Mark, Bruce, the Napa and a convertible Mustang....
August 3rd, 2015 by Mark Warren
I have recently returned from a study tour of California’s Napa Valley and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It was supposedly work but only if you can call two forty-something winemakers driving around in a convertible Mustang wine tasting all day ‘work’. We tried awesome wines in both regions, met some great people and generally had a ball…… It’s been 15 years since I last visited Napa and the region has expanded significantly and appears to be booming.
Napa like Margaret River is famous for Cabernet Sauvignon and as you might expect excellent wine can be found throughout. What is interesting is the extreme difference in price the wines attract-Napa Cabernets are almost universally above US $100 per bottle and the most regarded are several hundred dollars. What’s more impressive is that these wines regularly sell out on release to an individual wineries mailing list. One winery we encountered sells Cabernet at $400 a bottle all to its mailing list and there is a waiting list for people to join…It’s pretty crazy stuff and that got me wondering and asking questions about what drives these prices.
Obviously it helps being in a country with 320 million people-there are lots of customers. The region itself has around 10 million people within an hour or so drive from what I am told is now the second biggest tourist destination in the U.S behind Disneyland. Silicon Valley money is also very close and this funds not only the purchase of expensive wines but the wineries themselves. Despite the prices there is a strong demand for the region’s Cabernet Sauvignon wines and has resulted in alot of other varieties being replanted to Cabernet and the once famous Napa Chardonnay’s are fast becoming extinct.
As good as the Cabernets are the Chardonnays were a disappointment and to be honest I failed to find a decent Chardonnay the entire trip. I don’t think this variety is getting the care or consideration it deserves in the U.S. Given the quality of Margaret River Cabernet and Chardonnay and the price at which we can produce them I can’t help but think there is a great opportunity for these wines and possibly Marq Wines in the U.S.
The Occasion of Drinking Wine
May 19th, 2014 by Mark Warren
I don’t think I ever expected to be wine inspired by Eddie McGuire but he was recently quoted as saying “It’s there to be drunk. If you have good food, wine and conversation, that’s the trifecta of life” and I think that as a statement is ‘right between the posts’. For me one of the great things about wine is that a really special bottle of wine absolutely must be shared. I guess by that I mean the consumption of wine in itself can be enjoyable but for a bottle of wine to actually bring joy then this requires good company to share the moment. And if you combine that with good food as Eddie says “that’s the trifecta”.
What I find really amazing is thinking about these occasions on reflection because so often my friends and I describe that occasion with terms like “oh that was the night we drank…..”, and to that end wine has the ability to actually ‘mark’ a moment. In fact if the wine is in itself special then simply opening and sharing that wine can make an otherwise ordinary moment something that everyone present will remember. It might sound strange but I’m not a fan of opening super special wine on super special occasions because quite frankly no matter how good the wine is it will never be as memorable as the birth of your child, your wedding day, winning Lotto or Fremantle winning the flag (one day). My preference is to celebrate those special life moments with the people that are closest to me and use those super special bottles in the cellar to turn an otherwise ordinary occasion into something those same people will remember.
Pre Vintage Thoughts....
February 12th, 2014 by Mark Warren
I’ve finished cleaning the crusher and presses and some Sauvignon Blanc is on its way….I guess my 25th Vintage is about to start and my wife is about to become a ‘ Vintage Widow’-again! The grape harvest or what Australian winemakers call Vintage is an exciting time but it is all encompassing- life pretty much revolves around making wine, drinking wine and sleeping, with sleep being the lowest priority. Everything else needs to wait until after Vintage is complete and this is where the term ‘Vintage Widow’ comes from as our families are largely left to fend for themselves. It’s not uncommon for the family to be in bed asleep when I sneak off to work and then be back in bed by the time I arrive home. At the winery it’s 80-100 hours a week, 7 days a week and lasts for about 10 weeks……I remember one 10 day period where we started each day at 6am and finished between midnight and 2am. While this sounds horrendous, to a winemaker it is actually quite a buzz. What drives you is making the best possible wine, one that you love to drink yourself, one that you hope will impress your winemaker friends and to a lesser extent the Wine Critics. Of course we also hope it is a wine that our customers will love but to be honest I’ve always found that if I love the wine myself then it generally appeals to those who support our label. I guess this is because a winemaker needs to be their own worst critic if they are to constantly improve on what they are doing. I think wine drinkers are much more forgiving than I am, thus a winemaker will never leave work until everything that needs to be done is actually done…
Whilst a winemaker’s passion and commitment are a constant the variable we most worry about is the weather which is the one thing we can’t control in this process. Bad weather equates to substandard fruit and that means substandard wine, and under these circumstances the winemaker’s buzz turns into despair. Fortunately this year we have enjoyed a brilliant wet Winter and Spring followed by a relatively cool early Summer and this bodes well for quality…. I can feel myself getting excited about the wines 2014 will produce.
I recently had the pleasure of presenting the Marq Fiano at the Gourmet Escape in a Master Class titled “Making Waves – WA’s Cutting Edge Wines”.
October 11th, 2013 by Mark Warren
I don’t need much encouragement to talk about wine. So I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk (or maybe preach) about innovation at the recent Margaret River Gourmet Escape The Marq Fiano was one of 4 nominated wines celebrating the work of passionate highly experienced winemakers, doing something outside the mainstream. Strangely enough host Nick Stock chose the same four WA producers I would have selected to showcase our state’s innovative spirit.
The first wine was a ‘Natural Wine’ made by Josephine Perry which was without doubt, the best natural wine I have tried to date. As the production of Natural Wines is philosophically driven and presents certain technical difficulties it can bring proponents unstuck. However in this case,the wine was delicious. Next came Andrew Hoadley’s Riesling called Das Sacrilege – a nod to the irreverent some might say profane way its making violates traditional Riesling wisdom.Certainly the result is unconventional, as Hoad’s would want it to be. This is a powerfully flavoured wine with an attractive slippery texture that screams food.
We also had a wine from Ipso Facto and I’m a big time fan of this label. I love the fact that someone is championing Chenin Blanc because with a bit of effort in the vineyard and winery this variety makes beautiful wines that are incredibly age worthy. Naturally, the Marq Fiano was delicious and Nick Stock was very complimentary about it. A personal highlight was Nick likening me to Walter White – by day I’m a conventional winemaker and lecturer but at night in my lab ……things take a very different turn!