Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bringing a smile, and good taste, to the lips

WINE ... with David Bray

Now here’s a worry. If the people in power can change the way cigarettes are packaged, what is to stop them interfering with the wine industry? It would be a pity if they did because there is a good deal of thought and humour to be found on the front of more than a few wine labels.

We know that you can’t drink the label. Your reporter has written along those lines often enough. So how to rationalise a change of heart (thought, sensory appreciation) to justify an apparently sudden interest in those bits of paper decorating the front of some of our better bottles? Easy. There are more clever, entertaining, labels out there than there used to be, as producers try to attract the attention of the short attention span of the would-be purchaser wandering the bottleshop aisles.
There are of course some labels that are distinctive enough and have been around long enough, to announce their presence to moderately serious buyers. Think Grange, for goodness sake, with its extraordinarily plain yet very recognisable print label. And how about Veuve Clicquot’s uniquely coloured label? Cloudy Bay you can identify at five paces.
Some of the clever new labels have been mentioned before in this space. Three of my favourites, good bottles well worth having for the wine itself and made especially interesting by their labels: The Nosey Parker Barossa shiraz is a gutsy Aussie red that offers up dark berries and spice on the nose; supple, ripe tannins on the palate. The brains behind The Nosey Parker are Chaffey Bros. Wine Co., who say they wanted to create a wine to celebrate the world of wine waffle. The first Nosey (a 2007 Barossa Valley shiraz) was such a hit that Chaffey Bros. have unleashed a 2008. And they will tell you it's pure hedonistic delight. It’s confoundingly delicious, will inspire euphoria. The palate, we are assured, is firm and juicy, exhibiting nuances of saddle leather complimenting the black and blue fruits.
The Mollydooker Shake, they call it. It involves giving a perfectly good, well-behaved bottle of wine a good old heaving about. They are winemakers who are not only very good at their job, but also, so far as your reporter can tell, perfectly sane. Sparky and Sarah Marquis own and run Mollydooker Vineyards, a McLaren Vale winery that’s on its way to building a spectacular reputation, particularly in the USA.
The two principal characters (left-handed, both of them) are graduates of Roseworthy College, Sparky topping his year and going back to lecture. After many adventures and achievements, married in 1991, they were Australian Winemakers of the Year in 2000 and have several times had Robert Parker score their wines at 99 points. Their reputation is for quality wines delivered with sometimes quirky style. At least as important is the wonderful work they are doing in Cambodia, where they have opened Mollydooker’s first Children’s Centre.
The Rolling wines – 2009 sauvignon blanc semillon and 2008 shiraz – from Cumulus Estate in the Orange district – deliver distinctive, fresh ands fruit flavours. The name is said to be inspired by the rhythmic rise and fall of the Central Ranges. As for the label, here’s the authorised version: The fictitious, retro beauty ... is called Beatrice and as she rides her bicycle through the rolling hills she sports the scarf of the local football team and the oranges in her basket point to the brand’s locality.

A whole lot more of the funky relative newcomers were nicely displayed at the enterprising Purple Palate’s Gen Y Fest Paint the Town Purple event at the Marriott on May 6. As boss man John Lehmann says, they have attracted some of Australia’s most exciting winemakers with these “new wave wineries": fronting up were Arete, Barossa Belle, Bobby Dazzler, Cherubino, Clovely, First Drop, Godfrey Wines, Harewood, Heemskerk, Les Petites Vignettes, Loose End, Mollydooker, Preveli, R Wines, Smallfry, Some Young Punks, Vinaceous, Wine By Brad and Winegrowers of Ara..


Talking about Grange, as we were above, the latest vintage of this incredible wine recently became available and apparently sold out quick smart.

It was listed for sale by on on-line retailer as follows: Penfolds Grange vintage 2005 750ml $549 each; Penfolds Grange vintage 2005 Magnums 1.5ltr $1890 each. You are looking at $100 a glass. Imagine what you would pay in a restaurant. The other top-level Penfolds reds came out at the same time – Bin 707 2007, $175; Bin 707 2007 magnums $400; St Henri 2006 , $99, magnums $165; RWT 2007 $160; Bin 389 2007 magnums $140; Bin 28 2007 Magnums $75. Nice marketing.