By James Atkinson
Hunter Valley winemakers have declared that the region is making its best ever red wines, thanks to a series of stellar vintages and a meticulous approach in the winery.
A buoyant group of the region?s winemakers visited Sydney this month to present some of the trophy winning wines from the Hunter Valley Wine Show.
Among them was Thomas Wines? Andrew Thomas, who said the region?s winemakers had been ?their own worst enemy? in the late 90s and early 2000s.
?We were pushing ripeness in the vineyard, we were bringing grapes in and loading them up with too much oak, we were trying to produce caricatures of what the Hunter is really all about,? he said.
Thomas said the ?sloppy winemaking practices? that plagued the region?s wines with brettanomyces were also a thing of the past.
?We as a winemaking community have got together and quite collaboratively decided amongst ourselves that we?re going to keep it out and we certainly have,? he said.
?I think this is the first show that we?ve really seen the results of that with the 2011s and the 2013s showing quite clearly this lovely purity and vibrancy of fruit... it?s not distracted by the sloppy winemaking characters that we?ve seen in the past.?
Don?t let ?14 overshadow ?13: Iain Riggs
Also present was Brokenwood?s Iain Riggs, who said this year?s 2014 vintage ? declared the best in a generation ? runs the risk of overshadowing what was a sensational 2013 vintage.
?We talk about the ?14 vintage, but the ?13 Semillons and Reds really came to the fore,? he said.
?I would hate anyone to think, ?we can?t talk about the ?13 reds from the Hunter Valley, because the 14s are so great?,? he said.
?I reckon the ?13 reds out of the Hunter show a vintage equal to 2011. It?s a really, really smart vintage ? they are medium-bodied, they are savoury, linear. They offer great drinking now and in the future.?
By James Atkinson
Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) this morning announced the termination of its potential transaction discussions with two separate bidders interested in acquiring the business for $5.20 a share.
In a statement to the ASX, TWE today said it had held discussions over the past month with shareholders, holding in aggregate about 50 per cent of its shares, about the offers from Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co and Rhone Capital, and TPG.
?These discussions provided a forum for these shareholders to express a view on the proposals, with clear feedback from almost every one of these shareholders indicating that they believed a price of $5.20 per share undervalued the company,? TWE said.
The company said this view was driven by the value that the major shareholders believed TWE could deliver over time by executing its own strategic plans.
?Throughout the due diligence process the private equity bidders indicated support for management?s strategic plans and roadmap. They also did not identify any major concerns with the business. However, it is now apparent to the company that the bidders are not able to support a transaction on terms and at a price acceptable to the Board.?
?Accordingly all discussions have now ceased.?
TWE chairman Paul Rayner said the company?s year-to-date performance was tracking ahead of plan and shareholders will be updated on its strategic roadmap and performance at its Annual General Meeting (date to be advised).
By Suzan Ryan, editor?bars&clubs
The Keystone Group will reopen wine bar Manly Wine this October long weekend (October 4-6). The extensive refurbishment is the venue's first since it opened in 2009.
The new outdoor beachfront lounge will provide a casual dining atmosphere that will welcome barefoot beach-goers.
Group creative officer for The Keystone Group, Paul Schulte, is responsible for the refit. ?We are very excited after five successful years?to see the maturation of Manly Wine into a sophisticated waterfront restaurant and bar,? he said.
?The Keystone Group is growing up and we feel the relaunches of Manly Wine, Gazebo, and the opening of Champagne Room at The Winery highlight this important transition.?
The renovated Gazebo, Potts Point, is scheduled to reopen on October 10 while the brand new Champagne Room at The Winery, in Surry Hills, is slated to open on International Champagne Day: October 24.
The renovated Manly Wine will feature white-washed timber furniture and an all-day raw seafood bar. The venue?s all-day-dining policy allows early risers to kick off the day with coffee and a full breakfast transitioning to lunch and dinner and drinks as the sun sets.
