Saturday, January 28, 2012

2010 De Iuliis Sunshine Vineyard Semillon (Hunter Valley)

Well this is the fourth 4 Star white wine I’ve reviewed in a row. I’m not sure if there is anything significant about this, other than the fact I’m drinking some fantastic white wine at the moment.

The thing that marks this Semillon out from its peers is a funky soy sauce-like note that is there on both the bouquet and the palate. I’m not sure if its vineyard or vintage related, but regardless it added plenty of savoury appeal to the wine. That being said it otherwise presents as a classic young Hunter Semillon. Strong citrus flavours, prominent acidity at this early stage, and hints of an earthy minerality, all lend to a wine that can certainly be enjoyed in its youth with seafood. It also has lovely balance and proportion, and excellent length. Drinking it over a few days you get a nice sense of the weight and texture this wine will build over the next decade.

Whether you’re wanting something to drink now or are looking for something to cellar, you can have your cake and eat it to with this little number.

Rated:


RRP: $25
ABV: 10.6%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: http://www.dewine.com.au/


Red

Saturday, January 21, 2012

2009 Yalumba "The Virgilius" Viognier (Eden Valley)

Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris/Grigio, and Viognier are three white wines I rarely seek out. A standard offering from these three varieties doesn’t do much for me. However, I would also say that the best examples of any variety can be both impressive and enjoyable, regardless of your natural preferences and biases. And so it is with this wine. In fact it’s close to being the best Viognier I have had.

It’s a tidy $50 a bottle, but there is plenty of love and care that has gone into it. From Yalumba -

Hand-picked grapes were whole-bunch pressed directly to barrels, and the juice handled with passive oxidation. The wine was fermented in mostly mature French oak barriques by a population of naturally occurring and differing species of yeast indigenous to the environment of the vineyard. In these wild ferments each yeast played a small and subtly different part in the development of the wine, creating layers of richness, complexity, fine textures and flavours. After fermentation the wine was aged on lees with regular batonage for 11 months to further heighten the palate weight and increase the complexity and flavour generosity. At blending only the finest barrels were chosen for the final wine.

The wine lives up to the spiel. It’s got a bit of varietal apricot generosity, but keeps this often blousy aspect with Viognier in check. There’s a beautiful ginger spice that pervades throughout, while in the background notes of melon, musk, florals, and dried herbs add further appeal. Fine acidity and a bit of phenolic grip provide lovely texture. Once again that spice is there on a long, refined finish.

It should age nicely over the next 5 years, but is good to go now with a bit of air. A cut above.

Rated:


RRP: $50
ABV: 13.5%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: http://www.yalumba.com/


Red

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2011 Scott Fiano (Adelaide Hills)



If you had asked me a week ago where to go for a good Australian Fiano, I would have said Coriole, maybe Oliver’s Taranga, and then have been stumped for much else. I can now add Scott Wines from the Adelaide Hills to that list. I initially tasted it blind in amongst a line up of 35 other whites, courtesy of wine scribe Mike Bennie, and it really stood out then, and only subsequently improved upon retasting over a couple of days.

This is a wine of nice weight and richness of fruit that remains taut and trim all the same. It tastes of melon and pear, lovely spice, and some appealing herbal notes that really add to the wine. Crisp acidity, a sense of minerality, and that bit of viscosity, all give it a texture that distinguishes it from more run of the mill white wines. A great length of finish rounds it all off.

This 2011 Scott Fiano is terrific and worth seeking out if you want to see what we are capable of with this Southern Italian variety.





Rated:


ABV: 13.5%
RRP: $26
Website: http://www.scottwinemaking.com.au/


Red

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2010 Vasse Felix Chardonnay (Margaret River)

I’m a big fan of Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon, but have never been overly enamoured with their Chardonnay. This 2010 Chardonnay may turn the page on that view however.

I could drink quite a lot of this, especially as a Chardonnay that can be picked up for $20-$25. It needs a bit of air to show at its best, and once it does it reveals ripe peaches and grapefruit, spicy oak, and a beautiful creaminess. All of this though comes across in a restrained manner, and nothing is overdone. There’s a nice texture and grip to the wine through the mid-palate before it finishes off with good length and cleansing acidity. Nice flow, plenty of yum factor, and enough interest and complexity to keep a wine nerd like me happy. I ummed and ahhed between 3.5 and 4 stars, but in the end I really like this wine.

