Camp­bell Mat­tin­son an­swers your press­ing wine ques­tions

The prize pack in­cludes six bot­tles of the 2017 Rock­Bare McLaren Vale Grenache ($25 each), rated 95 points, and six bot­tles of the 2017 Rock­Bare Tide­way Shi­raz Rous­sanne ($30 each), rated 90 points.

Halliday - - Contents - Email your ques­tion to: mail@winecom­pan­ Or post your letter to: Halliday, Pri­vate Bag 1600, South Yarra, 3141, Vic­to­ria


Last year I was vis­it­ing a wine cel­lar in Can­berra and the owner, who is a very prom­i­nent fig­ure, com­mented that the growth of Aus­tralia’s wine in­dus­try was partly at­trib­uted to the Ch­er­nobyl disas­ter. Ap­par­ently para­noia over pos­si­ble con­tam­i­na­tion caused many Euro­peans to turn their at­ten­tion to Aus­tralian wine. To what ex­tent do you think Ch­er­nobyl, or other over­seas dis­as­ters, prop up our wine in­dus­try?

So­phie Davis


Jeff Burch of Burch Fam­ily/Howard Park men­tioned to me re­cently that Aus­tralia’s rep­u­ta­tion for hav­ing a “clean en­vi­ron­ment” was one of the key selling fac­tors for Aus­tralian wine to­day, par­tic­u­lar into China and Asia in gen­eral, but around the world too. With­out get­ting into the merit or oth­er­wise of green pol­i­tics, it’s in­ter­est­ing that Aus­tralia’s global rep­u­ta­tion as ‘clean and green’ has an enor­mous ap­par­ent fi­nan­cial value and ben­e­fit. Ob­vi­ously it’s a fairly long bow to sug­gest that Ch­er­nobyl in iso­la­tion has, or did, serve as a key driver for Aus­tralian wine sales in­ter­na­tion­ally, but the tim­ing of Ch­er­nobyl (1986) and its lin­ger­ing af­ter­math co­in­cided with a ma­jor (and highly suc­cess­ful) push of Aus­tralian wine into the UK in par­tic­u­lar, so no doubt it played its role in help­ing to cre­ate pos­i­tive sales con­di­tions. Ch­er­nobyl it­self may not prop up Aus­tralian sales to any no­tice­able de­gree to­day, but the wine­maker you spoke to ob­vi­ously has an un­com­mon abil­ity to give his­tory and its as­so­ci­ated sound­waves the credit it de­serves. Dis­tance isn’t al­ways a tyranny.


I am in­ter­ested in start­ing a wine club with some col­leagues and friends, and keen for some point­ers. I don’t want to come across as a ‘wine wanker’ but do want some rules to keep it from be­ing just a bunch of guys catch­ing up for a drink. I don’t want the fo­cus to be on the price of a bot­tle, so I’m look­ing for ways to en­cour­age qual­ity with­out the cost be­com­ing pro­hib­i­tive, and where the fo­cus is on the wine. Any tips you could give on some ba­sic rules or how to struc­ture a tast­ing would be much ap­pre­ci­ated.

An­thony Fraser


It’s easy for a wine/ tast­ing group to run off the rails. If you’re not care­ful, ed­u­ca­tion quickly flies out the win­dow and all you’re left with is a reg­u­lar drink­ing ses­sion, of­ten done on an empty-ish stom­ach (by my ex­pe­ri­ence). You’re on the right track by think­ing things through be­fore­hand. Given wine’s keen abil­ity to in­duce feel­ings of in­se­cu­rity, it’s also easy for in­di­vid­ual mem­bers to soon be­come un­com­fort­able. Of course you want to keep things ca­sual, it’s a fun idea, af­ter all. But,

I’d sug­gest a) set a theme for each ses­sion, with an even ro­ta­tion of one or two peo­ple (de­pend­ing on the size of the group) charged to drive each ses­sion b) set clear bud­get boundaries c) set clear bot­tle num­ber lim­its d) make sure you have a clear as­sess­ment/ dis­cus­sion pe­riod as part of each get-to­gether e) al­ways pro­vide some kind of spit­ting ves­sel for those who want to keep a clear head f ) snacks are highly ad­vis­able, even if it’s just green olives and crack­ers, g) af­ter, say, six months re-visit the rules and bud­gets to make sure ev­ery­one still votes the same, and h) most ob­vi­ous of all per­haps, but make sure that all in­vi­tees are keen to learn more about wine, rather than just drink it. Glass­ware is also al­ways an is­sue – it’s amaz­ing how many glasses you can need for each ses­sion – so if all goes well, it’s a good idea to chip in and buy glass­ware for the group as soon as you know it’s go­ing to stick.


In the con­tin­u­ous chase of the per­fect drop, I seek guid­ance from James’ ratings and look to pur­chase those rated highly. But the ques­tion that puz­zles me is whether a 95 rat­ing is still rel­e­vant one, three, five or 10 years later.

If a 2016 vin­tage is rated 98 now in 2018, should I not wait another sec­ond and en­joy it now?

Jer­rem Davies


In the­ory, the rat­ing holds true through the life of the drink­ing win­dow. This of course is in the con­text that wine is a mov­ing tar­get and the fu­ture is not al­ways 100 per cent pre­dictable. By mov­ing tar­get, I mean that wine, as it de­vel­ops, some­times goes through clumsy stages as it moves, say, be­tween pri­mary and sec­ondary, and so its rat­ing

– in terms of how well it drinks – may ef­fec­tively vary from time to time. But if it starts as a 98-point wine in its youth, then in gen­eral terms it should score sim­i­larly once it reaches ma­tu­rity. The an­swer to the sec­ond half of your ques­tion is con­tained in the first half. The score re­lates to where the wine is at, and to where it’s go­ing. Some wines are rated on the ba­sis of where they will get to at ma­tu­rity, oth­ers on where they are at now, de­pend­ing on their style and most im­por­tantly on their sug­gested drink­ing win­dow.

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