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A chip off the old block
It took an absent-minded vineyard manager, talented winemaker and a fair bit of largesse by the marketing team to create a flagship label for the Tyrell stable - and 2013 is seeing it get a major facelift.
It was lost; then it was found, then over the years it sort of wandered off again (at least in the image department).
But now it has been found again - and how.
And Tyrell's chief winemaker Andrew Spinaze has been there for every step of the off again, on again story of his 'lost block'.
A story which started way back in 1993 with a vintage faux pas of extraordinary individuality.
Semillon grapes on one of Tyrell's smaller vineyard blocks were 'overlooked' for 10 days at harvest time.
The tank of juice was duly labelled the lost block - and the name stuck.
Particularly the next vintage when Spinaze said a two-tonne bin was left hitched up to the back of a tractor and was full of red grapes.
He said the first 'lost' grapes had been labelled 'Cliffy's Lost Block' as Cliff Currie was the long-time vineyard manager.
When it happened the next year a good story 'was grabbed by marketing and turned into a label'.
Spinaze said some of the vines at Tyrells stretch back to 1876 so they are treated with kid gloves and handpicked - often double picked - and never subjected to the assault of mechanical harvesting.
He said other things are also changing at the vineyard.
'In a normal year we would start harvest on January 25 but I haven't seen one of those for at least a decade. Twenty years ago harvest could have extended to March but recently we have been going as early as January 15.
'We have had no rain for four months this year and that is becoming increasingly common.'
So even the rain is getting lost at Tyrells, just like some of its grapes.
But unlike the train, the Lost Block Semillon rose from potential disaster to flagship status and a legend was born.
A glance today at Tyrell's medal tally is like a blast from the past because the last time someone was racking up this many medals on so many events was in the East German Olympic team.
And fitting snugly in that list is the Lost Block range, with its star Semillon, which started the pedigree, proudly listing its 88 medals.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the finest mistake in Tyrell's history the good old Lost Block has been given a remarkable makeover.
Which sales and marketing manager Mike Cutrupi describes as 'moving the brand from the more traditional execution in packaging to something that graphically embraces the story'.
He got that right.
Spinaze has been caricatured (although he swears it is not him and that it looks nothing like him) across all six labels, on the cartons in which they are packed and on the Tyrell's website - just in case non-one noticed.
It all creates a presentation which is hardly likely to be lost on the shelves of your local bottle shop.
The new release will feature:
- Hunter Valley Semillon
- Hunter Valley Chardonnay
- Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc
- McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon
- Limestone Coast Merlot
- Heathcote Shira
While Spinaze is not one to get in the way of a good story, the veteran of 34 Tyrell's vintages reckons Cliffy himself was a better story.
'He got a bit absent minded in his later years which was always a bit of a problem because he was also an incurable practical joker,' Spinaze said.
'On one occasion he got a new member of the team and was showing him around in his little Suzuki Brumby and there are these two trees on the block through which it fits without an inch to spare,' he said.
'So Cliffy lined up the trees with his unsuspecting passenger and went for it.
'He took both wing mirrors off and was lucky that was all because he had forgotten which were the right trees - and picked the wrong ones.'
Currie is retired now but his legend and his Lost Block live on.
Contact: Mike Cutrupi. Phone: 61 2 9028 7336. Email: Mike.Cutrupi@tyrrells.com.au
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