Rated:


RRP: $25
ABV: 12.5%
Website: www.vassefelix.com.au


Red

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Why are imported wines in Australia so expensive?

For a couple of years now the Australian dollar has more or less been at parity with the USD. As it relates to the Euro, it means we can buy products from Europe with the same level of purchasing power as the American consumer. As I’m writing this article $1 AUD buys 0.80 Euro, and $1USD buys 0.79 Euro. That makes it very easy to compare the costs of imported European wine in both Australia and the US, and as such I am consistently amazed and disheartened to see what a difference there is in what an American pays for a Barolo, Bordeaux, or Burgundy as compared to what we pay. Below are some examples with more or less average prices in each country -



I’ve tried to pick a reasonably random selection of European wines. Different countries, regions, and producers. I’m sure there can be argument over whether the price I have for each wine is truly the average in each country but they would be arguments about $5 here, maybe $10 there. What the above charts shows is a consistently more expensive price for the Australian consumer. What explains this difference? In a word, tax. On an imported wine in Australia there are the following taxes

5% Duty
29% Wine Equalisation Tax
10% GST

Apparently occasionally there is another 5% from customs for “transport and insurance”. I can’t profess to know too much about US taxes, and there may be some non-tax related factors at play, but it is quite obvious when looking at the chart that taxes are the main difference in the cost of European wines in Australia as compared to the US.

At 29%, the main issue is the Wine Equalisation Tax (WET). It’s a controversial tax even in terms of its effect on local wine, but when it comes to imports it is ultimately a protectionist tax that makes imports more expensive relative to local wine. Local wines are subject to the 29% WET tax, but local producers are also entitled to a rebate of 29% on the wholesale value of their wine sales. An imported wine just has the 29% tax applied, with no rebate. The ultimate effect is that local wines are cheaper than imports on a like for like basis. (As an aside, at a local level, this is also an example of wonderful bureaucratic waste and tax inefficiency. We’ll tax your product at 29%, have that money cycled through a bureaucracy with all the embedded costs that come with that, and then we’ll basically give you that money back to you as a rebate.)

As with any protectionism it’s ultimately counterproductive and wasteful in the long term. Australia has become a prosperous nation over the past 3 decades in large part because of our reduction in tarrifs. Australia has among the lowest level of tarrifs and protectionism of any OECD country. Unfortunately some patches still exist. One ridiculous example is the luxury car tax, which sees a 33% impost on top of any imported car worth about $55,000 or more. Another is the WET.

People will talk about supporting local industry, but the wine industry shouldn’t be protected. It should survive and thrive on its own merits.

The quality and character of a segment of Australian wine at present is fantastic. However, there is still plenty of uninspiring gear out there. Greater competition from imports would in fact only be a good thing for even further improving the quality of wine we produce. Imagine a world without this irrational WET tax. The imported wines we drink would be significantly cheaper. Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Barolo all significantly cheaper. If I’m an Australian winemaker producing a Cabernet, Pinot, or Nebbiolo, in order to compete with these imports, I’m going to have to ensure I have a compelling story, compelling wine, or ideally both. Uninspiring wine is more likely to be squeezed out.

I appreciate that there are real people at the end of this equation. Wonderful, passionate wine people, who make great wine, and who are struggling in this time of oversupply and a strong Australian dollar. The rebate might be the only thing currently keeping them afloat. However, coming back to my earlier point about the reduction in protectionism in Australia over the past few decades, individuals would have suffered with each industry where tariff cuts have occured. And yet the long-term result has been a massive positive for this country. I see it as being no different in the long term for Australian wine. Moreover, in 2012, there is a quality, uniqueness, and confidence with Australian wine that should not require government subsidy or protection.

And on the other side of that coin, many importers are doing a wonderful job in bringing in some fantastic and unique wines. Wines that provides both a reference point and a point of difference. At the end of the day, all anyone should ever ask for is a level playing field, and as such we should be paying a lot less for imported wine.


Red


* Postscript: To perhaps clarify my position further as to what the alternative might be to WET, I believe that if there has to be a tax of this sort then some kind of volumetric tax would be a far better set up for both local producers and imports. I've touched on this in the comments section, but it is worth another entire piece in itself.
 
Blog Design by: Designer Blogs