Well it was certainly an interesting and informative night, with a line-up of over fifty of Victoria’s smallest and biggest wineries showing off over three hundred examples of their wines. I went along not knowing a whole lot about Victoria as a region (with New South Wales wines being more readily available in Sydney and with the big stars of Western Australia and South Australia taking much of the rest of the spotlight) but came out rather impressed overall.

Continue reading for some insights from the winemakers of Victoria on a number of issues facing the Australian and worldwide wine industries at the moment.

One of the most common topics of conversation at the event was the use of screwcap closures. Probably around 40% of wines that I tried were sealed under screwcap, with around 85% of white wines that I tried using this closure method. Some wineries that I spoke with are progressively converting their cheaper ranges into screwcap, but most premium red wines (at $60+ AU ) seem to be remaining under cork for the time being. Tradition seems to be the main answer as to why corks are being persisted with, especially among Pinot producers who are trying to emulate some of the great Burgundy wines that they have drawn inspiration from.

The public have certainly embraced the screwcap format, a very different scenario from when they were first attempted to be introduced in the 1970’s and were almost universally rejected by the wine drinking public. It will be interesting to see how the percentages change over the next year.

Shiraz and Viognier blends have certainly taken off, with a large percentage of wineries that I asked how long they’d been doing a Shiraz/Viognier blend for, replying that this is the first vintage (generally ’02 or ’03) . It seems the success of long term Shiraz/Viognier exponents like Clonakilla in the Australian Capital Territory and Torbreck in South Australia (and of course the Cote Rotie region in the Northern Rhone in France), are making an impact. It certainly does add a floral lift to these wines when young, but I also find that it is easy to overdo the Viognier component, and ruin a perfectly good shiraz in the process. Over the next 5 to 10 years, expect to find an increasingly larger number of these wines available from Australia and choose carefully, you don’t want to be paying for a winemakers failed experiments….

Another interesting trend was the increased use of online information and marketing among these Victorian wineries. The wine industry in Australia has been a little cautious when it comes to using the internet for promotion of their winery, but they seem to be catching up pretty quickly, especially with our independent bottleshops being bought out by the big two supermarket chains and wineries needing to rely on alternate distribution methods. One winery I spoke to stated that they had dropped 100 customers off their mailing list who refused to convert to the email list, this was not a large winery either, it’s a winery that makes in the vicinity of under 1000 cases per year in a good year. The reasons stated were mostly cost factors and the increased flexibility that email provides, if you want to send out a notice about a single event that people may be interested in, you can do it quickly and cheaply.

Online only wine review newsletters such as Campbell Mattinson’s excellent subscription only Winefront Monthly also got some positive feedback from wineries as a excellent way of getting your wines reviewed compared to traditional media. I think over the next two to three years, as they develop, wine blogs may see some attention from wineries as a way to reach a community of people who are already interested in their product (ie Australian wine) and be an ideal grass-roots marketing avenue for them. Next year when I’m a bit more established I’ll have to take along some business cards since a number of wineries asked me for one since they were intrigued by this community of wine blogging that I was telling them about.

I would have loved to go into some other issues in detail with the winemakers, but unfortunately time was limited (the event ran from 4pm til 9pm) and I was there to actually try some of the wines as well as chat.

I’ll be publishing the tasting notes for this event, hopefully in the next 24 hours, after I have a chance to sort them all into a readable format (and manage to decipher my handwriting). Tasting notes for most wines are restricted to a score only, simply because the number of wines tasted and the limited time made it impractical to take down extensive details. I’m hoping to visit Victoria later this year and do some of these wines justice.

In addition to the tasting notes and this article, I’ll be writing a separate article on the excellent and informative Curlewis Pinot Vertical Tasting that I attended during the event.

I’d love to hear thoughts from anyone else who went along, or anyone with opinions on screwcaps, Shiraz/Viognier, the rise of online wine information sources. or just Victorian wine in general!

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Cam, sounds fantastic. My jealous tastebuds are already dripping. Looking forward to the tasting notes.

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