Tag Archives: mornington peninsula

Why 2014 Will Be Your Best Wine Year Yet

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With the close of the calendar comes contemplation: what have I learned from the wine world in 2013 and what do I expect (or hope) to see in 2014? A few observations: the rise of a new breed of “somm”, the demise of the wine score, the discovery of a Jedi Wine Master, and the impending Best Wine Year Ever.

A Return to the Antipodes

Australia Does the theory “If you build it, he will come” apply to wine? I hope so, because the woeful state of Australian imports in the U.S. belies the health and creativity of the industry Down Under. A recent visit to Astor Wines confirms the lack of antipodean demand — NZ and Oz shared a shelf smaller than the one devoted solely to NY State craft spirits! The Australian wine market has languished for years at the bottom of the U.S. market, so with nowhere else to go but up, expect to see a breakthrough of fresh vinous perspective in stores and restaurants. Importers like Little Peacock, which focus exclusively on Australian wines, have expressed tremendous optimism for the coming year. The wines produced by the new generation of risk-takers in Oz are lean, refined, funky, terroir-driven, and characterful. They don’t all work, but the journey’s as interesting as the destination.
Two to Try: Ben Haines Marsanne 2011, Yarra Valley and Jamsheed “Healesville Vineyard” Syrah 2010, Yarra Valley.

New Zealand This island country faces a different problem from Oz, albeit its wines are still underrepresented in the U.S. New Zealand has done so well with Sauvignon Blanc, the rest of its wines have been ignored. The importance of the grape cannot be overstated. The entire world drinks it (including, to the chagrin of Aussie winemakers, heaps of Aussies). The crisp, grassy style is the New World benchmark for the variety. But there’s plenty more from the land of jagged peaks and glacial lakes to capture a wine drinker’s imagination, and we’re starting to see those wines here in NYC. Fantastic Pinot Noir is trickling out of both Central Otago and, amazingly, Marlborough (the spiritual home to Sauvignon Blanc). For alternative whites, seek out James Millton’s Chenin Blanc. Although produced in the otherwise unremarkable region of Gisborne, he’s been called the Yoda of Kiwi winemakers — a serious endorsement. Is he a true Jedi Wine Master? Drink and find out.
Two to try: Terra Sancta Mysterious Diggings Pinot Noir 2012, Central Otago and Millton Te Arai Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2011, Gisborne.

The New Somm
In the past, a restaurant’s “sommelier” often fell into one of several categories, each of which — in an era of increased consumer wine knowledge facilitated by ease of access to information and greater willingness to experiment with up-and-coming regions — have become increasingly irrelevant.

We’ve suffered through uninformed yet opinionated waiters posing as sommeliers, informed and condescending sommeliers, and, most exasperating, the Grand Cru-obsessed, pompous sommeliers selling 100 percent Western European lists with 100 percent of the bottles priced over $100. Thus, it was about time the role either be redefined or abolished. (Yes, I acknowledge someone still has to build and manage the list.)

Fortunately for restaurant-goers, we’ve met the new generation of enthusiastic, educated sommeliers or “somms” who’ve reinvented their role, gifting us a new reason to dine out: access to diverse, reasonably priced bottles. Sure, we’ve seen prices on certain wines this year soar to previously unseen heights, but for the rest of us scanning the lower end of a list for value, we’re in luck: lots more under $50 selections than ever. And somms have managed to balance their lists serving traditional needs while presenting to the curious a plethora of distinctive wines such as zero dosage, undisgorged crémant from the Jura.
Where to Try: Corkbuzz by sommelier Laura Maniec, Pearl & Ash by sommelier Patrick Cappiello.

Jamsheed

Domestic Affairs
Wine lists and retail stores in NYC used to be dominated by European selections — France, Italy, and Spain — with small weight given to the New World and even less to the juice of our citizen winemakers. However, with increased demand for local and hyper-local food sourcing, we’re seeing the same interest applied to wine. While in the past a reputable fine dining establishment might not dare be caught with anything from the East Coast on its list, sommelier Thomas Pastuszak at The Nomad has embraced our home state. A huge advocate of NY wines, he puts out an extensive list of Finger Lakes bottles. The best part? These wines offer tremendous value — $35 for a bottle of vibrant Riesling with dinner? Yes, thank you.
Where to Try: The NomadFrankly Wines.

Coravin as a Verb
2013 saw the launch of the most lauded device in recent wine history: the Coravin. It’s a wine extraction system that allows the user to pull out a measure of wine, while safeguarding the remaining precious liquid inside against oxidation with inert, tasteless argon gas. Testing has shown the wine can keep for years, allowing drinkers to sample the bottle to check for development or just have a glass of that rare Cabernet bought at auction now and again with a Wagyu ribeye. The pricey but genius device will change wine drinking habits both at home and in restaurants, truly, forever. Del Posto, an initial supporter of the device, offers rare wines by the glass, and Anfora has updated its menu to include a selection of “Coravin Wines.” What shall we Coravin tonight, dear? And a verb was born.
Where to Try: Del PostoAnfora.

