Monthly Archives: November 2009

Thick and Fast in the UK

Today’s guest blogger is Val Lewis, PR and events coordinator for Negociants UK, with a “guest guest” appearance by NUK sales manager Chris Unger.

Val Lewis

Tastings have been coming in thick and fast over the past month, and with Yalumba Winemaker Louisa Rose here with us in the UK for 10 days, we have managed to cover much of the length and breadth of this great (grey) land, spreading the good word of Yalumba.

So here is an update from Chris Unger (aka Cardi Man), Negociants UK sales manager and our fine wine brain:

Chris Unger

“We had Louisa criss-crossing the country to visit old friends and new with a series of trade visits and wine dinners from north to south. Louisa has a strong following and leaves a remarkable impression amongst those she meets.

“A few highlights include a dinner with Riesling-obsessed, and long time supporters, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn.  The evening started with a vertical of Pewsey Vale The Contours Riesling from 1997 through to 2003 followed by a five-course dinner extravaganza that would have impressed even the toughest of critics. A little birdy mentioned that the evening continued after the guests left and into the wee hours with Roger (the owner of the Harrow) dipping into his own personal cellar to share some treats with Louisa and Emma.

“Up in the ‘Grim North’ Louisa weaved her magic with the young and enthusiastic wine team at Anthony’s in Leeds. Anthony’s operate four restaurant sites with the most recent opening in the renovated Corn Exchange, which is a truly unique restaurant space. The standout wines of the tasting were the Yalumba The Scribbler Cabernet Shiraz and Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier – with both being listed by the glass following the visit.”

OK, back to me, Val, now, with a roundup of recent events.

Icon Tasting

Negociants UK Icon Tasting
Working in events is good for the soul but bad for the nervous disposition! A fortnight of sleepless nights, midnight scribblings – I do love making a good list – and triple-checking vintages all paid off when we hosted our annual Icon Tasting at Fifth View, Piccadilly. It was a huge success; the wines showed beautifully and were tasted by an impressive turnout of top press, sommeliers and restaurateurs.

The Wine Show London
I love this event, it attracts thousands of visitors from across London. From the Pinot Grigio glugging gaggle to the those who desire nothing more than to calmly discuss the finer points of the warm ferment … at the end of four days of pouring and chatting if one more person had called it “Rye-sling” (this is a very, very British thing) I may have hung my apron up for good.

Ken Withers

Yalumba 160th Birthday
Negociants UK celebrated Yalumba’s 160th birthday with beef and Grenache party pies, fireworks and a cheeky glass of Yalumba FDR1A. Ken Withers (our worryingly domesticated national accounts manager) hosted the NUK team for an evening of fun and frivolity, and together we toasted all that makes Yalumba wonderful. The warm and fuzzy brought a tear to my eye, and I’m certain I saw Ken snuffling quietly into his hankie too.

The Decanter Fine Wine Encounter
This finished off the year’s events calendar on the 21st and 22nd of October – keep an eye out for the news story about the event which will shortly be appearing on along with recommendations and videos. The standouts on the weekend were Yalumba The Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2005 and the Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2008. This event attracts over 1500 visitors – and at £48 a ticket this is no small feat. The crowd are knowledgeable and interested (and interesting!), and it’s always a pleasure to pour Yalumba’s finest alongside the great and the good of our Old World peers.

The Winemaking Cycle – Chardonnay Style

Today’s guest blogger is winemaker Teresa Heuzenroeder.

Teresa Heuzenroeder

I often get told that winemakers must be relaxed outside of vintage. After all, what else is there to do for the rest of the year? So I thought this might be a good opportunity to provide a winemaker’s post-vintage snapshot from a Chardonnay perspective.

For me there are three distinct stages Chardonnay needs to go through once the hyperactivity and nervous anticipation of vintage is over. We know the flavours and textures we tasted in the vineyard, but there’s still a way to go before we can realise that vineyard vision in the final bottle and it goes something like this;

The hard work behind the scenes is the real grunt work that no one sees and is hardly glamorous but every bit as important as what happens during vintage and blending. It’s all about barrels – stacks of them (literally). Each barrel has to be tasted, mixed and topped every couple of weeks from the end of vintage until about now. This mixing process helps build texture and body into the wine and gives that palate creaminess and toasted nut complexity that is so important for top-notch Chardonnay. At the start it’s difficult to see any difference at all, but as the year goes on you find yourself catching a tantalising glimpse of the complete wine. So close, but still more work to do!

Checking each barrel

Blending is the culmination of all our work and it’s make-or-break time for each barrel; will they make the cut or are they out? This is what we’re up to right now (just in case you thought we might be celebrating the Festive Season with a glass of Chardonnay in hand). Throughout November and December we are busy tasting and deciding on that critical final blend.  It’s important to assess every barrel as each is a complete wine in itself. However, the sum of the whole is far more important than any individual barrel and that’s what we always consider when we make our selection.

