Asian Correspondent » Printhie Asian Correspondent Sat, 04 Jul 2015 00:10:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The rebirth of chardonnay Mon, 16 Aug 2010 02:59:28 +0000

Does the Anything But Chardonnay club still exist? It shouldn’t. Those that still regard themselves as members are really missing out. Chardonnay is without doubt the most exciting white wine style in Australia, possibly globally and it’s not a case of everything that is old is new again – chardonnay is reborn in a new style with restraint, freshness, complexity and texture.

The dinosaur style

Gone are the days of lots of oak, lots of butterscotch, lots of over-ripe tropical fruit. That chardonnay style is a dinosaur. That’s not to say that they don’t exist but I don’t think they are representative of chardonnay and the best of its kind. The ABC club existed because wine producers were slow to perceive a change in consumer preference. Consumers grew tired of that full on style and wine producers failed to evolve the chardonnay style. Consumers then turned their back on chardonnay and some have never come back to it.

Rebirth of style

In the last decade, especially the last five years, wine producers have seen the errors of their ways. They have sourced cool-climate fruit, picked grapes a bit earlier (not so ripe), backed off with the use of new oak and sourced better quality oak. They have been thinking outside the square and have had the courage to break with standard winemaking practices. Wild yeast fermentation, retaining grape solids in juice, and reduced malolactic fermentation influence have all contributed to the rebirth of style. Modern chardonnay has greater freshness from natural acidity (cool-climate and picking earlier), more subtle but more complex fruit flavours (picking earlier with citrus, grapefruit, guava, nectarine flavours, not mango and rockmelon), subtle complexities underneath the fruit (bready, nut, nougat, matchstick) and captivating palate textures that glide the flavours across the tongue. So if you are hanging onto your membership card to the ABC club, throw it in the bin and revel in the rebirth of chardonnay.

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Is the 100 point wine rating system still relevant? Tue, 10 Aug 2010 02:23:14 +0000

There are numerous rating formats employed around the world when reviewing wine – stars, glasses, medals, points out of 20 and points out of 100 to name a few. However, the 100 point rating seems to have become the dominant format. However, some of us are beginning to wonder if this format is still relevant or is it in need of a major revamp or replacement.

Crowded at the top

The main problem is that too many wines are rated 90 points or more. It has become very crowded at the top end. Yes, there are a lot of very good wines being made. The consistency of wine quality is also improving every year. However, the rating system has not or cannot adapt to changing conditions. It’s now at the point that when a wine scores less than 90, you hide it from public view. And unless a wine rates 93-94 points it’s hardly worth bragging about. There are 100 points available but wine reviewers only use 15, producers only care about 10, and consumers only listen to 7. There needs to be a greater spread of scores. What’s wrong with 75 percent? When I was at school, 75 percent was pretty pleasing, 90 percent was rare and exceptional. So it should be with wine ratings.

Try the alphabet format

It will come to the point when the 100 point format completely breaks down because it fails to sufficiently differentiate between wines of different qualities and consumers lose faith in scores. Revamping or recalibrating the 100 point system seems doomed to failure. Every wine reviewer who uses the format will have to agree to new score standards (that’s not going to happen). Wine producers will have to accept that 75 points is a perfectly good score for a perfectly good wine (that’s not going to happen). Consumers will have to be pleased to pick up a 75 point wine for $20 and still think they are onto a good thing (that’s not going to happen). Eventually the 100 point format will be superceded by a completely novel format, as indeed the 100 point format was at one stage. Can I suggest the alphabet format where anything between A-H is reserved for all but exceptional wines, it’s still worth boasting about a P rating and only X,Y and Z are left for the unrecommended.

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The need for focus Mon, 02 Aug 2010 04:09:56 +0000

European vignerons have had hundreds of years to find the ideal grape variety/wine region match. So you won’t find anyone experimenting with pinot noir in Bordeaux. New World vignerons have had far less time to find out what works best where. In Australia, we are only 150-160 years down the track and in many regions far less than that but some great matches have been found. For example, the Clare Valley and riesling, Coonawarra and cabernet sauvignon and of course, the Hunter Valley and semillon. In the Hunter, they are further down the track again, knowing that semillon should be planted on sandy soils and shiraz on clay soils. The other way round and both wines style are less successful.

