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News posted on Monday, 12 December 2016

Riesling ‘most undervalued’ variety in Australia
Riesling is the most undervalued variety in Australia, with the wines often hugely over-performing for their price point according to one champion of the grape. During a recent visit to Australia, Kerri Thompson, owner and winemaker at Wines by KT in the Clare Valley, said, “Riesling is the only variety in Australia that’s undervalued – you can still get awesome Rieslings for under AU$20 (£15) here, whereas the same quality wine made with a different grape would cost more like $40 (£30).”Perhaps because of the value for money it offers, Thompson revealed that younger consumers in Australia are developing a taste for all styles of Riesling, while sommeliers are really getting behind the wines for their textural quality.

New winery safety guide launched
A new safety guide has been launched to help ensure the safety of thousands of workers in the NSW wine industry. SafeWork NSW and NSW Wine Industry launched the Guide to managing risks in wineries at Tyrell’s Winery in the Hunter Valley last week. The publication aims to provide guidance on how businesses and workers can manage work health and safety in wineries. “Wineries need effective safety controls due to the high-risk task that are undertaken, including confined space work, hot work, forklift operations and the handling and storage of hazardous chemicals, including ethanol.”

A wine trademark dispute
Wine educator and writer Rachel Jayne Powell had loved Champagne so much that she had turned her long-time nickname, ‘Champagne Jayne’, into her business name in 2003. Educating and entertaining people about the world’s most exclusive bubble had been her life. But now she was being asked to explain herself. By taking the name of her favourite wine, had she misled and deceived wine drinkers in her behaviour, and in her posts on social media, when she mentioned or promoted non-Champagne sparkling wines? The expensive legal bonfire was lit in August 2012, when Jayne Powell’s application to IP Australia (the administrator of intellectual property rights within the country) to register Champagne Jayne as a trademark was accepted. In November, the (then) CIVC, through its Australian lawyers, issued a letter of demand: Cease using the name Champagne Jayne or else. She declined.

Victorian winery behind Aldi's and Coles' award winner
The winemakers behind the private label bottles at Coles, Woolworths and Aldi are a closely guarded secret. Private label wines, which are increasingly coming to dominate wine-store shelves, are almost impossible to distinguish. They have labels that point to an exclusive provenance – there's nothing to hint at ownership by a major grocery store. What only a few knew, until now, is that some of the best wine sold at Aldi and Coles – award-winning vintages that are just $5 a bottle – is being made in Victoria. By an award-winning winery. At the same time as its own brands are winning big awards, this winery has been producing some of Australia's best and most-affordable wines.

Australia's first intellectual property counsellor in China
Australia is sending its first ever intellectual property counsellor to Beijing this month as Canberra steps up support for businesses expanding into China by helping them to protect their trademarks. The United States, Britain and Japan have all had IP counsellors based in China for at least the past five years and Australia is catching up now that its trade relationship with China is changing. Among the Australian companies caught out is Treasury Wine Estates, after a rival wine company registered variations of Penfolds' Chinese name, Ben Fu. A prolonged legal battle is playing out in the Chinese courts with a key decision expected any day. "If you look at the Penfolds case where they lost control of that mark, that case would have cost millions of dollars and is still ongoing," said Mr Bennett. "Spending $500 or $1000 upfront is like a form of insurance."

The past 10 years: New Zealand
How many times have you heard predictions of the imminent demise of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in the last 10 years? Yet consumers in both the UK and the US – New Zealand’s two biggest export markets – show no sign of tiring of its idiosyncratic Sauvignon style. Between 2006 and 2016, exports have grown in value from NZ$500m ($364m) to NZ$1.6bn. Less than 10m L of wine left New Zealand ports in 2006; today, that figure stands at 213m L. And most of that is Sauvignon Blanc – around 85% compared with 72% a decade ago.

NZ Sauvignon Blanc widens its scope
Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is like no other wine on Earth. If you’ve had so much as a sip of this New Zealand white, then you already know this. Pungent, herbaceous, redolent of grass and gooseberries, of Key lime and passion fruit and torn tomato leaves, renowned, if that’s the word, for its olfactory associations with cat pee, it’s one of the most recognisable, aromatically peremptory wines in the world. Almost against the odds, it became a global commodity, a white-wine wildfire started three decades ago by brands like Montana (now Brancott Estate), Cloudy Bay and Kim Crawford, filling supermarket and liquor store shelves, bodegas and BevMos.

Ningxia wine production down in 2016 but ‘within normal range’
China’s premium wine region Ningxia will likely see a drop of 5% in wine production compared with last year due to heavy rainfalls in September, says Li Demei, China’s leading wine expert. In a phone interview with dbHK, Li said floods earlier this year along Helan Mountain affected a few wineries but the damages were not severe. However, rainfalls in September caused a series of diseases including mildew, “the main reason for the production decline,” Li explained, adding that a “5% decline is still within normal range”. As reported by dbHK earlier, wine production in China in 2016 is forecast to drop with Xinjiang in northwestern China reporting as much as a 30% cut.

Austria 2016: Uncommon quality?
With the 2016 European grape harvest now picked (save perhaps a few crops destined for Eiswein), official reports of quality and quantity have started to be released. Austria's ever-efficient Wine Marketing Board is one of the first to paint a picture of the vintage, and it is as pretty as the Traisental vineyard photograph they also supplied. The style of 2016 Austrian wine is described as 'outstanding quality, characterised by particularly delicate fruit-driven aromatics and fresh acidity'.

Georgia exports to China reach historic high
Georgia’s wine exports to China registered the highest growth rate among all countries in the first 11 months of the year, the strongest sign yet that the eastern European country’s push into one of the world’s biggest wine markets is paying off. According to the latest figures released by Georgia’s National Wine Agency under the Ministry of Agriculture, wine exports to China grew by 128% to about 4.89 million bottles, making China the country’s third largest export destination following Russia (about 24.9 million bottles) and Ukraine (about 5.18 million bottles). Georgia has spent US$500,000 to “tell the stories of its wines in China”, wrote China Daily, and a centre on Georgian wines was set up in Beijing in 2015 to promote its wines and wine culture.

US consumers don't care what sommeliers like
If you ask a sommelier what's most important about wine, in order, she'll probably tell you region, then producer, then grape. For average American wine consumers, it's almost backwards. Sonoma State University released its third annual American Wine Consumer Survey this week. It's based on 1081 consumers, and ends thus: "Caveat: Since this survey is based on a representative sample of American wine consumers, and not a random sample, it cannot be generalized to all wine consumers." This begs the question, "Why bother?" But I'll report some of its findings anyway because what the hell, we're in the post-fact era, and only liberals worry about truthiness. The survey asked what factors are most important in buying a wine. Price is No. 1, of course. But after that, it's brand, varietal and country.

Handpicked Wines opens a cellar door in Sydney
Acting as an all-encompassing sensory and educational space, Handpicked Wines' new flagship urban cellar door on Kensington Street in Sydney's Chippendale is as strikingly designed as it is useful. Opening in November in the refurbished Carlton United Brewery administration building which also houses The Old Clare Hotel and restaurants such as Automata, Kensington Street Social and Spice Alley, the Handpicked team have carved out a space offering three distinct experiences. Handpicked's range of wines made from grapes sourced from across Australia and New Zealand including the Barossa Valley, Mornington Peninsula and the Clare Valley.

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