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News posted on Monday, 20 February 2017

Wine expert's $300,000 wine heist
Wine expert Lak Quach was renowned in the hospitality industry for his "exceptional palate" and vast knowledge. He graduated dux at the prestigious Len Evans Tutorial in 2013 and became a reviewer for the prestigious Halliday Wine Companion, considered the Bible of Australian wine. The former sommelier and vintner is under investigation by his employer, Melbourne wholesaler Cellarhand, over claims he stole up to $300,000 worth of wine while working as a specialist buyer.

Most prized wine grapes on the South Coast
The day of the year the South Coast’s pioneering vigneron always looks forward to happened on Friday when Coolangatta Gold was harvested at Shoalhaven Heads. The Semillon grown at Coolangatta Estate for 20 years now is one of the most awarded wines in Australia. Two blocks of the variety have won more wine show gold than most vineyards could even dream of. But with that comes great pressure. Which is why industry pioneer Greg Bishop and son-in-law Ben Wallis were so relieved to get fine weather to harvest the first block and they hope it holds for the second Semillon pick next week.

Flames stop just 50 metres from vineyard
Alessandro and Wilma Laryn expected to find their vineyard burned to the ground. Instead, they found "a piece of paradise". Surrounded by blackened hills, some just 50 metres away, their livelihood was intact. The couple's business, Cracroft Chase Vineyard, is on the northern edge of where wild fire ripped through Christchurch's Port Hills last week. The Laryns left their property on Wednesday night, fearing the worst.

Blenheim residents oppose vineyard accommodation
A proposal to build worker accommodation on a suburban street in Blenheim has outraged residents, who have started a petition to stop it going ahead. More than 60 people on Warwick St and the surrounding area have signed the petition, arguing the development would be disruptive and devalue their property prices. However, Grapeworx Marlborough owner Mack Pouwhare said the nine self-contained houses he wanted to build on the section would improve the look of the street.

Wine buyers head off the beaten track
Independent wine buyers from Britain toured the State’s wine regions last week as part of the 10-day trip. Organised by Wines of WA, buyers visited boutique vineyards in the Geographe, Margaret River and Southern Forests appellations and were on a tour through Whicher Ridge Wines’ sensory garden when the Times caught up with them. Wines of WA chief executive Larry Jorgensen said Britain was in the top five markets and always had been, and independent buyers — different from major distributors such as supermarket chain Tesco — were what WA producers needed to be looking to.

Bordeaux 2016: Largest harvest since 2006
2016 was the biggest Bordeaux harvest in more a decade, according to official figures. The production of 577.2 million litres – the equivalent of a staggering 770 million bottles – was the largest since 2006, when there was 10% more vineyard area. Strong harvest figures for Bordeaux are, of course, in stark contrast to many less fortunate regions across France in 2016. It’s the third good Bordeaux vintage in a row. Red wine accounted for 85% of production in 2016, plus 4% rosé, 10% dry white and 1% sweet white.

Revealed: Countries that quaff the most wine
February 18 was 'National Drink Wine Day' in America. But there are some nationalities which don't need a national day to encourage the enjoyment of a glass of wine. So which country takes the crown? Andorra. According to the Wine Institute, the country consumed 3,936,000 litres of wine in 2014 (the most recent year for which comprehensive statistics are available). Given that just 69,165 people call the Pyrenean principality home, according to the UN, that's 56.9 litres per head. Or the equivalent of 76 bottles.

Central Illinois vineyard inspires new winemakers
For nearly two decades, Mackinaw Valley Vineyards in Tazewell County has been helping transform how people look at wine produced in Illinois. For vineyard founder Diane Hahn and her late husband Paul, it has always been about finding a unique approach to agriculture in the Land of Lincoln. “I think that's one thing especially that young people are looking for a career, there is a lot of diversity in agriculture. Our business is a very good example of that, we grow grapes here, we make wine here from on premise," said Diane Hahn.

Costco wine buyer talks shelf strategy
How does one get their wine sold at Costco? It was the question on the minds of those in the audience at the recent Wine Conversations event in Santa Rosa, and one the general merchandise manager of Costco’s beverage alcohol division, Annette Alvarez-Peters, diplomatically answered for the crowd of mostly winemakers and other winery employees. Alvarez-Peters prefaced her remarks by saying that there are now more than 9,000 wineries in the United States (see “North America Winery Count is Now 9,872”), and the typical Costco location only carries about 235 SKUs, which also includes beer and spirits in places where regulations allow all three to be sold in the same location.

Tap a Future Leader on the shoulder
Do you know someone with the potential to be a future leader for the Australian wine community, contributing to its long-term success? Then as a current leader of the sector, we ask you to ‘tap them on the shoulder’ and encourage them to apply for Future Leaders 17, Australian grape and wine’s leadership development program.

Hot summer days: Top picking
The Hunter Valley Vintage 2017 is all but over with vignerons forecasting it will produce red and white wines of outstanding quality. Robert McLeish, of McLeish Estate, said drier conditions with only minimal rainfall and had given his company high harvest tonnages and superb quality grapes. “The harvest this year is shaping up to be the best one yet,” Mr McLeish said.

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WID 2017