Michael Robinson

A new and emerging wine market

  • The aftermath: many vineyards in Australia’s Hunter Valley and Adelaide Hills have been fire-damaged or destroyed (Photograph supplied)

It is difficult to get an up-to-date picture of wine imports to China, as their overall consumption grew by about 80 per cent between 2013 and 2018 and their own acres of vineyards are now firmly in second place worldwide. It is challenging to say what the situation is, but France, Chile and Australia are the main exporters to China; Bordeaux exports are down 49 per cent.

Australia is getting a triple whammy. China buys approximately 20 per cent of their overall wine output and this is worth about $1.3 billion. Sales to China have dropped 90 per cent. Many vineyards in the Hunter Valley and Adelaide Hills have been fire-damaged or destroyed, as climate change takes its toll.

Smoke-damaged grapes add smoky and medicinal character to the wine. In volume, Chile could have well overtaken France for the China market and a recent report states that out of 450 40ft containers currently shipped, only 50 have been unloaded and it could take up to a year to clear the backlog on Chinese docks. Chile exports about 6,500 containers of wine each year to China.

I mention all this as we are doing our best to guard against “out of stocks”, due to lack of containers and other possible pandemic-related problems in the more than dozen wine-producing countries that we deal with. Let’s think about wines from the three exporters.

I am rather amazed by how much Jim Barry Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon we sell. It is from Coonawarra, an area known as “Australia’s Bordeaux”.

Our current vintage is 2017 and I should mention that the name comes from the fact that this thirty-acre vineyard was planted by the Barry family on an old cricket ground. This wine shows a bright garnet red with a violet hue.

The nose opens with juicy blackcurrant aromatics balanced with subtle notes of black olive, cigar box and turned earth. The palate displays generous flavours of redcurrants, mulberry and Damson plum with streaks of liquorice. Soft, silky tannins round out a harmonious and more-ish wine which can be enjoyed now or will reward cellaring for five years. $25.15 for a bottle and $47.35 for a magnum.

Penfolds 2016 Max’s Shiraz Cabernet is a multi-regional blend from McLaren Vale, Wrattonbully, Padthaway, Langhorne Creek and the Barossa Valley.

It is a tribute to former chief winemaker Max Schubert (1948-1975), a legend in Penfolds history. Max’s constant pursuit of excellence paved the way for those who followed in his footsteps and also allowed the status and heritage of Penfolds winery to grow. Structural grip and defined tannins wrap around a palate full of blueberry and mulberry brightness. Black olive and brine-like Nori savouriness add an extra dimension so that fruit doesn’t stand alone. $38.80.

I often mention that pinot noir likes to shiver and this it does as the cold Humboldt current flows up from Antarctica and cools the coastal valleys of Chile.

Cono Sur Reserva Especial 2016 Pinot Noir is a very expressive, friendly and voluptuous pinot noir from the San Antonio Valley, which has been distinguished for its outstanding aromatic qualities. Crisp notes of plum, morello cherry and raspberry combine harmoniously in the nose with subtle floral hints and touches of coffee and chocolate.

The mouth is expressive, balanced and pleasantly lingering. Critic Tim Atkin awards it 91/100 and writes: “Cono Sur make impressive volumes of very drinkable pinot noir, all aged in barrels. This large blend comes from granite soils and has lovely red cherry and raspberry fruit, subtle wood and a fresh, tapering finish. Drink 2018-22.” $20.15.

Los Vascos 2015 Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is a project of the Rothschild family of Chateau Lafite fame. Their winemaker comments: “Lovely ruby red colour with bricklike nuances. Aromas of fresh, ripe fruits like raspberry, cherry, and plum can be discerned in the nose, along with notes of cocoa, peppermint, black olive, white pepper, and dried plums. On the palate, powerful tannins support a delectable personality. A friendly and immensely pleasant wine.”

Blend: 87 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 10 per cent syrah, 2 per cent cabernet franc, 1 per cent carmenere. $29.20.

Jean-Luc Thunévin, who launched the “garage wine movement” in France, makes a soft and silky, nicely balanced, easy to drink young wine called Bad Boy and we presently have 2015 that was a much sought after, almost perfect year in Bordeaux.

The Canadian critic, Natalie MacLean awards it 92/100 and says, “A terrific Bordeaux red wine blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes from winemaker Jean-Luc Thunévin. Aromas of fleshy ripe blueberry and blackberry with anise on the finish. Robust and delicious. Decant one hour and pair with a rare steak.”

Also with 92/100, James Suckling feels this was “a bold and brash style with a wealth of rich blackberries and mulberries. The palate adds chocolate to the mix, and it’s all delivered on smooth, ripe and supple tannins. Silky finish.” $31.95.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George (York Street, 297-0409). wineonline.bm