Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Rolf Binder

Deep in the heart of the Barossa Valley in South Australia lies the winery of Rolf Binder who, along with his sister Christa, make a captivating range of wines.  Rolf’s father, Rolf Snr, was a Hungarian immigrant in 1950 who arrived in Oz with his Austrian wife Franziska.  Initially they worked on the railways but soon befriended a couple of vineyard owners and by 1955 they’d bought the winery and renamed it Veritas.  Their daughter Christa joined the family business in 1981 and young Rolf follwed in 1982 making wine in what they named the “shed”.  In 1999 a new winery was built and the old press made the journey.  It’s still in use today.

It’s the red varieties that tend to perform best in the heat of the Barossa Valley, and Rolf Binder has extensive and old plantings of Shiraz and Mataro (aka Mourvedre) as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Grenache.  While the Barossa Valley is renowned for its very full bodied, sometimes somewhat unsubtle, reds of great weight and considerable alcohol, Rolf Binder looks for a more refined style with a degree of elegance and balance.  They’re still big wines mind you; big but balanced.

Rolf Binder’s 2009 Highness Riesling actually comes from the Eden Valley which borders the edge of the Barossa Valley, and is mouth watering and outstandingly fresh.  Its nose of fragrant lime citrus with a hint of tropicality and steely dry palate makes Highness the prefect match for fish, seafood and oriental cooking.  In our opinion Highness Riesling is as fine an example of southern hemisphere Riesling as you will find anywhere.

Rolf Binder has many reds to choose from but the two that really float our boat are the Halcyon Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot blend and the Heinrich Shiraz, Mataro & Grenache blend.

The Halcyon 2008 is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot which has a super ripe nose of berry fruit with tremendous depth.  The Halcyon is a smooth rich wine that shows notes of blueberry in the mouth, fully-flavoured without being overpowering; an excellent demonstration of Rolf Binder’s ability to maintain restraint and balance from the power of Barossa Valley fruit.  Halcyon would be perfect with a roast leg of lamb, studded with garlic and scattered with rosemary.  Mmmm.

Heinrich is a blend of Shiraz, Mataro and Grenache.  The 2006 Heinrich has these in the proportions 50% Shiraz, 35% Mataro and 15% Grenache.  Heinrich is made from selected parcels of old vines and is a fascinating and complex glass of red; spice and depth from the Shiraz, structure and richness from the Mataro, and a whack of big ripe fruit from the Grenache.  The resulting marriage is wonderfully harmonious and rich, with a pleasing silky texture, and a prime example of a Barossa Valley Shiraz blend.  Heinrich would be perfect with a Fred Flintsone sized rib of beef and an empty afternoon!  It would also be hard to think of a better glass of red to enjoy with a selection of fine cheeses than Heinrich.

Rolf and Christa make several other wines, all of which reach their extraordinary high standard. Watch out for these wherever you are. Sadly, we cannot list them all, much as we’d love to!

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Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Half Price Wine

You see them all the time don’t you – half price wine offers (well, not at Wines of Interest actually – unless you’re a member of the Sampling Club). Was £9.99 now £4.98 and so on. Let’s be absolutely clear about this – there are only three mechanisms that enable retailers to sell wine at half price:

1. Someone, somewhere, makes a loss. It might be the producer, or the importer, or even the retailer, but at least one of them will be losing money on the deal if they are genuinely selling at half price. Margins in the wine trade - coupled with the taxes that still have to be paid - mean that this must be the case.

2. Nobody is making a loss, which means? Yep, you’ve guessed it, the price was vastly over-inflated (doubled dare I suggest?) to start with.

3. Can’t think of a third. Sorry. Answers on a postcard please.

So, putting your Sherlock Holmes hat on for a moment, which of the above do you think is most likely to apply where you regularly (or even constantly) see wine offered at half price?

Doubling the price to start with is not against the law of course, but it does seem to be a widespread practice in some establishments. It depends on one crucial factor to succeed though. It depends on the customer not being able to tell that the wine advertised as a £10 bottle, yet being sold for just a fiver is, in fact, a £5 bottle in the first place (d’uh)!

If you’d like evidence of this, next time you are tempted by one of these half price offers, buy a bottle and then go to a specialist merchant and confess everything. Ask them to sell you a bottle of genuine £10 wine which you could compare with your supposedly £10 bottle purchased at half price. Take them home and taste them side by side.

Actually (Sherlock Holmes hat back on please) you may already know what you’ll discover – that there is a difference in quality which is easy to spot. It may not equate to the different prices you paid for the two bottles of course (much of this depends on you actually) but there will be a difference. Guaranteed.

But let’s be honest, unless you’ve taken the trouble to conduct this experiment (and we have, several times, with the same result) you will only ever end up drinking the half price bottle on its own. You might never have the chance to taste it alongside both a bottle that’s not reduced and another that’s genuinely worth the original advertised price. And that’s why the half price merchants persist of course. They know that from the moment you put the half price bottle in your basket you are already in “swipe me, what a bargain” mode. When you pull the cork you will be patting yourself on the back so hard that you will remember only that you paid just a fiver for the bottle. That the retailer was claiming it to be worth £10 will have completely slipped your mind. You will probably also have forgotten that the only reason you picked it up in the first place was because it was on offer. Even if the wine itself is horrid, you will still be able to console yourself with the knowledge that at least you weren’t daft enough to have paid full whack for it eh?

So, have you been conned then? After all, you’ve paid £5 for a bottle that’s worth £5 haven’t you, so where’s the problem? Well, there may not be a problem, but if the reason behind the purchase was your perception that the bottle was worth £10 then, at best, you have surely been misled.

So consider this then, if you were looking for a second-hand car in the back of the local paper and found just the make, just the model and just the specification you were looking for, with acceptable mileage on the clock but the price just seemed a bit too low, what would your first thought be? …… Exactly! So why, when we find the same set of circumstances when buying wine, namely a deal that looks too good to be true, why do we respond so differently?

We know that any genuine price reduction also comes (or should come) with a story. There is always a reason why this offer is on, and thoughtful customers should not be afraid to ask why a particular line is reduced. Thoughtful retailers will always be pleased to explain.

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