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Margan turns 20!

Having been named the Hunter’s Viticulturist of the Year in 2015, Andrew Margan is celebrating again! It’s 20 years since he and his wife, Lisa planted vines in Broke Fordwich and they’re going strong.

To grow grapes and become a winemaker were childhood dreams of Andrew’s, who grew up among the Hunter vines. His father planted the DeBeyers vineyard in the 1960s and was one of the country’s first wine and food journalists.

Andrew spent 20 vintages as a winemaker with Tyrrell’s under the tutelage of the great Murray Tyrrell, before establishing his own label with Lisa. A chef, Lisa has also been instrumental in the success of the brand, with their restaurant being one of the region’s must awarded.

Wine Selectors is proud to have had a great relationship with Margan from their beginnings and our congratulations go to Andrew, Lisa and the whole Margan team on being one of the driving forces in making the Hunter Valley a truly great wine region.

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Wine
Talking with Taylors
In celebration of the Taylors Merlot 2014 being the Wine Selectors Wine of the Month for April, we caught up with Chief Winemaker Adam Eggins to talk Taylors and winemaking. You’ve had huge success at Taylors with Merlot, what makes it such an appealing red variety and what’s the secret to getting it right? Merlot is challenging. The French say Merlot is very fickle, very demanding. The site must be perfect, the soil, the drainage, the amount of wind and sunshine. Ultimately, your belief in Merlot is what drives your winemaking approach. Everyone tells me we have the wrong clones in this country. I think not. We may have Merlot in the wrong viticultural sites and we may be approaching the variety with the wrong mind set, however, Merlot can be one of the world’s greatest wines so the question becomes what can we do or not do to release its worldly potential. Tannins are important, or more importantly, the carefully controlled lack of over extraction. Our Merlots are cuvee wines, predominantly free-run, which has greater levels of aromatic intensity and a natural beautiful delicacy for which the variety is renowned. What makes working for such a historic family-owned winery so special? Making wines for the Taylors family is very special. Wine is in their blood and every decision we make is in the best interest of their wines, as ultimately their wines are their brand. The family thinks generationally and makes decisions for a sustainable future. Working against drought conditions, your first vintage with Taylors was a challenge? Are the challenging vintages sometimes the most rewarding? South Australia is a beautiful winemaking climate, but we can have it all: drought, bushfire, heatwave and flood and a bit of frost and hail to boot. The tough years can produce spectacular wines and it feels like they are more deserving, as you may have had to look harder to find them. The great years are a pleasure too, however, and South Australia is generally blessed with how many great seasons. We can have somewhere around 6-7 out of 10 vintages rate incredibly highly. What’s your favourite wine style to make? Is it also your favourite to drink? To make, it’s probably Shiraz , the sheer colour and flavour spectrums available are fascinating to work with and I also love how the variety absorbs and harmonises with the right level of the right oak. To drink, it’s much harder. Great Chardonnay has incredible appeal, as can Riesling and Pinot Noir and our finest Cabernets can’t be beat in the middle of winter. Of late, I have a growing interest in Tempranillo and taste it as often as I can, especially the lovely wines of Rioja. What’s been your most memorable winemaking moment? To be honest, there is no one moment, but many. What we like doing is some small scale research to raise the quality bar, then the following vintage taking it to large scale process to have a quality impact on an affordable wine. We have been researching the early application of oak with St Andrews Shiraz for many years, which has worked well, but our greatest honour is when our ~$18 rrp Estate Shiraz won the Best Shiraz in Australia twice, against all competitors. Why is this more special? Well, the wine is affordable and widely available, so that people all around the country can enjoy it. This is largely Taylor’s philosophy, to make great wines in an affordable scale. What makes the Clare Valley such a special region to make wine in? I have asked myself that many times and I rate Clare equally with two other regions – Margaret River and the Yarra Valley . These regions have the potential to do many things well. World Class Riesling , Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon and possibly in the future Tempranillo can be achieved in the Clare Valley. Not many regions have this depth of potential that the Clare Valley offers. It is an unusual combination of the heat of the region and its altitude and the proximity to the coastline that gives us beautiful ripening weather during the day, but very cool evenings, which helps retain natural elegance and restraint. Taylors certainly has an admirable approach to sustainability. Do you think enough Australian wineries are doing their bit for the environment? Taylors are very disciplined about making decisions based around sustainability. This can involve employees, growers, vineyards, winemaking approaches and/or our community. Yalumba is another company who excels in this area. I wish more companies would be more active in this space, however, I do understand that for many wine businesses the core focus is the retail sale and the state of the market. The benefits of family companies are often they can take a broader, much longer term, generational view of the industry, which will often lead to a better outcome for all.
Wine
How climate change is changing our wine
