Day 1 of the seminars opened with David Lipman, Director of Drinks Hub welcoming participants to the event before Natasha Rastegar of Wine Intelligence provided an overview of the Australian wine, spirit and beer markets. Key findings were an overall decline in the consumption per capita of alcohol, the lowest in Australia for the past 50 years. The good news for some however is in the craft beer sector, which showed growth amongst recent respondents to a Wine Intelligence survey. [1]

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Natasha Rastegar, Country Manager, Wine Intelligence

As the day progressed a common theme emerged and this is one echoed in the recently published strategy document for Wine Australia 2015-2020. The key to selling Australian wine both on the domestic and international markets, and in the words of Writer, Presenter and Television Host Tyson Stelzer is “the story of the people and the story of the land”.

GLENN_COOPER AMFrom the highly engaging Glenn Cooper AM of the famed Coopers Brewery, looking at how to manage and grow your beer brand, to the highs and lows of hugely successful online retailer Vinomofo and its co-founder Andre Eikmeier, the message was clear; authenticity is critical to engaging the customer. As brand custodians, relationships must be real and be highly invested in for success, with real stories about real people working their land being central to this message. (Image credit: Glen Cooper AM, Australian Trade Tasting.)

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Andre Eikmeier, Co-Founder, Vinomofo

Stuart_GregorAdding to this message and looking at ways to make people fall in love with your brand was the topic for Liquid Ideas Commentator and Founder Stu Gregor, who challenged the audience to offer something marvellous that was meaningful to people. One of my favourite quotes of the day came from this session; “if you don’t have the ambition to be amazing, to be the person who says I’m going to do it, then don’t bother starting”. The successes shared by those on the stage during the day clearly demonstrated success is possible with enterprise, action and authenticity. (Image credit: Stuart Gregor, Australian Trade Tasting.)

The wide range of industry representatives speaking provided a good overview of the industry at this point in time. Rose Scott, General Manager for Buying of one the two supermarkets giants in Australia, Woolworths, shared valuable information on effective merchandising programmes in retail, while Guiseppe Minissale, President of the Australian Liquor Stores Association, offered great insight into what independent merchants are looking for when selecting a new brand.

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Rose Scott, General Manager Buying, Woolworths Liquor Group

Other topics included a closer look at how to attract new customers with Tyson Stelzer and tips on digitial strategies for wineries in 2015 and beyond from Tania Shirgwin of BizEez Communications. On a more practical note, Jenna Hemsworth, currently working at Melbourne’s Lui Bar spoke about how to influence mixologists and sommeliers and Kathleen Davies of Nip of Courage shared advice on how to pitch a brand to a prospective distributor.

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The first day of seminars closed with the highly respected Bill Lark, Founder of Lark Distillery and central figure within the Australian beverage industry, who shared his in-depth knowledge on building a sustainable brand before closing the day’s events. (Image credit: Bill Lark, Australian Trade Tasting.)

Overall the Melbourne event offered industry members a chance to taste new products, attend tasting masterclasses and benefit from insights from some of the most experienced members of the Australian beverage industry. For anyone working in the industry or considering bringing a product to the Australian market, the Australian Trade Tasting would be one to mark down in the calendar for next year!

Happy Drinking!

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1. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015 alcohol consumption per capita. Source: Wine Intelligence presentation at Australian Trade Tasting August 31, 2015.

Yangarra Estate Wines, McLaren Vale – a tasting with Sarment of Hong Kong

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Wines tasted:

  1. Yangarra Estate, McLaren Vale, Roussanne, 2014
  2. Yangarra Estate, McLaren Vale, Shiraz, 2011
  3. Yangarra Estate, McLaren Vale, Grenache, 2012
  4. Yangarra Estate, McLaren Vale, Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvèdre, 2012

As recently reported in The Drinks Business, premium wine is the focus for the Wine Australia Strategy 2015-2020 and here in Hong Kong we are fortunate enough to enjoy a good selection of wines from this category. Furthermore, the industry in Australia has worked hard to promote a sense of terroir or place by focussing on better site and grape selection, refining techniques used in the vineyard and winery and above all, having a clear vision of the quality and style of wine being produced.

Yangarra Estate in McLaren Vale, South Australia epitomises this approach and with winemaker Peter Fraser recently named Winemaker of the Year at James Halliday’s Wine Companion awards, the estate is poised to see continued growth in both its domestic and international markets.