Head Chef Joel Robinson (Albemarle in London; Barrenjoey House) has designed a menu focused around light seafood dishes and more substantial offerings such as the signature prawn and chorizo gumbo, wagyu burger and Northern Rivers 150 day grain fed rib on the bone.
The indoor cocktail bar will serve Rosé spritzer on tap while the all-Australian wine list includes a selection of easy-to-drink coastal wines and classic cocktails.?
Manly Wine will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7am to midnight.
By Amy Looker, editor National Liquor News
Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) has revealed its Christmas and summer promotional activity for Victoria Bitter, promising bigger and better results for the brand following last year?s hugely successful VB Live Ashes Scoreboard campaign.
CUB?s Katrin Lee told delegates at the Independent Liquor Group (ILG) conference currently taking place in Cape Town, South Africa, that the 2014/2015 key promotional period for several key brands in CUB?s portfolio was set to be massive.
?It really is going to be a summer of cricket this year, with five months of back to back cricket to look forward to. VB and Carlton Mid will be sponsoring across the season and we?re starting off with the Test Series in November, January will be supported by Carlton Mid for the One Day Series and we have the World Cup Cricket coming to Australia and New Zealand in February,? Lee said.?
?Looking at our category drivers to support the sponsorship across the season, we have the VB Live Cricket Watch... that we have built on the back of last year?s VB Ashes Live Scoreboard. We have grown at 1.1 per cent market share again in the last year and it?s important to maintain focus on the category drivers.?
Lee also revealed that Queensland?s Great Northern brand would be launching to all of ILG?s members across New South Wales.?
By Suzan Ryan, editor bars&clubs
Spanish wine and artisan vermouth producer Casa Mariol has released its Vermut Negre vermouth for sale in Australia. The 15 per cent ABV vermouth uses a base wine from the Macabeo grape, macerated with up to 150 ingredients, including green walnuts, rosemary, thyme, orange peel, wormwood and cardamom.
Casa Mariol spokesman Miquel Angel Vaquer said: ?Casa Mariol Vermut Negre has a unique dark colour and taste enhanced by barrel maturation in a solera system; it has a distinctive herbaceous and rich taste.? Casa Mariol has been producing wine for 100 years and vermouth for almost as long.
Vaquer recommends the vermouth be served on ice with a slice of orange and a green olive (topped with soda if desired) or in Martinis, Manhattans or Negronis.
Casa Mariol Vermut Negre (RRP $39) ?is available through Armada Imports.
By James Atkinson
Seppelt is celebrating the new vintage releases of its Icon and Drumborg collections and the 50th anniversary of its Drumborg Vineyard, which has continued to win accolades in recent weeks.
Although only just released, the 2014 Seppelt Drumborg Vineyard Riesling was the star of the show at the 2014 Ballarat Wine Show, taking three Trophies for Champion Wine of Show, Best Regional White Wine and Best Regional Other White Wine, in addition to a Gold Medal. ?
In the week prior the Riesling was named Best Henty Regional Wine at the inaugural Vic100 Awards.
Seppelt?s new release wines comprise five elegant wines spanning three different vintages from three Victorian regions - the Grampians, Heathcote and Henty:
Seppelt Salinger Henty Vintage Cuvée 2011
Seppelt Drumborg Vineyard Chardonnay 2013
Seppelt Drumborg Vineyard Riesling 2014
Seppelt Drumborg Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013
Seppelt Mount Ida Shiraz 2012
Seppelt St Peters Shiraz 2012
Watch the video below for an exclusive interview with Seppelt senior winemaker Adam Carnaby, who says his strategy is to let the vineyards and their regionality shine through in the bottle.
Peter Gago?(pictured) has been named the Gourmet Traveller Wine Winemaker of the Year 2014, with the Penfolds chief winemaker also picking up the Len Evans Award.
Gourmet Traveller Wine editor Judy Sarris said Gago was the first person to be honoured with both the Winemaker of the Year Award and the Len Evans Award for leadership in the 17-year history of the awards.