Newer regions

There are many exciting wine regions in Australia that didn’t have any vines even 50 years ago. Some are still searching for the perfect match. Margaret River has found one with cabernet sauvignon, Tasmania has also with pinot noir and chardonnay, especially for sparkling wine. In New South Wales, the Canberra district is onto a winner with shiraz viognier blends and Orange has a wonderful affinity for chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.

We all need focus

What vignerons have to do now is to have focus. It is the same whether you are in the Clare Valley or in Orange. Personally, I’d think it crazy to plant chardonnay, for example, in the Clare. The temptation to do so should be resisted. Riesling makes better wine and Clare chardonnay cannot compete with chardonnays from more suitable regions. Pinot noir from Coonawarra – no thanks. Orange is a baby of a region and needs to focus on the varieties that make wine that is as good or better than any other region and with a distinctly regional style. At Printhie we are constantly refining our selection, evolving our winemaking and questioning the status quo. The field is narrowing. Chardonnay and sauvignon blanc get the thumbs up. As for red, the jury is still out but I like the chances of shiraz.

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Fruit salad anyone? Tue, 27 Jul 2010 00:56:33 +0000

The fruit salad vineyard – is it a curse or a blessing? A fruit salad vineyard is a slang term for a vineyard where there are a number of different varieties grown on the same site. It was very common in by-gone days of Australian viticulture when vignerons didn’t know what varieties where going to perform well in any newly established region or vineyard site. Fruit salad vineyards still exist, some successfully, some less so.


In Alsace, France there has been a bit of a revival of fruit salad vineyards. Alsace has a number of aromatic white varieties that perform well including riesling, pinot blanc, gewürztraminer and muscat.  Conventional viticulture would plant these varieties separately in individual blocks within the vineyard area. But now that same larger vineyard areas have been classified into categories such as Grand Cru, some producers believe that better quality, more complex and interesting wines will be made from vineyards where all the varieties are intermixed throughout the single vineyard block. The importance is on the vineyard site not the variety. These vignerons consider the fruit salad block a blessing.

Get the right variety in the right site

However, I am constantly bewildered when I come across vineyards that might have, for example, cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir grown in the one site (although almost always in separate blocks). For my mind cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir cannot successfully co-exist in the one spot. The way that each of these varieties reacts to climate and the aromas, flavours and textures they produce means that in any given year one of them will underperform as the growing conditions did not suit that variety. If the site is really inappropriate, one variety will consistently underperform and therefore, it is not really worth persisting with it. I would consider that this vineyard design is nothing short of a curse.

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Orange – How cool is that! Thu, 15 Jul 2010 23:56:58 +0000

When most people look at a map of Australia and find Orange in central New South Wales, they tend to think hot, dry and flat. But it couldn’t be further from the truth. The hot, dry, flat presumption is fair enough I suppose. Sydney is on the coast and if you travel west over the Blue Mountains and then further inland, the mind starts to conjure up classical ‘outback’ images of Australia. However, this is where Orange differs.

Cool, wet and high
The geographical icon of Orange is Mount Canobolas. It rises to a height of 1,395 metres above sea level – one of the highest peaks in Australia outside the alpine areas. Locals like to boast that it is the highest peak at this latitude between South America and Africa but really there is not a lot of competition – just a lot of ocean. The vineyards in Orange are some of the highest in Australia with some sited up to 1,100 metres. What this region lacks in southerly latitude it makes up for in altitude. This has a significant impact on the climate of the region, making it much cooler and much wetter that surrounding regions. I like to explain it as a little bit of Tasmania in the middle of New South Wales.

