Cult wines are wines that dedicated enthusiasts pay large sums of money for. These wines are often collected as a status symbol – or an investment. To some only an intimate selection of fine Bordeaux wines and certain Cabernet Sauvignon wines from the Napa valley are considered as cult wines. Although it is true that the majority of cult wines do originate from these areas, the industry is not that limited. Wines that fall under the title can be from other regions, like Rhône, Italy, or Burgundy. Whether it is a subtle, brilliant Pinot Noir or a sophisticated Cabernet Sauvignon, some wines have that extra edge that turns them into a cult wine
A single quality makes a cult wine: high demand, and this is usually amplified by scarcity. A wine that comes into record-breaking popularity is nearly always created by a famous winemaker, and then authenticated by high ratings and reviews. When only a few hundred cases are produced at a time, cult wines become even more sought after. Although this may sound fairly straightforward, it is not that simple. In industries like motoring or music a clever ad campaign can shoot a new car range or song into instant stardom. In the wine industry advertising is entirely irrelevant without first producing a vastly superior product. How this is achieved only elite wine making companies know.
The Winemaker’s Secret
According to winemaker Michael G. Etzel from Beaux Frères Winery, the philosophy of wine that can achieve cult status is in the process. He believes in minimal intervention, and in using indigenous yeast. According to Etzel wine should be stored only in French Oak for between 10 months and a year while adjusting the percentage of new oak. At Beaux Frères the strict process also includes not racking the wine until it is ready to be bottled, and not fining or filtrating the wine. Known as making some of the most exquisite Pinot Noir outside of Burguny, and part owned by famous wine critic Robert Parker, Beaux Frères Winery is certainly a trusted source.
The annual Australia Day celebrations have reminded us about Australian wine again – and perhaps it’s useful to have a reminder this year, as Australian wines don’t seem to be as dominant in the marketplace as they once were. It seems like much more shelf space was dedicated to Australia a decade ago – perhaps our interest in Australia’s budget and mid-range wines reached its peak and then dropped off slightly as other wine-making nations emerged. That’s not to say that Australia’s wines are performing badly in the marketplace – their wine exports were up 14% in value last year, although this is not reflective of how they are performing here in the UK, where growth has been relatively slow at 0.2%.
A problem of perception
At the top end of the market, Australia still struggles slightly with how its finest wines are perceived, particularly in the on-trade where they are often under-represented in favour of their high-end counterparts from Europe. Australia’s fine wines are plentiful, and extend far beyond its most famous names, Penfold’s Grange and Henschke’s Hill of Grace. Unfortunately many of the top wines from smaller producers are yet to trickle through to the European market.
Australia’s climate is much more reliable than that of France and other leading Old World wine producing countries, nor have they struggled with drought like the Californians have done of late. That means there are no bad vintages to speak of, their best wines are consistently good and just as ageworthy as their Old World equivalents. There is also a good deal more freedom when it comes to deciding what grapes to grow and how the blend is made up. Some of the finest Australian wines are Bordeaux-like but with a proportion of Shiraz in the blend, a grape that is not grown in Bordeaux. Shiraz loves the Australian soil and adds weight, complexity and softness to the blend. Rhone-style blends are also common.
The best is yet to come
At the lower end of the market it is worth noting that modern Australian wines have much more subtlety and delicacy than earlier versions, and it is likely that the best are yet to come. At the top end, a recent free trade agreement with Korea has encouraged sales, and certainly it seems like the ‘buzz’ around Australian wines has been renewed. For investors, the message seems to be “watch this space”.
A less than desirable picture was emerging from the Liv-ex 50 in November 2015, with First Growths down 40% since the market’s peak. First growths and top Sauternes have struggled slightly, together with the second wines of top Chateaux that showed so much promise in recent years. However this is not the full picture – when we look at the second, third, fourth and fifth growths, we start to see some very positive signs for the year ahead, and reminds us once again that there is much more to Bordeaux than just the First Growths.
It is often the case these days, particularly in ‘fine dining’ establishments, that the food menu is very short and the wine list is very long. Wine lists that go on for pages and pages can be a bit of a confusing ordeal though. Ultimately most of us just want something that will complement the food nicely and won’t cost the earth. How should the average wine enthusiast tackle the ‘larger than life’ wine list? Continue reading →
On 18th June decanter.com reported that the Bordeaux 2015 vintage has got off to a good start in the Medoc, with near perfect conditions during the flowering period (read the full article here – http://www.decanter.com/wine-news/bordeaux-2015-medoc-chateaux-dare-to-dream-after-perfect-flowering-263703/ ). It’s great to hear that things are on track, but of course there is a long way to go. At what point can growers start to celebrate in the knowledge that everything has come together, to ensure that the vintage is memorable for the right reasons?
Staying on track
The short answer is, not until every grape has been picked right at the end of the harvest! If only our climate in the northern Hemisphere were reliable, but unfortunately there are many possible perils still to come. Bordeaux has a fairly mild maritime climate, which means that there are few problems with freezing winters but frosts in the springtime can wreak havoc. So producers will be hoping for a warm, damp spring this year to ensure they remain on track. Continue reading →
Meet the little device that could change the way we drink fine wine
For the past 12 months the wine industry has been intrigued by a new device known as the Coravin, which you may have heard of if you read the wine press regularly. This clever device allows us to draw wine out of the bottle without removing the cork, thereby allowing the consumer to enjoy a glass while leaving the remaining wine preserved as it was before for future consumption.
Wine lovers are often accused of snobbery – many friends will find it intimidating to visit a ‘proper’ wine shop or to buy a bottle of wine for someone that is ‘in the know’ for fear of not knowing what to say or getting it wrong. In reality many of us will be delighted with whatever we get served, but one thing that tends to irritate the wine drinker is the use of poorly shaped glasses that somewhat tarnish our wine drinking experience.