The final countdown is the point at which we realise the flavours we saw in the vineyard all those months ago are indeed still there but they’re even better. For some wines (like Eden Valley Wild Ferment Chardonnay) this will be the end of the journey and they’ll be prepared for bottling early next year. For others (such as the Adelaide Hills FDW[7c] Chardonnay) the blend will be put together and go back to oak for another few months to quietly mature and complex before bottling in the middle of next year. By which time the next vintage will be being feverishly worked on (see “hard work behind the scenes” above). So the winemaking cycle continues.

Now what was that about nothing happening outside of vintage?

A Yalumba Legend Retires

Guest blogger Robert Hill Smith, fifth-generation proprietor, writes about a Yalumba legend.

What a week we had last week!

Pete Sawrey

On yet another balmy evening in the week that we celebrated our 160th year with local friends and colleagues, we farewelled Peter J. Sawrey – our inimitable trade-marketing manager – with a glittering dinner where we also announced Pete as the first of our Wyndham Hill Smith Award winners in this anniversary year.

In broad terms, this award is for somebody who, in the course of his or her lifetime at work, would not receive the recognition that typically goes with awards. In other words, they may be modest, background workers who are towers of strength but never seek the spotlight.

Pete joined us on October 4th, 1988 as cellar door manager, and a short two years later covered PR before switching his focus in 1999 to building our trade relationships. Best known for his wit, modesty, intelligence and selfless overseas forays, Pete will hang up his boots on December 22nd 2009 – his 21st year with Yalumba.

Many true stories were told at the farewell fete in our Tank 11 Dining Room.  His hosting of visitors from all parts of the planet at Oxford Landing Estate was legendary and was celebrated at the dinner in the company of Marty Burnell and “Fred” Strachan, those stalwarts from the vineyard. Also attending on the night were all Samuel Smith & Son state managers, with whom Pete worked closely with over the years (albeit without good friend Jeff P. Smith who was on the sick list).

Pete has left his mark during his time here, and he has friends around the globe as testament to his Yalumba and Samuel Smith & Son ambassadorial spirit. He will continue to write back labels and assist in areas he has made his own – notably keeping our relationships alive with our trade friends worldwide over a bottle or two of Pewsey Vale Riesling.

I might note, as a parting gesture, Pete’s Pewsey Vale quota has already been allocated from our approaching 2010 vintage. We pray for good crops!

From all at the winery, we salute and congratulate a wicked warrior of Yalumba, who joins many other great contributors who have been honoured in this way.

Great Wine Begins in the Nursery

Today’s guest blogger is Nick Dry, viticulturalist at our Yalumba Nursery. He also looks after the vines for Redbank.

Nick Dry

I think I have one of the best jobs in Yalumba.  I am writing this from the front deck of one of the Redbank growers in the King Valley.  The King Valley, for those who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting, is situated in Northeast Victoria at the foot of the Australian Alps.  Rolling hills, pristine mountain streams, hidden valleys, and dense scrub, it would have to be one of the most picturesque winegrape growing regions in the world.

Apart from looking after growers for Redbank in the King Valley, I am the Yalumba Nursery viticulturist.  The Yalumba Nursery was established in the 1970s to provide Yalumba’s own vineyards with grafted grapevines (a grafted vine is one that has been grafted to a phylloxera/nematode resistant American rootstock).  The business has grown and Yalumba Nursery is now Australia’s leading producer of grafted grapevines.

Along with the supply of grafted vines, the nursery is involved with the importation and assessment of new varieties and clones.  So our own vineyards and growers have first access to the best grapevines for their vineyards and ultimately means that our winemakers have access to the best fruit, which is reflected in the wines. 

Tim Jones

I was kicking back the other night with Tim Jones, our nursery production manager, enjoying a bottle of the trophy-winning Heggies Reserve Chardonnay and discussing the old debate, whether great wine is made in the vineyard or the winery.  Somewhere near to the bottom of the bottle we came to the realisation that to make a great wine, you need a great winemaker, but you also need a great vineyard.  But a great vineyard needs great vines (i.e the right clone/rootstock combination), so therefore a great wine begins in the nursery. 

So next time you’re enjoying another bottle of Yalumba wine, take time to think about where it all began.

G’day from Double-U-Ay: Wines for the River

Today’s guest blogger is Pia, area manager in Perth.

Pia Gardner

My territory comprises the on-premise trade here – bars, hotels, restaurants, cafes, bistros, nightclubs, and function centres. I focus on the Perth CBD and the South Metro. Spending most of my time in this area is special, surrounded by the river, beach and lots great places to wine and dine.

To try and paint a picture for you … when I’m in a restaurant, before seeing a client, I find myself looking out the window. I can see kite surfers, small boats, big boats, fishermen, cyclists, or school groups at rowing training, not bad hey! We Perthites can sometimes forget how truly lucky we are to live here. “How good is this?” I think to myself … ah now back to work.

It is a competitive industry around here, especially being on the doorstep of “Margs”, Swan Valley, Great Southern and Pemberton. There are lots of wines around and people want to support their home turf.  It’s common to say a quick “hi” to another rep entering the restaurant you’ve just left. Sales will always be competitive, so you just have to get out there and enjoy what you do.

What makes my job most enjoyable for me are the wines I get to sell (OK, get to taste, too). People ask me, “What is your favourite wine?” I could go on for days, so I think, “What is good now”?

Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache

Well as of today, I am feeling summer knocking, and if I were on a boat on the Swan River this would be my perfect line up:

  • Pour myself Jansz Premium Vintage – keep a close eye on who starts to hang around you because once they “sample” the 04 vintage, it could be gone before you say “Freo”.
  • Throw the fresh lemon and cracked pepper marinated prawns on the portable barbie, give a couple of stubs to the skipper. Gotta keep them happy, and also to keep them away from your Jansz.
  • Hmm … Riesling with the prawns – yep sounds good. But which one? Heggies 2009 drinking lovely, crisp, fresh pear and apple characters. Balanced with a clean, mineral finish.
  • Can you go on a boat without another cold white? Yes you can. Get your hands on The Y Series Sangiovese Rose. This is bang for your buck. Funky new label too. You can afford more than one or two of these.
  • Drink the Y Rose with a tandoori chicken salad. Fresh coriander thrown in is a must.
  • Keep the chatter and the tunes going, no dancing unless your boat legs are in fine form. The sunsets here are really something special.  If the Freo doctor (read: sea breeze from Fremantle) is still around, it’s time for a red to warm you up on the 8 knot cruise back to shore. The choice for me is very difficult- it would have to be the Yalumba Bush Vine Grenache 2008. Put it in the glass and enjoy it while it keeps you warm.

In the Vineyard: Healthy Vines, Coffee Like Mud

Today’s guest blogger is winemaker Andy La Nauze.

Andy La Nauze

George Girgolas and Ken Carypidis have been growing grapes for Yalumba for many years. They are hard working wine growers, sons of Greek migrants who are always good for a yarn. Their vineyards are located in the often overlooked grape growing region of the Adelaide Plains, just north of the township of Virginia, about 40 minutes down the hill from Angaston. It’s an excellent source of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc amongst others.

George and Ken

In November the vines are flowering and setting their crop for the coming vintage, so it is a great time to get out and see how things are progressing. Our grower liaison, Juliet Henderson, and I travelled to catch up with George and Ken just last week. We’d originally planned to be there mid morning, but with 41 degrees forecast, we prudently left at 7am to make sure we were done before it became too hot. The vines look strong and healthy, berry set seems good where it has completed and the vines look to have got through the recent hot weather unscathed.

No visit to the lads in Virginia is complete without a Greek coffee made by Ken, or Dr Ken, as he is sometimes known. Now these coffees are not for the faint hearted. Here is the basic recipe (per person):

1 part powdered Turkish coffee
1 part sugar
1 part water

Place all ingredients into a stainless steel saucepan. Place pot over gas burner. When liquid boils over, serve in espresso cups.

That's coffee!

It’s the sort of drink that makes you shudder when you drink it. It has the texture of mud and a powerful kick. You leave Ken’s block feeling that little bit more alive than when you arrived. It is always a pleasure to take the time to sit down to one (or two) of these coffees with gentlemen such as Ken and George, especially in a world that is so fast paced and hectic. Relationships like these are what make our jobs so enjoyable.

Jane Shadows the Blues, and Country, and Gospel

7.28am, Pigeon Forge, Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA
Hi folks! Remember me?I have found a computer in my travels, and I wanted to let you know I haven’t fallen off the edge of the earth.

I’ve been to Graceland (my third visit – because the sun never sets on a legend), then chased Highway 61 – the Blues road – south from Memphis to Clarksdale in search of “the crossroads”. According to local lore, bluesman Robert Johnson went “down to the crossroads” and exchanged his soul for the ability to channel the blues and play extraordinary guitar. But you need to find the crossroads at midnight on a full moon – and I got the timing wrong.

Not sure what I would have swapped for anyway, but I found highway 49 and 61 crossing at Clarksdale. This is where I ran into some amazing characters – Red from Red’s Lounge (a true lasting blues juke joint) and The Gambler (who can spin two dice from five and five to six and four literally in front of your eyes without you seeing how) so I got to scratch the surface just a touch and live a couple of days of Delta life – in an old sharecroppers shack on the grounds of a rundown cotton plantation that’s being rebuilt.

Then I shadowed the Mississippi down to Vicksburg and its antebellum homes on the bluffs above the river, then inland across to Alabama and up to where I am this morning. Up in the Smoky Mountains just around the corner from Dollywood – Dolly Parton World – where I’ll be off to this morning. It’s a crisp clear 36 Farenheit out there, and I’ve got enough layers on to qualify as a Sara Lee cake. Up in Dolly’s “Tennessee mountain home” there’s the gospel music hall of fame and concert, the Christmas Lights parade, the talking trees, the back porch bluegrass pickers – I won’t say everything as you’ll feel like you’re missing out! Not even a mention of the fried chicken, candied sweet potatoes, and fluffy scone things they call “biscuits”. No – you don’t need to know.

So I’ll see y’all in the not too distant – I did a “Happy Birthday, Yalumba” on the equivalent of the 17th November with apple fritters from Delta Donuts in Clarksdale, and can’t wait to get home and celebrate properly

See ya soon,

PS Thanks guest bloggers – you folks are magic!