January 17, 2008

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Stalking the Barking Dingo
How wine gets here from down under
By Tim Protzman tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

I’m going out on a limb here.

It might be a stretch, but I’m pretty confident. If you’re reading this column then you’re interested in wine.

Now, I’m not the Amazing Kreskin, or even Criss Angel, but I’m going to say, if you’re reading this column, you not only like wine, but you like to read about wine. I’ll give you a minute to bask in the power of my mental deductions.

One of the biggest gripes I have about wine columns is that they often talk about an esoteric little wine that’s only available to people with brown hair, on a Tuesday evening, from 6:59 to 7:29 p.m. in the cellar of their shop, which is reached through a secret door in the janitor’s closet of the McDonald’s next door. Oh, and you have to be dressed in buckskin.

The moral of that kind of column is that wines are allocated, which means certain customers (like the State of New Hampshire) can only get specific amounts or even none at all.

I used to have this boss who said, “It’s all about relationships.” (Until he took his advice too seriously and got canned because he was having way too many.) And in the wine business it is all about relationships. Let’s say there’s this vineyard owner in Australia. And he makes wine and calls it — I don’t know — Barking Dingo or Deadly Cone Shellfish, you know, something Australian with cute animals.

The vineyard is three hectares or 7.41 acres with a hectare being 2.47 acres. Yield is anywhere from 1.5 to 3 tons of grapes per acre, depending on the growing season’s weather conditions. After the wine is crushed and fermented, placed in barrels and aged and bottled it produces anywhere from 2,800 to 4,400 bottles per acre, times 7.41 acres, which equals an average of about 26,676 bottles per harvest.

Not a lot to go around. Of course if the wine is plonk or quaff or what we call “for everyday drinking” then they have ways of stretching the yield. But the only way to make money off that kind of wine is to make a boatload of it or have an extraordinary distribution channel. Most choose the former. Usually low yield means higher quality. Now some wine is sold at the Cellar Door, which is Australian for tasting room, and some is sold domestically. Maybe half makes it out for export. Now for every foreign exporter there has to be a domestic importer, or someone who’s interested in bringing the wine in, through customs, gaining the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms — doesn’t that sound like a really fun place to work! — approvals on labeling, purity and making sure the wine is actually the varietal the vintner, exporter and importer are representing it to be. Now let’s say the winemaker has a sister in New Jersey and her neighbor’s brother-in-law is a wine importer. Then he might be the sole U.S. importer of the wine and this would be one reason why the delicious little bottle of Dingo Shellfish Shiraz you saw in the Price Rite in Hohokus isn’t available in Milford.

All this thought about how wine gets here was prompted by an online offer, an e-mail actually, from Personal Cellar. Although I’m usually too impatient to buy wine online (the waiting is the toughest part) I occasionally purchase bottles that I can’t find elsewhere. These are small family-owned operations, producing maybe 40,000 bottles.

What got my attention today was the $140-per-bottle price for d’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz. The Dead Arm name comes from a disease that withers one side of older, trellised grape vines resulting in dead wood on one side and succulent juicy grapes on the other. The d’arenberg vineyard in Australia’s McLaren Vale dates back to 1912, but some of the shiraz vines are 60 to 70 years old. The wine is spicy with pepper flakes, jammy fruit and a low tannin finish that has a slight hint of sugar and alcohol. But $140!!! Even for the exceptional 2001 vintage that’s steep.

d’Arenberg wines are widely available in New Hampshire, thank goodness, so there’s no need to pay top dollar. But sometimes it’s worth going off the beaten path. Even online I found the 2001 d’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz available for $58.99, including shipping and handling. Enjoy the in-state bounty of d’Arenberg:
• d’Arenberg Chambourcin Peppermint Paddock ($22.99) an Aussie take on a French cold-weather-resistant grape.
• d’Arenberg Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon ($60.99) a big lush wine with subdued fruit and lingering finish.
• d’Arenberg Olive Grove Chardonnay ($15.99) as good as most Down Under Chards get.
• d’Arenberg Custodian Grenache ($24.99) Fruity and Rhone like.
• d’Arenberg Stump Jump Shiraz ($10.99) one for everyday.
• d’Arenberg Hermit Crab Marsanne/Viognier ($16.99) a slightly sweet white with a great food-pairing ability.
• d’Arenberg 28 Road Mourvedre ($25.99) unique and interesting, showing perhaps a new future trend in Oz winemaking. Try it to taste an unsung varietal.
• d’Arenberg Stump Jump Riesling ($10.99) Will Australian riesling succeed in America where Germany has not tread?
• d’Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz ($16.99) almost as yummy as The Dead Arm.
• d’Arenberg d’Arry’s Grenache ($18.99) Fruity with tannins that age will tame. .


