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A new Australian wine producer opens for business every 61 hours, leading some to think there are too many labels in the market. David Pike reports.

AS the 2003 vintage heads into its final stages, a report released a few weeks ago into the annual Australian & New Zealand Wine Industry Directory would be enough to persuade me to think twice about planting my vineyard and launching a new label.

The report says that a new Australian wine producer opens for business every 61 hours. It’s not altogether an alarming statistic on its own but, coupled with the statistics that 92 per cent of branded wine sales are connected to Australia’s top 22 wine companies, that leaves 1,603 producers to fight it out for the remaining 8 per cent of sales. So it makes interesting fodder for those who are planning to plant vines and bring another label into the market.

 The report goes on to say that: “With little growth in domestic sales of wine, new wine producers look to the boom in export sales”. However, export sales show even greater fragmentation and little room for new producers. The top two wine exporters, Southcorp and BRL Hardy, account for about half of all exports by volume, while the top 22 exporters account for about 98 per cent.

Only 50 per cent of all producers export so these 793 exporters are chasing the remaining 2 per cent of the market. The statistics clearly display the problems facing the new wave of wineries that are continuing to open.

All this doom and gloom led me to make a concerted effort last weekend into helping wine sales.

Spending most of the weekend tasting (that’s what I call it) through about 60 wines, for research purposes of course. What I found was a few very ordinary wines, a lot of mid-priced okay wines, a few crackers and one or two gems.

Houghton Rockwall 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon rrp $15 15/20

Over recent years the team at Houghton has revamped much of its core range with stunning results across the board, and has created much interest, particularly with the fantastic regional range of wines. However, this is a new release from Houghton and seems out of class compared to those other wines.

In the glass you find pretty vibrant herbal notes with mulberry and raspberry fruit aromas that are shrouded in spice and plenty of carmel oak. The palate delivers you a wake-up call.

Touches of red fruits and briary flavours are soft without vibrancy, followed by sappy green tannin, which dries out the fruit before you have had time to put your glass down. Young vines from cool climate conditions, perhaps. Not my cuppa tea.

Cape Mentelle 2001 Trinders Cabernet Merlot rrp$ 28 18.5/20

Perfumed and fragrant aromas will entice. Violets, plums, blackberries and mulberry fruits with a spice and leafy herb notes and delicate oak hints open up in the glass.

Ripe fruits with soft silky tannins and a touch of spice is alluring, together with mulberries, cassis, briary fruits and a green tobacco leaf nuance lead you across the palate. Finishing with texture, and length of flavour, keep another bottle handy – you might just need it.

Jim Barry 2001 The Lodge Hill Shiraz   rrp $20 17.5/20

The latest release from one of Clare Valley’s most respected producers. Signature ripe alluring aromas that put a South Australian stamp throughout this wine. Rum and raisin, coconut, vanillin espresso, ripe plum and black cherries leap from the glass.

Across the palate you find yourself emersed in rich, sweet ripe and rampant plummy, liquorice and spice notes. Velvety tannins combine earthy undertones with plenty of flavour and enticing attributes.

Somerset Hill 2002 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc rrp $22 18/20

This wine displays a labyrinth of characters, engaging lively herbaceous aromas of freshly sliced green capsicum and nectarines with a mineral flinty undertone. The palate displays a herbal spice with touches of sweet white peach, guava and nectarine flavours. Plenty of zing across the palate without expressive acidity, a chalky snow pea character as the wine drifts to its long and flavoursome finish.

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