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.
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?
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.
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?
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.