Warm winter Reds

drinks-juneCosy up and shine a new light on an old favourite. By Ben Canaider.

Using the season to accentuate different aspects of your drinks list is something of a given. Yet come winter, it is arguably a much more important on-premise job, particularly in southern states where patronage can be known to drop off a little once the shorter daylight hours kick in. Red wine is—along with cocktails in the bar scene—a good customer magnet for the next three months. Here are some well-worn and time-honoured strategies and tactics for red wine sales, as well as some newer ones based on emerging red wine consumption trends. Oh, and all quoted prices are LUC, of course. Some established vineyards are not necessarily on every drinkers’ radar. Using your wine list to add some background information is a quick and easy way to draw your customers’ attentions to the often shy pedigree of some of Australia’s more consistent reds. Crawford River is a good example of this. Situated in Victoria’s Henty region, an hour and a bit south-east of Coonawarra, this vineyard was established in 1975 by the Thomson family—fourth generation wool-growers who settled in the area in 1872. Their cabernet sauvignon (2006, $28) is more like Bordeaux than Bordeaux, and they release it with bottle age. Turkey Flat in the Barossa was established in only 1990, but has a high reputation with sommeliers local and international. Their Butcher’s Block Red (2012, $14) is a fantastic GSM Barossan blend that combines the best of Barossan fruit, mod-Oz winemaking, and a touch of funk. And if your customer’s need Hunter Valley reds in order to survive until dessert, try Keith Tulloch Wine. Another fourth-generation pedigree, but all in wine growing and making. The shiraz (2012, $18) has about five per cent viognier co-fermented, for a Côte-Rôtie effect. Cabernet/shiraz blends are a unique Australian red wine style that is often overlooked in the mesmeric search for single varietal purity. Penfolds Bin 389 (2011, $54), which was first made in 1960, is clearly the benchmark of the style, but there are plenty of other cab/shiraz wines going around that can bring some unique depth and kudos to your list. Majella in Coonawarra (2012, $14) make The Musician with 60 per cent cabernet and 40 percent shiraz. It has enormous quality-price rapport. With shiraz’s earthiness and generous fruit flavours filling out cabernet sauvignon’s more tannic austerity, it is a wine style that should make every Australian proud, and should probably have a name of its own. Shirazernet? Caberaz? Look out for blue-chip reds in winter, particularly those from Western Australia that bring a bit of Margaret River cachet to the list. I think we all understand the mental process: customer looks at wine list; wine list makes no sense; customers sees ‘Margaret River’ and a reasonable price; customer orders. Hay Shed Hill’s cabernet sauvignon (2012, $18) has concentration and depth—all that tightly coiled cabernet promise, but still some plushness present now to suit stewed or grilled meats. Stella Bella goes back nearly 20 years now, but its inventors have always liked to run their own race. The quality and purity of the wines beg no question. The shiraz (2009, $14) has the sort of melded acidity and minerality you need in red wine to help it do its job with food. Keeping everything fresh. Customers, too. Meanwhile, there are slightly off-

piste red varieties that can well suit heavier, richer winter menus. Durif is undoubtedly one of them. Few ‘posh’ wine people admit to drinking it, which has always made me think it is an ideal wine for customers. A hybrid from the south of France back in the late 19th century, it now successfully calls the north-east of Victoria home. Stanton & Killeen’s Durif (2011, $28) keeps the alcohol down but flavour high. A memorable wine. Or you can play the Latin line and offer some malbec—Argentina’s adopted red grape via Bordeaux. The best value going is Vinaceous from Margaret River (2012, $16). There’s tannin and deep colour, but the mouthfeel is refreshing and morish. It seems to drink big, but it is in fact a beverage rather than a red wine sledgehammer. And a splash of Australian red wine royalty? John Duval Wines from the Barossa. For 20 years this man made Grange. Upon early retirement he set up his own small range of wines under his own name, drawing on vineyards and relationships developed over all those years, making Australian’s icon red. Duval’s reds include Plexus shiraz grenache mourvèdre (2012, $27), with those varieties coming in descending order of blend percentages. It’s all older Barossan vineyard material, made with little artifact, letting pure red fruit flavours shine. Entity shiraz (2012, $34) is also Barossan, but with 30 per cent of the grapes coming from the cooler Eden Valley, so there’s a more Rhone-like elegance in this balanced red. Quite frankly, if via a dedicated page on your wine list, you can’t effectively spruik and sell the quality and Grange-connection of these reds then your customers don’t deserve you. 

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