The wine glut is over – is it?

November 27, 2012

Recently quite a few reports and news sources have talked about the end of the wine oversupply which we experienced in global wine markets during the last couple of years. After years of wine surplus, it seems that poor vintages in the USA, Australia and Europe will lead to a drop in global production by about 20%.

“Technically” Australia is still oversupplied. But the demand for Australian bulk wine is back to normal, say some analysts. New acquisitions of vineyards producing wines at the luxury end is being reported. Sales prices for such estates were rather depressed during the last couple of years. For cash rich buyers sales prices and timing are right to make such new investments.

The mid-term prospects for high-quality grapes and high-quality wines are good. Such news is music to my ears. As a small vineyard with just under 4 ha under vines we have survived so far. Our plan is to bring our Pinot Noir vineyard back into production this season. The rest remains mothballed for another year.

Two Hills Vineyard Chardonnay plot

After that, we intend to bring first the Chardonnay and if demand should recover also the Sauvignon Blanc back into production. Currently we work on land fertility. Some of our Merlot is going to be pulled out. If we replant, it would be with Pinot Noir, I guess. But this is not going to happen until we are sure to find buyers for our fruit.

Let us hope that the wine glut is over, and that a reorientation to high-value grapes and wines is becoming a robust trend.


Glorious days in the vineyard

April 6, 2012

Visitrs have arrived at Two Hills Vineyard

As the cars indicate, we had visitors at Two Hills Vineyard in Glenburn, Victoria. It was one of these occasions when we wanted to dine and wine with old friends. There is never enough time. We usually take it, as it comes and fortunately, Tony, Helen and Joe dropped by for a meal. My brother-in-law, Michael and his wife Helen completed the group of diners.

The weather was wonderful, warm and dry, a typical summer’s day when farmers all were busy taking care of their hay. In the background of the picture above you can see the hay bales produced by our neighbour Victor.

The table was ready

We were busy since the morning to prepare various dishes. And as is customary in Australia, the senior male in the family is in charge of the grill. Alas, under the watchful eyes of my brother-in-law Michael my barbecue skills have improved over the years.

My “little” barby in the shed

Australian beef

The quality of Australian meat is outstanding. We usually buy it from the butcher in Yea, a lovely little country town about 30 k to the north of Glenburn.

I am always a bit nervous when grilling the meat. I am afraid to ruin these wonderful raw materials. We had pork, lamb and beef, various vegetables and some Italian salad. Needless to say, all delicious stuff.

The diners on “the lawn” under the gum trees

What a glorious day in the vineyard

Having friends over it always a great opportunity to sample all kinds of wine from Australia as well as abroad. With the strength of the Australian dollar, imported wines become more and more affordable. In fact there are more and more imported wines available these days.

The ‘2010 Casano Nero d’Avola’ from Masala, Sicily was one of the many different wines we had with our meal. Casano Vini was founded in 1940. Ever since it is producing quality wines. Remarkable are their ‘TerrAntiqua’ and the ‘Classics selection’. The bottle we had was one of the Casano table wines. The red fruit aromas and the solid structure make this a great wine with red meats.

Casano, Sicilia – Nero d’Avola

But we also sampled a few local wines. From our neighbours in nearby Murrindindi (this is also the name of our shire), we had a ‘2008 Family Reserve Shiraz’ by Murrindindi Vineyards was an excellent choice for the meal.

Murrindindi Vineyards produces the family reserve wines only in outstanding years of high quality fruit. The Shiraz was spicy and full of flavours. In our cool climate Shiraz produces outstanding wines, not every year though, but often enough.

Shiraz Family Reserve – Murrindindi Vineyard

After the meal, we had to move into the shade. We opened the shed doors and sat in the cool of the mud brick building. The sampling of wine did not stop, of course. What a jolly good day that was.

“Those were the days, my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
Those were the days
Oh, yes, those were the days”.

These song lines from my youth (Mary Hopkin) come to mind.

Come on, sing along with me.


How to survive in Australia, or why I survive there!

January 26, 2012

Today I will share with you a secret. What could that be, you might ask? Well, there is not only good wine in Australia but also excellent beer. Beer what is the man talking about?

My lovely brother in law, Michael, surprised me again this year by filling (literally speaking) my fridge up with bottles of my favourite German beer: Bitburger Pils.

So whenever I needed to cleanse my pallate or felt homesick for my native land, the Mosel. I could open a bottle of Bitburger Pils and forget all the sorrow and be happy.

Thank you Michael!

The good news is, there is good beer in Ozz.


The best butcher far and wide: Yea’s rural butcher

January 20, 2012

The Yea butcher shop’s unassuming front

Summer in Australia is also the main barbecue season. We took the opportunity of the great meat supply to indulge in quite a few feasts. This also gave me the opportunity to train in one of the major male Australian skills: operating the barby in masterly fashion.

Where do we get the meat from, you might ask?

Well, the butcher shop in Yea (in the 19th century known as the Muddy Creek settlement) is our destination when shopping for first class meat. Two brothers are running the shop, and they are very friendly and helpful to find the right piece of meat for the planned occasion.

