With one eye on the speedo and the other in the rear view mirror I am watching the year fly past with my usual mounting sense of panic. It would appear that what the old folks said was indeed true that as each year becomes a lesser proportion of your life so the apparent length shortens. How I will manage to fit everything in has become the obsession and despite getting more experienced at what I do, the jobs expand to accurately fill all of the available time. The compensation is that there is a sense that what we are doing will turn out to be worthwhile which leads in a way to what has become a bit of an annual report to our main constituency. Seeing as we don’t have shareholders or employers in the usual sense of the word it is to you our customers that we ultimately have to justify our existence, as the continuation is entirely in your hands. In short it has been another busy year.

Freddie & Roxie

Freddie & Roxie

The changes in our industry have continued along their merry way, it is quite comforting to see the swings and roundabouts following the now familiar “same but different” course. Good times will inevitably follow bad but the ever evolving nature of the good serves to keep us on our toes. By now the people who have picked the tone of the times are feeling a definite upsurge in their fortunes while many are still in the doldrums. I think we can give ourselves a bit of a pat on the back for our foresight as we start to feel a definite trend in the right direction. Two of the best indicators of how the wine industry is travelling are bulk wine prices and grape demand. The bulk wine price in general has gone up 30% and in some cases the rise is more like 100% in the last 3 months as the shorter 2012 vintage and reality of the availability of quality 2011 sinks in. The continuing level of enquiry from China and the rest of Asia is also impacting on this. The result is that the bigger players are again out competing for available grapes and they have definite ideas about what grapes they want and are prepared to pay decent prices, an example is that we sold Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to a large company this year for $5,000 a tonne, an all time record for us. There is no doubt in my mind that the hard work we have done in the vineyard is starting to pay dividends and this will hopefully coincide with brighter times generally, who knows we may at some stage become profitable.  The most noticeable impact for consumers will be a distinct shortening at the lower end, that $10 cleanskin that used to taste like a $20 bottle of wine is soon going to taste a lot more like a $10 cleanskin while the $8 labelled wine will start to be $12 or more. Experienced readers of this newsletter will know that I have been banging on about this for a few years now, the only difference is that now it is a lot less about predictions and a lot more about reporting reality.

On our own patch we are progressing down our chosen path of certifying organic/biodynamic with our final in-conversion audit for Vine Vale due in February and an extension of area to include Eden Valley now in place. This has meant an investment in our own spraying plant for Eden Valley as we can no longer use contractors unless they too are certified and the trouble of transporting equipement between the sites means that the necessary work just would not get done otherwise. The retrellising programme for Vine Vale is drawing to a close and a new shed for the Bedford to celebrate her 50th birthday meant she didn’t have to endure another cold, wet(ish) winter in the elements.

Perhaps some of the most exciting developments have been on the wine side of the equation, Singapore, Philippines and Indonesia all placed their second order this year which were all bigger than the first and we sent an order to the UK for the first time. We participated in the Barossa HQ live to web broadcast programme and used it a launch vehicle for our 2012 Joven. This wine represents a real coming of age for us as a winery, it brings together our interest in alternative varieties, showcasing the hidden rewards of Ken Schlieb’s stubborn refusal to move with the times and our joy in producing natural wines starting with biodynamic grapes and our minimal intervention winemaking topped off with the (maraschino) cherry of preservative free. How has it been received I hear you ask? The road has been steady and the rewards have been a bit of an exercise in delayed gratification but we have had some great support from people I respect highly. The first on board was Chris from Cloudwine in Melbourne closely followed by Gus down at East End Cellars in Adelaide. Both exceptional palates that make it their business to support the cutting edge of winemaking. On premise we have been very well supported by Grant down at Fermentasian in Tanunda and Frank at Amalfi in Adelaide. I know that there has been some loyal support in Darwin, Brisbane and Sydney but I rely on the guys at Topshelf,  LSB and AWR respectively to look after this and I am not quite as on the ball in these places. The early adopters have had their say and while I am not at liberty to divulge the details as yet there is some handy support coming from a couple of heavy hitters in the wine media as well, suffice to say you will be the first to know once the embargo is lifted.  All of this is really quite humbling because these guys don’t have to support us, they choose to and put themselves out on a limb to do so. It certainly makes us feel that the living, breathing heart of wine in this country is alive and well, the spark of Aussie innovation is being nurtured at home and hopefully abroad as well.

2012 was quite a special vintage and it is a joy to be showing our pair of Rieslings in cellar door sales, Eden Valley looks quite pome fruity to me, nashi and bur bosc pears with golden delicious apples thrown in, still finishes with trademark lemon/lime citrus and a lovely talcy minerality, Barossa is much more tropical fruit, guava, pineapple, melon and slightly sweeter than in the past but still finishing clean. The other bit of recent news has been that we have bottled our 2010 Shiraz, Suzi says that this is the best Shiraz I have made and who am I to argue, all about balance this wine seems to tread the fine line between elegance and opulence in a way we haven’t achieved before, it was in all honesty pretty had to stuff up in 2010 so it is a happy place in cellar door right now as you can look at the Shiraz and the last of Eden Valley Cabernet 2010 meaning the straight varietals are outshining the blends for once.

A happy festive season to all and looking forward to catching up in the new year.

Cheers Wayne and Suzi.