With what has been a big year in wine coming to a close, David Pike takes the opportunity to reflect on what 2002 had to offer for lovers of the grape.
LIKE most I am looking forward to the Christmas and New Year break.
This year has been enormously stressful, not for me I can assure you but I like to support a cause. 2002 has again been an interesting one in the wine industry and as the sun shines and vines begin ripening it looks like there will be plenty more fireworks in 2003.
Winemakers are a pretty sturdy lot who do not often change employment. Many will actually serve out their entire careers at just one or possibly two wineries.
However, a strange phenomenon occurs once every three years in which winemakers seem to get on the merry go round and change jobs. This year in particular we have seen a number of Western Australian winemakers taking up new positions.
Abbey Vale (what is happening there) winemaker Kathy Spratt has moved a little further up the Bussell Highway and taken up the position on offer at the swanky new Water Shed winery.
Peter Stark at Hayshed Hill was caught up in the mergers and acquisitions trail of Mike Calneggia and has moved on to start up his own winemaking consultancy and Simon Keall who was at Rosabrook and Palandri before heading overseas has returned to take up the vacant position at Hayshed Hill.
Mark Warren has moved on from his role at Lamonts and it seems that Kate Lamont has secured the services of Moss Wood winemaker Keith Mugford to make the wines. Vasse Felix has lost the services of long serving winemaker Will Shields who has taken up the vacant winemaking position at Clairault Wines.
Certainly it seems that the busiest man in the wine industry next year will be John Griffiths, who has recently been appointed group winemaker for Mike Calneggia’s operation, overseeing the wines for Alexandria Bridge, Chestnut Grove and Hayshed Hill. John also has his own label for which he makes the wine, is chief winemaker for Fern Grove and lectures at Curtin University. I hope he has included a pilot in his salary package.
As Evans and Tate continues to grow in corporate size they have also shuffled around their winemaking positions. Steve Warne has moved into a position as group winemaker and former Kirribilly winemaker Richard Rowe has been appointed chief winemaker at the Margaret River operations.
In corporate moves, Evans & Tate chief financial officer Peter Konzewitsch has been appointed general manager. Commercial operations and administration while former Gold Corp chief financial officer Jesper Sentow will take up that role at the winemaking group.
Plenty of very smart wines came across my desk from around Australia this year and I have plenty of highlights.
One distinguishing feature of the year has been the tremendous success of the wines from the Great Southern region. Not only did the region grab the two major trophies at the Perth and Mount Baker wine shows, it also showed the industry and consumers the quality that is being produced in the region.
I am in no doubt that the Great Southern will grow to be a branding force over the next few years that could rival the ‘Margaret River’ brand.
Another of the exciting developments this year has been the increasing acceptance by wineries to use Stelvin closures (screw caps). While cork manufacturers might be getting a little touchy as wineries abandon the tradition of cork, the fact of the matter is far too many wines are still suffering taint or some form of variation when using cork.
As more wines are put under a screw cap consumers will enjoy the benefits of a fresh glass of wine each time they romantically screw off the cap. Proof is already in the pudding. Both the wines recognised as wines of the show at Perth and Mt Baker were bottled under Stelvin.
It has been a quiet year on the new wineries building front after a few years of frantic activity.
Stockbroker Tim Lyons’ new winery for his Forrest Hill brand is well on the way to completion in Denmark and Watershed in Margaret River have finished stage one of their massive project. It has put in the winery and is about to launch into building a 200-seat cafe restaurant.
Apart from that there is plenty of activity down at Coastal Stainless Steel in Albany, which make the tanks that house wine. Owner John Embleton and his team have been working round the clock for the past few months. Just where are all those tanks going John?
Anyway I am off to work on my Christmas list – wine list that is.
Pikey’s wines of 2002
Mesh 2002 & Grosset Polish Hill 2002
Plantagenet Omrah 2002 & Stella Bella 2002 Blended White
Cape Mentelle Wallcliffe Reserve 2000
Leeuwin Estate Art Series 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon
Voyager Estate Cabernet Merlot 1999
Jack Mann 1999
Stepping Stone 2001 Shiraz Mt Langi Ghiran 1999
West Cape Howe 2001
Seppelts St Peters 1998
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