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Your Questions

Q

How much do drought conditions impact on our wine grape growers in Australia?

Jeremy Johnson, Fitzroy North, Vic

Increasing average temperatures and declining annual rainfall is definitely causing concern for grape growers. Vines are relatively hardy but a lack of water affects growth and fruit composition, which impacts negatively on wine quality. Fortunately Australian grape growers are some of the most responsive and are quick to react to the challenge. Producers such as Cullen, Jasper Hill and Noon practice dry farming, a method which relies on rainfall, not irrigation, while researchers are looking at developing vines and rootstocks that have a greater degree of drought tolerance. Perhaps we’ll see the end of cheap wine produced from highly irrigated vineyards.

Q

Recently we were given a bottle of shiraz, which we liked enormously, but with no indication of cellaring potential we were reluctant to splash out on a half dozen or more. If my memory serves me correctly, it was once de rigueur to put the cellaring potential indication on the back label. Where has it gone?

Guy Pack, Brisbane, QLD

Cellaring guides are only relevant if the bottles have been kept in perfect condition prior to purchase – poor transportation and warm storage could have affected the wine. These days so few consumers opt to mature wines; maybe the producer thinks the information is not needed? If the shiraz was delicious I’d be tempted to buy half a dozen irrespective of whether it would cellar or not.

Q

In my wine travels and observations I frequently see or hear the word ‘cru’ used, could you please provide me with an explanation or definition of this descriptive?

Gordon Evans, Brisbane, QLD

The French use the term ‘cru’ to denote special sites regarded as producing the best quality wines – in Burgundy and Alsace, grand crus are the best sited vineyards. However sometimes ‘cru’ can be a marketing term; it could be argued the 1855 Cru Classé classification of the Medoc was based on reputation and prestige rather than site alone.

Q

Where and why did the art of wine sabrage start?

Karen Lockey, Turramurra, NSW

Emperor Napoleon loved Champagne: “in victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it” and his faithful cavalrymen, the Hussars, would be given bottles by grateful observers as they rode through France. Famed for their fearless character the Hussars decided to slice the cork and cage off bottles of Champagne (whilst still mounted) to the delight of onlookers. They carried distinctive curved swords known as sabres which gave the act its name. Napoleon was rationed to one bottle a day when exiled on St Helena, so, possibly, was more careful when opening his favourite wine.

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