As our brand Blowfly might imply, tradition and convention are not the absolute driving forces for Warrumbungle Wines. Preferring the tag of deranged pioneers in a new region, we are simply wine lovers... addicted to an indulged exploration into the sensual possibilities sealed inside the skin of the humble grape.
It's now ten years since we planted our 10 hectares of vines at our lofty South Burloo estate, and our sanity is still queried. The fact of our nighttime handpicks adds to the unhinged aura, but given the caliber of wine we now produce, vindication is sweet and aromatic.
Our South Burloo vineyard is located on a free standing hill just to the east of the Warrumbungle Mountains. The altitude provides us with a distinctly cooler climate than surrounding regions, but the thriving Jacarandas are testament to the fact that we're not victims of late frosts. Our windy hill also keeps mildews to a minimum and after ten years we still have no incidences of other vine diseases. This makes organic practices fairly straightforward.
Our soils comprise of a mixture of sandstone from the original inland seabed and decayed red basalt from the Warrumbungle volcanoes. This gives us well drained soils with modest fertility and an almost neutral pH– perfect for well balanced fruit. In fact, in 2008 we decided not to irrigate or fertilise, and we ended up with a larger crop than last year's bumper harvest!
But while Mother Nature has been truly beneficent, we try to make the most of what she provides. So we capitalise on the chilly sub-10-degree nights, and begin all picking at 3am... by hand. Hand picking is the only way to ensure you are picking grapes and only grapes, to make sure you pick the best bunches, and to ensure that whole grape bunches arrive at the winery in perfect condition. And by picking at night the vines and fruit aren't stressed, and there is no chance of oxidation... just frozen fingers and severe sleep deprivation.
Chambourcin; Merlot; Petit Verdot; Shiraz
It's great to see so many people stand up in of support BoozeMonkey, and kudos to Mr Keys for entering the monkey's den to address his critics personally. While there will remain differences in opinion, the obvious passion with which individuals have expressed themselves bodes well (in an its own modest way) for the Australian wine industry.
Blogging has obviously thrived over recent years leading to a degree of democratisation of journalism which should be lauded (here's looking at you Mr Murdock). But I suppose Mr Keys' issue is: where is the authority and accountability if everyone is a reporter? He can claim authority based on his track record and the reputation he has acquired, which is fair enough.
Personally, I know my opinions don't carry nearly as much weight as his and, like many Monkeys here, I am but a jpeg with a bunch of posts. But because the BoozeMonkey forum allows free and instant opinion, anyone can disagree with me and offer alternative perspectives– all of which is open to the public. I believe the sum of these public debates does carry weight. Mr Keys would be right to infer that one opinion by one anonymous poster lacks authority. But if you throw in a few opinions from unrelated sources then I think you have something of significance.
As a small business owner I would be a fool to assume that one good review from a punter makes my wine a great one. But several good reviews and I think I should be quite pleased. Equally, if I get several bad reviews, I need to look again at what I'm brewing in the shed. When, on the other hand, I've had a good review from a critic/wine show there seems to be only a vague correlation with the punter's choice. Confusing? You bet.
So for me, frustration is at least one reason I am embracing BoozeMonkey. The Australian wine industry is big, and it is exceedingly hard for small players to get heard or even taking seriously. With BoozeMonkey, every voice gets heard.
Mountford Estate, Waipara... if you can find some. The winemaker CP Lin is a good friend and even I can't get any of his pinot noir. You can check out a tasting with Gary Vaynerchuck. The 'Gradient' is a particular block of their pinot which is on an extremely steep slope... even harder to find.
Looks like you've got a quite some list to work off– good luck!
There's room enough in the wine industry for a whole host of different voices. I'm sure The Key Report has its place, and now that I'm aware of Tony Keys (like Ryan, I'd never heard of him) I shall look out for his pearls of wisdom.
But I personally joined BoozeMonkey precisely because I want to hear from the punter. Wine shows are useful for assessing wines technically, and critics have an important role in wine culture. But I make wines for drinking, not just tasting (I buy my wines the same way). And I want to know objectively how my wine drinks, not just how it rates in a comparative sniff and spit test. And this is where I think BoozeMonkey has an edge. I make the assumption that most wines reviewed on the BoozeMonkey site have been drunk to the last drop... many with food and friends. These are the reviews I'm interested in. Not to mention the fact that no one's getting commercial gain for writing reviews, so there are no vested interests.
To date my best selling wine got the absolute lowest score in the Cowra Wine Show a few years ago. Had I paid any attention to the results from the show, I would probably have poured the wine down the drain– I'm actually baffled at how disparate the views of the judges and punters can be. I've since stopped submitting wines to critics and shows because often the favoured wines turned out not to be the ones our customers would choose in a tasting. I couldn't really see the point in medals... especially when Yellowtail and Jacob's Creek win so many golds.
BoozeMonkey is still in its infancy, but I'm enjoying watching it grow, and enjoying the fact that people can contribute without constraints no matter what their level of 'expertise'. And I like that the opinions expressed don't just toe the industry line (I can read that elsewhere). I think this is a defining strength of Boozemonkey, and I hope members remain gracious with their praise but also honest with their criticism (otherwise how are we wine producers supposed to make better wines)? If TK regards this as dangerous, then BoozeMonkey must be doing something right.
For those interested, Jancis Robinson said some interesting things about critics a few years ago... http://www.decanter.com/news/253184.html
It's a very good idea, and we'd love to be a part… except… anyone fancy popping up to see us– only 500km from Sydney!
I've also been tossing around the idea of a friends of BoozeMonkey wine festival somewhere in the city(ies). Because we're so remote, we normally have to travel to get to consumers. In the meantime, we'd enjoy being part of a winery tour as punters.
The extension of that is of course the exploration of sensations on the tongue by tasting lemon (sour), coffee beans (bitter), sugar (sweet) and salt. When performed with nose blocked, very distinct bits of the tongue are stimulated (sweet- front; bitter- back etc).
Naturally, our tongues understand perfectly well what's going on in the wine, but often our brains aren't really paying attention– they may well be distracted by rich, jammy aromas... or a funky label.
Colour can also be somewhat deceptive. While dark colour can certainly be a preamble for a voluptuous wine, it can also indicate over-extraction– a wringing out of every last molecule of red, along with other (perhaps quite undesirable) characters... the padded bra scenario
It's reassuring to see a bit of a drift away from blockbuster reds recently. While big reds do have their place (and we produce our own dark lord) it's great to see more consumers embracing wine's subtler hues (some simply because they don't like being hammered after one glass). And this is of course where the cooler region wines can really excel. Although, judging by the last couple of summers down south, I'm wondering where the 'cool' regions really are.