The shop from the inside

The quality of their produce is outstanding. We had a few big occasions for which we needed beef, lamb, pork, chicken and sausages. Whatever we took home was just super-jum. Juicy and fresh, tasty and nurishing.

Yea butcher shop: quality meats

That’s the place to stock up if you need quality Australian meats.Check it out when in Yea.

Address:
Yea Meat Supply Pty Ltd
Butchers–Retail – Yea, VIC
62 High St, Yea VIC 3717, Australia
Te.: +61-03- 5797 2501


Lunch on the farm with Rees Miller 2008 Thousand Hills Shiraz

January 16, 2012

I am back at work in Bangkok after a short and exciting assignment in Myanmar. Today was my first day at the office desk. I was staring into the computer screen, reading and answering e-mails, signing contracts and organized many odd and less odd work related things.

I usually skip lunch when working in my office. Instead I eat a muesli bar or some fruit. Green mango is one of my favourites. Naturally that I was reminiscing about the recent past, the glorious days of our Christmas vacation on Two Hills Vineyard.

One very memorable meal was an Anglo-Saxon kind of food combination with roasted potatoes, silver beet, carrots and a leg of lamb. From the pictures you can see how delightful these dishes looked like. But can you also imagine the taste? Gorgeous food, awesome stuff.

The question what wine should we have with this meal was easy to answer. First of course our own 2004 Merlot. But we wanted also something else, something strong and refined, a wine with zest and character.

I selected a ‘2008 Thousand Hills Shiraz’ by one of our neighbouring vintners from the Yea area, the Rees Miller Estate.

I have written a few blog entries about wines produced by Rees Miller Estate ( I also love their Merlot), and I do not want to repeat myself. Silke Rees and David Miller produce some of the best bio-dynamic wines in our region.

The ‘2008 Thousand Hills Shiraz’ is just a wonderful wine, full bodied and spicy with lots of fruit and an intense finish. It was just the ideal accompaniment for the lamb, the potatoes and the veggies. Frankly speaking it was one of the best red wines I drank in 2011. Watch Rees Miller and their wines.

Address:
Rees Miller Estate
5355 Goulburn Valley Highway,
Yea, Victoria, 3717.
Tel.: +61-3-613 5797 2101
E-mail: info@reesmiller.com


The many realities of life

January 10, 2012

The contrast between my life on the farm during the few weeks a year in Glenburn and my day-job as a “promoter of freedom”, as regional director for Southeast and East Asia in Bangkok could not be more striking.

There is a desk job with extensive travels in Asia on the one hand and a holiday “recreational program” on the farm, under the blue and at times not so blue sky in the fields, paddocks and the vineyard, on the other.

One day I study the Weekly Times, a local farm magazine, and read about farm gate prices, noxious weeds, cattle markets, vegetable growing, the newest farm machinery and the export projections for mutton and lambs. I talk to neighboring farmers about the weather, the hay harvest and beef prices. Vintners and wine-makers tell me about the last vintage and the prospects of the Australian grape and wine industry in the years to come. I learn about the current challenges, the successes and failures, the passions and sorrows of residents in our street, Two Hills Road, as well as the ups and downs of rural life in general.

The next day I am back on my desk in Bangkok and answer e-mails, make phone calls, study various progress reports, regional political analyses, accounts and financial documents. I read about parliaments, parties and policies, about the US influence in the Asia region, economic growth, the China factor and so on. I talk to project officers and partner personal, to political analysts and social activists, to Asian parliamentarians and business people.

My two realities could not be more different, I guess.

It takes some time to get used to either of them. I usually immerse myself in farm work the first few days after my arrival on Two Hills Vineyard, partly to forget the burdens and realities of my bread-winning work in Thailand- partly to experience myself what it means to sweat in the vineyard and concentrate on slashing the grass in the paddocks.

I very much enjoy the physical work, the exhaustion, the pleasure after the completion of a task. I can see the results of my efforts almost immediately. This is very satisfying and it is in stark contrast to my professional work about institutional, political and social change in complex transforming Asian societies in the region I am responsible for. These change processes take time (ages), in fact often much longer than our project planning permits and a very different kind of patience, persuasion and perseverance is required than in farm work.

In both I find conditions which I cannot change: the hail for instance which destroys my grapes or the change in global commodity prices, the fall of a government or the call for early elections. And in both I concentrate my efforts on the issues I can influence. I try to do “a good job”, try to be professional, diligent and hard working.

I am very grateful that I have the opportunity to experience these diverse realities; that I feel the pain and the joy which goes with them, and which reward my efforts – at times – or punish me for the lack of it and/or “bad” judgment.

The time on the farm together with family and friends is invaluable. It clears my mind as a beer clears a wine-makers palate. It refreshes me like a lime soda when I jump of the tractor. It connects me to people I love and treasure. It is proof that life is just beautiful.

Back to work now in Bangkok.


2012: Only the sky is the limit

January 9, 2012

2012 is in full swing and I had not even time to write a single new post!

How could this happen?

Was I too busy? Did I have different priorities?

Yes.

But my motto for the New Year is: only the sky is the limit.

Let’s hope it works.

Welcome in 2012. Stay tuned to the Man from Mosel River.