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News posted on Wednesday, 11 February 2015

WA wineries dodge smoke taint
Wineries based near the scene of one of Western Australia's biggest bushfires in decades say they have "dodged a bullet" by seemingly avoiding smoke damage from the blaze. More than a week after it started, a bushfire near Northcliffe, Windy Harbour and Walpole has burned through 91,000 hectares while destroying two houses and several sheds. The blaze has also had a devastating impact on nearby farmland, with large amounts of livestock affected by destroyed feed and hay. But wineries in the Pemberton and Northcliffe region said they appeared to have avoided smoke taint.

Sunraysia growers warned about low prices
Wine grape growers are being urged to seek advice before accepting low prices for their grapes during this year's vintage. The Murray Valley Wine Growers group said there had been a slight increase in the prices offered for white wine during vintage, but now some prices being offered for reds were 40 per cent below market price. The Mildura-based group said it could provide growers with advice before they accepted unsustainable offers. But Mike Stone, executive officer, said some growers felt as though they had no option but to accept those sort of prices.

Weather favours wine
The uneven rain might not be ideal for the South Burnett's cattle farmers, but for winemaker Simon Berry it has been perfect. The months of strong rain and periods of dry weather was just the right combination to give Mr Berry's Kingsley Grove Estate one of the best vintages in the history of the winery. "I think it's the best vintage since 2006," Mr Berry said. Although picking for the current vintage is still going, Mr Berry said the varied weather was ideal for the winery. He explained that vineyards, unlike many other crops, benefited from the variety of weather to bring out the best grapes and give good yields.

Fiesta to crown annual harvest
End of vintage is a special time for Swan Valley winegrowers who, after a hectic few months of grape picking and fermenting, will host a raft of events over the next month to celebrate another successful harvest. RiverBank Estate aims to build on the success of last year’s Italian-themed merrymaking with a Spanish themed fiesta on March 15. The winery’s Spanish variety, a 2013 Tempranillo, won a bronze medal at the 2014 Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show and will be available for purchase at the festival. Winemaker Robert Bond said a good Tempranillo should have blackcurrant or berry type flavours without tasting overripe or jammy.

‘Drinkorexics’ losing weight by replacing food with glass of wine
Labels that display the calorie content of wine and spirits are encouraging women with eating disorders to cut back even more radically on food in what experts are calling “drinkorexia”. The disorder is causing particular concern because sufferers are swapping food calories for alcohol, which has no nutritional value. It also means drinking is taking place with an empty stomach, maximising alcohol’s effects. Adrienne Key, consultant psychiatrist and lead clinician for eating disorders at the Priory Hospital in Britain, said while ¬advertising calorie content was beneficial for most of the population, it was potentially harmful for those with eating problems.

Delegat in growth mode as operating profit rises
Delegat Group, New Zealand's largest listed wine company, said first-half operating profit rose 1 per cent and it was on track to meet guidance for full-year case sales and earnings. Operating profit was $20.5 million in the six months ended December 31, from $20.2 million a year earlier. Global case sales rose 4 per cent to 1.13 million. Net profit for the period tumbled to $9.8 million from $17.8 million a year earlier, reflecting fair value changes to the value of derivatives. Delegat is almost tripling capital spending this year to $86 million to drive earnings growth.

'Cheers' to investment
The announcement one of the major global players in the wine industry has invested in Central Otago is exciting for the area, and builds on the hard work of the region's winemaking pioneers. Following Overseas Investment Office consent, the Northburn Wine Company has been bought by Western Australia's Cloudy Bay Vineyards. Cloudy Bay is part of the French Moet Hennessy Wine Division, which is part of LVMH, a merger of Moet Hennessy and Louis Vuitton.

Record Washington winegrape harvest in 2014
The 2014 winegrape harvest in Washington totalled a record 227,000 tons, an eight per cent increase over the year before, the industry reported. Last year was the third record harvest in a row, and if the weather cooperates, the industry group Washington State Wine expects 2015 will be another top year, The Yakima Herald-Republic reported Tuesday. The wine industry is growing, and new plantings are beginning to produce fruit, said Steve Warner, president of Washington State Wine. The organization based in Seattle represents licensed wineries and grapegrowers in the state.

Russia’s wine market facing new reality as imports dry up
Russian importers are being forced to cut shipments of foreign wine, with a 44 per cent reduction in wine imports in December 2014 as business was hit by the collapsing ruble. With a 30-50 per cent increase in retail prices, only the most popular wines will be able to survive the crisis. However, industry sources say that Russian wine producers will have a chance to conquer new niches. At the beginning of February, Rusimport, the Russian alcohol importer (Russia’s second-biggest importer of French wines), announced the imminent bankruptcy of five of its companies.

Oregon’s ‘Rocks District’ is newest viticulture area
The new AVA designation is significant to consumers who seek out Pacific Northwest wines. The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater in Eastern Oregon will be the newest American Viticulture Area, or AVA, a designation that provides a marketing edge to vineyards in the area and wine makers who use grapes from there. The designation covers the alluvial fan of the Walla Walla River and refers to dark basalt cobblestones that pocket the area and to the Oregon town of Milton-Freewater, part of which lies within the AVA.

Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot on the rise in U.S.
Chardonnay sales flatten out, while new varieties make inroads on U.S. palates, but Cabernet still rules the roost. Chardonnay is still king of the U.S. wine market, but its sales were flat in 2014 for the first time in years, according to Nielsen. Meanwhile, New Zealand continued a long trend of growth in the U.S. wine market and Portugal joined the party, while wines from Australia and Germany plummeted. The hottest varietal wines last year in the food and drug stores measured by Nielsen were Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Clarke confirmed as AGWA’s CEO
After filling the role of acting chief for more than six months, Andreas Clark has been announced as Australian Grape and Wine Authority’s (AGWA) chief executive officer. Brian Walsh, AGWA chair, broke the news yesterday stating that Clarke would assume the position immediately. Walsh said Clark’s professional background, deep knowledge and experience in the wine sector made him well qualified to lead AGWA towards a bright future. “We’re pleased Andreas has agreed to continue in this key leadership role,” Walsh said.

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