October 2012

Good day all, I hope this October Update finds you well.
There’s plenty happening in the Between Five Bells world, as we continue with the release of the 2011 wines and start planning for the 2013 vintage. The first pressing article of info to share is the updated website- www.betweenfivebells.com

It’s had a clean up, and even a new home. I hope you have the time to poke around.
This note comes at a time so common to us in the wine industry; simultaneously exciting and a little ponderous.
Our local wine world does indeed seem to be enjoying a solid period of navel-gazing. This, unto itself, is certainly nothing new; but relatively slack exports to the traditional markets, the ambiguous Chinese effect and the (generally) poor vintage of 2011 have seen many industry conversations turn insular and doleful.
It’s no surprise really, as we (very generally) continue to be over-supplied and underdeveloped in market opportunities overall.
Of the varied grumbles, the only topic I’ve found particularly interesting is the discussion surrounding the fate/future of the wine-show system. (That, and maybe the recent Jefford article in Decanter which included this statement on Australian wine- "in combination with the execrably dull bottles produced by Amcor, is a packaging sweep on the wine shelves of narcotic uniformity").

(Wait; before I go any further, if you’d like an update on the subject, this article by Dudley Brown is a very good place to start).

The rankling surrounding the discussion has been quite funny to watch, as varied self-interests circle and try to figure out how to maintain/destroy/protect/belittle, (delete as applicable), the once noble but now archaic system of wine-shows.
We at Between Five Bells have little to add, (other than maybe a desire to scoff at the occasional conflict-of-interest and hypocrisy of many of the arguments on both sides); so will try to keep the subject related to us.

It’s long been acknowledged that the fabulously dated phrase “improving the breed” has been the backbone of reason when it comes to wine shows. It’s also well-worn territory to point out how homogenising and humdrum the results of such a system can be.
From the outside, if there’s any investment we have in the subject, it’s to challenge the concept that wine-quality exists on a linear curve.

As long as I’ve been in the industry, (with a start date that is well after the influence of the wine-show system had waned); we have taken a very small collection of wines, (or even just Penfolds Grange), and drawn a straight line down from them. Every other wine finds its place on that line by evaluating the wine’s aromatics, length, structure, complexity and age-worthiness. All key indicators drawn from the show-judge repertoire, and go towards telling us whether a wine is good, great or indifferent.

This is, of course, a pretty good way to sort out the basic levels of quality, but it does nothing to find a home for concepts like drinkability, deliciousness, intrigue, interest etc. Concepts that, despite what people may say, have rarely been the absolute primary goal for an Australian winery. What of these wines? Do they have a home in the show-system, or should they live in their own sphere?

(To be fair- at least one wine-show has added these as chief judging criteria, but it’s some way from being considered the norm).

I can easily defer to friends that are closely involved in the show-system, and I do, who tell me that the modern shows are already promoting these concepts in their shows, (especially as they become more influenced by a new generation of Chairman). Also, I’m acutely aware of the fact that I’m being highly subjective about a field thats purpose is to add objectivity. At the end of the day, even if you were to argue that a new future would attract new participants, a system with built-in obsolescence shouldn’t be mourned when it runs its course, it should be celebrated.
From a selfish point of view, if there’s no future for the wine-show system, well, then we should all feel fine about that.

In other news, we had our first really good look at the 2012 wines earlier this month, and along with many other wineries, we are very, very happy with the result of the vintage. The only complaint is the volumes are down, so there will be a lot less to offer.


When released, the three Geelong wines will also be joined by one from Heathcote; a blend of Nero d’Avola, Negroamaro, Riesling & Shiraz. It looks wonderful and we’re very excited to repeat the blend in 2013. There’s also a clue in this email to the (possible) new labelling approach to that wine.

As with last time, we have the three 2011 wines available, and couldn't be happier to see them in so many top restaurants and winebars throughout the country. You can purchase them HERE. The next release will be the 2012 Rosé, in January 2013. There’s barely 1000 bottles of that, so the mailing list will get first go. Nick has even managed to surpass himself with the new label….

As always, thanks from the Between Five Bells team.