In 2012, a leading Coonawarra viticulturist looked out upon a vineyard in the northern part of the region, a place of shallow soils, home to 25-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon vines. It was a good site, had been a strong performer for his employer Wynns Coonawarra Estate, but now, viticulturist Allen Jenkins decided to see just how robust it really was. He divided the block in half. For one set of vines it was business as usual. For the other, a harsher new reality was about to set in as he deliberately reduced the amount of irrigated water it would receive for the next three years, just 10 per cent of its normal allowance. When the results were collated, there was nothing but sad news for those parched Cabernet vines. “Yield dropped for each of those three years by 40 per cent, on average,” says Allen. “The berry number also dropped, berries were much smaller, there was an increase in colour and tannin, but the problem was you lost some of that Cabernet varietal character.” Recovery for the vines once water was returned was another big hurdle, it was far from immediate and they continue to struggle to this day. Cabernet Sauvignon is the flagship grape for Coonawarra , a symbol of its national and international standing in the world of wine, and here it was being stripped of its noble character by a deliberate man-managed climate intended to mimic global warming in all of its nastiness. Allen had made his point. Climate change was capable of treating even the most celebrated of grapes with disdain. Now, he’s learning to adapt. He’s not the only one in the Australian wine industry. A harsh reality Between now and the year 2030 the annual average temperature is expected to rise between 0.2ºC and 1.1ºC in many of Australia’s grape growing regions. By 2050, the projected increase is 0.4ºC to 2.6ºC. A warmer future will go hand in hand with a drier one and one, it is believed, that will be increasingly erratic, throwing up unpredictable extreme weather conditions. Under this scenario, the annual Australian wine grape harvest will be earlier; grapes coming into full ripeness during the hottest parts of summer, stressing vines. Some suggest it’s already here. “Vintage 2015 was our 35th in the region,” says Jeffrey Grosset of Jeffrey Grosset Wines in the Clare Valley . “We commenced harvest for our two Rieslings (Polish Hill and Springvale) 35 days, almost to the day in both cases, earlier than we did 35 years ago. The suggestion of a (earlier vintage) trend to around roughly one day earlier each year, seems compelling.” His Clare colleagues at Jim Barry Wines, to the north of his vineyard, had already picked and were fermenting their 2015 Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet by mid February, a first for them. What does climate change mean for my wine? In a warmer climate, vintage will probably be shorter and more compact, which might suit earlier ripeners like Chardonnay , but won’t go down well with late season starters such as Cabernet. The heat that drives sugars up will also force acids down. A drier season scenario similar to what Allen Jenkins found   with smaller yields and lack of varietal flavour may become a widespread problem. The effect will be more noticeable in inland regions that are expected to be hotter than coastal areas. Australian research suggests grape quality will be reduced nationally by seven to 23 per cent by 2030, and 12 to 57 per cent by 2050. The fact that climate change is real and not some annoying trend that will eventually cycle off and bring certainty back into our lives, would appear to now be acknowledged by Australian winemakers. And it’s not exclusively about heat. “Climate change to me is both heat and rain,” says Peter Barry at Jim Barry Wines. “Yes, it’s the unpredictability of the weather, all that is puzzling and a little terrifying.” Dr Leanne Webb, Climate Projections Liaison Manager at the CSIRO and an academic with more than a decade’s research into the subject, chooses her language carefully when describing the causes behind our changing climate. “Increasing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are altering the composition of the atmosphere,” she wrote in her seminal paper, Modelled Impact of Future Climate Change on the Phenology of Winegrapes in Australia (2007).   “It is very likely that most of the global warming since the mid-20th Century is due to increases in greenhouse gases from human activities.” For the first time in recorded history, the earth’s temperature is clearly more than 1.0ºC above the 1850-1900 average. Since 1997, which at the time was the warmest year on record, 16 of the subsequent 18 years have been warmer still. What to do? Dr Webb suggests Australian wine producers do three things to address its impact on their vineyards: 1. Look to grapevine management techniques, 2. Shift vineyard sites and 3. Think about different grape varieties. In the Yarra Valley , winemaker Dan Buckle at Domaine Chandon, one of Australia’s leading sparkling winemakers may be locked into the classic Champagne trio – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier – but he is still free to look at different sites. “I think that by focusing on altitude in vineyard selection we can avoid risks of climate change,” he says. “Certainly the results we see from our Whitlands vineyard are exciting.” Whitlands is one of the highest vineyards in Victoria, around 800 metres on a high point in the King Valley , and was planted by Brown Brothers in 1982. In 2010, Brown Brothers went in search of parts potentially cooler, buying the extensive Tasmanian vineyards of troubled forestery giant, Gunns Ltd. for $32.5 million. It was an expensive commitment to a changing climate, ironically, coming at a cost: the forced sale of Whitlands. But not everyone can change vineyard location. It’s far easier and cheaper to change the grape variety. McLaren Vale boasts a sunny, Mediterranean-style climate. With that in mind, Coriole winemaker Mark Lloyd thought it obvious to look to Italian varieties. Some didn’t work. Nebbiolo and Barbera are real sooks in the heat, as he discovered during the January heat wave of 2009. Fruit all but disappeared on the vine. However, grape varieties sourced from Southern Italy are a different story. Fiano has become possibly his greatest success story, an inspiration to others. It is already being hailed as making the region’s best white wine. Nero d’Avola, a late maturing red variety, is also performing well. And this year, he has Apulia’s dark-hearted Negroamaro planted. In the Clare Valley, one of the most surprising alternative grape stars is an unpronounceable Greek variety that originally hails from the fabulous volcanic soils of Santorini. Assyrtiko was brought into Australia by Jim Barry Wines and from its first vintage in 2014, its crisp acid personality was a delight. The grape absolutely thrives in the dry and the hot. Still, new grape varieties, many with difficult-to-pronounce names, may be trending, but there are others who simply look to adapt what they’ve got. Maybe they’ve read the controversial new book from pioneering Western Australian viticultural scientist, John Gladstones, Wine, Terroir and Climate Change (Wakefield Press) which doesn’t want to be too doom and gloomy about the future. His message? Terroir is resilient. Others may see hope in new varieties being developed by the CSIRO. Brown Brothers had moderate success with Cienna some years back and are now backing Project Enigma, another first in the wine world, a totally new grape variety that laps up the heat. Climate change means change. But, if handled with thought and positive action, it could signal an exciting future for winemakers and drinkers alike.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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