Huon Hooke

No Thumbnail

Paling in Comparison

Brian Croser draws from their barrels three samples of 2011 pinot noir, all pale coloured but charming for their floral and cherry-like perfumes. Blend them and you’d have a very attractive but pale-coloured, light-bodied pinot noir. It would be the fifth vintage of what was hailed almost immediately as an outstanding pinot, the second and third-crop 2008 and 2009 wines winning widespread critical praise. But Croser has made his decision. There will be no $55 Tapanappa Foggy Hill Pinot Noir 2011. And no, it won’t be relegated to his second label, the $29 Tapanappa Fleurieu Peninsula Pinot Noir.

No Thumbnail

A Breakup at Brokenwood

Brokenwood’s award-winning winemaker Peter-James (known to all as P-J) Charteris has resigned. He plans to devote more time to his own New Zealand-based Charteris brand, adding more wines to the initial Central Otago pinot noir release, and consulting to other producers in the Hunter Valley,

No Thumbnail

Winemakers of the Year

The Barossa-based Glaetzer family seem to have wine in their genes. Nick Glaetzer, winemaker at Tasmania’s Frogmore Creek and also a producer of his own wines under the Glaetzer-Dixon label, is the second member of his family to win the Wine Australia Medal. This is awarded each year at the Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine Winemaker of the Year awards to a younger generation, up-and-coming winemaker. Nick, 31, was born and raised in the Barossa, where his father Colin was winemaker at Seppelt and Barossa Valley Estates before co-establishing Barossa Vintners, and his uncle John (Colin’s twin brother) was Wolf Blass’s right-hand man and chief winemaker for the first 30 years. Nick’s bother Ben won the award in 2004. There is a third winemaker in the Glaetzer family, too: Nick and Ben’s older brother Sam is a senior winemaker for Treasury Wine Estates in the Barossa.

No Thumbnail

Grant Burge, the Quiet Achiever

Imagine you’re a winemaker, proudly based in the Barossa Valley, and you want to expand by producing popular grape varieties that don’t grow well in the Barossa. Sauvignon blanc and pinot noir are the big growth varieties in question, so Grant Burge’s answer is to source them from New Zealand: both are from Marlborough. The brand-name is Drift. So successful has the sauvignon been that Burge expects it to be among the top 10 selling sauvignon blancs in Australia by next year. Drift sauvignon blanc is $15 and pinot noir $25, and neither of them mentions the name Grant Burge anywhere on the label. Burge reasons that his name is so closely associated with the Barossa, it should only appear on Barossa wines.

No Thumbnail

China’s Thirst for Wine Flourishes

Seated around a large rectangle of tables in a private room of the North Yoker Hotel in the north-eastern China city of Shenyang, are a few of the 271 billionaires in China, sipping six vintages of one of the greatest and most collectable Bordeaux red wines, Vieux Chateau Certan. Among them is Mr Wang, who owns several grand hotels and is a powerful businessman, but tonight he looks more like a bikie gang member, with a black, stencilled T-shirt, an unruly mop of spiky hair, an expensive-looking wristwatch, and a face like an aged sideshow boxer. A charismatic man, he likes Cuban cigars, Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky, and talks expansively of the great Romanee-Conti vintages as though he drinks them every day. He probably does.

No Thumbnail

South Africans Shine at the Five Nations Challenge

The dark horse South Africa came from nowhere – as they say at the racetrack – to be the stand-out performer at this year’s inaugural Five Nations Wine Challenge, judged in Sydney in August.

Always the underdog for the eight years of the Five Nations’ previous incarnation, the Tri Nations Wine Challenge, South Africa bolted away with this year’s event and scooped the pool, winning nine of the 17 trophies on offer.

No Thumbnail

Thomas takes 6 Trophies

Andrew Thomas is celebrating after winning six trophies at the recent 2011 Hunter Valley Wine Show. His 2009 Thomas Wines Sweetwater Shiraz ($35) won four trophies, capped by best red of show and including best premium vintage red and best currently available red, and his

No Thumbnail

The Stalk has Visited

The Yarra Valley is arguably Australia’s most creative wine region at present, a cauldron of inventiveness and much progress is being made despite the setbacks of heat-waves, bushfire smoke, droughts and frosts and this year’s deluge. Driven by such charismatic personalities as Steve Webber (of De Bortoli), the region is pushing the boundaries of the envelope with chardonnay, pinot noir and other varieties. One of the new catch-cries is stalks. Stalks in pinot noir and shiraz, principally. Other cool-climate winemakers have been experimenting with stalks too, such as Alex McKay (of Collector Wines) and others in the Canberra region, but in the Yarra, the ‘stalk dorks’ seem to be taking over. The chief proponents are Dave Bicknell of Oakridge, Bill Downie (William Downie), Luke Lambert, Gary Mills (Jamsheed), Rory Lane (The Story) and Webber. The pioneer of big-time stalk usage was Gary Farr of By Farr and previously of Bannockburn. He and his son Nick (Farr Rising) still probe the limits with stalks and are making what I think are wonderful pinot noirs this way. Back at Bannockburn, Michael Glover continues the stalk mania.

No Thumbnail

Fussy Bastards Serve Up the Same Stuff

It can be difficult to stir up interest in old established brands. Everyone focuses on what’s new – and there’s always a lot that’s new. It’s a global syndrome, worse in Europe because there’s so much there that’s very old. Take the noble Tuscan house of Antinori, for instance: it’s big, traditional and very old (over 600 years), and the pressure must be enormous to keep doing new things to keep the public interested amid the incredibly fertile and creative European wine scene.

No Thumbnail

Setting the Carbon-Neutral Standard

Leader in organic viticulture, Temple Bruer vineyard and winery of Langhorne Creek, has achieved carbon neutral status. Founder David Bruer claims his is the only winery and vineyard in Australia to be both carbon neutral and 100% organic. Bruer and his late wife Barbara started