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News posted on Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Wet winter has Aus in good shape for 2017 vintage
A wet winter and a cool spring has Australia well placed for another strong wine vintage – albeit a little later than recent years. Grape growers across Australia say the wet winter and spring has given vines a good base for a strong growing season. The 2016 national crush in Australia was split fairly evenly between red and white varieties and was up by 6 per cent to an estimated 1.81 million tonnes. According to the Orgainsation of Vine and Wine, Australia was the world’s fifth largest wine-producing nation in 2016 behind Italy, France, Spain and the United States.

Premium not everything, says Accolade's former CEO
A former chief executive of Australia's second biggest wine company, Accolade Wines, says whoever ends up owning the business will need to ensure a large chunk of sales still come from the mid-market commercial brands. Stephen Millar presided over a 20-fold increase in value of what was previously known as BRL Hardy in a decade-long stint as chief executive before bowing out after a $1.9 billion takeover of the firm in 2003 by New York-listed Constellation Brands.

The wines Australians have been collecting in 2016
The iconic Canberra shiraz viognier produced by Clonakilla is this year’s favourite for wine collectors according to Australia’s largest managed cellar business. Wine Ark, which has around 2 million bottles laid down in 16 centres nationwide, keeps data on all the bottles moving in and out of storage, and the top wine people put down this year was the 2015 Clonakilla shiraz viognier, costing around $100 – just 18 bottles ahead of the 2014 Lake’s Folly cabernet ($75) from the Hunter Valley. Penfolds 2012 St Henri ($95) was the third most added wine of 2016.

Claas launch compact range
The new Nexos series from Claas, which was launched at EIMA 2016 in Italy, includes three models, the F, VL and VE and is aimed squarely at the vineyard, horticulture and specialty agriculture segment. Due to begin production in 2017, there is no word yet on whether the compact machines will make it to Australian shores, but it would fill a gap in the current local Claas tractor offering which begins with Axos conventional models from about 55 kilowatts.

Clairault Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Rated Outstanding
In a coup for Clairault wines, the 2012 Clairault Estate Cabernet Sauvignon was the only wine awarded an ‘Outstanding’ rating and 95 points in a recent Decanter magazine tasting. The tasting focussed on Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignons from the 2012 and 2013 vintages. Respected wine judges Sarah Ahmed, Justin Knock MW and Anthony Rose conducted the tasting, with 80 wines representing the region. Sarah Ahmed noted that the Cabernets from Margaret River "...have an Old World feel in terms of their acid and tannin structure."

Horses for vines
They may be a common sight in Europe, but having a Clydesdale horse spraying the vines is not something people expect to see here in New Zealand. That might be about to change in Marlborough at least, with a new business aiming to introduce the draught horses onto the viticulture scene. The two Clydesdales, Gracie and Bill, are no strangers to vines given they were working at Seresin Estate up until 12 months ago. Now with new owners they are back in the swing of things, with their first up job being to spray one of Fromm’s 25-year-old organic Pinot Noir blocks.

UB40 set for New Zealand winery tour
Red wine and reggae? For Ali Campbell, lead singer of British reggae band UB40, it's a potent mix. Campbell's UB40 will shortly be on its way to New Zealand for the latest leg of their ongoing Red Red Wine vineyard tour. Campbell admits it's not a bad way to make a living. "The Red Red Wine tour was a brilliant idea," he says. "It means we get to spend several weeks in some of the most beautiful places in the world." The relaxed life he often lives these days is quite a turnaround from the group's rough and ready roots in grimy late '70s Birmingham.

Constellation Brands Completes Sale of Canadian arm
Constellation Brands, a leading beverage alcohol company, announced today that it has completed the sale of its Canadian wine business to Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, the largest single-profession pension plan in Canada. The transaction, which includes Canadian wine brands such as Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin, wineries, vineyards, offices, facilities, and Wine Rack retail stores, is valued at approximately C$1.03 billion. The company received cash proceeds, net of repayment of outstanding debt, of approximately C$765 million, subject to post-closing adjustments.

Warm Up: Mourvèdre
Mourvèdre is one of these interesting grapes with multiple identities. It has three main incarnations. As Mourvèdre, it's a mainstay of southern France. As Mataro -- a Catalan version of its name -- it thrives usually as a blending component in the GSMs of Australia, and also enjoyed mid-century popularity in California. As Monastrell, it is an extremely popular grape in Spain. Monastrell has monastic etymology, so this was possibly a grape once cultivated for religious purposes. Mataro and Mourvèdre are both names from Spanish cities. With all the etymology pointing to Spain, it's probably a Spanish grape, where its ur-seed likely sprouted in Valencia in the 14th century.

Jefford on Monday: Bekaa Beauties
Andrew Jefford enjoys the rich pleasures of Lebanon’s red wines. “You go from sea to mountain to plateau to mountain,” described Hady Kahalé, a co-owner of Lebanese wine producer Ixsir. “And in climate terms, you go from tropical to Mediterranean to continental to desert. And all in 80 km.” The trials of Lebanon’s wine community through the long years of war and civil disruption have been well-documented. What, though, of their struggles with landscape and climate?

2016 in wine: orange wine, near beer and growing pains
Wine got a swank new theme park. Canadian rapper Drake launched a bourbon. A British researcher announced he’d created a synthetic alcohol that doesn’t cause hangovers. On the downside, 2016 marked one of the worst French wine harvests in 30 years and brought news that white wine may increase the risk of melanoma. It was also a time when Americans elected a winery-owning teetotaller to the most powerful office in the free world. Herewith, a few cheers – and jeers – to the boozy year that was.





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