1/10/2008 Wishes and predictions

1/3/2008 Bit of bubbly
12/27/2007 Drinking blind
12/20/2007 Not fighting for the right
12/13/2007 The liquor store suite
11/29/2007 World of drinkin'
11/22/2007 Thanks for the Napa cabs
11/15/2007 Drinks with Diwali
11/8/2007 Candy Corn hangover
11/1/2007 Drinks with History Channel
10/25/2007 Schooled in Shiraz
10/18/2007 Spooky wines
10/11/2007 Location, location, location
10/04/2007 Shiraz history
9/27/2007 Ingenious appellation
9/20/2007 Small world of wines
9/13/2007 How not to get screwed
9/6/2007 Wine lover's shopping trip
8/30/2007 Bottle surfing
8/23/2007 Lobster goes red
8/16/2007 Emotional tasting notes
8/9/2007 Stop, wine thief
8/2/2007 Be your own sommelier
7/26/2007 You do know your wine
7/19/2007 Booze free association
7/12/2007 Raiders of the sidewalk
7/5/2007 A sustainable buzz
6/28/2007 We are the merlot
6/21/2007 Forgot Dad? Bring booze.
6/14/2007 Jack & Jill and a pail of wine
6/7/2007 Our lady of the Rioja
5/24/2007 Breaking the fast
5/17/2007 What the best bears drink
5/10/2007It's OK to be pink
5/3/2007 In praise of tastings
4/26/2007 Invention-tini
4/19/2007 More 'Mas'
4/12/2007 Futures in a bottle
3/29/2007 Uneasy glass of spring
3/22/2007 Chateau de blech
3/8/2007 Finding new beauties
3/1/2007 Infatuation or addiction
2/15/2007 The extraordinary ordinary
2/8/2007 A glass of sweetness
2/1/2007 A glass of sweetness
1/25/2007 Ham it up
1/18/2007 Cheating on wine
1/11/2007 Burning down the tree
1/4/2007 New Year's hangover
12/28/2006 Sins of the vine
12/21/2006 Kissing frogs
12/14/2006 Wine for horrible friends
12/07/2006 Like dregs in the wine glass
11/30/2006 Gift of calmer shopping
11/23/2006 YouTube for YouWine
11/16/2006 Welcome to wine
11/9/2006 Fine art, supermarket wine
11/2/2006 The geography of grapes
10/26/2006 Please continue to hold
10/19/2006 The trouble with reds
10/12/2006 Making new friends
10/05/2006 TiVo-ing the wine
09/28/2006 From an unknown battle
09/21/2006 Toast to turkey
09/14/2006 Wine for life
09/07/2006 What are Malpeques, Alex?
08/31/2006 Hanging out wines
08/24/2006 Falling into new wine season
08/17/2006 Where has that wine been?
08/10/2006 Bringing out the dead
08/03/2006 The birth of a wine fop
07/27/2006 Slow process of maturation
07/20/2006 The pain of adolescent wines
07/13/2006 Nice day for a white wedding
07/06/2006 Scoring goals with booze
06/29/2006 Beer, it's what's for dinner
06/22/2006 A drink fit for a czar
06/15/2006 A summer of beer and fried clams
06/08/2006 Keep your cool, fool
06/01/2006 The social lubricant
05/25/2006 Water, water everywhere
05/18/2006 Big fat greek wine tasting
05/11/2006 Drinking to the end
05/04/2006 Schooled in the art of wine
04/27/2006 Make a wish
04/20/2006 Immigrant wines
04/13/2006 A pain in the glass
04/06/2006 Got milk?
03/30/2006 Throw a dart and there's wine
03/23/2006 A life of good wine
03/16/2006 Honoring the dead soldiers
03/09/2006 What once was old i new again
03/02/2006 The taste of sibling rivalry
02/23/2006 Wine travels, doesn’t sing
From grape, to barrel to red-tape jungle

02/16/2006 Love and vine
02/09/2006 A dog-drink-dog world
02/02/2006 The winos' mecca
01/26/2006 Date-nite drinks
01/19/2006 Touring eastern wine country
01/12/2006 Wine, Cheese and Granny Smith
01/05/2006 Resolve to try new wines
10 Wines To Get Lucky With

Adventures in and past the Euro-Cave
A Do-It-Yourself Wine Tasting
A Red For Everything
A Red Wth Your Leftovers?
A Tasty Way To Put Wine To The Test
A Year Of Wine
An Around-The-World Holiday
A wine for every holiday

Basking In The Mondavi Light
Behind One Door Is Great Wine
Beware The Hot Bottle
Brandy and the nude beach
Champagne, The Other White Wine
Cheers And Whines Of The Vine
Days of wine and jelly beans
Deep in the heart of Texas
Drinking for your health
Drinking like a newspaperman

Drinking Whites After Labor Day
Finding A Great Medium-Weight Drink (I)
Finding A Great Medium Weight Drink (II)
Gifts for blood, love or money
Gin
Grill and sip, sip and sip. Finding the perfect wine for barbecue
Hey baby, stay cool
How The Corleones Saved Wine

In Praise Of An American Wine
In search of the girl next door
Keeping it in the family
Keeping up appearances
Looking back at the heyday of cheap wine
Mondovino
My Big Fat Greek Wine Tasting
The Best Drinks On A Budget
The Highly Drinkable (Mostly) Merlot
The Long, Strange Journey Of Wine
Old French grape in the New World
Olé! to a week in wine
Opening the Parker book

Our French friends — really
Our Northern Neighbor
Poker faces and wine

Presenting A New England Vodka
Presenting The Wines Of Spring
Rewarding Your Support Staff
Schooled In The Art Of Wine
Shopping for Wine Bargains

Sitting By The Fire And Dreaming Of Wine
Slipping A Little Sideways
Spending the holidays in NYC
Spirit World Tales
Springtime calls for wine and ice cream
Sudden ugly mood swings
The new face of fine wines
The wines of fall
Thinking ahead to the holidays
Time To Stay Frosty
Tipples for turkey day
TV worth drinking
What it means to miss N.O.
What To Drink When You Eat Wild
What's Your Wine Sign
White’s OK after Labor Day
Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
Wine’ll make you crazy
Wine Works With Red Sauce