Completely unique
Orange as a wine producing region is completely unique in the wine world. It is the only region that is defined by elevation above sea level (or altitude). The minimum elevation is 600 metres with the boundary being a continuous circle around the peak of Mount Canobolas. Achieving full grape ripeness is not often a problem associated with Australian viticulture. However, in Orange it is very important to match the appropriate grape variety to any individual vineyard site otherwise fully ripe grapes can be difficult to grow. This makes Orange an exciting region working on the margins of climate, all of which makes for exciting wines.

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Printhie in the Twitterverse Wed, 07 Jul 2010 05:53:59 +0000

To be really honest the Printhie crew is not the most tech-savvy bunch of people in the wine industry. However, we have taken quite a liking to Twitter. So what do three young-ish wine types who grow grapes, make wine and then take their wines around the world have to say in the ‘Twitterverse’.

What we tweet

All sorts of stuff. News from Printhie, what’s happening in the vineyard or the winery, new wine releases and reviews, where we are travelling to and our experiences, upcoming events in Australia and overseas, web-site updates, our opinions of wines we have tasted, our opinions on wine business issues and, for something completely different, results from the local football team we play with and from the NSW Swifts Netball team whom we sponsor. There’s usually something everyday.

Who we follow

Wine people – not exclusively but a fair majority of people we follow are in the wine business. This includes other wine producers, wine journalists, wine retailers and wine bloggers. It’s a great way for us to keep up with the gossip, news and trends in the wine business. Of course, there are a few loyal Printhie customers we also follow. After that it gets a bit more personal. We are big cycling fans, we stay up late at night to watch the Tour de France and follow the successes, injuries and fortunes of our favourite cyclists and their teams like some others may follow the NFL or English Premier League on Twitter. Speaking of football (soccer), as dedicated players of the game we have been following the rollercoaster that is the World Cup. It will be a short-lived affair and tweeting football will end with the World Cup but that’s one of the great things about Twitter.

Twitter conversations

The best part of Twitter is having conversations, so we always check out the tweets that have mentioned @printhiewines even if it is from tweeters that we don’t regularly follow. So we would love to get a tweet from you and join in the Twitterverse conversation.

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Seriously great wine from sauvignon blanc? Yes, please! Wed, 30 Jun 2010 06:53:20 +0000

When I arrived at Printhie to take up the winemaker role I was not, by my own admission, a disciple of sauvignon blanc. However, the Orange region had just announced that it had adopted sauvignon blanc as its ‘hero’ variety and sauvignon blanc sales were exploding in the market. Clearly, making distinctive, regional sauvignon blanc of high quality was going to be an important part of my winemaking efforts. Since then, Printhie sauvignon blanc production has grown five-fold and the quality has reached a very high level (3 trophies, 4 gold medals, 3 silver medals). Which is all very pleasing but the greatest change has been with me. I have found a new respect and admiration for this noble variety. I love making it as it presents some great challenges and it is capable of making some seriously great wine, not just quaffing wine for a hot summer afternoon.

Meet the challenge head on

Australian wine producers, especially white wine producers, are suffering under the so-called ‘tsumani’ of sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, even in the domestic market. It’s disappointing that many Australian producers seem to be unwilling to meet the challenge head on.

Instead of asking whether riesling or vermentino can topple New Zealand sauvignon blanc, how about rising to the challenge and producing top flight Australian sauvignon blanc? Show a little love and respect for sauvignon blanc and reap the rewards – Printhie is certainly having a go.

Invest and reap the rewards

This year we invested a lot of effort into trialling a reserve sauvignon blanc . We are looking for a different expression of sauvignon blanc. We want to respect the varietal characteristics. It may have less fruit intensity but it will also have layers of flavours and texture in a wine that will continue to reveal nuance and interest as it sits in the glass and opens up – a little like great chardonnay can.

This is our vision for sauvignon blanc – respect and nurturing, the style must evolve. So don’t give in. Meet the challenge head on and produce wines of the highest quality and with the greatest level of interest and capture the market.

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grapes in hand

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