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News posted on Monday, 19 October 2015

Survival of the fittest as vineyard sector shrinks
Australia's vineyards sector lost the equivalent of one-and-a-half Barossa Valleys between the 2012 and 2015 harvests, according to new figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Lower profitability, due to higher water prices and lower fruit prices, drove down land values in big wine-producing regions like the Riverland and Riverina, forcing landowners to pull out vines and replace them with higher-yielding horticultural crops like almonds and stone fruit – or abandon growing altogether.

Home Hill Wines’ scores double victory at Royal Melbourne Wine Awards
Tasmanian winery Home Hill Wines, located in the Huon Valley, has taken home two major trophies at the 2015 Royal Melbourne Wine Awards (RMWA), including the Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy for Best Young Red, with their 2014 Kelly’s Reserve Pinot Noir. Also awarded the James Halliday Trophy for Best Pinot Noir, Home Hill Wines’ owners Rosemary and Terry Bennett, who run Home Hill Wines at Ranelagh – with eldest son Sean managing the 6ha vineyard and daughter Kelly Kumar in front office and marketing, accepted the accolades at a presentation dinner held last Thursday.

Treasury Wine raises $368m in share issue
Treasury Wine Estates has raised $368 million through a share issue to help fund its purchase of Diageo's US and UK wine operations. Shares in TWE, which is buying most of the drinks giant's US and UK-based wine operations for $US552 million ($A761 million) and taking on another $US48 million of leases, will resume trading on Monday after being placed in a halt last Wednesday. Approximately 89 per cent of entitlements available to institutional investors were taken up, with a retail component to open on October 26.

Sheldrake wine tops Riesling Challenge
The Ovid winery’s 2014 Wild Ferment Finger Lakes Riesling Ice Wine took first prize at the Canberra International Riesling Challenge in Australia last week. The local vintage bested nearly 500 wines from seven countries and also took the Best American Riesling and Best Sweet Riesling awards. “The Canberra International Riesling Challenge is the world’s only international Riesling judging, considered the ‘Cannes’ of Riesling, comparable to the famous film festival in southern France in terms of prestige.”

Graham Norton's favourite Kiwi winemakers open office in Australia
The men behind British talk show host Graham Norton's signature wine have set up shop across the ditch. Tim Lightbourne and Rob Cameron, founders of Auckland-based Invivo Wines, have opened an international office in Adelaide, Australia and have appointed Mark Boardman as international sales manager. Lightbourne said it was an exciting step for the company as they continued to grow their business around the world.

Marlborough: Wine country goes hops mad
At a fine dining restaurant in the heart of New Zealand's wine country, our host is cracking open beers with the handle of a teaspoon. Josh Scott, founder of Moa Brewery in Blenheim, wants us to try every beer he has ever brewed. He has hauled a cardboard box of bottles from his small brewery to his father's restaurant over the road and plonked it in the middle of a dining table, to quizzical looks from neighbouring diners.

NZ sparkling wine needs ‘long-term vision’
New Zealand’s most famous Sauvignon Blanc producer, Cloudy Bay, is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and its estate director Ian Morden is convinced that the Marlborough wine region has “great potential” for sparkling wine. Owned by LVMH, the firm behind Champagne houses Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot, Cloudy Bay’s sparkling wine Pelorus is one of the country’s leading examples.

Champagne’s 2015 vintage almost ‘too good’
The biggest challenge for Ruinart’s chef de cave this year will be making a NV Champagne that’s “not too good”, given the high quality of the 2015 vintage and the need to maintain consistency each year. At a tasting of Ruinart’s blanc de blancs NV and vintage Champagnes in London yesterday, Frédéric PanaÏotis, chef de cave, reported that while 2015 yields in Champagne had dropped by around 20%, the quality of its harvest had been exceptionally high.

Diageo calls time on California vineyard
Diageo is expected to hoist a for-sale sign over the Chalone Vineyard in the Napa Valley after it was excluded last week from a $552 million deal with Treasury Wine Estates, of Australia. The sale of its US-based Chateau & Estate Wines, including the Sterling and Beaulieu vineyards and Blossom Hill, did not include Chalone because Treasury already has enough chardonnay brands.

Turning tobacco fields into vineyards
When tobacco died as a cash cow after more than 300 years, farmers participating in Maryland's buyout during the early part of the 21st century wondered what would ever replace it. The crop once used as currency in colonial times is now only grown by Amish and Mennonite families and a few farmers scattered throughout the region who refused the state’s buyout. Some fields that once yielded tobacco crops are now harbouring vineyards for the region’s expanding wineries that have sprouted up throughout Calvert and St. Mary’s counties.

The way that France makes wine is about to change forever
This summer was a scorcher in France, the second-hottest on record. For Bordeaux wine growers, those searing temperatures were the latest reminder that global warming is threatening to upend their world. In a vineyard on the outskirts of the world’s wine capital, Agnes Destrac, a researcher with France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research, points to shriveled merlot grapes, left to linger on the vine well past harvest time to simulate the effects of rising temperatures.

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