Michel Chapoutier: « It is now that the true potential of Australia will finally be revealed to the world »
The harvest started in the Australian vineyard of Domaine Tournon.The estate wines are regularly cited as the best Australian wines and recently the Winestate magazine selected Shiraz 2009 among the best wines of 2012. Michel Chapoutier talks about the beginning of the harvest and explains why australian wines have a bright future. You can find all the latest news from Domaine Tournon on Facebook and from Maison M.Chapoutier on Facebook or Twitter.
How did you decide about going to Australia?
Michel Chapoutier:"When I chose to go to Australia in the late 90s, there were several reasons: of course the attractiveness of the southern hemisphere, pre-phylloxera massal selections - some no longer existing in Europe - and the fact that Australia has the oldest geology in the world, just after Antarctica. There was also a more qualitative than quantitative approach taken by marketers. Finally, Australia makes a difference with other New World countries that are very - perhaps too - oriented to winemaking and little - or none - into agronomy. Without a doubt , Australia viticulturists probably have the largest representation in the new world and I find it very interesting."
What do you think about the current situation in Australia?</p>
M.Chapoutier: "There was the state intervention with its tax exemption laws to artificially push the development of the vineyards. It is important to note that Australian overproduction is not the result of liberalism but rather the result of the interference of the state in the economy. In France, during the planting rights's negotiations, people were showing the example of Australia as the "scourge of liberalism," but it is completely wrong. Australia has faced a huge new flow of wines after these tax laws were implemented and nobody knew how to sell them - and there was no market demand. So all the energy has been in favor of destocking these wines and it had an impact on the image of Australian wines in general."
How do you see Australia in the coming years?
M.Chapoutier: "I am convinced that Australia has a very bright future when I see today the important work undertaken by Australian vine growers and wine makers. They want Australia to be reconsidered for what it really is, with a real potential for quality not only for this image of low priced wine marketers who have put out the fire that tax laws encouraged. Of course, we can not blame these powerful wineries, with huge volumes, who have faced this problem! But qualitative winemakers in Australia are right to continue. Why? Because it is now that the true potential of Australia will finally be revealed to the world."
So what about the beginning of the harvest?
M.Chapoutier: "Maturity controls were carried out in our australian vineyards and we just began with the white grapes from early ripening areas. Extremely low rainfalls this year - 400mm in 2012 - reminds us of this 8 years long period of drought we experienced in the 2000s. As much of the rainfall occurred during the winter and early spring, we started the season with enough water in the soils and a cool climate. Vegetative growth has started in excellent conditions and it was not until late December that the first heat waves arrived, coming from central Australia. In this context of drought, we planted cereals and legumes in the spring, that restricted water evaporation from winter reserves of water, thereby shifting the end of the growing period until veraison. This now allows the grapes to concentrate on fully maturing instead of favoring an extension of the shoot or on the contrary, stressing the plants. The Australian Pyrenees, located between the desert and the ocean, benefit from exceptional climate. Warm to sometimes hot days give way to cool nights. These high thermal amplitudes - commonly 15 to 20 ° C - enhance aromatic finesse and good maturation of polyphenols (anthocyanins and tannins). For this vintage, the low pressure of fungus associated with dry conditions allow us to expect a perfectly healthy harvest with very small berries and therefore some 2013 wines where natural salinity and density should be exacerbated.."
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