The late Phil Hiaring Jr., or “Sandy,” as most of his friends–and he had many–in the wine business called him, was an avid fly fisherman. I never went out on the river with Sandy, but I did tag along on a few excursions to shops where he stocked up on the latest in fly fishing gadgets. I learned from him that there are a lot of fly fishermen in the wine business.
That’s why it was fun to meet up with John Ecklund not so long ago in Argentina. We were both staying at the visitors’ lodge of Bodegas Salentein in the Mendoza district. Ecklund and his partners were scouting out the area for possible inclusion in a new company they put together devoted to wine and fly fishing. Sandy would have loved it. The company is called The Andes Wine Experience and it was formed to organize custom trips to Argentina and Chile.
You can check out some sample trips on the Web site (riverstoreef.com). “These itineraries include some of our favorite wineries, restaurants and activities. As mentioned, the sample itineraries are just that, samples to get you started thinking about the type of trip you want. We customize all trips to meet the specific needs,” Ecklund said.
Currently, wine-loving fishermen (and fisherwomen) can stay at private winery lodges, such as the Salentein guest house, but the partners have two luxury resorts of their own now under construction in Argentina. Besides fishing and winetasting, they can also arrange horseback riding, rafting, golfing and skiing. A full-time office is open in Mendoza to oversee the Argentine side of the business.
For more information and rates, check out riverstoreef.com or oregonrivers.com.
Profit Squeeze For Aussie Wineries
Times are tough for mid-sized Australian wineries, according to an industry report published in Australia. Most failed to turn a profit last year.
“Unfortunately, more than half the small wineries that participated in the study generated a loss before tax,” industry analyst Stephen Harvey, part of the team that produced the report, told decanter.com.
The losses were blamed on a combination of overplanting in the late 1990s, a run of bumper crops and a slump in export sales. The report said the financial reverses would most likely lead to increased consolidation in the industry, especially for wineries with revenue between AU$1 million and AU$5 million (AU$1 = US$70).
The report shows wineries with revenue under AU$1 million made 6.3% pre-tax profit and those with revenue over AU$20 million made 15.3% pre-tax profit. But wineries in between reported overall pre-tax losses of 4.8%.
As an indication that the situation may even get worse, the Australian winegrape harvest for 2004 has set a record, with an estimated crush of 1.86 million tons, 40% higher than 2003, when the vines were hit by a severe drought, and 23% above the previous record 1.51 million tons in 2002.
The figures appeared in the 2003 Annual Financial Benchmarking Survey by Deloitte and the Winemakers Federation of Australia.
New Test For Wine Fraud
Researchers at the University of Seville claim to have developed a test which can detect a fraudulent wine in the bottle. The test uses atomic spectrometry to measure trace metals in the wine, which would come from the soil of origin, and then check the findings against a databank of the wine’s “fingerprints,” according to a report on decanter.com.
Scientists involved in the research claim it is 100% accurate and could replace current anti-fraud measures such as barcoding, etched bottles and microchip technology.
The system could be especially useful for Champagne and other luxury wine producers, where fraud is not uncommon.
While the incidence of fraud is relatively small in the overall wine market, according to Andrew Gordon, director of London wine merchant Corney and Barrow, “There is unquestionably a problem with counterfeit wine which affects the high end of the market.”
Yet fraudulent wine is not just a French phenomenon. Tom Stevenson, author of the New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia, says, “Three-quarters of the wine sold as ‘Italian’ in the U.S. is not Italian.”
Drinks Ad Ban Urged In Ireland
A new report has recommended a complete ban on all drinks advertising in Ireland, according to just-drinks.com. The report, organized by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children, studied alcohol misuse by young people in the country, and also recommended that suppliers of alcohol should have identification, such as a barcode, on each item sold.
Other recommendations made by the committee included the issuance of a report by local authorities on local levels of drinking in public parks by young people, and the appointment of specialist alcohol nurses in each hospital.
Freixenet Has An Exclusive On Lascombes
Freixenet USA has obtained exclusive distribution rights in the U.S. for all wines produced by Chateau Lascombes of Margaux. Founded in the 17th century, Lascombes has vineyards totaling 200 acres, planted to 50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot.
Freixenet is among the 10 largest wine companies in the world. It is owned by the Ferrer family of Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, near Barcelona.
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