Yangarra Winemaker Peter Fraser in barrel room tall copy

The portfolio at Yangarra is built around bush-vine Grenache first planted in 1946, and from there a selection of southern Rhône grape varieties have been planted. With 600 vines each of Grenache Blanc and Bourboulenc to name but a few, Yangarra Estate have established themselves as visionaries who definitely don’t do things by halves!

Yangarra, in the local Aboriginal language, means “from the earth” and Yangarra Estate embodies this connection to the earth on several levels. Meticulous application of biodynamic principles in the vineyard and winery whilst harnessing technology via their website offer the complete experience for the visitor.

Interactive maps on the website specifically locate the estate, identify individual plots, the grape varieties each plot is planted with, the wine each plot contributes to all the way down to the soil type of each parcel of land. These tools nicely round out the sense of place so inherent in the wines themselves.

As I tasted through a selection of wines with Peter at Sarment’s new offices in Sheung Wan, a number of stylistic themes emerged. Each wine offered a delicious perfume that instantly caught your attention. From within a carefully crafted frame sat well-balanced tannins and acidity alongside that sweet spot between fruit and savoury notes, which completed the picture.

Yangarra NV Roussanne  Yangarra NV Shiraz   Yangarra 2012 Old Vine Grenache_web

The first wine was a Roussanne from the 2014 vintage. In this wine a portion of the blend is fermented on skins for 90 days in a ceramic egg fermentation vessel. The resultant wine shows excellent texture and palate weight with green and citrus fruit aromas together with subtle herbaceous notes and the most delicate hint of nuts at the very end. The acidity is refreshing and matches the richness of this grape variety well. Peter suggested seafood to pair with the Roussanne, perhaps a lobster bisque or bouillabaisse and with all the sauces and broths that go with food here in Hong Kong there are no shortage of opportunities to find the perfect match.

The 2011 Shiraz and 2012 Grenache followed, each with a finely tuned structure imparting a sense of elegance to the wines. The 2012 GSM (Grenache 54%, Shiraz 28%, Mourvèdre 18%) completed the tasting.

Yangarra NV GSM

The GSM showed textured tannins, good acidity and a palate driven by mouth-watering savoury notes. The fruit doesn’t lead the palate profile; instead it complements the savoury notes of spice and dried herbs. From first sniff I was hooked. The aromatic structure managed to conjure images of a finely woven tapestry, where one might note the individual colours or in this case, individual grape varieties, yet at the same time experience them together as a striking whole.

In the mouth the GSM is a food wine and you are instantly thinking of dishes to enjoy this with – a rich game based ragù on fresh pasta or roasted meats would be the perfect accompaniment.

This tasting showed the wines of Yangarra Estate to be of remarkable individuality united by thoughtful consideration, craftsmanship and a clear vision of producing quality wines that speak to where they come from. They are wines that are immensely enjoyable whilst quietly captivating your palate to reveal texture, sophisticated structure and a depth of complexity.

Furthermore, the wines are very competitively priced for such high quality offerings, so be sure to grab a bottle or two and start enjoying some of the best Australia has to offer!

Happy Drinking!

Images courtesy of Yangarra Estate and Sarment Hong Kong

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New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc shortage – is the sky really falling?

First published Wine Times Hong Kong, August print edition

GREYWACKE - YARRUM VINEYARD, BEN MORVEN VALLEY, SB HARVEST croppedHarvesting Sauvignon Blanc for Greywacke Wild Sauvignon, Yarrum Vineyard, Marlborough. Photo: Kevin Judd.

Recent reports in the press suggest a shortage of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc may be imminent due to the comparatively small 2015 harvest and while quality has been assessed as very good, quantity is down from the previous year.

So should the dedicated Sauvignon Blanc drinker be stockpiling bottles in preparation for a looming shortage?

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Next Stop: Stazione Novella …

First published The Drinks Business Reader Online 12 August 2015

Hong Kong is currently basking in beautifully sunny summer weather so the recent arrival of Italian bar Stazione Novella to the hustle and bustle of Soho on Hong Kong Island is a welcome sight.

Stazione Novella - HK skyline Francesca Martin

Credit: Francesca Martin

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Next time you are in the supermarket …

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Recently I attended a tasting of wines from the McWilliam’s family, an Australian producer with several different brands in their portfolio. At The Drunken Duck in Soho, McWilliam’s Asia Pacific GM, Garrick Harvison, took us through a tasting of wines from the mid-tier Hanwood Estate range and the relatively new Appellation Range, both of which showed very well but for rather different reasons.

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