Nobody’s Worrying about Robert Parker
Finally, America’s adherence to a mono-palate (Parker’s) approach to wine is on the decline. Although Parker stepped down in late 2012 from his post as editor-in-chief of the Wine Advocate — the newsletter he founded that spawned decades of obsession over a 100-point grading system that favored huge wines — in February 2013, he became the first wine critic inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintners Hall of Fame in Napa Valley. Perhaps a deserved award, but the collective unfettering of our taste buds over the year has left individuals free to make independent decisions — or at least use more resources to do so. Trusted local retailers in conjunction with social media apps like Delectable and Drync have been filling the void.
Retailer: Le Du’s Wines
Apps: DelectableDrync.

More Curiosity, More Choice 
Overall, NYC wine drinkers are imbibing during exciting times. Whatever we want, short of actually flying to the vineyard, we can find. Wines from Croatia? Blue Danube’s got them. Need that expressive, biodynamic Umathum from Austria? WineMonger’s your importer. Our increased curiosity and willingness to drink anything has encouraged importers to scour the globe and bring us a range of wines that dazzle in their diversity. So, keep sipping folks — 2014 looks to be our best year yet.

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Tod Dexter of Dexter Wines, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

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Hopefully you caught my article on Australian wine in the Village Voice this morning. I am featuring a different winemaker on my blog each day this week.  Check back to hear from our vintners Down Under.

Tod Dexter of Dexter Wines, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

Signature Wines: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I recently blended a wine for Route du Van that is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc (54%), Pinot Gris (22%), Viognier (18%) and Chardonnay (6%) and it is only 11.8% alcohol. It is a great summer drink.

Where were you born?  Where do you live now? Born in Melbourne, now live in Mornington Peninsula.

How did you get into the wine business? Our family always enjoyed good food and wine. I tried a number of jobs: carpentry, hospitality, outdoor sports retail and ski instructing. But after a ski season in Colorado, when I drove out to the Napa Valley and got my first job in a winery, was when I decided to join the business. That Napa job was with Cakebread cellars in 1979.

What is most and least rewarding about being a winemaker? It is so rewarding in many ways. Being able to grow a crop and change it into such a complex beverage and seeing the pleasure it brings so many people perhaps sums it up. Least rewarding is the challenges faced today in such a competitive market worldwide. The consumer has never had it better in terms of choice and price of great wine!

What are the challenges of making wine in your region? The weather! We can swing from drought years to wet years, it seems, on a more regular basis, which is challenging for any farmer.  

Have Australians’ wine preferences changed in the last 10 years? Yes. There is a slow shift from big, high-alcohol wines back towards wines of better balance and lower alcohols. Chardonnay is making a comeback and the love affair with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is slowing down.

Dexter Wines Vineyard Mornington Peninsula

Have you been to the U.S.?  Do you think Australia gets an unfair reputation in the U.S. for producing unbalanced, fruit bombs? Yes, I have visited the U.S.  No, it is not an unfair reputation based on the majority of Australian wine that has been exported to date.

Which wine or grape is the least understood or respected? In Australia, perhaps Italian or Spanish wine. We are only beginning to truly open the door to these regions. The strength of our dollar is helping as imported wines are now cheaper than ever.

What excites you most about Australian wine right now? The swing back to better balanced, more drinkable wines, particularly in Chardonnay.

What do you drink when relaxing at home? Beer, Gin & Tonic and Mojitos! Wine with a meal, of course, and most often Pinot Noir.

What types of food do you like to eat; any special dishes you make/care to share? Fresh pasta, BBQ-anything, locally caught fresh fish. We lean towards Asian influences–Australia is almost part of Asia geographically–but Italy and France also have a strong influence. 

What music do you listen to? I guess I lean towards Rock and Blues with a mix of other genres. Depends on the mood. Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, John Butler Trio, Xavier Rudd, The Waifs, Ray Charles and Eilen Jewel.

Which non-Australian wines do you like? Burgundy, Northern Rhone, Alsace, Italian Reds.

Are there any wines you can’t stand to drink? New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and new world Pinot Gris. Of course, there are a few exceptions!

If you could be traveling somewhere else right now, where would you be? Alaska, Kashmir or Mongolia.

Is there a winery dog? Yes. Stella, 5 years old. German Short Hair Pointer. 

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Filed under Australia 2.0, Mornington Peninsula, Tod Dexter of Dexter Wines