barossa valley 2007
On the Grape Trail Our March 2007 Issue

In this issue:

First Stop - Australia
Climate Challenge
Ottawa Sightings


This feature of  our website will present news and views on the world of wine by our Grape and Wine Consultant Mac MacDonald.  These offerings will come from far and near throughout the year on an occasional basis.  To the extent possible, information will have an Eastern Ontario - Western Quebec slant.



Australia is crawling with Canadians this 2007 harvest season.  I don't believe I've ever encountered so many here before.  Maybe they just can't bear to experience another Ottawa Senators playoff experience – experience being the operative word.   

The wine grape harvest is well underway starting earlier than normal and producing yields that are at least 35% lighter than average.  That will put a dent in the wine lake that has developed at the lower priced end of the market.


The industry has traditionally responded to surplus and “slow moving” wine by selling it at tahlilk winery tasting roomreduced prices in bottles labeled as “cleanskins”.  The label on the cleanskin details the grape(s), the region and usually the vintage but not the originating winery.  This protects the value of the brand name labeled bottle which sells at a much higher established level.  With the same or similar wine in different bottles, the “cheapie” can go for as little as $1.90 Canadian a bottle. 

banrock station restaurant viewThis situation has gone on for some time with the cleanskins being sold under anonymous circumstances.  The wineries lately however do not seem to be secretive about the situation. They are flogging these bottles in winery tasting rooms leaving no doubt as to their origin.  They also give the customer the option as to whether they want to spend $10.00 extra on a bottle with a real label.


murray - berri riversFor much of the country, drought remains a major problem. Some interior locations havemurray - darling map experienced below normal rainfall conditions for the past eight to ten years. Whole agricultural communities have been devastated. The Murray-Darling River is way down on its flow rate and ongoing irrigation needs place a high demand on the system. The Darling River is basically a moist ditch. Water-rights are being sold by farmers rather than crops being grown because of financial realities.

ottawa riverContrast this with the Ottawa River.  For a river of its size, it has one of the most consistent annual flow rates in the world.  The river supports the population as well as its industrial and recreational needs.  In history, the river was a highway that helped open up the western part of the nation.  The only down side is that every spring about this time there are a few wet basements for those living along the river's edge.  From where I am standing, the Ottawa River has never looked so good.


Getting back to Canadians – local wine couple about town, Vic Harradine and Terri Janus are yet again visiting this country on a research tour.  They do this frequently in many countries earning themselves the designation VFW or Veterans of Foreign Wines.  Vic and Rod Phillips, the Ottawa Citizen wine columnist, can be found at www.Winecurrent.comPaul and Danielle Harwood are also traveling here on a very interesting itinerary. Paul is Past-President of the Bytown Vintners Wine Club. Under the headline Advantage Australia, Dr. Rob Taylor of the Queensway Carleton Hospital will be arriving soon after his retirement to explore vigneron opportunities in central Victoria State.

domain chandon - yarra valleyLast week, while in the Yarra Valley, Victoria, I visited Wally Zuk - the winemaker and co-owner of Five Oaks Vineyard.  Wally and his wife Judy acquired the vineyard and winery in 1995 after moving here from Ottawa where Wally had developed his skills as a home winemaker. They specialize in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Riesling.  Five Oaks is a beautiful property and an excellent place to picnic.  Watch for a potential LCBO Vintages release from this winery in the coming months.

More from down-under soon...

Mac MacDonald, Diamond Beach, New South Wales, March 30 2007



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