Chairman of Judges Peter Forrestal commented: "Not only is Peter Gago an inspirational winemaker, but his tireless efforts worldwide as a roving brand ambassador have transformed his importance to Penfolds and broadened our perception of the kinds of leadership a winemaker can offer."?
Len Evans' daughter, Sally Evans was on hand to present the award named in honour of her father, while GT Wine editor Judy Sarris and Perpetual?s CEO Geoff Lloyd presented the awards to Peter Gago and the other seven finalists as well as the Young Winemaker Medal and the Perpetual Award for Viticulture.
The medal for Young Winemaker of the Year 2014 went to Gwyn Olsen (pictured), chief winemaker at Briar Ridge based in the Hunter Valley, NSW.?
?Gwyn Olsen is the 14th winner of the Young Winemaker Medal. It is an award which places the spotlight on the coming generation. The alumni are a diverse group who have an increasing influence on the Australian wine industry," said chairman of judges Peter Forrestal.
The Perpetual Viticulturist of the Year Award for 2014 went to the Chalmers family, who are almost single-handedly responsible for the introduction and growth of indigenous Italian grape varieties suited to the Australian climate.?
"The Chalmers family has contributed an enormous amount to warm-climate viticulture, to the cause of alternative grape varieties, to the diversity of Australian wine and to their fellow grape growers,? said judge Huon Hooke.
The Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year 2014 award was judged by a panel of the magazine?s contributors: Huon Hooke, Andrew Caillard MW, Nick Bulleid MW, Peter Bourne, Sophie Otton, Mike Bennie, and Peter Forrestal (chairman of judges).
By Amy Looker, editor National Liquor News
Independent Liquor Group (ILG) chief executive officer Allen De Costa has revealed significant growth for the co-operative to delegates at its annual conference in South Africa.
De Costa reported growth across the group?s on and off-premise channels in the wake of new partnerships in Queensland and New South Wales and increased membership across its Little Bottler and Super Cellars banner groups.
?During 2014 our sales were up seven per cent and our income increased by 14 per cent which was absolutely fantastic. Little Bottler and Super Cellars have increased from 103 outlets in 2012 to 415. We?ve opened a new warehouse in Queensland, we signed the agreement for that in March, and it?s a great problem to have in that our facility is already too small,? De Costa said.?
?In a very tough market, we?re up $17 million and the majority of this is the signing up of new business."?
De Costa said the new deal signed with the Star Group of hotels in Queensland will give the group a stronger foothold in the state, where it has traditionally struggled to secure larger accounts.
?This new deal gives us real credibility in the Queensland market. We?ve been there for about seven or eight years and it has been very hard to crack any of the big volume accounts and while we had great support from our existing members, this gives us a hell of a lot more credibility and we expect to see a lot more business come our way.?
ILG has also welcomed several New South Wales-based on-premise operators to the group, while it plans to ramp up its offering to Little Bottler and Super Cellars outlets.
?We very recently signed the Lantern Group in NSW with 13 outlets, along with the Patrick Group and the Riversdale Group as well as some new individual outlets as well. With regards to our tier one banners of Little Bottler and Super Cellars, we will be offering our members improved services, better planogram advice, and store layout.?
Delegates will be travelling to Cape Town on Friday for the second part of the conference, which includes supplier presentations from Treasury Wine Estates, Lion, and Carlton & United Breweries along with a tour of SABMiller?s Newlands brewery and a tour of the Stellenbosch winelands.
No link between liquor outlet density and violence: ALSA
By James Atkinson
There is no evidence whatsoever that an increase in retail liquor outlets will result in an increase in alcohol-related violence in the Australian community, the Australian Liquor Stores Association (ALSA) has reaffirmed.
The Harper Competition Policy Review Draft Report this week recommended that retail liquor licensing should be prioritised as part of a proposed review of regulatory restrictions. ?
