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News posted on Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Nervous wait for Hunter vineyards
Grapegrowers will discover in the coming days how much damage recent rain has caused their crops and how this year’s wine vintage will be affected. While white wine grapes have already been picked at many Hunter Valley vineyards, the majority of red wine grapes are only just ripening and have not yet been harvested. This week’s downpour of rain has put red wine grapes at risk of splitting, which could lead to the fruit becoming mouldy or rotten.

Dollar drop hurts importers
With the Australian dollar limping at about US79c and interest rate cuts looming to dampen it even further, bringing in overseas merchandise is becoming more expensive. Limiting United States dollar exposure by hedging the currency is the best-known antidote to a declining Australian dollar, but not all are convinced. Yosuke Hall, Zanui managing director, says a drop in the dollar may lead to price increases for all imported products. "We have tried hedging but it just seemed to be something we could never get right."

Vintage begins search for flavour in low alcohol wine
The first grapes have been picked for a low alcohol wine research project at Mudgee in central west New South Wales. The aim is to create a full-flavoured wine with an alcohol percentage of less than 10 per cent by combining varying quantities of grapes harvested weeks apart. Charles Sturt University PhD candidate Rocco Longo says low alcohol wines have often had a poor reputation for flavour, something this project is setting out to change.

Winemaker finds crowdfunding to be a barrel of opportunity
There's big money in Aussie winemaking, and Luke Jecks is taking full advantage of this new investment strategy. It may seem an ambitious way to fund a business, but crowdfunding now earns Sydney-based Naked Wines an impressive $20 million a year. Wine enthusiasts are loving the venture. In return for having $40 deducted from their bank accounts each month, these “angel” investors can buy wine for sometimes half the usual retail price through Naked Wines. The pool of money raised by the monthly contributions also funds independent winemakers to create wines the way they want to, with the resulting boutique drops sold through Naked Wines.

From banking to the wine industry
Jules Matthews has long been a passionate consumer of wine. But before the early 2000s, the Auckland businesswoman did not have any experience of growing grapes or making wine, let alone marketing the end product. Enter another Jules, her former business colleague Jules Stephan, with whom she worked in investment banking. Stephan, who has pursued private business interests since 2000, was also an enthusiastic wine lover and collector. In 2002, he bought a block of land near Otiake, in the Waitaki Valley, and promptly enlisted the help of Matthews.

Growers asked for labour market data
Fruit and wine growers in Central Otago should expect to receive labour market surveys in their letterboxes from this week. One of the key purposes of the surveys is to assist in advising the Government of the number of workers the required in the region under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme in upcoming seasons. The surveys have been developed by the Central Otago Labour Market Governance Group with support from the Ministry of Social Development which provided $40,000 funding for the project.

Tesco plans to cut wine range by a third
Wine suppliers have warned the UK faces “colossal” changes as Tesco announces plans to cut its range by a third. The supermarket’s boss Dave Lewis told suppliers at a meeting it had called in management consultants to dramatically reduce the number of lines it offers. The head of a leading wine firm told Off Licence News: “There is going to be a huge fall-out as a result of this. I don’t think the wine trade is ready for the colossal changes ahead. The fact is, all the grocers are looking at the same model and will probably do the same eventually. The discounters have shown that you don’t have to have big ranges to keep consumers happy.”

Russian government to introduce minimum price for wine
The Russian government is set to introduce a minimum price for wine in a bid to make grapegrowing more profitable and reduce the volume of counterfeits in the country's wine market. The legislation, which was recently signed by the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, will allow the state to regulate the minimum price of still and sparkling wine sold in Russian retailers. According to Leonid Popovich, head of the Russian Union of Winegrowers and Winemakers, the plans have been welcomed by Russia’s leading wine producers.

Spanish winegrowers reap benefits of Chinese booze boom
China’s wine market is one of the biggest in the world, with urban affluence having driven a decade of explosive growth in consumption. Now a small bodega in Spain stands to benefit from the Asian country’s huge economic firepower after one of its wines was named as the best in the world by a specialist Chinese magazine. “It was a complete surprise to us,” said Olívia Bayés, who with her husband, David Marco, runs Marco Abella in the mountains of the Catalan winemaking zone of Priorat.

First Washington wine research program in the works
Washington’s wine industry is stepping up its research investment in wine and grape research in a big way. The Washington Wine Commission has already significantly increased research funding from past years, but now it’s developing a plan that will lay the foundation for a comprehensive, first-ever research program. The commission hired Vicky Scharlau, 501 Consultants, to develop a five-year plan. The Wine Commission has allocated more than 25 per cent of total assessment funds for budget year 2015 toward research, according to Warner.

Capital City Wine Shows and ASVO to review best practice
Support for a review of current wine show recommendations by the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology (ASVO) was part of a series of discussions relating to the Australian Wine Show system at a meeting in Brisbane held recently. Representatives from the Capital City Wine Shows (CCWS) and ASVO met at the Brisbane Showgrounds to discuss a range of measures to ensure that the Australian Wine Show system remains robust, transparent, engaged and relevant.

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