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Vinodiversity News, Issue #001 -- Feature on Melon de Bourgogne
October 03, 2004

Vinodiversity News No 1 - October 2004

Well folks, here it is - your VERY FIRST Vinodiversity News. Print it off on high quality paper, frame it, insure it for a fortune - this first edition is sure to be worth squillions in a few years time. Actually you could forward it on to a wine loving friend and do them and me a big favour.

Firstly, let me say thank you for subscribing to my newsletter. I hope you find some interesting reading here.

Vinodiversity News will be published once a month and I hope each issue will contain something of interest to you. If you want more frequent information, then visit the Vinodiversity blog, see the links below.

In this issue:

Ø The background to Vinodiversity (Philosophical stuff).
Ø Vinodiversity now and in the future
Ø Feature article: An exciting new variety for Australia
Ø Some links
Ø Help wanted

The background to Vinodiversity (Philosophical stuff)

The Vinodiversity site, the Vinodiversity Blog and this Newsletter are all dedicated to the celebration of wine from alternative grape varieties. How alternative? Well any variety other than the major Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot), Pinot Noir, Shiraz in the reds and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon in the whites. This classification roughly corresponds to that used by the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show.

Those who know me will not be surprised to know that I have always been interested in wine, well at least since 1969. Diversity is something else. Wine is an extraordinary consumer product. There are more choices of brands for wine than any other product. Yet many people stick to just a few tried and true styles.

A few years ago I saw Jancis Robinson say something like "If you see some wine made from an unusual variety then you should try it because someone with passion has grown and made the wine." The words are not exact but the sentiment, I'm sure, is correct.

Grape varieties are something we meet and make decisions about nearly every day. Most often the decision is just the default, I'll buy or drink the same as I did last time. But we really have a wonderful variety to choose from. There are about a dozen grape varieties which make up over ninety percent of the wine drunk in Australia.

But there are about another 80 varieties used to make wine commercially in Australia. Some old favourites and others recently introduced. Sure many are hard to get, but there are lots around if you go just to the smallest amount of trouble to look. In the words of Ian McHarg, "the world is a marvelous bounty".

So early this year a fortuitous juxtaposition of circumstances allowed a seed to germinate in the rather fallow space between my ears. I was struck by the number of wines made from alternative varieties which had been brought to a party, and the interest that they generated. There was also a huge spectrum of ignorance and knowledge about grape varieties. Some people seem to think that chardonnay is a brand name, while others are full of arcane knowledge about the subject.

I have been looking for some useful pastime in my impending retirement so I decided to create an information site to tell the world about the wonderful new world of diverse wines that are available.

The name Vinodiversity came to me in dream. Or did an angel from Bacchus whisper into my ear while I was asleep? So now my goal in life is instigate a new culture of wine were people can celebrate the diversity of wine, without becoming wine bores.

Of course I'm not the first one to come up with this idea, but I hope to add something to the process.

Vinodiversity now and in the future

Thus far I have about sixty pages of information up on Vinodiversity, and I'm starting to be noticed by the search engines, and thus a small but growing flow of visitors to the site.

As you watch the site grow I hope you will find more and more information to help you seek out and enjoy different wine experiences. Even if you try one alternative varietal wine a month you will add to your wine knowledge and enjoyment.

The ultimate goal is to have a couple of hundred pages of information to help you learn about wine.
Some of the topics will be

  • notes about a hundred grape varieties
  • a Vinodiversity guide to all of the sixty or so wine regions in Australia
  • comprehensive learn about wine resources
  • information and advice about buying wine online
  • reviews of wine books and publications
  • a facility for users to share information and anecdotes about different varietal wines. Your assistance and feedback is most welcome.

Feature article: An exciting new variety for Australia

The interesting things in life always happen on the frontiers. After one and a half centuries of having our wine culture dominated by French wine varieties we are now facing a minor invasion of Italian varieties.

Garry Crittenden is an acknowledged pioneer of Italian grape varieties in Australia. He was the first to grow Italian varieties on the Mornington Peninsula. His "I" label wines, some made from Mornington Peninsula wines and some made from fruit from the King Valley, have helped to bring awareness of alternative varieties to Australian drinkers.

He has just regained control of the winery which was formerly known as Dromana Estate. It is now called Crittenden at Dromana. The old Dromana Estate company is now operating at a new site in nearby Tuerong.

One of the labels of Crittenden at Dromana is Pinocchio. There is a great Sangiovese and an absolutely stunning Arneis. Under the Shinus label Crittenden makes a very good Pinot gris.

But the big news is that Garry is planning to release a 2004 Melon de Bourgogne. It is still on the lees, but will bottled for the summer. This is the variety used to make the wonderful dry white wine Muscadet sur lie in the region around Nantes at the mouth of the Loire River in France.

Let's clear up a few confusions about Muscadet. It is a style of wine rather than a grape variety. It is not related to Muscat, the variety often used to make sweet wines. It does make dry white wine which actually tastes like it is made from grapes. Unfortunately many people confuse fruit flavours in wine, particularly white wine, for sweetness. But Muscadets are dry. Trust me. They are a great choice to accompany seafood.

The 'sur lie' in the name refers to the unusual method of making Muscadet. It literally means 'on the lees' and the method involves allowing the wine to remain in contact with the lees after fermentations, allowing greater extraction of flavouring agents. The lees consist of dead yeast cells, stems, seeds, bits of skin and other dregs that fall to the bottom of the fermentation tank.

As far as I know nobody else is trying this in Australia. The reason why I am excited about it is that Muscadet sur lie is one of my favourite French tipples. And Garry Crittenden has the innovative flair and skills to make something special of the variety and the style in Australia. Garry has promised to let me know when the 2004 Melon is released. Stay subscribed for more news.

Some links of interest

The Australian Alternative Varietes Wine Show will be held in Mildura during the first week of November.

A list of the alternative varieties described in Vinodiversity.

Some regional guides for alternative varieties.

My review of James Halliday's Wine Companion 2005

The Vinodiversity Blog (A blog or weblog is a website set up for an online journal, or log. I use mine for random jottings but also as a pointer to new items on the main Vinodiversity site and for other small news bits and pieces).

Help wanted

Please forward this newsletter to any friend who may be interested in alternative wine experiences.

I welcome any feedback and contributions. Just hit the reply button to email me your comments.



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