The recommendation prompted a familiar refrain from the anti-alcohol lobby; that more retail alcohol outlets, as a result of deregulation, could lead to more alcohol-fuelled violence.
Responding to the claim, ALSA today said the facts demonstrate quite the reverse.
?NSW is fortunate to have excellent and robust data available from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research which demonstrate that an increase in off-licences has no correlation with alcohol-related violence,? the Association said.
?The number of packaged (off-licence) liquor licences in NSW has increased by 38 per cent over the past five years, while at the same time alcohol-related violence has declined and the rates of domestic violence and assaults against Police have remained stable.?
NSW increase in packaged liquor outlets ?(2004 ? 2013) vs rate of alcohol related assault per 100,000 population as per Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) data
The Association added that ABS data from April this year demonstrated that ?Australians are drinking less pure alcohol overall than any time in the previous 15 years?.
?Numerous Government surveys including the Australian Bureau of Statistics, AIHW National Drug Strategy Household Surveys, The Australian Secondary Schools Alcohol and Drugs Survey all demonstrate that overall consumption and per capita consumption is falling, levels of risky drinking have stabilised or are falling while at the same time rates of abstinence ? particularly among people below the legal drinking age and pregnant women ? are increasing.?
?The majority of Australian adults (82.4 per cent of Australians aged over 18 years ) consume alcohol responsibly and it is important to distinguish between the moderate consumption of alcohol, which is a normal enjoyable aspect of life for the vast majority of adults, with the misuse of alcohol by a small minority,? ALSA said.
?The proportion of people abstaining rose from 17 per cent in 2007 to 19 per cent in 2010 (a statistically significant difference) and the largest increase in abstainers was seen among those aged 12?17.?
The Association said the data provides ?clear evidence that alcohol-related harms in the community have declined during a period when consumers have benefited from increased availability, lower real costs, and increased competition through exposure to alcohol marketing?. ?
?Common-sense says it is now appropriate to review alcohol regulation through both an economic and healthy community social well-being lifestyle lens rather than purely a public health lobbyist perspective,? it said.
?ALSA is hopeful that the Harper Competition Policy Review Draft Report released this week will help identify ways to build the economy and promote investment, growth, job creation and benefits to retailers and consumers,? CEO Terry Mott said.
By Suzan Ryan, editor?bars&clubs
Akiba, a new bar and restaurant concept by Pete and Mike Harrington (Tetsuya, Aria, Forty One, Bel Mondo) inspired?by the informal, bustling atmosphere of Asia Pacific food halls, will open in November.
The menu will include Asian barbecue, raw bar and dim sum, with the cocktails list described as ?contemporary and creative without any played out prohibition or Mad Men references?.?
Thomas Weis (Icebergs, Bambini Trust, Prospero Group, Pendolino) has been appointed general manager, and Lee Potter Cavanagh (The Victoria Room, Lotus, Hemmesphere) as executive bartender.
The restaurant will source produce from its own farm ? as does the Harrington?s other Canberra restaurant, Sage ? and features an opened-to-the-floor bar and kitchen.
Heading up the kitchen are chefs Johnon Macdonald and Brian Logan, who have previously manned the pans at Tetsuya?s, Rockpool Sydney, Rockpool Bar & Grill Melbourne, Gingerboy, Marque, Morimoto NYC, Nobu London and Sokyo.?
Akiba?s bar will change its menu quarterly to reflect seasonal produce and will showcase tools such as a Rotovap and carbonation system, as well as offer cocktails on tap and cold pressed juice.
"Playing around with the Rotovap will be exciting," says executive bartender Lee Potter Cavanagh. "The challenge will be to mix drinks that are creative and interesting for Canberra's more educated drinkers while keeping the bar fun and accessible for those just after a brew and a shot."
The concept behind Akiba was inspired by the Japanese deity of the same name, often depicted riding a white fox wreathed in fire. The venue was designed by Melbourne architect Adam Dettrick of Movida fame. ?