Futures in a bottle
Australian wine prices are on the climb
By Tim Protzman email@example.com
If March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, then March 27 is St. Andrew’s Day, because that’s the one day I call my Scottish friend John Emmett.
He travels the world with a job in sports marketing spreading his Ayrshire charms, drinking wine, meeting girls and staying in the Holiday Inn.
“How was Kashmir?” I ask.
“No hamburger at the hotel,” he replies.
“What’s Quito, Ecuador, like?”
“They have the only miniature golf course in the Andes.”
With a Scottish father and a New Jersey mother this guy has one purpose — soccer, or futbol, as he calls it. That and a passing knowledge of 12 languages gain him acceptance everywhere. Even in Burkina Faso, where he refused to eat monkey meat.
I call him every year on his birthday, March 27. This year he was just back from visiting his cousin Angus in New Zealand. When I first met Angus 30 years ago he was a wee lad from Greenock. Then the family immigrated to New Zealand. The father was in banking. Today, Angus is a giant man who could lift a wine cask in one hand, even though he lost most of his hair. John’s little cousin grew up. And the whole wacky cast from Ayr, the ones that John brought over every summer to use as ringers on his summer league soccer team, grew up too.
Andy Richards is married with four kids and wants to be assistant manager of a hyper market. Angus has two kids and 25 sheep. He works for Air New Zealand and once arm-wrestled one of the lead Hobbits from Lord of the Rings in an Auckland pub. Slopper the Human Funnel (a.k.a. David Ross) hasn’t had a dram in decades. And Liz the fiery red-haired girlfriend is a grandmother of two.
You probably know someone like John. Besides the main job, he’s an agent for up-and-coming soccer players. Not kids but men who play on the smaller regional teams. And he’s one of those “anything for a buck” people. Not that he’s greedy; he just wants to turn a quick dollar. This is not something I can do easily, so I was envious. Then I saw the house he owned and the three partially intact cars parked on the lawn — the BMW, the VW Thing and the Aston Martin. More complete was the vintage Chris-Craft with wood paneling. But he came bearing interesting news.
“Protz, you like wine? Right?”
“Yeah, I like wine.”
“Well this wasn’t a great harvest for Australia, and the yields are down.”
I had heard that, but with his newfound wine knowledge and his networking skills he had gotten a group of small vineyard owners to let him represent his wine. He was trying to put some kind of wine future group together that would allow the right people to buy next year’s wine, when it came out in the fall of 2008. And he was happy and enthusiastic even though getting new wines to market is a huge task. Export and import licenses. FDA quality controls. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms tax duties. But he had it covered. If all those things fell through he’d just invite everyone to the little vineyards to pick up their wine on their own. Thankfully, he didn’t ask me to do anything. When we were teenagers he once tricked me into changing his flat tire by claiming he didn’t know how. But he was right about one thing. Australian and New Zealand wine prices are going up.
Here are some Australian wines that may go up in price and value next year when the wine from this year’s harvest with 35 percent less grapes is released.
• Brokenwood Hunter Valley Shiraz, $79
• Henschke, Barossa Valley, South Australia Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, $66
• Kay Brothers Amery Vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia Block 6 Shiraz, $122
• Moss Wood Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon, $44
• Wild Duck Creek Estate Duck Muck Shiraz, Victoria, Australia, $560
• Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, $20
• Wynns Coonawarra Estate Shiraz, $16
• Three Rivers Barossa Valley Shiraz, from $278 to $844 depending on the vintage.
• Petaluma Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay, $111
These wines are highly rated, tasty and culty. Cellar them now before the price goes up. Personally I’ve only tried the Henschke, Moss Wood and the Wynns but if you can find them at these prices go for it.
This week we tasted:
• 2005 Rex Hill Pinot Noir ($21.99). Good but not French enough for me. But the wine was fruity and very genuine and in classical American Pinot style.
• 2004 King Estate Pinot Gris ($15.99). I’ve been hearing lots about Oregon Pinot Gris, which is the same grape as pinot grigio, but this was a little sweeter on the finish, but alas, a bit watery. Should have tried the Adelsheim Pinot Gris, $16.99. Both are from Oregon.
• 2003 Chateau Caronne St. Gemme, Haut Medoc ($20). This was a fun wine ’cause it was very approachable and good, even though it was soft around the edges without the race horse sleekness of great Bordeaux. From the hot, hot summer of 2003. Deep, concentrated with grape, cranberry and violet flavors and aromas.